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Board meetings are typically on Tuesdays, twice per month, in the Board Room at the District Offices (1239 Van Antwerp Road) beginning at 6 p.m. Some meetings are held at schools across the district.

Niskayuna Schools > Board of Education > Board Meeting Summary

Board of Education Meeting Summary

October 13, 2015

 

Student Representatives

Niskayuna High School seniors Veronica Liu and Noah Rohde and junior Cassidy Beauchemin were appointed as student representatives to the Board. Last spring, the Board decided to add the non-voting student representatives in order to more fully incorporate student perspectives into decision-making. The selection process included gathering signatures, essay questions, and a meeting with the Board. Congratulation to Veronica, Noah, and Cassidy, along with all others who worked to make this happen!

 

Auditor's Report

Jim Amell of the auditing firm Marvin & Company P.C. provided the Board with an overview of the independent audit of the district's finances for the 2014-15 school year. The district received a "clean" opinion on its financial statements, indicating that they were prepared by the Business Office staff in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. This is the highest opinion the district can receive. Mr. Amell also noted that the district has done a good job restoring its unassigned fund balance to a sustainable, responsible level. Unassigned fund balance is akin to a savings account. The Board voted at the meeting to accept and file the audit report, which is available on the website.

 

Board Member Reports

Since the Board's last regular meeting on September 15, Board members attended the following meetings and events: the Capital District School Boards Association forum with legislators; the meetings with student representative candidates; an Education Enrichment Fund meeting; the Board retreat and strategic planning session; meetings of the Health Advisory Committee, Education Enrichment Fund, Safety Committee, PTOs, and N-CAP; the Niskayuna Community Foundation anniversary celebration; athletic contests; back-to-school nights; Board member training; and the High School Freshmen and Newcomers Dinner.

Board member reports also included the following items:

  • Board President Pat Lanotte thanked Senator Farley for $15,000 in state funding he secured that will help the district outfit the bus fleet with a new radio system that is GPS-enabled. This will improve communication between drivers, schools, and dispatchers at the bus garage. The system should be in place this winter. Thanks to Senator Farley!
  • Mrs. Lanotte said she has been in contact with the Office of Assemblyman Phil Steck about changes that would address problems with how PILOT agreements (payments in lieu of taxes) are factored into the tax cap calculation.
  • Glencliff Elementary students are able to enjoy a brand new outdoor classroom built by NHS Eagle Scout Chris Stroud. The classroom is equipped with six log benches, a wooden tabletop workspace and a blackboard. Congratulations and thank you, Chris!
  • Iroquois held its 8th Grade Community Service Day in September, with all members of the class spread out among 14 different work sites in the Niskayuna/Schenectady area
  • Birchwood was again a stop on the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children, held on Friday, September 18. The students cheered on all the riders, including Birchwood's own Lisa Luyckx, a second grade teacher.
  • Congratulations to Birchwood custodian Al Garrison on the recent feature article in Your Niskayuna. Our custodians are among the unsung heroes in our schools, so it was nice to see this recognition!
  • The Niskayuna High School Profile is now available on the website. This is the document that goes to colleges highlighting our program and achievements - including the listing of the 230-plus institutes of higher education currently attended by Niskayuna graduates.
  • Congratulations to the young poets of Craig School for another successful Poetry in the Park event last week.
  • Thanks to community member Ron Frank for volunteering his time to help facilitate the strategic planning process, including at the meeting on Saturday, October 10.
  • The district has been awarded an $812,000 competitive grant from the State Education Department to enhance work-based learning opportunities and coursework for high school students with disabilities. This grant will help the district continue to develop the Niskayuna Student Work program.
  • Niskayuna was well represented by our high school German students in New York City's annual Steuben Day parade in late September.
  •  The students of Iroquois teacher Michael Jesep welcomed some special guests to their class last week, as Diane Mbombo-Tite and her family talked with them about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  •  Van Antwerp held another successful Community Day this past Friday, with students exploring interests and new experiences such as yoga, underwater robotics, curling, mural painting, and more.

 

Paperless Board Meetings

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said that during this year the Board will transition to paperless meetings with a system called Board Docs.

 

Flex Zone Presentation

Dr. Tangorra presented a report on the flexible attendance boundaries - "flex zones" - that the district started to phase in with each kindergarten class beginning this year. The flex zones resulted in favorable kindergarten class sizes of between 17 and 21 students across the five elementary schools this fall. The district will continue to implement the plan and monitor how it is working. Some next steps include improving communication with flex zone families, centralizing the kindergarten registration process, and evaluating potentially expanding select zones to provide sufficient flexibility. View the presentation [PDF]

 

Communication Plan

Matt Leon presented the communications plan for the year. The district has increased communications staffing by two days this year, a role that is being filled by communications specialist Stephanie Hunter. Key actions planned for the year include enhancing communications on district initiatives and issues, strengthening the website so it remains a go-to information source, and increasing the district's social media presence. View the presentation [PDF]

 

Enrollment

The enrollment from the opening of school through the end of September stayed stable, and represented a slight increase from the end of the 2014-15 year. The district has started posting monthly enrollment reports on the website. Enrollment report web page

 

Assessment System

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lauren Gemmill provided an overview of assessment changes at the elementary level this year. Most NWEA assessments will be eliminated, with students taking them in grades 3-5 in math only. This is good news because it will allow teachers to regain classroom instruction time. This was the result of ongoing conversations instructional leaders and teachers have had about making sure the district has the most balanced approach to assessments possible. They will review the changes in the spring to see if any adjustments are needed for the future.

 

District Safety Plan

Director of Student and Staff Support Services Mark Treanor recently conducted safety audit visits to district buildings with police and fire officials. They found that daytime security protocols, especially the use of dedicated entrances and exits, are working well. The district is looking to upgrade its security camera system in the future. Separately, many factors have pointed to a need for additional coverage at the high school during the busy time of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. He said that a part-time Security Monitor position, to be created through Civil Service, could fill this need. This person would supervise events, help students, coaches, and visitors, and even assist in investigations of possible code of conduct violations as needed. The Board could act to establish this position as soon as its next meeting.

 

Policy Review

The Board is reviewing policies at every meeting as it transitions to manual based on the Erie 1 BOCES Policy Service. The goal of this effort is to be sure that all required policies are in place and that every policy reflects current laws, regulations, and practices. Board policies are posted on the website at http://www.niskayunaschools.org/BOE/policies.cfm. Please note that as the new policy manual is implemented, this page will house two different policy numbering systems, but all policies in effect will be found there.

 

Next meeting

Monday, October 26 at Niskayuna High School: The reception for new teachers and Board recognition will begin at 6 p.m. at Crossroads, followed by the regular Board meeting in the library.