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‘Old answers don’t fit new questions’ in public education

May 8, 2016 | Filed in Archive
Commissioner’s letter challenges education leaders at HFM BOCES Annual Meeting
District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel addresses school leaders at the HFM BOCES Annual Meeting, Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel addresses school leaders at the HFM BOCES Annual Meeting, Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

APR. 8, 2016 – HFM BOCES’ Board of Education welcomed board members from its 15 component school districts to the Annual Meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Supported by Board President David Edwards, District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel thanked the school leaders for the support of BOCES programs and reflected on the challenges facing the region in the coming year.

“We have seen nearly $4 million growth in our services in the last couple of years,” Dr. Michel said. “That is accounted for by the launch of PTECH, the consolidation of Amsterdam’s alternative high school program with our Adirondack Academy, significant growth—nearly $1 million—in special education services and the continued expansion of our career and technical programs.”

Dr. Michel read a letter from New York Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, expressing gratitude for the “leadership and single-minded focus on student success” by BOCES around the state.

Elia continued, saying, “It is evident that the old answers no longer fit the new questions,” related to public education under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Under ESSA, the responsibility for designing school accountability shifts from the federal Department of Education to the state level.

“In December, the Board of Regents approved a commissioner recommendation to postpone the use of academic growth scores” within teacher and principal evaluations, Elia wrote. In addition, “feedback from the field” led SED to reduce the number of questions and writing elements on the state-administered English language arts and mathematics exams.

More significantly, Elia said the Regents recently opened up new and different pathways to high school graduation, and urged SED to explore the merits of project-based assessment.

“I’m impressed that this letter from a commissioner, the first one in a long time, recognizes the significant changes taking place in our world,” Dr. Michel said. “It sounds like she gets it.”

He went on to point out that despite many changes taking place to address concerns by the “opt out” movement, the numbers for test refusal remain high.

“I don’t think the issue is really about the tests. Parents now feel empowered to speak up to say that they are not happy with the system the way it is,” Dr. Michel said. “Because of ESSA, we can make some changes.”

He said all districts are struggling with devastated fund balances “eaten up” over the past several years and “tax cap hell” that prevents them from raising the money they need to maintain programs.

“Our elected officials won’t touch so politically sensitive a subject, so we are looking for different ways to do things,” Dr. Michel said, inviting the audience to participate in a May 10 ESSA opportunities discussion with workforce futurist Dr. Bill Daggett. “ESSA opens the doors for us to innovate new ways to embed career readiness skills alongside college readiness skills deeply into the curriculum.”

Michel told the audience that he was grateful to be working with such highly professional boards of education.

“Thank you all sincerely from my heart for taking on such an important, and sometimes thankless, task. Know here that your work is appreciated,” Dr. Michel said.

Culinary Arts students Kristina Delos and Courtney Aesch, from Mayfield, prepare delicious Caesar salad for the reception following HFM BOCES Annual Meeting.

Culinary Arts students Kristina Delos and Courtney Aesch, from Mayfield, prepare delicious Caesar salad for the reception following HFM BOCES Annual Meeting.

Following Dr. Michel’s comments, Board Clerk Christine Eaton officially called the meeting to order. Two candidates for seats on HFM BOCES’ Board of Education were introduced, incumbents Joanne Freeman (Johnstown) and Harry Brooks (Broadalbin-Perth).

Dr. Brooks, recognizing that 2016 is a politically charged election year, made several campaign promises to the delight of the audience.

“If elected, I promise to keep the focus on children, to stay informed of the issues, to support our administrators, to not micromanage… and to build a big wall around HFM BOCES region that Capital Region BOCES will pay for,” Dr. Brooks joked to loud laughter.

School board members in HFM BOCES’ 15 component school districts will vote on the administrative portion of the budget on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

An art project, one of many beautiful Adirondack Academy works on display at the HFM BOCES Annual Meeting.

An art project, one of many beautiful Adirondack Academy works on display at the HFM BOCES Annual Meeting.

The Administrative Budget, including each district’s share, is explained in the Budget Book (pdf), a newsletter that includes each district’s share of the administrative and capital charges. The proposed 2016-17 Tentative BOCES Budget contains details about the administrative, capital and program budgets.

HFM BOCES Career & Technical education students from the Culinary Arts and Foundations of Food programs prepared delicious hors d’oeuvre and dinner for a reception that followed the event. Adirondack Academy students displayed artwork in the main lobby. The exhibit emphasized the cross-curricular emphasis in art, math, English language arts, model building and other projects.

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