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