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Guest commentary: Gale Courey Toensing — Why I’m voting “no” on the Region 1 Board of Ed Budget Proposal Reply

Why I’m voting “no” on the Region 1 Board of Ed Budget Proposal

Two years ago voters in the area came out in droves six times to vote down the Region 1 Board of Education’s proposed budget for 2013-2014. Why? Because the board had extended administrators’ contracts until June 30, 2016, and given them raises again. Voters clearly, unambiguously and repeatedly said they wanted new educational leaders at the top – a new superintendent and a new assistant superintendent.  This wish for new top administrators was expressed over and over again in news reports, at meetings, in letters to the editor and in editorials in the local media. Half of the demand for new administrators was met when the former assistant superintendent left her job at the end of October last year.

Traditionally, the ABC Committee completes its annual review of the superintendent’s job performance and makes a recommendation to extend the superintendent’s contract and give her a raise before the budget proposal is voted on at a regional referendum on the first Tuesday in May.

This year the ABC Committee, apparently with the acquiescence of the Region 1 Board of Education, has decided to postpone its review of the superintendent’s job performance evaluation and contract recommendations until after the budget vote. It’s my understanding that the majority of the ABC Committee intends to recommend extending the superintendent’s contract beyond June 30, 2016 – despite voters’ clear message two years ago that they want a new superintendent.  If the budget passes at the referendum on May 5, the majorities on the ABC Committee and Region 1 board will be able to extend the superintendent’s contract without any objection from voters. They will have made a successful end run around voters’ ability to be fully informed about what they were voting on and voters’ right to weigh in on decisions supposedly being made on their behalf by elected or appointed officials.

That’s why I’m voting against the budget.

But beyond this lack of transparency and end run strategy is the superintendent’s history of actions and non-actions including in part: failing to improve academic achievement of a significant number of students who consistently do not meet state standards on various assessments (which doesn’t seem to interest or concern the board at all); preventing students at the high school and in the elementary schools, with the exception of Kellogg, from watching President Obama’s pep talk on education in 2009;  recommending the hiring of an assistant superintendent she knew was under investigation in another school district for bullying and intimidation, which led to the Pingpank Report documenting the dysfunction in the administration; and being sued by an employee on various constitutional allegations as well as assault and battery.

It’s time for a change.

Gale Courey Toensing

Falls Village, CT

Tighten-the-Budget

It’s about time someone reminded some board of education members on who sets town budgets…. Reply

A reminder to boards of education….at least make it look like you know taxpayers exist……

From today’s Republican American

full story http://rep-am.com

$25,000 cut in school budget ordered

KENT — The Board of Finance on Tuesday night asked the Board of Education to go back and cut $25,000 from its 2015-16 budget plan after the education board failed to provide any information about where it might make reductions.
The Board of Selectmen was told it would not have to make $25,000 in cuts that it had outlined in its budget.
The education board tried to make the argument that it already had reduced its budget before approving the draft and submitting it to the finance board. Chairman Paul Cortese said his board’s budget was “put together responsibly.”
But Finance board member Mark Sebetic said the request was made to find a way to minimize the tax increase and had nothing to do with thinking the Board of Education was irresponsible in its budget making. Cortese said his board “had no appetite” for offering a list of where cuts could be made.”I, for one, am disappointed that is the board’s attitude,” Sebetic told him.
When Cortese said he wanted to take the education budget to the town as presented, Sebetic pointed out that it was the Board of Finance’s responsibility to present the budget to the town.

The Board of Finance originally had asked the education board to come up with $100,000 in possible reductions to the budget. It also asked the Board of Selectmen for $200,000. The selectmen originally came up with $154,000 on April 13, but then revised the list Tuesday to $137,751.

The Board of Education has schedule a special meeting today at 6:30 p.m.

Common Core State Standards

A Growing Common Stand Against Common Core Reply

From The Poughkeepsie Journal

Full story at http://poughkeepsiejournal.com/

NINA SCHUTZMAN

POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNAL

Thousands of Dutchess County students chose not to take the Common Core-aligned state assessments this week, a number that has skyrocketed since last year.

Ten of Dutchess’13 public school districts provided the Journal with some information about this year’s English Language Arts test refusal rates, which began on Tuesday for grades 3-8. More than 20 percent of students refused at a majority of Dutchess districts.

The trend is true across New York, with at least 100,000 students who refused the first day of the state’s standardized tests, according to United to Counter, an activist group which opposes the Common Core education standards.

In addition to the ELA tests, math tests start April 22. In general, more students refused math than ELA in 2014, school officials said.

The state’s top education officials have urged parents to allow their children to take the tests, arguing that they provide important information about how kids are performing.

In Dover, 21 percent of middle school students and 27 percent of elementary students refused the test, said Superintendent Mike Tierney. In 2014, six students refused the test. In Pine Plains, 42 percent of middle school students and 37 percent of elementary students refused, said Superintendent Martin Handler. In 2014, no more than a dozen students refused the test. Poughkeepsie’s numbers stayed steadiest, though in certain schools, refusal rates “are much larger than what we saw last year,” said Superintendent Nicole Williams. Of district schools, only G.W. Kreiger had a significant refusal percentage at 15 percent. Numbers from 2014 were not immediately available.

In Red Hook, “our numbers are roughly double what they were last year,” with a 20 percent refusal rate in the intermediate school and a 33 percent rate in the middle school, said Superintendent Paul Finch.

Nearly 9 percent of Rhinebeck’s elementary students and 17 percent of its middle school students refused the ELA test this year, said Superintendent Joseph Phelan. In 2014, less than 3 percent of students refused the tests.

In Webutuck, about 32 percent of students refused the ELA test this year, said Superintendent Ray Castellani, who added that the state should reexamine the situation, and see if there’s another alternative or compromise when it comes to state tests. Hyde Park officials reported they didn’t have complete information, while Millbrook and Pawling officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

On Monday, the Dutchess County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution to show support for the Common Core Parental Refusal Act, which has been introduced in both the state Senate and Assembly, said Legislature Chairman Rob Rolison via statement. Among other things, the law would ensure school districts notify parents that students “may refuse to participate in” all state testing aligned with the Common Core or provided by Pearson Incorporated.

Huh, again a possible last minute change in the budget proposal idea to cut an English teacher from Sharon’s representative to the Region One Board? You have to be kidding me ! I guess he does not know what happened the last time the board tried something like this at the last minute?! 3

Just plain and simple…. a dumb last minute surprise idea on the budget from the Sharon representative….(made the meeting a whole lot longer!)

( Looking to save chump change after the ABC and Board decided to “retire” an administration member to the tune of somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 this year….lets spend money on EDUCATORS not bungled administration policy).

RA_Masthead

Declining enrolment: Waivers requested for Norfolk regional school Reply

Full story at

http://rep-am.com

Waivers requested for Norfolk regional school

BY KATHRYN BOUGHTON

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — The State Board of Education on Monday recommended a 10-year waiver from two state regulations to help ease the creation of a new regional school district for Norfolk and Colebrook elementary school students.

The waiver still requires approval by the legislature.

Matthew Venhorst, a state school board attorney who works with the Norfolk-Colebrook Regional School Study Committee, said the group has devised a plan that potentially violates two state requirements: the Minimum Budget Requirement, or MBR, which requires school districts each year to spend no less than the previous year, and the allocation of regional district contributions based on enrollment.

“The board can’t approve this plan until we get state authorization,” Venhorst said. “The length of that exemption was originally five years, but this is a work in progress and we have revised the figures and forecast so now we are asking for a 10-year exemption.”

JONATHAN COSTA from Education Connection in Litchfield, who has guided the committee through its negotiations, said 10 years is needed to equalize the 20 percent funding differential between the two communities.

“It is a lot of ground to make up in five years,” he said. “Colebrook would be the first community in Connecticut without its own elementary school. It puts Colebrook at exposure if it needs to reconstitute a school. Without the certainty that they will save money and have a better educational situation, it’s a hard sell.”

The state Department of Education did not endorse the request, however. Kathy Demsey said the department recommends that the original five-year waiver be allowed with an opportunity to come back and seek a further extension.

She said the proposal is an experiment to address the problem of declining enrollments that so many towns face.

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A quick response to my FOI request from Falls Village after reading The Republican-American this morning…. 1

I think the readers of Region One Report will find this very interesting…..

This morning (Monday at 7 AM, after reading the Republican American story on the Joint Agreement, I requested documentation from Falls Village. This is what I received a little after 9 AM this morning. I think you will find it interesting….

Good Morning Marshall:

Per your request, please find all the documents regarding Attorney Frederick Dorsey’s opinion of the the proposed joint employment agreement put forth by Gary Brochu, Regional School District #1’s attorney.  These documents include: 1.  a cover memorandum explaining Attorney Dorsey’s concerns about Mr. Brochu’s document.  2.  a second document containing the original language of Mr Brochu’s proposal and how Attorney Dorsey believes it should be modified to become legally defensible, meet all statutory requirements and to also achieve the goal that the ABC committee indicated they wanted, which was in the end, to leave the selection of the superintendent in the hands of each of the 7 Boards of Education, not a select few people who have no legal obligation to those Boards;  3. a document which is a clean copy of a proposed joint employment agreement suggested by Attorney Dorsey to achieve the goals the ABC committee indicated that they desired in this matter, which in addition creates a legally defensible document.  As you can ascertain Attorney Dorsey invited the various Boards chairs an opportunity to ask questions for any necessary clarification.

The additional two documents, one dated 4.4.15  answers questions and clarifies some items in Attorney Dorsey’s original memorandum dated 3.26.15  and sent to the Board chairs on 3.31.15, per the request of Lara Mittaud, chair of the Canaan Board of Education.   The last document is Attorney Dorsey’s biography which spells out Attorney Dorsey’s qualifications as an education attorney.

You can download the documents by clicking on them below (they are Word documents)

FRV – Supt Contract – Preface to Joint Agreement (00066278)FRV – Joint Employment Agreement 3-2015 rev 1 clean (00066348)4.4.15 CFV – Joint Agreement – Dorsey Memo to Canaan BOE 4-4-15 (00066493)-2

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From The Republician-American: Changes urged to Region 1 superintendent job agreement Reply

From today’s republican-American

(full story available http://rep-am.com)

An attorney hired by Falls Village has recommended some modifications to a joint employment agreement being proposed for the Region 1 school superintendent.

The All Board Chairmen Committee has been told by its attorney, Gary Brochu, that the regional school district must enact a joint written agreement to comply with state statutes. Five town boards approved Brochu’s draft, but Falls Village town and school board officials declined because of some of the wording. The All Board Chairmen Committee members agreed to see what Falls Village’s attorney had to say even though some wanted to go ahead without that town’s participation. A meeting is scheduled for noon today.

Falls Village officials hired Frederick Dorsey of Kainen Escalera and McHale in Hartford, who specializes in education and employment law. Dorsey wrote that the agreement has some legal and practical problems that must be modified saying that under state law, the agreement must spell out: the superintendent’s term of office; how the costs will be split among the towns; how the superintendent will be evaluated; the duties, membership and voting requirements of the committee that administers the agreement; and how the joint agreement would be terminated.
Dorsey said Brochu’s agreement does not addresses its termination. He said additional provisions must be included to meet all the requirements under state law.

He said the ABC Committee’s duties should be defined to make it clear that it is an advisory group rather than a governing body, which he said would be unconstitutional.

He also wants to clarify a voting number, which in some places is defined as two-thirds. That could result in a fraction that might be either a simple or a super majority, depending on whether it is figured from the majority of boards or the majority of members present and voting. He said specifying a number would eliminate that uncertainty.

Another issue Dorsey addressed is how the superintendent’s pay will be apportioned among the participating towns. Since the region’s inception in 1939, all expenditures have been divided up proportionately based on student population.

The ABC Committee and Region 1 Board of Education have approved a change effective beginning with the 2016-17 school year that would divide the superintendent’s pay equally among the seven boards on the assumption that the superintendent serves each district equally. The change was proposed by officials of Canaan, which has the largest student population and pays the largest share. Under this change, larger towns such as Canaan and Salisbury would pay less and smaller towns such as Falls Village and Cornwall would pay more.

Dorsey wrote that he could see no reason to allocate the superintendent’s pay differently than other expenses shared by the boards, and that doing so might be unconstitutional. He recommended staying with the original allocation based on population.

He wrote that his revised proposal addresses these issues and “with minor modification … can result in a mutually agreeable process for the joint employment of a superintendent.”