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February 7, 2012 - 5:59pm

School board report: Consolidation plan update released

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, City Schools.

Report released by the city school district:

Highlights from the Batavia City School District Board of Education meeting on Feb. 6 include the following:

School Consolidation Update

On behalf of the BOE’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, Board Member Steve Mountain presented their completed feasibility study and a recommendation for consolidation of schools. The report also will be shared with the Budget Ambassadors as they review the district’s preliminary budget  and make recommendations to the board. The committee’s recommendation takes both fiscal and educational progress into account and includes:

-- Selling the Administration Building and relocating staff to available spaces around the District;
-- Utilizing the Jackson Elementary building for students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grade one;
-- Utilizing John Kennedy for students in grades two through four;
-- Placing grade five students at the middle school;
-- Revising the transportation policy so that all K-8 students who live farther than one mile from their school would be eligible for free busing; and,
-- Maintaining the Robert Morris building, making its classrooms and offices available for rental or lease.

Among the considerations behind their recommendation were the advantages of a “cluster model” for schools in which all students in a specific grade level are in the same building, providing for a more focused and deeper instructional plan. Research indicates that students benefit when curriculum is more consistent, and having all students of each grade in one building will facilitate this consistency as well as regular collaboration and sharing of strategies and resources. It also enables greater balance of class size as well as balancing concentrations of students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students among classrooms.

While this cluster model would also describe the middle school, part of the recommendation is to have fifth-grade classrooms in a different part of that building, set off from the older students. Another suggestion is to create a house model --  a school within a school that has its own educational program, staff and students -- for both fifth- and sixth-graders. The study also noted several nearby districts which currently and successfully have fifth grade as part of their middle schools.

Jackson and John Kennedy elementary were designated as the sites for lower grades after all three of the current elementary buildings were analyzed in regard to number and size of classrooms, parking and parent drop-off/pick-up, bus loops, gymnasiums, cafeterias, library media centers, and size of the school grounds.

In regard to the finances, overall, the committee estimated an anticipated net savings in the first year of slightly more than $1 million. A reduction in staffing would have the greatest impact, followed by lower utility costs for the Robert Morris building. Relocating the Information Technology Department from the Administration Building, which involves moving the fiber optic cables that make up the district’s computer network, would be a one-time expense increase. This is recommended only upon the event of the sale or lease of the Administration Building, in which case the proceeds from the sale or lease could be used to mitigate the impact of the expense. Transportation costs would increase if more students become eligible and if those eligible students use district transportation, but, using current formulas for NYS transportation aid, approximately 90 percent of the costs would be returned the following year. 

BMS Comprehensive Educational Plan

More after the jump (click on the headline to read more)

Batavia Middle School (BMS) Principal Sandra Griffin presented highlights of the middle school’s Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP), as mandated by NYS Education Department for all schools designated as being a School in Need of Improvement (SINI). BMS was classified as a SINI for not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in meeting the higher proficiency targets in English Language Arts (ELA). While BMS has already begun implementation of practices to improve 
ELA proficiency, the CEP requires official board approval before being sent into the NYS Education Department.

The CEP includes three parts. Part I is a comprehensive school profile consisting of data on various topics -- such as enrollment, attendance, demographics, assessment data and survey results -- related to students, teachers, the district, the community, and the subject area of concern. Part II consists of the CEP team’s analysis of the data whereby patterns and root causes of low performance are identified and plans for improvement emerge. In Part III, the section for a detailed action plan, Mrs. Griffin highlighted two major strategies. First, the ELA staff will improve literacy instructional practices and make progress toward the college- and career-ready standard by more tightly aligning curriculum with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Secondly, the BMS community will learn, practice, and model research-based literacy strategies by having all departments taking responsibility for improving student literacy skills and increasing opportunities for students to interact with informational text.

Mrs. Griffin stressed that utilizing data analysis, interim assessments, and an interdisciplinary approach while increasing the scope, span and rigor  of expectations will help more students reach the raised bar of achievement.

Superintendent’s Summary

In addition to other reports on various current district projects, Superintendent of Schools Margaret Puzio, briefly noted the following:

-- While the board had recommended a zero increase in the district budget for 2012-2013, so far, the preliminary numbers are at approximately a 3-4 percent increase, which reflects an approximate 5 percent increase in the tax levy. Budget Ambassadors will begin reviewing the preliminary budget this week, and their recommendations as well as those from administrative reviews will be forthcoming.

-- A committee of district employees representative of the variety of staff positions has come together to investigate ways to reduce health care costs in order to preserve more jobs and programs. Rising health care costs continue to be a great concern in budget projections.

-- The district is well on its way to implementing the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) adopted by NYS in 2009. A recent training was held in Syracuse, and every department chair will be part of an upcoming district-wide presentation to staff on what and how CCSS are implemented.

School Board Association Awards

Superintendent Puzio formally thanked board members Patrick Burk and Amy Barone and congratulated each for receiving a Board Achievement Award from the NYS School Boards Association (NYSSBA). The NYSSBA’s School Board U recognition program is meant to acknowledge the extensive time and effort invested by members as they continually strive to expand their knowledge and skills for better board governance.

Update on Evaluation Procedure for Teachers and Principals

Deputy Superintendent Christopher Dailey provided an update on the emerging evaluation procedure for teachers and principals, noting that the State Education Department has requested permission to utilize pieces of our district plan as an example for other districts throughout the state.

The plan is in response to new legislation, first reported to the board by Puzio last fall (Nov. 1, 2011). At that time she noted:

-- Chapter 103 of the Laws of 2010 added a new section (3012-c) to the Education Law regarding annual professional performance reviews of all classroom teachers and building principals.
-- The new law applies first to all evaluations conducted by school districts on or after July 1, 2011, of teachers of “common branch subjects” (any or all of the subjects usually included in the daily program of an elementary school classroom) or English language arts or mathematics in grades four to eight, and principals employing such teachers.
-- By July 1, 2012, the process will be phased in for all classroom teachers and principals conducted by school districts or BOCES.
-- The new section of the law builds on current performance reviews, as opposed to replacing them.
-- The evaluations are intended to be a significant factor for employment decisions including but not limited to promotion, retention, tenure determination, and termination.
-- Performance reviews will yield a single composite effectiveness score (1-100) that incorporates multiple measures of effectiveness.
-- The measures used for scoring include student growth data on state assessments (initially 20 percent of the score, then 25 percent); locally selected measures of student achievement (initially 20 percent of the score, then drop down to 15 percent); and locally developed and negotiated criteria (for 60 percent of the score).
-- If a teacher or principal is rated as either developing or ineffective, the district must formulate and implement an improvement plan including such elements as the needed areas of improvement, timeline for achieving improvement, the manner in which improvement will be assessed, and differentiated activities to support improvement in those areas.
-- Districts must have an appeals procedure, established through negotiations, for teachers and principals to challenge their reviews.
-- This education law also establishes separate rules and for a Teacher Tenure Hearing related to charges of teacher or principal incompetence based solely upon an alleged pattern of ineffective teaching or performance (i.e., two consecutive annual “ineffective” ratings). In order to expedite the process of being able to remove an ineffective teacher or principal, the charges are to be heard by a single hearing officer within seven days after the pre-hearing conference and completed within 60 days thereafter. (A limited and time specific adjournment beyond the 60 days is available only if the hearing officer determines the delay is attributable to a circumstance or occurrence beyond the control of the requesting party and that an injustice would result if the adjournment was not granted.)

In a later update to the Board of Education (November 1, 2011), Mr. Dailey and Robert Morris Principal Diane Bonarigo outlined progress in working with the Batavia Teachers Association to determine measuring points and effective methods of evaluation for the locally determined 60 percent portion of the scoring measures. Utilizing ideas from the work two educational experts, Kim Marshall and Charlotte Danielson, Mr. Dailey and Mrs. Bonarigo presented a model that consists of approximately five annual, unannounced, mini-observations lasting 5-10 minutes, looking for evidence of “highly effective” to “ineffective” practices in three of the Four Domains taken from Danielson’s work: Planning and Preparation; Classroom Environment; Instruction; Professional Responsibilities. Then, within 48 hours, the principal would either provide written feedback, and/or have a conversation with the teacher to discuss that particular “snapshot” of teaching as well as invite the teacher to reflect.

The most recent report to the board included an update on the appeals process being negotiated, and on the 20-percent portion of the scoring measure. This portion of the measure is focused on defining the Student Learning Objective (SLO), which is particularly important for those subject areas in which there is no state assessment that can be used for teacher evaluation. Mr. Dailey outlined the five decisions that need to be effectively addressed before June 2012:

-- Assess and identify priorities and academic needs;
-- Identify which grades/subjects will have state-provided growth measures and which will require SLOs  as “comparable growth measures";
-- Determine district rules for how specific SLOs will get set;
-- Establish expectations for scoring SLOs and for determining teacher ratings for the growth component;
-- Determine district-wide processes for setting, reviewing and assessing SLOs in schools.

Booster Fundraising Proposals

Superintendent Puzio noted that, with the anticipated reductions in the number and in the scope of individual school programs, several parents have requested approval for forming booster groups to provide financial support for activities. Noting that difficult budget years are likely to continue, so too are these requests. As such, Mrs. Puzio suggested that the board consider formalizing a policy to handle such requests, and she asked for members’ initial thoughts and concerns. Some of the thoughts expressed by individual board members during this preliminary and exploratory discussion included:

-- The board should do whatever it can to preserve programs, including creating booster policies that would enable the preservation or support of activities;
-- A note that programs cannot become “pay to play” and that participation cannot become hinged on the ability to raise funds;
-- Any plan would need to consider the timeline for planning and scheduling (For example, any athletic group would need to be able to secure funding before the district could commit to scheduling competitions for the team.);
-- Breaking down all related expenses and forecasting the cost of activities could be burdensome;
-- Recently, some board members had expressed a concern about fundraising becoming too much of a burden for parents, yet this policy would likely increase the amount of fundraising that occurs.

Mrs. Puzio will consolidate the ideas and concerns in preparing a proposal for discussion next month at the March 26 school board meeting.

Mark Potwora
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the Plan sounds good...Glad to see the school district take this approach......1 million in saving is huge and a step in the right direction...Too bad they spent all the money they did on Robert Morris School..And also the new play ground they just installed....

Daniel Jones
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I often disagree with the board, but I can't help but agree with this plan, it's rational, well thought out and I think will benefit the community. It's a win for students as their education will be more streamlined (all in the same building for certain grades) and it's a win for the community at large as more office space will be available for businesses to start and grow.

Thomas Mooney
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It is evident that jobs will be cut . My question is are they going to cut some of those 100,000 a year jobs . We do not need all the Admin. that are currantly there . Lets start from the top and then the bottom . To many admin. compared to other districts our size. How about the Buildings and Grounds department , a 100,000 supervisor , two grounds keepers , multiple 50,000 and up custodians , find that in another district our size. Cafeteria's barely get cleaned but we have a bunch of high paying guys riding around in trucks all day or hanging out at Van Detta sinking to much time and money into a place that is for two sports . Will things ever change ?

John Roach
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The plan sounds good for a district with a declining student base. Keeping Robert Morris also would allow expansion if there was to be a population increase in the future.

Ted Wenzka
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- "relocating staff to available spaces around the District","
- Maintaining the Robert Morris building, making its classrooms and offices available for rental or lease."
- Relocating the Information Technology Department from the Administration Building"

Relocating staff to available spaces around the district does not make sense to me. Why not relocate the administration and IT dept to the Robert Morris Building.

Steve Ognibene
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Choosing this option is not a good one for the fact of not keeping families with multiple kids because now they will have to go to different elementary schools instead of the same school during their years in elementary.

I see that Jackson and JK would be the choices but what about a K-4 at each schools the the robert morris families would be split between north and the south to these. It was a option and the fact that now bussing will cross north and south multiple times when unnecessary if you keep 2 elementary boundrys untouched. They won't see thier siblings and have to deal with change.

The robert morris family district will now have to change not only once but twice. The parents who do drive their kids now have to run between 2 schools (who have more than one child) in order to get to work on time or pickup in the afternoon. I see the traffic increasingly becoming dangerous here.

Bea McManis
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I have no dog in this fight, but a few observations.

At one time, I transported my kids to JK; the middle school; the high school and GCC before going to work in the morning. It is a hassle, but it can be done if everyone cooperates.

Beware of the assurance that the children, who live a mile or more from the school, will be transported by bus. There is a convoluted formula for determining mileage to the school property. I believe it is from the nearest intersection to the start of the property. So, even if you live over a mile from the school, the formula prohibits your child from taking the bus. In our case, even though we lived over a mile from the JK, they considered the intersection of Fisher and Vine to the beginning of the JK school property under a mile. Unless this has changed over the years, it could present a problem.

I would hope that rental for Robert Morris would be for an educational purpose. Perhaps GCC might consider using the building or, as suggested, the BOE could use the building for administration. The playground could be moved to one of the other schools. If push came to shove, I could see it as a private day care. One question came to mind, if rented, would we still be paying the upkeep on the property and the daily maintenance?

.

Beth Kinsley
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Steve, I remember when my kids were younger, before I drove to Rochester every day, I used to drop one off at ABC daycare on Pearl Street, then swing around to Jackson to drop one off, one at the middle school, and then on my way out of town I would drop the oldest off at the high school. True - I was totally exhausted before I even got to work but that's just the way it was. No matter what, the kids are going to get split up as they move on up to the Middle School and the High School. I would love to see Robert Morris remain open. My older kids went there and it's a great school but we all agree that something has to be done to keep costs down.

John Roach
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Nobody said it was a great solution, they said it was the best solution given the circumstances.

Thomas Mooney
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John ,adding a new kindergarten this year at JK . Does that mean declining or is that going to be the trend . If so ,then why do you say it is declining . Very confused as how it is declining if we are adding a classroom at the lowest level .

John Roach
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Thomas,
There seems to be fewer total students in the school system than in the past. And there are fewer people living in the city than even ten years ago. That is what I mean by declining.

Carissa Helsdon
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The children will be ok with the change. They will adapt. It will be the parents that will have a hard time with the change, but we will HAVE to make it work. Once we get a routine going, everything will turn out ok.
The only thing I can't stand is the rivalry between the schools. Come on! How old are we?? Each school may be different, but they are all wonderful and unique. To quote a friend of mine, "yup, instead of school rivalry, we'll be One as it should be." Jennifer

Thomas Mooney
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Fewer living in the city maybe true but that is not the case for Elementary age kids and that is the future .Think of how much it is going to cost us to move all of these classrooms to maybe having to move it back once we realize we don't have enough space for the future . There is a new back up generater at the board office , new maintenance shop , new servers , roof repairs have been done , fundation repairs done , and now we are going to sell it . All this work has been done within the last 3 years , and none of it was needed if we are going to sell it . This a good example of how blind we are to the future , what makes our vision now any less clouded . New boiler at Robert Morris , new Cafeteria , many mechanical upgrades , new playground , and we are goint to rent it out . So now we are in the landlord field and opens the district up to law suits .

Brenda Ranney
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As if the local real estate market doesn't have enough competition already. But it is what it is. Until we attack the causes of declining city population & lack of jobs then this is only going to get worse.

SABRINA BRINKMAN
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This is a terrible plan. I am going to have three kids at three different schools. I did not move into my neighborhood to send my child to Jackson and John Kennedy schools. Right now I have a child in 7th grade at the middle school, one in 1st at RM, and a 3 year old. Yes we drop off at 3 different places. We were looking forward to our 2 younger children being able to attend school together. It's one of the reasons we didn't wait as long with spacing with them. We would have had them closer together if we could have. It wasn't meant to be for that. Next, no one is going to buy that administration building for $1 million. Really? Has ANYONE expressed an interest in buying it? I have yet to see any interest expressed in it. I write contracts that deal with construction, AE Designs, and renovations, abatement, etc. It would cost a lot of money to renovate that building to make it a suitable space for someone else. Not too mention what kind of environmental concerns and unknown site conditions you will get into with a building of that age that have to be remediated during the renovation. That costs money. So we're expecting a MILLION dollars for that building and then it has to be renovated. Yeah, not going to happen. Because it will cost 500k for a basic renovation to 1 million plus for upgrades to renovate. Why would someone buy something old that they would have to put a lot of money into renovating and make work (unless they had to), when they can have a brand new space designed, up to code, no asbestos, lead or anything else. It would cost less money to build new. I see these estimates ALL THE TIME. It would be a completely different situation if there was someone on the hook for that building. They have no one right now. Oh and we can just bus the children. Have you bussed a child before? One of the reasons my husband changed jobs was so that he could be there to take our children to school. We did the school's bussing when my oldest daughter was in kindegarden. My inlaws lived a mile away from the school. So she was bussed from their house in the morning to the school. She was on the bus at least an hour every single morning to go ONE MILE. Crazy. We now take them and pick them up from school. If all of these students did take the bus, has anyone evaluated the contract costs. This contract will increase in price. Increased fuel costs, student costs, overhead, etc. Has anyone done a cost analysis of what it would cost to bus these kids with the contracts, etc? Saying that there is a subsidy doesn't cut it. How much does the District pay for the bussing contract and how much will they get back in the subsidy? How much is going to be actually saved. I bet not much if anything would be saved. In fact I would not be surprised if it would cost more in bussing and eat into the cost savings.

SABRINA BRINKMAN
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*Should say spacing with the younger two* We learned our lesson with waiting too long between the first two. lol.

Phil Ricci
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Sarah, there is no expectation to sell the admin for that much money. The million in savings comes from the consolidation of Robert Morris. To clarify.

John Roach
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Phil,
Didn't an earlier consultant say he did not think anyone would buy the admin. building and an option might be to level it and sell the lot?

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