Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015:

BUDGET DEVELOPMENT:  As we move past the latest holiday celebration and look ahead  . . . this is the time of year where we begin the relatively lengthy budget development process.  On the surface it appears to begin with a conversation and discussion internally with school staff and ends in the voting booth with the community.  In reality, the budget process actually spans typically across 3 different school years.  We are often working in the previous year with carry-over funds and appropriations; we are obviously handling day-to-day operations (including ordering materials, equipment, salaries, fuel for buses, etc.), and we are utilizing our Strategic Plan as a mechanism to link our mission, vision, beliefs and goals to the student needs and planning for the following school year(s).  Below is our budget development calendar with several significant milestones:

    • November 9, 2015:  Board Reviews Budget Calendar
    • November 23, 2015:  Board Approves Budget Calendar
    • November 24, 2015:  District Distributes Budget Materials to Budget Originators
    • December 17, 2015:  Budget Kick-Off Meeting with Budget Advisory Team
    • December, January & February:  B.A.T. Meetings
    • February 5, 2016:  Draft of Budget Presentation
    • February 22, 2016:  Budget Presentation to Board of Education
    • February 26, 2016:  Submit Tax Levy Limit to Office of State Comptroller
    • March 7, 2016:  Budget Review with Board
    • March 14, 2016:  Possible Budget Workshop with Board
    • March 21, 2016:  Budget Review with Board
    • March 28, 2016:  Possible Budget Workshop with Board
    • April 4, 2016:  Adopt Budget and Property Tax Report Card
    • May 2, 2016:  Post Budget Statement to Website & School Bell
    • May 9, 2016:  Public Hearing on Proposed Budget
    • May 17, 2016:  NYS Public School Vote

CELEBRATIONS:  From the perspective of student achievement, this fall has been a tremendous success.  The LHS Marching Band had another very successful season - culminating with an exciting finish at the Carrier Dome.  The Liverpool sport's programs finished the fall season with a multitude of winning programs . . . including girl's field hockey, girl's cross-country, boy's and girl's soccer, girl's swimming, tennis, golf, cheerleading, as well as boy's and girl's volleyball.

Two teams we are especially excited about as they concluded their season(s) are the Varsity Football Team and the Boy's Cross-Country Team.  The Football Team ended their fall campaign on Saturday, November 21st losing to Aquinas Institute of Rochester (the eventual NYS Champion).  The team lost their bid for a state title by losing 17-16.  By the way, many folks have suggested the 2015 AA Football Championship was play at CNS High School between Liverpool High School and Aquinas Institute.  Aquinas won the state title by defeating Saratoga on Sunday, November 28th - by a score of 44-19 (although, Aquinas ended the 3rd quarter leading 44-0).

The other team of significance is the Boy's Varsity Cross-Country Team . . . New York State Champions . . . also NYS Federation Champions - led by Senior (West Point bound) Ben Petrella.  The team will head to the Nike Center in Oregon on Wednesday, December 2nd to compete in the National High School X-C Meet.

We are now looking ahead to an exciting winter season with competition kicking off this week.
Good Luck to all of our Warrior Teams!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015:

Happy New Year . . . or more aptly entitled, "Welcome to a New School Year!"  As we begin the 2015-2016 school year - if the first couple weeks of school are any indication or prove to be any reassurance for the remaining 38 weeks, I feel confident that this year will ultimately be a great year.  

We will soon roll out our "almost" complete new 5-Year Strategic Plan.  This is significant simply because the document will guide our work over the next five years (and beyond).  As we know, the Liverpool Central School District proudly serves approximately 7,500 students.  So, on behalf on each and every student . . . this Strategic Plan serves as our commitment and dedication to the success and promise for an individualized and personalized education.  We enter this New Year with a renewed commitment to academic excellence, educational equality, ethics, engagement, as well as the standards and rigor, which sets Liverpool apart formally other educational institutions.

With our five-year strategic plan, we have the opportunity to build on our strengths and harness the support from our community to move the school district to the next level.  For many years, the district has provided an excellent education to all of our students.  We must continue that proud tradition while taking advantage of the advances in technology to ensure all students are afforded every opportunity to achieve success and an enriched life beyond our walls.

This effort requires the contributions and commitment of our families and community partners.   As parents, as educators, and as a community, we all share the same expectations . . . for our children to be happy, knowledgeable, and successful contributing members of society.  We must work collectively to ensure that our students have the skills and tools to succeed in life.  We must do all we can to prepare our students for an ever-changing world.  Ultimately, this requires a partnership.

As you will soon see, the district will be focusing on 3 major goals:
   Student Achievement
   Future-Ready Skills

Along with these goals, the district will also be embarking on several initiatives:
   Support Project-Based Learning Classrooms;
   Initiate a "1-to-1" Technology Device Environment;
   Initiate a transition into a Paperless Work Environment;
   Support a Google Drive Platform;
   Support Classroom Connections in 'Knowledge and Learning with Career Readiness Skills and Expectations Beyond High School';
   Continue to Reinforce and Support Increase Rigor (and Relevance) in Academic Expectations;
   Provide Support for S.T.E.M. Alignment and other Cross-Disciplinary Linkages in Curriculum and Instruction;
   Initiate an Enhanced Communication Plan;
   Review and Enhance the District Safety Plan;
   Develop a District-Wide Facility Improvement Plan;
   Develop a District-Wide Professional Development Plan;
   Design and Initiate a Community-Partner Plan;

This Strategic Plan will be utilized to measure the success and expectations for the coming years; I will continue to monitor and report on the district's success stories, as well as identify our shortcomings.  I look forward to the community's input throughout the process.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015:

Happy Spring Everyone!  We finally find ourselves soaking in the sun this week . . . the temperature is finally in the high 60s, which is an enormous improvement over the frigid February and rainy (and relentless) snowy March and April.  So, thank goodness for seasonal change in Upstate New York.

Looking back at this past month's events, we have completed two important tasks (or events) . . . we have assembled our proposed budget for the 2015-2016 School Year for the Liverpool Central School District . . . to be voted on by the community on Tuesday, May 19th.  And, we have recently completed the English-Language Arts and Mathematics portions of the New York State Common Core Assessments.

Let me begin by talking about the state assessments first.  As with almost all school districts in New York State, an opt-out or participant refusal push began last year (April 2014) that affected many schools with regard to the state and federally-required 95% participation rate.  Based on the "Elementary and Secondary Education Act" enacted may decades ago . . . and re-authorized through the "No Child Left Behind" legislation - all schools must assess students in grades 3rd through 8th grade annually in ELA and Math, as well once in elementary and middle school in Science; and, ELA, Math, and Science in High School.  Districts must provide evidence that at least 95% of the students enrolled within each district, within each building, and within each grade (at the specific grade level assessment points) have sat for their respective assessments.

Specifically for Liverpool, during the 2014 Assessment window, we met the 95% participation rate - as required by NYSED (New York State Education Department) regulations.  As for the 2015 assessment period . . . we are at: 75% for 3-8 ELA; 70% for 3-8 MATH; and, 74% for 4th & 8th grade Science.  The refusal rates 25%, 30%, and 26% respectively are significantly below the 95% threshold.  But, Liverpool is not alone.  As a matter of fact - we have one of the higher (or average) participation rates state-wide . . . there are districts throughout the state that have exceeded 50%, 60%, 70% and 80% refusal rates for 3-8 assessments.  The question now posed by schools is . . . so how does this impact us?  To date -- there are no answers and no understanding of any rippling effects financial or otherwise.

The question this realistically leaves me with is . . . Why?  Why are so many people opposed to the "standardized assessments" being administered to students . . . Is it the opposition to APPR (Annual Professional Performance Reviews) of school staff?  Is it the use of assessment data for providing growth scores for children?  Is it the confusion with Common Core specific to standards, curriculum and High Stakes Testing? Or, are there other ethical, moral, or personal reasons for opposing the assessment battery imposed by NYSED?  Schools need data to determine the effectiveness of curriculum and instructional programs; schools needs comparative data between districts; and, schools needs nationally-normed data to assist with accountability measures -- all separate and apart from evaluating the specific needs of individual children and separate and apart from evaluating the effectiveness of staff members.

BUDGET 2015-2016:
So, after several sessions of advocacy and student, staff and community supportive efforts . . . we finally received the data necessary to develop a fiscally-responsible proposed school budget.  We received the school aid runs on April 2 (two days after the New York State Budget was unveiled).  In essence, we received our full amount of Foundation Aid, our full amount of Building Aid, and 60% of reinstated Gap Elimination Adjustment totaling about $6 million more than the previous school year.  By rolling over our current staff and operating costs, by adding approximately 30 absolutely needed positions to the budget, and by not relying of borrowing funds to balance the budget (as with the past 5 years) . . . we applied the state aid increase to the 2015-2016 budget; this resulted in a budget increase of approximately 2.9%; this also assumes a local estimated levy of about 1.79%.

The 2015-2015 Budget Public Hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 7th at 6:30pm in the District Office.  The Budget Vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19th from 6:00am until 9:00pm in the Liverpool High School Gymnasium.

There are an abundant number of events that occurred each day, week, and month at various buildings and within many programs throughout the school district.  Located on our web page, we have an up-to-date calendar that identifies many of the fantastic things occurring in the Liverpool Schools . . . So, before the school year draws to an end in late June - please be sure to visit one (or many) of our great programs in the schools.  Thank you for your continued support for our students!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Liverpool Central School District will Host an Advocacy Forum on Monday, March 16th:
      I'm  certain you are aware of the ongoing political debate staged between NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Legislature, and further down the food chain -- the staff and unfortunately the students at every public school in the state.  So, I'm sure I don’t need to point out that the state of public education has become a hot button and a intensely debated issue in New York State, as well. You are bombarded with political ads and flyers about this very topic each and every day.
     But public education is a complex issue with topics such as Common Core, teacher evaluations, standardized tests, tax caps and the gap elimination adjustment painting a murky and emotional picture for community members.
      That is why the Liverpool Central School District will host a 'Public Advocacy Forum' regarding the state of public education on Monday, March 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Liverpool High School Auditorium.  The forum will provide Liverpool students, parents, community members and business owners with information that will benefit our greater Liverpool community. We also will share opportunities for involvement, awareness and knowledge regarding recent proposals made by the state. These proposals will impact our students and community into the future. 

I encourage you to join us on March 16.

Dr. Mark F. Potter

Superintendent of Schools

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Response to Governor Cuomo's Budget Proposal 2015:

As most folks are likely well aware throughout the state, yesterday (Wednesday, January 21st) Governor Cuomo presented his 2015-2016 New York State Budget Proposal.  Most school district officials were well attuned with the basic assumptions regarding what he would speak to . . . we were not aware of the specific details included in the contents of his speech ahead of time.

It was believed he would identify the Teacher (and Principal) performance system (APPR) as a major concern for him - especially as the scores appear inflated from his perspective.  He also identified the concept of 3-year terms for teachers earning tenure being too short; the Governor's proposal includes lengthening the non-tenure term to five (5) years and link it directly to evaluation scores.

Although, these issues identified above are not insignificant . . . the major issue Governor Cuomo included was tying these two issues (APPR & Tenure) to the State Aid provided directly to school districts.

Considering the devil is in the details -- right now, there is very little in the way of details.  Listening to the Governor’s speech yesterday, I am somewhat encouraged by some of his ideas; I am concerned by others; but, ultimately the budget did not match up several of the important details of his stated proposals.  The most important of which is the funding that schools rely on to make budgeting decisions each spring.  Without concrete details of what funds schools could expect to receive, it is impossible to determine whether any of these proposals are viable.

I am hopeful that the Governor will provide further clarity and specific details on the funding proposals that he mentioned in his speech very soon.  Without that clarity, it is impossible to say whether this budget does anything to help our school district.

Obviously, more information will follow.  As I specified in earlier blogs - we begin the budgeting process in November; the State Aid runs are "typically" provided to schools in mid to late January.  Without the State Aid formula and calculations provided - it is absolutely impossible to balance [with any certainty] the revenues with our proposed appropriations or expenses.  This mechanism of handcuffing schools within the political arena does nothing but directly impact our students negatively.

Mark F. Potter, Ed. D.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year . . . I am looking forward to an eventful, exciting, fruitful, and awesome 2015!

As we begin the New Year, some changes have transpired at the State Education Department in Albany, New York.  Our "former" Commissioner of Education, Dr. John King has resigned and moved on as a senior cabinet member for the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  This transition in leadership at the helm for the New York State Department of Education brings many more questions . . . than answers.

With that thought, New York Chancellor Merryl Tisch had recently announced her New Year resolution -- to revise the teacher evaluation system so that Common Core 3-8 test scores can trump all other forms of teacher and principal performance evaluation mechanisms.  Our current evaluation system utilizes a combination of 3 calculation factors to assimilate one's final score - based on the HEDI rubric (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective).  The three scores are comprised of 20% Common Core State Assessments (or SLOs), 20% Local Achievement Scores, and 60% Classroom Performance Evaluations.  It was believed by John King, Merryl Tisch, and Governor Cuomo . . . that once the APPR system was implemented (Annual Professional Performance Review) the "typical" bell curve outcome for evaluation scores for would produce about 10% ineffective educators, 10% highly effective educators, followed by the bulk of teachers and principals falling somewhere in the middle.  This has clearly not been the case - for a multitude of reasons.  

So what is to be expected for 2015?  First and foremost, a teacher (and principal) improvement and mentoring system cannot be confused with an evaluation tool.  There is very little correlation between the outcomes (or growth scores) for students --- based on the 3-8 SED methodology for students stacked together and the growth "awarded" to classroom teachers for each sub-group of students (based on socio-economics, limited English learners, and students with disabilities). Secondly, the SED's "value-added" methodology puts the effectiveness of student's growth on a trajectory which places teachers in competition amongst one another -- competing for 'limited available' scores or points, as students grow academically -- based on state-wide percentiles.  So, likely much more conversation, discussion, and debate over how to best determine if our best educators are positioned in classrooms guiding our students each and every day.

We recently kicked off the 2015-2016 budget planning cycle; our timeline provides an overview and presentation to the Liverpool Board of Education on Monday, February 23, 2015.  This early snapshot is followed by several more weeks of discussion and evaluation of the needs for all district programs weighed against the mission, vision, beliefs and goals of the school district.  District residents will have the opportunity vote on the annual operating budget on May 19th.

> What are the State's finances currently:  With recently financial windfalls (bank settlements), the state has approximately $4 billion more than expected.

> Who else is competing for state dollars:  Charter Schools, Technology Infrastructure, and the Gap Elimination Assessment are all playing significant roles for priorities from the perspective of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature.  The question remains how does the state aid formula play in efforting an equitable (although not equal) distribution of funds across all 700 (or so) public-school districts.

> What is the Governor's commitment to public education:  The Governor has made very little commitment or commentary regarding new initiatives and priorities for the 2015-2016 budget.  He has focused (most recently from the election outcomes) on privatization of public education - especially linked to the tax cap.  He has also identified that Charter Schools will remain a mainstay for funding streams - even at the expense of public education budgets. 

> What is the Legislature's commitment to public education:  It is hopeful that the Legislature will follow their 2014-2015 measures and add modest increases to public education funding over and above the Governor's draft for education spending in the proposed budget. 

> What circumstances will come to bear to influence the process:  The "X" factors finding their way into the discussion for next year's spending unfortunately may have very little to do with academics, students, or even local school needs.  The focus in Albany may revolve around politics and future options for higher office.  The re-election support certainly seems to favor more focus on Charter Schools; there is an obvious dedication to revamping APPR and the accountability for school staff; and lastly, the Governor has decided that green/renewable energy and entrepreneurial efforts will provide some level of legacy for his reign as the leader of New York State.

The February 2015 Blog will focus on our local initiatives and efforts for guiding our students as we continue to prepare them for 21st century skills and expectations, along with College and Career Readiness.