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!