Monday, February 20, 2012

While on Break

Don't think for a second that I won't be working during February break, but I am hopeful that many of you will not be. That is why I wanted to get this post out early in the winter break so you can read it and then enjoy the rest of the week!

We have a lot of athletic activity happening right now, and I am going to refer you to our website so that you can see the progress and awards that our student athletes are achieving. I will also provide a summary of our winter campaign after all of our athletes are done competing this winter season.

We met with the Department of Transportation last Friday so they could show us their plans to make entry and exit into our high school safer for all of us. They are going to make changes to Hinsdale Road and the entrance to our high school opposite Hinsdale Road. They plan to add better crosswalks and electronic pedestrian crossing systems. There are also plans to add some sidewalks along West Genesee Street. While still in the final planning process and still needing to go through the Town, etc..., I personally see this update as an absolutely necessary change to ensure the safety of our community members. I would hope that this work, if approved, will take place beginning this summer.

There are a few topics being discussed in education at both the National and State levels and I wanted to explain those topics below in case you read or hear about them. If you have any questions about any of these topics, please feel free to ask.

Drop-Out Age

President Obama is tossing around the idea of raising the drop out age to 18. Currently, in New York State the drop out age is the completed school year after a child turns 16, and some schools have kept that age in their local policies and some have increased the age. From my point of view, and taking into consideration the few drop-outs that we do have, I am much more concerned about why a student would choose to drop out rather than when they drop out. I have recommended to the Board of Education that we keep our drop out age at 16 as we have had and continue to focus on why students are choosing to drop out.

Digital Textbooks

There is a large push from educational publishers right now for schools to convert their print textbooks to a digital format and have the textbooks, curriculum, and assessments delivered in an electronic format on an electronic device. The big question of course is cost. The next questions is the impact that digital material as opposed to print materials will have on student learning.

We are currently exploring both pieces of this initiative before making any decisions to either stay put with print materials, or move to a digital environment. There are ways to make a project of this scope economically feasible and in some cases even less costly than purchasing new print textbooks, but we are really taking the time to study the impact on student learning. Yes, we are in a Facebook, texting world, but the digital transformation is pretty new in our profession and there is a big difference in my mind between posting on a Facebook page and learning an entire curricular unit. Once we have had an opportunity to study things a little more deeply, I will update you with what our future plans will include.

Reverse Instruction

This initiative is also called classroom flipping and involves a teacher either using an Internet or video resource that the student watches at home. The student then completes their assignments during classtime with the more individualized help of the classroom teacher. Initial reports on a national scale find this teaching method to be promising. Mr. Misiano, one of our high school math teachers, is conducting a pilot of this method with one of his math analysis classes. I am looking forward to the first progress review. A very popluar website you can try is  It features free lessons that run about five minutes and cover a variety of topics. I don't think this is quite the future of education, but it is definitely a powerful and promising teaching and learning solution.


If you remember in 2008 when I was hired, I promised the community that I would make sure that our business was as transparent as possibe.  This is why we use Facebook, Twitter, this blog, our website, and our newsletters the way we currently do. The proof that this has been working lies in the new state guidelines for open government, and we go above what even the most current regulations call for. We will certainly continue in this direction.

The Tax Cap

I think that there is a public misconception about the Governor's "tax cap" that he enacted not too long ago.  Essentially, the tax cap was advertised as a "two percent or less" tax levy for schools, libraries, and municipalities. The fine print, however, allows for adjustments to the tax cap both up and down for things like capital project payments, assessment growth, PILOT payments, and judgements for and against the District.  When all of those things are taken into consideration, the approved tax cap for our District is approximately 3.06%.  We will certainly present a budget that falls below this tax cap percentage, but I did not want you to be surprised when you begin to see stories about school budgets and you see tax cap percentages as high as nearly 7.5% and as low as -.7% , with plenty in-between. 

I have a presentation that I will place on the website after break that displays the state formula and how we arrived at our tax cap levy percent. Again, nothing to worry about, but I figured if I didn't provide a quick education you would be mighty confused when all of our schools have tax cap percentages that are different!  Also, just a quick note that if a school wants to exceed their tax cap percentage (which we will NOT), they need the budget vote to pass by more than 60%.

If you get a break, enjoy it; and if you don't, just remember that the grass is green and many of my friends are still playing golf right here in Syracuse, New York!