Monday, November 30, 2015

Time Goes Quickly

Well, I only gained two pounds over the Thanksgiving break. Certainly could have been worse considering how much I ate and how much less I exercised! It was good to get a couple of days with family.

A Busy Time: The time from now until winter break goes by very quickly and is full of concerts, games, and meetings. All positive things; but imagine hosting groups of people at your house ranging from about a dozen to over a thousand people every night for twenty days straight! I get anxious that every night an event will be special, that our facilities will show well, and that everyone will want to come back next time. It will all work out thanks to talented students, caring advisors, teachers, coaches, and dedicated custodians. I am allowed to worry though; it's in my job description!

The Budget Process Starts: We are also in the beginning phases of budget development.  It is far too early to speculate, but it appears that our "tax cap" (the maximum amount that school taxes can be raised without needing a supermajority of voters) will be much lower than usual. This might sound like a positive, and it can be. If we do not get additional state funding to make up for the decrease in the tax cap, there may be some difficult decisions to make.

The state aid number we are looking for is called the "Gap Elimination Adjustment" or GEA for short. Most school superintendents, school boards, and elected officials are hoping and lobbying for a full restoration of the GEA. This amount would allow schools to keep tax levies down WITHOUT having to make major reductions in what is offered. I expect to have more information about the GEA and state aid by late January.

Changes are Coming in State Education: In state education news there appears to be some movement in the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process used to evaluate teachers and principals. At the beginning of the school year all schools were directed to have updated APPR plans on file or risk their state aid increases. West Genesee had their plan approved quickly while many schools filed for waivers, prolonging their approval processes. Governor Cuomo has recently hinted at removing, at some level, the tie between student test scores and the APPR process. I expect more information about this soon.

At the same time both the Governor and the Commissioner of Education have separate panels assembled to evaluate the Common Core Learning Standards (the Commissioner is a member of the Governor's panel also). What will come of each panel is somewhat unknown, but it is safe to say that there will be a reduction in the amount of testing related to the Common Core Learning Standards. That, coupled with the potential of assessment results not being tied to teacher APPR scores, may be a sign that people in positions of power are actually listening to people like us who are on the ground. Wishful thinking...but it is the holiday season!

Dedicated Board of Education and the National Honor Society: Lastly, I want to thank our Board of Education and especially Board member Vladimiro Hart-Zavoli. Mr. Hart-Zavoli is legally blind but has never let that stop him from supporting and helping students. The most recent example took place right before break. We were holding our mid-year National Honor Society ceremony. I was watching a basketball practice on one side of the building and as I headed back to the library I heard a custodian helping Vladimiro find the main hallway that would lead to the library.

I hooked up with him and led him to our destination. When the ceremony ended I asked him who was picking him up and where, so I could help him get to the correct door. He indicated that he did not need me to worry because he was going to catch the bus back to his house. It was cold and rainy and he did not have a ride, but he also did not want to miss a student event so he was willing to wait for the bus in the cold and rain. COMPLETE dedication to our students. Needless to say, he got a ride home!

Enjoy the week!