School district shelves plan for late arrival to school

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:30

    Warwick — Approximately 100 people turned out for the Warwick Valley School Board’s work session on Monday night, including many who were there in response to the district’s proposed plan to delay school by two hours twice a month during the school year in order to allow for state-mandated teacher reviews and training. Community members attending the meeting said they were concerned that the proposed delays would both take valuable time away from their children’s education and create child care issues for working parents. Under a recently enacted New York State education law, teachers (and principals) are subject to an Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR. In principle, this review process has a dual purpose: To track educators’ strengths and improve their weaknesses, allowing both for professional growth and improving the quality of students’ education. While acknowledging the difficulty for parents of a delayed start to their children’s school day, the problem, according Schools Superintendent Dr. Raymond Bryant, is that there are currently no funds budgeted for teachers to fulfill their mandated training by coming in either before or after school. They would, by contract, have to be paid for their additional time. Obstacles outlined, then assurances given Bryant outlined the difficulties with proposed alternatives to late arrivals in an e-mail correspondence to concerned parents: “Adding more 'Superintendent’s Conference Days’ to the schedule … would require more than the number of conference days allowable by the State Education Department,” he wrote. “The four conference days already planned, including the two that took place before school started for students, is the maximum allowed. These conference days are necessary to complete review of state assessment data, create lesson plan designs, analyze Regents exam results, complete end-of-year assessments and for other important educational work. Adding more Half-Days for students to the schedule (This would, in most cases, put the district under the minimum instructional time per week required by state education law.) Hiring substitute teachers to be in classrooms while teachers are pulled out for training (This would require additional funds - about $90,000 - which are not in the 11-12 budget.) Having teachers come in for training for an additional three days at the end of June after the school year has ended (By contract, teachers would have to be compensated for this time added. It would cost district taxpayers approximately $175,000 to do this. Those funds are not in the 11-12 budget.)” Still, Bryant reassured anxious parents: “Late arrival is off the table for this year.” Instead, the district will use a number of one-hour early release days to implement APPR. While many parents seemed relieved by the news, some were concerned about the lack of communication on the part of the board. “We don’t hear from you until your backs are against the wall (as in the case of the now-closed Pine Island Elementary) and you need to get out (of a jam),” one mother complained. Bryant responded: “How do we get people here (to meetings) without a crisis? We talk about these issues (at regular meetings), and only five people show up.” Board member and Community 2020 committee member Lynn Lillian suggested future meetings with the community to improve communication between the school board and parents and other stakeholders, as well as develop a workable alternative to late arrivals. 'Needs Improvement’ While parents were drawn to the work session because of the late arrival issue, much of the meeting time was spent discussing the school district’s report card, test scores, particularly the Middle School missing its target for a second year in a row. Dr. Marijane Reinhard, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instructional services, explained the criteria for schools to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, and noted that the Middle School missed its target for a second consecutive year, largely due to the low scores of some of the Special Education students. (Please go to the following link to see Warwick Valley Middle School’s Report Card in detail: AYP is a measurement defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to verify how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results of standardized tests. In New York state, the rules were changed as of the 2009-10 school year: In other business Kings Principal Sandra Wood-Veninger spoke on behalf of her school, noting that a year ago, “Our (test) scores were all in the 90’s, but the State changed the rubric … and also changed the test, making it longer and harder.” But she added: “We’ll do it again (scores in the 90’s) and we’ll rise to the top like rich cream.” Wood-Veninger said that she and her staff are parents as well as teachers, and “I love Kings and everyone in it. Students come first … we won’t let anyone go down the tubes.” The school district will offer free administration of the PSAT exam to every 10th grader on Saturday, October 15. The next regular monthly meeting of the School Board will be Monday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m., at Sanfordville Elementary School.