Good work, kids… oops, no, you failed

KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane school board will have a new vacancy to fill at the end of August. It also has its work cut out for it trying to explain why the state has changed the grading system for the lower grades so that kids who thought they were doing work at grade level will now be told they weren’t. The grading changes apply statewide.

Board member Gary Bagnato announced at the Tuesday, July 27, meeting, that he is leaving the board. He has one year left on his term.

The board will now have to decide whether to appoint a new member, hold a special election or leave the seat vacant.

Mr. Bagnato said he thought that leaving now would give someone else the opportunity to be involved in the hiring of a new, permanent superintendent. The district is currently in the process of searching for a superintendent after the resignation of James Dexter took effect in June. Lee Bordick is serving as interim superintendent for this school year.

It was Mr. Bordick who announced at the meeting that the state has changed its standards retroactively for grading in the lower grades. He said the state education commissioner will be making an announcement about the new scoring soon and it will be a greater topic of discussion at future meetings. But the change will have an immediate impact on the district, because about 30 students in the district who originally received passes grades will now be considered performing “under grade level.”

Mr. Bordick told the board that the change will “increase the number of students in need of remediation.”

Letters will be going out to parents to explain the new “cut points,” as Mr. Bordick called the grade changes. He described them as the points set by the state that determine grading levels. Mr. Bordick said the state made these changes retroactively to strengthen the state’s application for federal Department of Education funds from the Race to the Top program, which could net the state up to $700 million in federal aid.

The state learned this week that New York is again among the finalists in the current round of funding for Race to the Top funds along with 17 other states. New York was also a finalist in the first round earlier this year but was not selected to receive the money when the winners were announced. A key issue for New York in the first round was the limit on the number of charter schools the state would allow, a number that has since been increased. The change in grading standards has not received attention in the media.

Federal officials expect to make their final decision in September on which states will receive Race to the Top funding in this round.

The Ichabod Crane board started this week’s meeting talking about unappropriated fund balances. Mr. Bordick said that last spring’s financial projections were a little more optimistic than what actually came in “when the books closed.” He said that shortfall would affect the board’s budget planning for next year.

The district was also hit with 13 retirements at the last meeting in early July due to state retirement incentives. The board approved substitute positions for six of those retirees, with the teachers working at hourly rates in their old positions. “We selected this group [after] conversations with our staff,” said Mr. Bordick of the returning retirees.

One position that will not be filled is transportation director. Sherrill Phillips is retiring this summer and many of her duties will be taken on by the head bus driver.

The board saved any discussion about replacing Mr. Bagnato’s seat until the August 3 meeting. Board President Andrew Kramarchyk thanked Mr. Bagnato for his service and called his decision to leave a “selfless act.” He also reminded the board that many members currently serving were originally appointed or elected for a one-year term.

Mr. Kramarchyk called the opening on the board “a great opportunity” because it coincides with the search for a new superintendent.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday August 3 at 7pm in the Middle School Library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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