Principals ask for more teachers, new courses

CHATHAM – The school board heard Phase I proposals last week from all three school principals about adding and changing programs. Elementary School Principal Kristen Reno had the most costly proposal, asking the board to hire another reading specialist for the school.

There was also a lot of talk at the March 13 meeting about the changes in curriculum coming from the state and mandates that will require all students to be college and career ready when they leave Chatham Schools. School Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo talked about a national curriculum that the state is trying to move toward.

“There is a national model that has been adopted by almost all 50 states,” she said. Ms. Nuciforo told the board that New York’s state standards are becoming more rigorous, while the district and schools around the state are dealing with declining enrollment and a property tax cap.

Ms. Reno talked about students who are not in special education but are struggling in reading and the need to get them up to the correct reading level before third grade. “Getting the kids before they are nine years old is really crucial,” she told the board.

Ms. Reno is asking to make the current reading specialist a kindergarten through 2 grade reading teacher and hire a new teacher for 3rd to 5th-grade program. She said currently the reading teacher only has time to meet with the “most needy” students for a half hour a day. There are about 60 kids in the elementary school in need of extra reading help, around 10 to 15 students in each grade.

The next proposal came from the Middle School to add an Earth science course for accelerated students in the 8th grade, with a small stipend for science teacher Jason Kahn and money for materials.

The high school English Department wants to add one semester of core curriculum studies for seniors, who now have only electives as course choices. English teacher Terry Bordell said that his department was trying to cram in basic writing and technical writing skills into the electives.

“We’re not being reactionary to what the state wants, we are getting out ahead of it,” he said of the tougher standards from the Education Department.

The high school is also thinking of getting rid of the Applied Science course and replacing it with a 21st century science course that would look at nanotechnology as well as chemistry and physics. “This is a much more exciting class,” said Principal John Thorsen. “We feel it’s much more appropriate for many kids.”

Both the change in English and the new class in Science would be a minimal cost to the district.

The board also discussed the wording in the policy for the fitness room, which includes a section about proper supervision and the room being open to college-age Chatham students.

Ms. Nuciforo said the policy was designed to be “flexible enough to be reasonable, but be clear that is not in open use.” This was the first reading of the policy and the board will approve it after the third reading.

On the topic of sharing school services the board set May 19 at 7 p.m. in New Lebanon as the tentative date and time for a meeting with officials of the New Lebanon Central School District to talk about how the two districts can operate more efficiently.

The next Chatham school board meeting will be Tuesday, March 27 in the elementary school at 6:30p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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