Tests say Taconic Hills shows some improvement

CRARYVILLE–The results of proficiency testing in 2017 for Taconic Hills School District elementary students shows a 5% gain in English Language skills compared to 2016, and a 1% increase in mathematics, according to report cards released by the New York State Education Department in August.

Director of instruction and staff development for the district, Sandra Gardner, presented the report card findings to the school board at its September 20 meeting.

Of the 506 third through eighth graders tested in English, 179, or 35%, were proficient; and out of 482 third through eighth graders tested in math, 166, or 33%, were proficient. While Taconic Hills testing results improved overall, the district’s students lag behind statewide proficiency in English by 5% and in math by 7%.

Board member Bonnie Torchia asked what impact students opting out of the testing had on the proficiency results. Ms. Gardner replied that very few third graders did not take the test, so the impact was less at that grade level. But she said a significant number of eighth graders did opt out, and that had a greater impact on the results.

Parents around the county and the state concerned about the state’s lengthy proficiency tests have refused to allow their children to take the exams over the last few years. The state does not have an “opt out” option but districts have permitted the practice.

During an interview in his office, Taconic Hills Superintendent Neal Howard, Jr. said there were fewer reasons for students to opt out of testing because of changes made in 2016 that shortened testing time to 90 or 70 minutes depending on subject area and spreads out the testing over a number of days.

Testing results can be viewed on the website, data.nysed.gov, by clicking on “districts” and scrolling to the letter “T”.

The proficiency report was followed by a presentation on chiller replacement options by SEI Design Group representatives Matthew Schools, an architect, and Matt Barnert, an engineer. Just 25% of the school district’s buildings are serviced with air conditioning and the areas without are mostly classrooms.

The district has spent up to $60,000 over the past two years on chiller repairs and more work is needed this year. Dr. Howard described the yearly repairs as a “band aid” approach and said that a more substantive solution was necessary. The chillers were purchased in 1999 and are nearing the end of serviceability.

Mr. Schools and Mr. Barnett explained the greater efficiency benefits of geothermal power. They outlined five options ranging from replacement and upgrade of chillers, a hybrid thermal-chiller system, and full conversion to geothermal. The costs range from $500,000 to replace and upgrade, to $1.5 million for a hybrid system, and up to $11 million for a full conversion. Each option would require voter approval and state review.

In the interview, Dr. Howard conceded that neither a full conversion or a hybrid system was likely due to cost and lengthy state reviews. But he added that replacing and upgrading the chillers from 500 tons to 800 tons capacity would bring “immediate environmental and financial benefits.” That approach would also increase the building space serviced by air conditioning by 10%.

Two future school board meetings will be held in communities in the district. The November 15 meeting will be held at the Roe Jan library in Hillsdale, and the December 20 meeting will be at Copake Town Hall.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for October 18 at 6:30 p.m.

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