VALATIE–Under pressure from the state, a committee of teachers, parents and school administrators in the Ichabod Crane School District hopes to encourage more parents of students in grades 3 to 8 to have their children take the state assessment tests this spring. With that goal in mind, the distirct has scheduled an information night Thursday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m.
At a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, March 5, the committee discussed the upcoming information night. Middle school teacher Melanie Moon told the board that one of the committee’s goals is “to build a partnership with parents.”
Since the state began the assessments in 2013, Ichabod Crane has had a large “opt-out” rate, a term applied to parents who have refused to allow their children to take the assessment tests. Their refusals have not affected students’ grades or the school district’s state funding.
Middle school math teacher Mary Liles, who has worked on grading state tests, said that the test has “changed tremendously” over the years. She told the board that the earlier tests “were very difficult for kids.” But now, she said, the opt-out movement has been heard at the state level. The test questions changed and the amount of time the testing takes has been reduced.
Of the new tests, Ms. Liles said, “These questions are very age appropriate.”
The school district must meet the state goal of having 95% of the students grades 3 through 8 participate in the testing. Only about 50% of students took the state math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests in the primary and middle schools last year.
State law includes the state testing and “requires that 95% of students in each tested subgroup take the appropriate state tests.” At a board meeting in January, Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said the state has not said the district’s opt-out rate will affect state aid funds yet, but that the state will step in if districts do not meet the law’s requirements. At that meeting she said there could be “difficulties” down the road with the state if the district does not meet the 95% target.
The informational night Thursday, March 7 will be at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school library.
Also at the meeting, the board appointed Ms. Guntlow assistant superintendent for a three-year probationary term. They abolished her current position of Principal in Charge of the APPR and Curriculum and Instruction. Ms. Guntlow’s appointment is retroactive to July 1, 2017 and will end in June 2020.
Board member Jeffrey Ouellette was the only board member present at the meeting who voted against Ms. Guntlow’s appointment, saying, “I can’t support the terms and conditions of the contract.” Board President Matthew Nelson was not at the meeting and board member Susan Ramos left before the vote.
Also at the meeting:
• The board reviewed a proposed instructional budget for the 2019-20 school year. If the district replaces all retiring teachers the final budget will be around $41 million. District Business Manger Michael Brennan and Superintendent Michael Vanyo stressed that they still needed to look at the final revenues in state aid. But Mr. Vanyo said the board had until mid-April to decide and propose a final budget to district residents.
“We are not looking to cut programs,” he said, but added, “I think we can do things differently.” The district has been looking at different configurations of programs, not replacing some retiring teachers and possibly joining a distance learning program so that students can take classes in other districts by video conference. He did say after comments from a resident about the music program, that the administration does not plan to cut the middle school general music program
• The board approved the vacation days due to the unused snow days. If no more snow days are used in the next few weeks, school will not be in session on March 29, April 18, May 23 and June 27. If more snow days are needed, school will be open on some of those days. The information is posted on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org
• The board announced the retirements of teaching assistants Penny Barlow, Bernadette Torre, and Katherine Kelly; special education teacher Mary Beth Watrous; and cook Tracy Dauria
• The board heard a report about the Questar III/BOCES program from Questar Superintendent Gladys Cruz and Deputy Superintendent Harry Hadjioannou. Several Ichabod Crane students who are in various BOCES programs–ranging from cosmetology, welding, to the New Visions arts program and Tech Valley High–spoke to the board about their experiences. The district contracts with Questar for academic programs and administrative services.
The next regular board meeting will be April 2 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email