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Defending Schools’ Turf, Educationally (Not Artificially)

Categories of Capital Improvements in the Nyack Schools Bond referendum. Voters go to the polls on Tues Oct 29.

Categories of capital improvements in the Nyack Schools Bond referendum. Voters go to the polls on Tues Oct 29.

When Nyack School District residents go to the polls on Oct 29, they will be asked to approve a $26.4 million bond to repair school buildings, upgrade technology and install artificial turf. Some bond opponents have criticized the schools for not spending any of this money on education, which they say needs as much focus and funding as facilities. At the September 17 school board meeting, a parent stated that “75% of our 9th graders are performing below grade level.” Nyack Schools Superintendent James Montesano said that statistic was misleading, saying the district was making progress addressing some of the documented deficiencies and pointing out some of the specific programs created to address students at risk.

I find it interesting that you selected the particular grade that represented the worst grade performance [in the district]. Across the state less than 30% of the students have performed at grade level for grades 3 and 4 with the new core curriculum content standards.

Be aware that you do have a higher at risk need in Rockland County than many other districts.

Also be aware that [Nyack Schools’] children in grades 3 and 4 are amongst the highest performers in Rockland County in mathematics and ELA, so I find it a little bit interesting that you selected that particular grade. It’s not to say that the board isn’t going to be focused on those areas.

This past year the Board of Education dedicated dollars implemented and a brand-new math series K-8, a very strong commitment along with professional development in those areas.

School Bond Vote: Tues Oct 29

Nyack Schools are asking voters to approve a $26.4M Bond Referendum on Tues Oct 29, 2013. The third and final public information session on the bond will be held on Wed Oct 16 at Nyack High School.

If approved, monies will be used to repair infrastructure such as roofs and boilers; upgrade technology; and install artificial turf at Nyack High School. Because new bonds will replace  bonds that are being retired, school officials say there will be minimal tax payer impact if the bond is approved.

For more information, see

You should also be aware that we had teachers give up their summer time to meet with us to develop more student-centered technology infused classroom instruction.  In fact, they went out to the Tappan Zee Bridge to develop planning lessons, meeting with engineers to develop hands-on types of problem-based experiences so students can be actively engaged.

The majority of students you mentioned that have performed poorly come from very economically deprived situations. Working with our legislators, the Board of Education secured bullet aid from New York state [to fund] outreach programs over at Waldron Terrace to meet with those students.

So are we challenged in this community?  Yes, and I would argue that we are challenged across this country regarding the performance levels of our students.

I thank you for your comments and I appreciate the challenges before us. But keep in mind the debt service that’s being advised has nothing to do with these issues because the

Board of Education cannot use these dollars with regard to purchasing text materials or technology information with regard hardware for students.

Following the meeting, Nyack Schools Superintendent provided some additional background on this issue. “It is accurate that 25% of students now in 9th grade performed at Level 3 or 4 on the new 8th grade math section of the NYSED test.  This data, while accurate, was used to paint a broad brush over all of our students and staff that our academic programs are failing. [The statistic was misleading because] it did not highlight any other grade level in Math/ELA but rather chose the one particular subject and grade level that represented the lowest level of achievement on the new testing.

“Last year’s 8th grade math was the lowest score of any grade level (Grades 3-8) and that those same 8th graders in ELA (English Language Arts) scored in the range of the highest in Rockland County.

“Seventy percent (70%) of those same now 9th graders scored at Level 3 or 4 while in 7th grade. That scoring is reflective of the new testing where only 30% of students across the State were at Level 3 or 4 in Math/ELA.

“The district recognizes that the new testing and the Common Core Standards represent a new challenge. [However] several of our grade levels scored among the highest in Rockland County,” he said.

Source: Nyack Schools podcast of Sept 17, 2013 meeting at the Nyack Center regarding the Oct 29 Bond Referendum. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

 



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