Action needed Monday 3/3/14 regarding Common Core and New York Assembly bill A8929!

If you are at all concerned about the state of the educational system right now in New York and particularly Common Core and can possibly spare 5-10 minutes, your urgent action is needed.
The New York State assembly introduced a bill A8929 on Friday that appears to ‘fix Common Core’ but in fact that is not the case.  You can read more about the situation in my BLOG post from the weekend.  Basically the bill presented on Friday leaves us stuck with the way things are right now BUT there is another bill A8844 which will actually provide some relief from Common Core and is a much better bill.
What you need to do:
  • Contact Assemblyman Cahill and tell him to drop support of the bill A8929 introduced on Friday and instead support bill A8844.
  • Contact Assembly Speaker Silver and tell him to drop support of A8929 and to support A8844 instead.
  • Contact Assembly Education Committee chair Cathy Nolan who introduced bill A8929 and ask her to support A8844 instead.
Contact information for the legislators:
UPDATE 3/3/14 5pm:  The assembly education committee is scheduled to vote on bill A8929 tomorrow (Tuesday 3/4/14) so there is still time to contact the legislators if you have not been able to do so yet today.
I am including the e-mail I sent to Assemblyman Cahill if you would like to use it as a template but feel free to write your own version instead – it will have even more impact if it is in your own words.  When I called, I left a very simple message asking the legislators to drop support of A8929 and to instead sponsor A8844.
Dear Assemblyman Cahill,
I have just learned that you have signed on to sponsor assembly bill A8929.  I am actively working to enact changes to the Common Core Agenda in New York State, however bill A8929 does not make the changes that are needed for our children.  This bill does not deal with the problems regarding testing for our special education and ELL students.  It does NOT stop the error-filled Common Core curriculum or tests.  It does not provide support for our advanced learners (of which my daughter is one).  In the end this bill adopts the federal standards and leaves our local teachers, parents and communities with the same problems we are facing right now and no way of fixing them. 
You MUST remove your name from bill A8929 and instead support bill A8844 which provides relief in all of the areas I have listed.  I am looking forward to hearing a response from you as soon as possible.
Jolyn Safron
(include your address here)

Don’t be fooled by NYS Assembly bill A8929! It will NOT fix Common Core!

A bill has just been introduced to the New York State assembly that looks like a fix for Common Core but please don’t be fooled! The bill A8929, sponsored by Kingston’s Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, simply takes away the consequences for the Common Core tests for 2 years and adds more Common Core teacher training (not sure where the funding for it is coming from!) This bill does NOT stop the curriculum or the tests, nor does it stop the teacher evaluations without the waivers from the federal government. It does not deal with children with disabilities, nor does it deal with children who are advanced learners. In the end it adopts the federal standards, and attempts to get the sponsors past the next election.

Assembly bill A8844 DOES address the problems listed above and has a companion senate bill. Please contact Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and tell him to remove himself as a sponsor from bill A8929(bad bill) and add his name to A8844(good bill)!

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill  (518)455-4436

A Rochester NY station reported on the new bill yesterday but did NOT point out the problems with the bill.

You may read bill A8929 here (the one that will NOT fix our Common Core problems).

Read bill A8844 here that WILL slam the breaks on the Common Core Agenda and sign a petition in support of bill A8844.

Are you ready to join the discussion here at Jolyn’s Education Corner?

I am so glad you stopped by Jolyn’s Education Corner.  I hope you enjoyed reading my various posts.  If you have a question or a response to one of my posts, it is very easy to leave a comment.

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School Volunteers Proposed Policy Changes and Possible Impact to Parents

Do you know that the Kingston City School Board of Education is recommending several changes to the School Volunteers policy (Policy #1250)?  The policy begins:

The Board of Education recognizes that the use of volunteers strengthens school/community relations through positive participation, builds an understanding of school programs among interested citizens, and can assist District employees in providing more individualized and enriched opportunities in instruction. The Board encourages volunteers from all backgrounds and age groups who are willing to share their time, training, experience or personal characteristics to benefit the students of the District.

From the opening paragraph, it is clear that the purpose of the policy is to encourage volunteers within the school.  The policy explains both what the school personnel and the school volunteer must do when someone wishes to become a school volunteer.  However I am concerned that the proposed policy changes, while well-meaning to increase the safety of our students, may adversely impact parent and community members who volunteer or wish to begin volunteering in the schools of our District and may actually cause the school district to have fewer volunteers in our schools.

What are the proposed changes to the School Volunteers policy ?

  • Volunteers are classified in one of 3 tiers.
  • Tier 1 volunteers will include most parent group (PTO/PTA) volunteers who volunteer occasionally and have limited contact with students (for example field day volunteers or fundraising volunteers).  No volunteer application is required so district personnel will not be required to perform any screening of these volunteers.
  • Tier 2 volunteers include parents/community members who volunteer regularly in the classroom (for example classroom reading, room parent) and also field trip chaperons.  Tier 2 volunteers must complete a Volunteer Application Form which requires 2 non-family references and disclosure of any criminal convictions.  The supervising personnel must contact both references and the Board of Education must approve the volunteer. 
  • Tier 3 volunteers include volunteers who assist regularly with programs outside school hours (extra-curricular and co-curricular clubs/activities and athletics).  Tier 3 volunteers must complete the same requirements as Tier 2 volunteers.  In addition Tier 3 volunteers must be fingerprinted (at district expense) and approved by the New York State Education Department.
  • A note is added to the Volunteer Agreement and Expectations (see Volunteer Application Form link above) that the volunteer ‘will not use tobacco and alcohol when volunteering’ so chaperons know they may not smoke or consume alcohol on field trips even if they are in a location where such is allowed for those of legal age.

How could these changes, which seem reasonable on first glance, possibly reduce the number of volunteers in the school?

More volunteers are going to have to complete volunteer applications (field trip chaperons in particular) and potentially be fingerprinted.  A parent reported at the February 19, 2014 BOE meeting that 90 band parent volunteers could potentially have to be fingerprinted due to their involvement in the band marching season.  Several questions/concerns come to my mind:

  • Will supervising personnel (building principals) have adequate time to process all applications for field trip chaperons or will fewer parents be allowed to serve as chaperons due to application work load?
  • What if there is not a BOE meeting between the time that the notice for a field trip goes out and the date of the field trip?  Parents who have not previously completed a volunteer application form for some other reason will not be able to serve as chaperons so there will be fewer volunteers interacting with the school community.
  • Will some parents who simply want to go on the class fieldtrip to UPAC with their child feel uncomfortable applying if they have had a criminal conviction in the past?  Is shoplifting when you were a teenager okay but DWI is not?  Does it matter how long ago the conviction was?  Do traffic violations count?  Would some applicants decide to just not bother volunteering rather than to find out whether they would still qualify even with a conviction history?  In fact how/who will determine what level of conviction would disqualify someone from being a volunteer?
  • Will volunteer applications be treated the same from building to building so all parents/community members are given equal opportunity to volunteer?
  • If conviction information is revealed, what will knowledge of this sort of personal information potentially have on the relationship between the principal and the parent?
  • We are totally relying on the applicant being honest in reporting criminal convictions at Tier 2 since fingerprinting is not required so if someone has committed a ‘serious’ offense (child abuse for example), are they really going to report it?

What should you do if you have questions or concerns about the proposed changes to the School Volunteers Policy #1250?

The Kingston Board of Education responded to parents’ request to delay approval of the proposed policy changes and sent Policy #1250 back to the BOE Policy committee which will meet on Friday March 7, 2014 9:00am.  Now parents/community members need to present any concerns to the BOE so they may be addressed and incorporated into effective changes for the School Volunteers Policy.

  1. The District Wide Parents’ Council (DWPC) VOLUNTEER POLICY SURVEY is a completely anonymous, 9 question, mostly multiple choice survey that will give you the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed policy changes.  I encourage everyone to participate in this survey before March 6, 2014.
  2. If you are comfortable giving individual voice to your concerns, write a letter to the Kingston Board of Education expressing your concerns immediately.  DWPC has drafted a  School Volunteers Policy 1250 Sample Letter (click or see letter below) that can be copied and sent by you to the Board of Education in its entirety or edited by you to address your specific concerns with the proposed changes. This is like letters that action groups often distribute for you to contact your local elected officials.
  3. Join with other parents in expressing your concerns by attending the DWPC meeting on Thursday March 6, 2014 9:30-11:30am or if you can not attend, contact your DWPC school representative through your school PTA/PTO and ask your DWPC rep to bring your concerns to the DWPC meeting.  Also speak with other parents at your PTA/PTO meeting so they know about the proposed policy changes.
  4. Attend the BOE Coffee & Conversation on March 12, 2014 so the Board of Education members in attendance can take your concerns back to the BOE meeting on March 19, 2014
  5. Attend the Board of Education meetings on March 5 or March 19 and share your concerns during Public Comment.  Note that it would be best to not wait until March 19 to express your concerns as that will give the board very little time to consider your concerns since the vote for approval of the policy is scheduled for the March 19 meeting.

The Daily Freeman reported initial concerns regarding the proposed policy changes right after they were announced at the February 19, 2014 BOE meeting.

Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed in this post are the personal opinions of myself, Jolyn Safron, and have not been endorsed or approved by the parent groups of which I am a part unless explicitly stated.

**[DWPC Sample Letter]

[Please remove parenthesized italic print before sending and please add a closing of your choice]

Dear Board Of Education Member,

[You may specifically address them by name- see the district website under the BOARD OF EDUCATION headline for member information]

It has come to my attention that Board Policy 1250, the School Volunteers Policy is currently under review and that certain changes to the policy have been drafted. I thank you for the concern you are showing for the safety of all students in our District, however I do have several concerns that I would like you to consider:

[You may use these bullets as listed, delete ones you do not agree with or add your own concerns]

  • When you list SUPERVISING ADMISTRATOR, who are you referring to?
  • Will there be consistency in implementation of this policy in ALL the Buildings of the KCSD?
  • How are teachers/personnel supposed to watch both Students and Volunteers? Is that not just adding to their work load instead of relieving some of the burden – the purpose of soliciting volunteer help?
  • Some of the Tier Example descriptions appear to overlap each other, some clarity may be needed.
  • Timing: If these applications need to be reviewed by administration, possibly the BOE and clearance from the state may be necessary, how far in advance must parents apply for activities that may not even be posted.
  • Cost: What are the costs involved to process the applications? Will the cost of fingerprinting be covered by the person applying or the School District?
  • Number of Current School Volunteers: How many volunteers does this district rely on currently? Have they all filed an application? If not, Will they feel comfortable doing so?
  • New Volunteers: How will these requirements be conveyed to the public? Most parents are used to just “volunteering” to go on a Field trip or helping out in the classroom.
  • Should volunteer training be provided?

[Some closing should be made to either the email or written/typed letter. You may wish to close with one of these additional comments.]

Thank you fo reading my concerns and I hope your comments during any Board deliberations will reflect them.


I invite you to contact me at ___________ so that we can discuss these concerns further.


**[End of DWPC Sample Letter]

Fix New York Schools – Slam the Brakes on Common Core!

I am very concerned about the Common Core Agenda and the impact it is having on schools throughout New York State and right here in the Kingston City School District.  If you are also concerned, please sign the petition below to tell Governor Cuomo that we want to slam the brakes on Common Core, that the state is hurting our children, and that we expect the Governor to act!

Fix New York Schools petition

As part of the petition you will find links to legislation that has been introduced by Assemblymen Ra and Graf (bill A8844) and Senators Ball and Zeldin (bill S6604) to stop Common Core and then give New York three years to fix it or scrap it (my personal vote but more on that another day).

The legislation … would impose a three-year moratorium on the standards. It would also create a committee with all relevant stakeholders, who would study the issue and then come up with recommendations: Either ditch Common Core entirely, or create new state standards that would conform to the national scheme pushed by Washington. “For now, it stops the abuse of our children,” explained [Graf].

New York Revolts Against Common Core

Read further details about the 11 state-wide forums leading to this legislation and the feedback received by the legislators at those forums regarding the Common Core Agenda here

Kingston school announces ‘restructured administration’?

What is going on in Kingston? Does anyone honestly think there wasn’t enough work to be done in Curriculum and Instruction and in Special Education (I can’t remember what else right now Sandy Miller is responsible for) that we can lose these two administrative positions? Kingston is already one of the leanest districts in the state administratively. Who is going to take over this work? I am afraid even more will fall to the teachers in the trenches – when will they have time to teach our students?

By the way, don’t forget there is a Budget Forum tonight at Crown Street from 6-7:30pm!

Parent Highlights for 2/19/14 Kingston Board Of Education Meeting

If the weather cooperates, the Kingston Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow February 19, 2014 at Robert Graves Elementary School.   UPDATE 2/19/14 3pm District clerk confirms BOE meeting is still being held even though after school activities are canceled.  Quarterly update on Board/Superintendent Goals moved to 3/5/14.

I would like to draw your attention to several items on the agenda that I think are of particular note to parents.

The first reading of changes to the School Volunteer Policy #1250 is on the agenda. Changes of particular note to parents include requirements for room parents, classroom readers and field trip chaperons (tier 2 volunteers).

The Superintendent’s Report includes the 2nd Century Project (the high school capital project) and the quarterly update on Board/Superintendent Goals (curriculum, facilities, budget, student achievement and transitions/redistricting). The November update on Board/Superintendent Goals had a lot of details about Common Core implementation, middle school changes, the KHS Scholar’s Academy and other topics that parents are often talking about so I recommend parents attend for this update if at all possible.

The meeting agenda is posted on the school district website.  Pages 8 and 9 contain the updated School Volunteer Policy #1250.

The September 18, 2013 BOE meeting minutes contain the Superintendent Goals that are being reported on at the meeting tomorrow.

Are there other topics that you think parents should particularly note as you read through the agenda?

Parent Guide to Kingston Board of Education Meetings

Have you ever attended a Kingston Board of Education (BOE) meeting?  Have you wanted to share your thoughts with the Board of Education but not been sure how to go about doing so?  I definitely do NOT have ‘all the answers’ but here are some tips and suggestions based on attending board of ed meetings over the last year and a half.

First, why might a parent even consider attending a Board of Education meeting?

  • The Kingston City School District Board of Education is a board of nine volunteers (they receive NO pay) elected by the community to run a multi-million dollar organization (the school district).
  • The BOE is ultimately responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent, evaluating and adopting all school district policies, serving as the body to resolve conflicts within the district, monitoring and adjusting the district finances and managing contracts with district employees.
  • Big decisions are made at board meetings.  The best way to know what those decisions are, how the BOE members stand on the issues and whether you agree is to attend the meetings.  This also helps parents to be better informed when deciding which candidates they want to vote for in the yearly BOE elections.
  • Kingston BOE meetings are live-streamed so a parent or community member can watch the meeting from home, however the board is not aware of who/how many people are watching so they have no feedback regarding interest or concern on particular topics.  The meetings are also recorded and stored on the district website but the availability of the videos is dependent upon when the volunteers from the Kingston High School TV department are able to process the video and get it ready for viewing/uploading.  This sometimes takes an extended time, for example as of Feb 17, 2014 no board meetings videos from 2014 have yet been posted for viewing.

Okay, you have decided to attend a BOE meeting, what now?

  1. The Board of Education Meeting Schedule is posted on the Kingston City School District website Kingston BOE Schedule 2013-2014 .
  2. The meetings generally start at 6pm but the board goes quickly into an executive session, which is not open to the public.  Meeting attendees normally plan to arrive for Public Comment which is scheduled for 7pm although it could be later if the executive session runs long.  When the BOE meetings are at a school rather than at the Cioni building, there might be a short welcome or presentation by the school before the executive session.
  3. The BOE meeting agenda is posted on the district website Meeting Files – Agendas, Resolutions and Minutes generally the Monday before the meeting.  Print a copy and bring it with you if you want to follow along during the meeting.  No materials are provided to the audience at the meeting.
  4. If you wish to speak during Public Comment, sign up on the list at the podium when you arrive.  See additional tips below regarding speaking during Public Comment.
  5. If you have questions or concerns regarding some of the items being discussed, take notes.  BOE meetings are required to be open to the public under the Open Meeting Law but the public is not allowed to participate in the discussion at the meetings, other than speaking during Public Comment.  If you wish to comment on something that is discussed during the meeting, the Kingston BOE generally offers a second Public Comment opportunity at the end of the board meeting.  You may also e-mail questions or comments to the board clerk or the board members.  Contact information is available on the district website under the Board of Education tab.

Tips specific to speaking during Public Comment at the Kingston BOE meeting:

  • Each speaker during Public Comment is limited to 2 minutes.  You will receive a 30 second warning and you will be asked to stop speaking after 2 minutes so have your comments prepared so as to use your time efficiently.
  • Remember that the board will not participate in a dialogue or answer questions during Public Comment due to the Open Meeting requirements that they are working under.  Once in a while, if your comment catches a board member’s interest, they might refer to it during meeting discussion but they are not obligated to do so.  Please do not be disappointed or think that it was not worth speaking because you did not get a response.  This is just the way the meetings work.  If a participant in Public Comment wishes to receive a response to their comment or question, they must submit a request in written form to the BOE clerk.
  • If whatever you wish to share with the board will take longer than 2 minutes, there is a way you can get additional time to speak.  If you bring additional people with you to the board meeting who also sign up to speak after you, when your 2 minutes is up, the next person can state that they cede their time to you and you can continue speaking.  This takes planning and is not something you would normally want to do but it can be useful if you have a lot to share or if a group has a longer ‘presentation’ and wishes to have one person do all of the speaking for the group.
  • You are not required to state your name when you speak (you don’t have to sign up to speak but if you don’t, be sure you are quick when the chairperson asks if there is anyone else who wishes to speak so you don’t miss out) but if you do give your name, remember that it is part of the meeting record and could appear in the meeting minutes or you could be quoted in the newspaper.
  • Please use the microphone when you speak.  You might think everyone can hear you but you probably are not speaking as loudly as you think.  Also those viewing the board meeting at home will NOT be able to hear you if you do not use the microphone.

Are you up for attending a BOE meeting now?  Do you still have questions?  Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.  Hope to see you at an upcoming BOE meeting!

Guide prepared by Jolyn Safron – February 18, 2014

Effective IEP Meetings?

Many parents tell what a struggle it is to get the services they need for their special education student with an IEP (Individual Education Program or Individual Education Plan) or even to get the IEP in the first place.  Alice Wellborn is a retired school psychologist whose columns I have been reading for quite awhile.  She shared a link on her facebook page No More Parents Left Behind today with Tips & Tricks for Getting an Effective IEP .  If you are a parent of a student with an IEP, have you tried any of these tips?  Are there any new tips listed that you can try for your next IEP meeting?

Specifically for Kingston parents, if you need someone to go to the IEP meeting with you (you should always take someone and having an advocate who is trained in all the laws and lingo is best), you can contact RCAL, Resource Center for Accessible Living (845) 331-0541, to request an advocate to attend the meeting with you.

Welcome to Jolyn’s Education Corner

I am a parent in the Kingston City School District and I have a passion to help parents be informed regarding the many education issues and things to do as our children move from Kindergarten through Twelfth grade.

So many things to do and so little time!

  • Deciding what to discuss during teacher conferences
  • Helping our student with his/her homework
  • Deciding whether to opt-out/refuse the standardized tests (or why would anyone want to do that in the first place?)
  • Figuring out how Common Core State Standards might impact the education that students here in Kingston will receive
  • Dealing with bullying in our schools
  • and on the list goes!

My hope for the Education Corner is to pull information together from various places to make it easier for parents to access and also provide a place for parents to talk about topics important to our district.

Let’s make Kingston a place where parents come together and help our children receive the best possible education!

Let me know what you would like to discuss.

Helping parents navigate the ins and outs of public eductation in Kingston, New York