Category Archives: Kingston City School District

Meeting for KHS Parents

Hey Kingston High School parents!

If you can make yourselves available, stop by the Kingston High School auditorium between 6-8pm tonight.

KHS guidance counselors will be speaking about the college application process, financial aid, scholarship, NCAA, College Board Testing and the college search process from 6-7pm.

The KHS PA meeting will follow at 7pm with a brief presentation from Ulster BOCES regarding the many programs available to students through the Ulster BOCES Career and Technical Center and then move into discussion of discipline changes before the Jefferson Committee and any other issues of interest/concern to parents at the meeting.

Test REFUSAL in Kingston City School District

Letters went home to parents in at least two elementary schools (Edson and Crosby) in the Kingston City School District today telling parents that changes have been made in the New York State testing program and requesting that parents NOT opt their children out of the testing.  I anticipate that similar letters were sent home to parents in the remaining schools in the district or will be sent this week since the NYS ELA test begins next week April 5-7, 2016.

Crosby opt in letter
Crosby opt in letter
Edson opt in letter
Edson opt in letter

 

Even though parents are being encouraged to believe differently, nothing significant has changed with regard to the New York State testing.  The tests are shorter by a question or two but many kids will actually spend longer on testing because the tests are now untimed. Pearson still produced this year’s test questions even though NYS has signed a new contract with Questar. Who knows what the questions will be like as far as quality?  Also every single issue that has existed regarding the adverse impact of the tests for special ed and ELL students still exists.

Please continue to REFUSE the New York State ELA and Math tests for grades 3-8 this April 2016.

By refusing you can be an Upstander.  Even if you feel that your kids are not ‘hurt’ by taking the state tests, other kids are. When you refuse the state tests, you are helping to protect kids all throughout New York State.  Jeanette Deutermann clearly shares the reasons for opting-out in this video.

Deborah Torres Henning, a parent from the Wappingers Central School District who I am very proud to stand beside in the fight against Common Core, has also written an excellent piece on why it is important to refuse the state tests.

Instead of asking “why refuse?” we should be asking “why does the state want the children to take them so badly?”

•    240,000 children did not take the New York State Math and English Language Arts assessments last year.
•    The tests don’t count toward your child’s grades or promotional status.
•    The tests don’t count toward receiving or not receiving special services.
•    The tests are age and developmentally inappropriate.
•    The tests were already too long, and now they are untimed, making them longer.
•    The tests are developed by businessmen and corporations, not teachers.
•    The tests are just another form of data mining. Data is the name of the game.

The state wants you to believe it has dramatically decreased the number of test questions and effectively reduced the time it takes to complete taking the tests. The reduction of one or two test questions is not significant, and the tests are now untimed, which means longer, not shorter. New York State Education Department’s “changes” are as meaningless as the tests themselves.

For those who say, “My child does well on the tests,” what are they doing well on? They are doing well on following orders, filling in bubbles, and navigating an absurd myriad of age and content inappropriate test questions that do not measure what they are learning in class and have no bearing on where they will be placed the following year. All you see is a number (1-4), specific results are not given to school districts or to parents — so there is no information at all on what they’ve learned, where their strengths are, or where they need improvement. The tests do not have any bearing on whether or not your child will or will not receive  Academic Intervention Services or Response to Intervention Plan either.

Refusing the state tests does not mean your child will never have exposure to taking a test, nor does it mean you are teaching your child he or she doesn’t have to fulfill academic responsibility. Refusing means you are aware that these tests mean nothing, and you refuse to have your child be a guinea pig for the state and the test manufacturers.

School districts must make the tests available to all students, that does not mean they can force or “encourage” all students to take them. You have the option of refusing. Parents, you are the primary educator of your child, and you have first and final say. Parents’ rights supersede the rights of the school. Remember that. Always.

Your child provides free labor and research for the test manufacturers. Your schools have sold your child into indentured servitude in order to get grant money and the test manufacturers are cashing in.

The state Education Department and test manufacturers rely on your obedience to make your child take the tests, and they love to use threats to get you to do so. Don’t believe the threats you hear about losing funding or testing counting against your child’s teacher, these are scare tactics, and they work on people who don’t know the facts.

In a most recent development, our newly appointed Board of Regents Chancellor (and technically Commissioner Elia’s boss), Mrs. Betty Rosa, went on record to say, if she were a parent of a 3rd through 8th-grader today, she would refuse the tests. When the agency that supervises state Education Department and Mrs. Elia supports refusals, it is time for everyone to refuse!

I am for tests that measure my child’s growth and progress. I am for tests that give teachers and parents a dashboard to look at and pinpoint what questions they are struggling with or excelling in. I am for tests that are staggered throughout their school years and do not last for days. I am for meaningful testing.

I want my children educated when they go to school. I don’t send my children to test-taking school — I send them to school, just school. Please stop the rampant, abusive, useless testing and lets get back to educating the whole child. That won’t happen unless we all refuse these tests.

refusal_letter_2015-2016__8_

Update 4/4/16: Letters from other KCSD schools

Chambers opt in letter
Chambers opt in letter
GW testing letter
GW testing letter

 

GW testing letter in Spanish
GW testing letter in Spanish
JFK opt in letter
JFK opt in letter
Miller opt in letter
Miller opt in letter
Myer opt in letter
Myer opt in letter

School Boards

On May 17, 2016 voters in the Kingston City School District will be electing three members to the school board.

With the upcoming election in mind, check out this excellent description of the responsibilities of both the school board and the community with regards to public education.  The author Alice Wellborn is a school psychologist who writes to strengthen parent/teacher partnerships.

The structure of American public education is grounded in local control, and that control is administered through a locally elected (or, in some cases, appointed) Board of Education.  Citizens (or their elected representatives) select school board members, who then oversee the public schools and serve as the liaison between the community and the school system.

Community members can express their ideas and opinions about public education through voting, communicating directly with school board members, attending board meetings, or even running for the school board.

Note that while Ms. Wellborn refers to some school board members being paid, school board members in Kingston are volunteers and do not receive payment for their service.  You will also find other relevant information in my Parent Guide to Kingston Board of Education Meetings.

Anyone wishing to run for a seat on the KCSD board of education should contact District Clerk Camille DiPerna at cdiperna@kingstoncityschools.org or (845) 943-3009 to obtain a candidate packet.

KCSD Transgender policy

The Kingston City School District Board of Education Policy Committee is working on a policy regarding the use of school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms by transgender students based on their identified gender rather than their biological gender. The BOE Policy Committee met with their lawyer on Friday March 4, 2016 seeking advice regarding the policy.

I shared personal concerns regarding a potential transgender policy during public comment at the KCSD board of education meeting on Wednesday March 2, 2016.  I know that some who read Jolyn’s Education Corner will not agree with the concerns that I raise regarding implementation of a policy to allow transgender access to school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.  There are people all across the United States who are pushing for transgender access to be granted by schools, communities and states.  However I also know that some here in Kingston do agree with my concerns and I believe that many more will understand the validity of the concerns as they begin to consider the various implications of such a policy.

Personal statement from Jolyn Safron – presented to Kingston City School District Board of Education on March 2, 2016:

I am a parent of two young ladies at Kingston High School.

I am concerned that any transgender policy intended to create equality and remove discrimination for a transgender student by giving them unfettered access to school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms based on their identified gender will actually discriminate against far more students who are losing their personal privacy and are now forced to change with or be seen in undress by someone who is biologically a member of the opposite sex.

Gender identity is not well-defined or understood and yet we propose treating members as a protected class?  Transgender depends upon how someone feels and can change over time.  Facebook has 50 different gender identities to select from in the United States and 70 in Europe.  Some even declare their gender as ‘gender fluid’ with it changing from day to day or hour to hour.

Parents will have no recourse against policies that differ from what they want to teach their children regarding sexuality.  If they wish to teach modesty and that men and women should not see each other undressed outside of a committed relationship, students will just have to get used to the fact that it won’t apply in the school house.

Is it fair to our young people to ask/expect them to ignore the bodies of the opposite sex that transgender students bring into the bathrooms and locker rooms?  Most parents want their children to avoid viewing pornography because it adversely affects children as they grow and develop. Are our kids, who are learning and developing their sexual identity, mature enough to deal with seeing what they try to avoid other places in their school bathrooms and locker rooms?

There are also significant freedom of religion issues at stake because modesty/sexual expectations are integral aspects of several religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Will sexual liberty trump our constitutionally protected religious liberty?

I will end with an example put forth at a rally on this issue in Charlotte, North Carolina:

“When you have a blind student in a school, you don’t impose that student’s handicap on the entire school, forcing the other kids to read braille. But when it comes to those struggling with gender identity issues, the City Council wants to impose their struggles on the whole community, on impressionable little girls who will be traumatized by a man wearing a dress in the restaurant bathroom and on young ladies and women who will be forced to undress in the presence of a biological male in their gym locker room.”

I do not want any traumatized students, transgender or non-transgender.  I ask that the school board bring the community together to discuss this important issue in order to develop a solution that is in the best interest of all students and families within the Kingston City School District.

Since public comment is limited to two minutes, there is much that I was not able to share during the public comment period.  Here is a more detailed version of my concerns with some links if you wish to read background information.

It is my understanding that right now in KCSD transgender students are being provided separate spaces for changing for gym class but arguments are being brought forward across the country that “separate is not equal” and some school districts are putting policies in place to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their identified gender. In many cases these policies are being enacted despite a number of community members voicing concerns about the policies.

A variety of concerns come to mind regarding transgender students using bathrooms and locker rooms with non-transgender (cisgender) students. They are, in no particular order:

  • Any policy intended to create equality and remove discrimination for a transgender student by giving them unfettered access to bathrooms/locker rooms will actually discriminate against far more students who are losing their personal privacy and are now forced to change with or be seen in undress by someone who is biologically a member of the opposite sex.

  • Gender identity, which includes transgender, is not well-defined or understood and yet we propose treating ‘members’ as a protected class? Transgender depends upon how someone feels and can change over time. Facebook has 50 different gender identifies to select from in the United States and 70 in Europe. Some even declare their gender as ‘gender fluid’ with it changing from day to day or hour to hour.

  • Parents will have no recourse against policies that differ from what they want to teach their children regarding sexuality. If they wish to teach modesty and that men and women should not see each other undressed outside of marriage, students will just have to get used to the fact that it won’t apply in the school house.

  • Is it fair to our young people to ask/expect them to ignore the bodies of the opposite sex that transgender students bring into the bathrooms and locker rooms? Most parents want their children to learn modesty and avoid viewing pornography (naked bodies particularly of the opposite sex) because it adversely affects children as they grow and develop. Are our kids, who are learning and developing their sexual identity, mature enough to deal with seeing what they try to avoid other places in their school bathrooms and locker rooms?

  • There is fear of lawsuits against the school district from transgender students who feel they are being discriminated against by not being allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their identified gender. What about the potential lawsuits, which are actually much more numerous, from students who feel their constitutional right to privacy is violated by a member of the opposite sex seeing them undress? Also how does a transgender student undressing in front of a cisgnder student fit with New York State’s indecent exposure laws?

  • There are significant freedom of religion issues at stake because modesty/sexual expectations are integral aspects of several religions, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Will sexual liberty trump our constitutionally protected religious liberty?

  • The debate over transgender rights is not just occurring in the school house. Similar battles are being waged to pass SOGI (sexual orientation/gender identity) laws regarding public and business bathrooms and locker rooms. Concerns regarding the safety of women arise in public places if biological males are allowed to enter bathrooms and locker rooms. How does a woman determine upon entering a restroom whether the person that looks like a man is transgender and therefore not a threat to her or is a heterosexual predator who is using the new regulations to gain access to places where he can abuse women? Hopefully students will not have to deal with this level of concern in our school bathrooms and locker rooms but if our young girls become desensitized to the presence of “males” in the school bathrooms and locker rooms how will they learn to be careful in other public spaces?

In my opinion KCSD is essentially between a rock and a hard place. NYSED is giving no direction to school districts about how to handle transgender issues and each district has to figure it out on their own. Shenandowa School District passed policy allowing transgender access to bathrooms back in December 2014 despite community protest.  I personally know a parent from that school district who was involved and frustrated by the decision.  Hamburg NY passed a transgender policy with no community protest in December 2015.  Lancaster, NY attempted to pass a policy in December 2015 but had so much community response that the discussion had to be tabled after several hours.

The transgender policy debate also exists at a national level. A school district in Palatine, Illinois was forced by the federal government (U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) to allow transgender Student A (biologically male student) to have full access to the girl’s locker room or else lose the school district’s Title IX funding and face additional penalties. Many people spoke both for and against the policy including six high school students who spoke, despite their fear of being called bigots, insensitive or homophobes, of their discomfort and their sense of invasion of personal privacy due to having to undress with a biological male in the locker room.

At the city/state level, the most recent SOGI battle that I have read about is from Charlotte, North Caroline where the City Council voted to pass an LGBT non-discrimination bill on February 22, 2016 despite massive protest. Some of the comments from the rally prior to the council meeting seem applicable to the transgender policy discussion here in Kingston.

“When you have a blind student in a school, you don’t impose that student’s handicap on the entire school, forcing the other kids to read braille. But when it comes to those struggling with gender identity issues, the City Council wants to impose their struggles on the whole community — on impressionable little girls who will be traumatized by a man wearing a dress in the restaurant bathroom and on young ladies and women who will be forced to undress in the presence of a biological male in their gym locker room.

I do not want any traumatized students, transgender or non-transgender.  I urge all members of the Kingston community to investigate this issue and determine what you are comfortable with for yourself and your children and then join the conversation, in a kind and respectful manner, to help develop a solution that is in the best interest of all students and families within the Kingston City School District.

Coffee and Conversation – Saturday February 6, 2016

I encourage parents to stop by the Coffee and Conversation at the Cioni Building this Saturday from 9:30 – 11:00 am.

You can ask a question** or just say hello and hear what other parents/community members are talking about.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Padalino and members of the Kingston Board of Education will be in attendance.

Parentpower

 

**If you don’t think you have anything to ask about, here are some topics I have heard parents discussing that might trigger a question for you:

  • construction at KHS
  • upcoming NYS standardized testing
  • local testing and its role in teacher evaluation
  • impact of Common Core on Regents tests and graduation
  • special education
  • bullying
  • violent incidents particularly at the middle schools
  • restorative justice
  • school-to-prison pipeline
  • suspension rates
  • assemblies

Also remember that the school district is preparing the annual school budget and the Board of Education will be approving the budget in April (and we the voters will vote in May) so now is a good time to ask budget-related questions.

Parent meeting with Commissioner Elia

Commissioner Elia came to Ulster County on Tuesday December 8, 2015 and I was one of the three parents from the Kingston City School District invited to attend the parent meeting with her.  The meeting was arranged through BOCES and I know there were parents from both Ulster and Dutchess counties.  Not sure if Orange county was represented or not.

Commissioner Elia seemed to be a very nice lady and was definitely more successful at creating rapport with the parents than our previous commissioner, John King. Commissioner Elia spoke for more than half of the hour scheduled for our meeting with her and we didn’t actually start at 1:15pm so only 5 parents had opportunity to ask any questions.  I wasn’t one of those who asked a question this time around (I did get to address Commissioner King when he visited Spackenkill back in 2013).
Commissioner Elia took time to introduce herself and give her background in education.  She then gave a history of Common Core and explained how a lot of people categorize everything as “Common Core”.  She said that when talking about Common Core, we should just be talking about the standards and that there are four “buckets” of things people have issues with:
  • standards
  • curriculum
  • assessments
  • evaluation system

She also noted that we have had standards since 1647 and that the evaluation system has been changed four (4) times since Common Core was introduced.

Commissioner Elia is right that all of the above items/issues get lumped under “Common Core”.  In fact she missed including excessive data collection.  However I disagree with her that the standards are the only part that should be appropriately referred to as “Common Core”.  Each piece of this package is intricately woven together and can not function/succeed without the other pieces so it is indeed appropriate to refer to the package in its entirety as Common Core.

Commissioner Elia talked about the state department of education AimHighNY survey on the Common Core State Standards and reported that 71% of the 10,500 respondents were supportive of the standards.  I thought it was interesting though that she then proceeded to state that comments included statements that someone liked a standard but it should be in a different grade, for example it should be in grade 1 but it is in kindergarten.  My question is: how can the standard be liked/considered good if it is in the wrong grade?  The standard identifies what the children are supposed to know at the particular grade so if the standard is in the wrong grade then the standard is wrong/bad.  This is how some people defend the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards – “they are okay if you just do them a little differently”.  The standards were written so that all states across the country would be teaching students the same things in the same grades and therefore students could move from state to state without missing out on pieces of their education.  If states can just move standards from one grade to another, we no longer have COMMON Core.
Commissioner Elia didn’t talk about it but I want to make sure everyone knows about another important survey.   New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) conducted a survey on the Common Core State Standards for one week and received about 12,000 responses.  You can click to read full details about the survey but the key points are:
  • 70 percent oppose the Common Core standards
  • Over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they believe ELA and Math standards in grades K-3 are developmentally inappropriate for many students
  • 91 percent say that the Common Core exams in grades 3-8 are flawed
  • 54 percent indicated that high schools should use the previous NYS Regents exams rather than new exams aligned to the Common Core standards
  • 96 percent say that test scores should not be linked to principal or teacher evaluations
  • 86.5 percent say that the state should abandon the Common Core standards and return to the New York’s former standards until educators can create better ones
The first parent/teacher who spoke was from Ellenville and felt that students spend too many days taking the state tests.  One of the parent’s comments was that perhaps a fixed 90 minute testing time is not appropriate and that perhaps students who were engaged in taking the test should be allowed to finish their test if they desired to do so, even if it took longer than the ‘allowed’ testing period.  I interpreted the comment to be a suggestion that the testing time should not be so regimented.  Apparently Commissioner Elia interpreted it differently because she asked the audience to raise hands if we thought students should be allowed to take longer than 90 minutes to finish their test.
Dr. Robin Jacobowitz, parent and board of education member from Kingston, was in attendance at the parent meeting with me and shared the “Time on Test” report in response to the suggestion to allow children to spend even more time on the standardized tests. Her concern was that even more than the current 4 days of lost instruction time could be lost but Dr. Jacobowitz’s comment was after the hand vote was taken by Commissioner Elia.
I was surprised when Rev. Childs reported at the KCSD Board of Education meeting on December 9 that Commissioner Elia said the department was considering allowing students to take longer than 90 minutes on their tests because Commissioner Elia didn’t tell us the idea was already under consideration when the idea was proposed in the parent meeting.
Concerns regarding testing and special education were mentioned by most if not all of the parents who spoke.
This quote from a parent, who I believe was from Red Hook, summed up the parent comments pretty well – “Someone owes these kids an apology for what they have been through.  It’s really not fair.”

Announcement for KHS parents/guardians

Kingston Alderwoman Nina Dawson, Ward 4, is hosting a Community meeting with County Executive Mike Hein tonight Thursday January 28, 2016 6pm at Riverview Baptist Church.

County Executive Mike Hein will present his vision to continue the goal of an “inclusive community” in Kingston.  He will discuss the Ulster County Midtown Linear Park project.

Community meeting with Mike Hein

 The KHS Parents Association encourages KHS parents/guardians to attend the community meeting with County Executive Mike Hein in lieu of the KHS PA meeting previously scheduled for Thursday January 28, 2016.

KHS members – Submit any KHS PA agenda items to KHS PA President Jolyn Safron in preparation for the next KHS PA monthly meeting on February 25, 2016.

All KHS parents/guardians – Please respond to Jolyn Safron if you are interested in attending a KHS PA meeting on any of the following topics:

  • School avoidance/School refusal
  • Course offerings available to KHS students at BOCES and/or SUNY Ulster
  • Presentation for parents regarding student driver safety
  • How to live with your teen without losing your mind
  • Signs and symptoms of depression

Presentations will be scheduled as part of upcoming KHS PA monthly meetings if there is sufficient interest in a topic.

Ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment

Governor Cuomo announced in his State of the State address on Wednesday “once and for all, let’s end the Gap Elimination Adjustment”. I must admit that I sputtered a bit when these words came out of his mouth since he has held onto the GEA throughout his entire tenure as governor despite cries for relief from every corner. Regardless I am glad that he has finally seen the light. However getting rid of the GEA will not solve all of our schools’ financial woes.
 

The other piece of the financial puzzle is Foundation Aid and is owed to schools as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. You can use the tool at this website to determine how much each school within a district is owed. Kingston is actually owed a relatively small amount (just $8,795,875.13 if I didn’t mess up the addition of the numbers for the 10 schools) compared to many other districts and we have benefited more by having the GEA restored. However school districts need to be able to know how much school aid they can count on from year to year and the Foundation Aid Formula allows for that information to be known.

New York State has been shirking its legal responsibility to our public schools by not using the Foundation Aid Formula.  When New York State starts using the Foundation Aid Formula, school districts will have a sound basis to create yearly budgets.  The districts will know how much money they can count on receiving each year from New York State and can focus on the important task of crafting the school budget not speculating about how much money the state will decide to give them.

HOPE 2015 on November 14, 2015 canceled

 

H O P E

Helping Others Protect Everyone

Ways to resolve conflicts and improve relationships in our homes and communities

November 14, 2015 9am – Noon

CANCELED due to unexpected circumstances

The HOPE conference will not be rescheduled.

The KHS PA knows that bullying and the broader scope of conflict are pervasive problems in our society that not only impact the education of our students but their entire lives. Since the HOPE workshops were providing information intended to help parents and students deal with conflict more successfully as well as help each person feel more empowered to help others and protect themselves, the KHS PA is making arrangements to offer the workshops as part of upcoming KHS Parents Association meetings.

Mark your calendar to attend the KHS PA meetings now and watch the KHS PA webpage for meeting topics.

The next meeting is December 3, 2015 at 6:30pm

How to live with your teen without losing your mind

Adoring and adorable children can become adolescents who say and do things that result in hurt, anger, conflict, and fears for their safety. In plain language, learn about exciting new research that sheds light on “why did you do that?” and “what were you thinking?!”. Practical tools for retaining your sanity will be shared.

Love Shouldn’t Hurt

Teen Dating Violence 101: Recognizing and Responding to Physical and Emotional Violence in Teen Romantic Relationships. A workshop for parents and teens in middle school and high school.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Are you or someone you know or love suffering from depression? How do you tell? What can you do? Come and learn some of the signs of depression and how you can help.

While you are waiting for the next KHS PA meeting, check out this video posted as part of the monthly Matters Helping All Parents program from MHA in Ulster County.  “Practical Tips to Reduce Conflicts with Parents and Children”

HOPE 2015 – November 14, 2015

HOPE 2015 CANCELED as of 11/10/15 – details here

The Kingston High School Parents Association (KHS PA) is excited to present HOPE 2015 on Saturday November 14, 2015.

Bullying and the broader scope of conflict are pervasive problems in our society that not only impact the education of our students but their entire lives.

It is our desire with HOPE that students, parents and our community as a whole will learn information that will help each person to deal with conflict more successfully whether it is in their own life or in the life of a friend or loved one. We want each person leaving HOPE to feel more empowered to help others and protect themselves.

HOPE 2015 flyer

HOPE 2015 Flyer