Tag Archives: DWPC

District Wide Parents’ Council

KCSD BOE Resolution to withdraw recognition and support of District Wide Parents’ Council

The KCSD Board of Education presented resolution BOE34 at the September 7, 2016 meeting and the resolution also appears on the agenda for tonight’s meeting September 21, 2016.

BOE34 – DWPC

WHEREAS, in 2002, the Board of Education approved a resolution recognizing and supporting the PTAs, PTOs and the District-Wide Parents’ Council; and

WHEREAS, the Board desires to modify its position with respect to such recognition and support;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education hereby withdraws it recognition and support of the District-Wide Parents’ Council and will no longer consider such organization to be a school-related organization.

If you believe in the mission of the District Wide Parents’ Council or have benefited from the organization, please attend the meeting to speak during public comment this evening.  Public comment will begin at 7pm.  If you can not attend, please email your comment to the KCSD BOE members.

Please share the value/benefit of District Wide Parents’ Council and any suggestions you have for increasing the value to parents and/or making it easier for parents to participate as part of the District Wide Parents’ Council.

Mission of District Wide Parents’ Council:
  • To provide an opportunity for the parents of the district to share ideas and mutual concerns.
  • To provide on-going communication among the parents of the Kingston City School District, Central Administration, and Board of Education, and further, to provide support for parents as effective communicators with clarification of proper channels when needed.
  • To keep all parents informed of school districts policies and issues.
  • To endorse, recommend, and collaborate upon initiatives which have been agreed upon by a majority present and voting at school parent group meetings.

Resolution BOE34 was discussed on Sept 7 and then the second was withdraw so a vote was not taken.  Two Board of Education members have indicated they will pull BOE34 from the consent agenda for discussion tonight.

Here is the September 7, 2016 BOE meeting video.   Discussion of BOE34 begins at 41:20 in the video and concludes at 1:03:31.

For anyone not familiar with how the consent agenda works, all resolutions on the consent agenda are voted on together.  If a board member wishes to discuss a resolution on the consent agenda, they must ask for the resolution to be ‘pulled’ from the consent agenda.  If BOE34 was not removed from the consent agenda, there would have been no discussion by the board and the resolution would have been passed along with all the other resolutions on the consent agenda.  To my knowledge, the only announcement of resolution BOE34 that was made was an article in the Daily Freeman on September 8, 2016.

In the interest of full disclosure, please be aware that I served for five years as co-chairwoman of District Wide Parents’ Council and have served as the DWPC representative for Edson Elementary School, Bailey Middle School and Kingston High School.  I believe very strongly in the value of District Wide Parents’ Council and want to see the organization continue as a part of the Kingston City School District.  I will be sharing further personal comments at the BOE meeting tonight.

kcsd-boe-agenda-sept-7-2016

Demand that NYSSBA tell the truth about test refusal!

A document from New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) regarding REFUSAL of the New York State test was presented to members of District Wide Parents’ Council last week as part of the board of education co-liaison report.

April 6 DWPC

Excerpt Managing State Assessment Opt Outs

Unfortunately the Excerpt Managing State Assessment Opt Outs document contains untruth from NYSSBA and was communicated to DWPC members and through them many other parents as being factual.  The April 6 letter from the BOE co-liaison to DWPC states in regard to the NYSSBA document:

The state tests for elementary and middle school students are swiftly approaching and, as you know, there has been much talk in recent years about “opting out” of the tests. I have included a link to legal guidance that Boards of Education across the state are receiving. There is a misconception circulating that school districts are not negatively impacted when students “opt out”. Last month’s quarterly newsletter that came home with your students, spoke to this very issue.

Diane Ravitch addressed the untruth in the NYSSBA document on April 10, 2015 Whose side is the New York State School Boards Association on?  Ms. Ravitch reports on a statement made by Bianca Tanis of NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).  “Parent and educator Bianca Tanis was stunned to discover that the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) was misinforming parents about their right to opt out of state testing.”

Because it is so important that parents fully understand their right to refuse the state tests and any possible implications, I am including Ms. Tanis’ full statement here:

As the opt out movement grows, questions about a parent’s right to refuse and potential loss of school funding persist despite the fact that test refusal has been in full swing for two years now with NO negative consequences for any school districts or students. According to the New York State School Board Association (NYSSBA) 2015 advisory , Managing State Assessment Opt Outs, schools risk a loss of funding and unspecified penalties should less than 95% of students participate in the NYS State ELA and Math tests in grades 3-8. This is a patent falsehood, and a significant one, as this organization advises our local school boards and administrators.

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), under the ESEA waiver there is NO direct negative financial impact on a school district that does not meet the 95% participation rate if it is in good standing. In the worst-case scenario, a school in good standing that fails to meet the 95% rate for three consecutive years may be labeled a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) School. While the school will then be required to craft a plan detailing how it will seek to increase test participation, there is absolutely no impact on state aid or Title I monies, and the school district would continue to remain in good standing. These facts have been confirmed by Joseph Shibu of the NYSED Office of Accountability, and were recently reconfirmed in a March 24th, 2015 interview with Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. You can read that interview here.

An April 2nd, 2015 interview credits NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer with saying, “If even a small percentage of children, 5%, boycott the English and math exams, then schools could risk federal sanctions or funding penalties.” The NYSBBA opt out advisory also warns that schools must be careful in how they handle opt outs: “Some district responses could have negative legal and financial consequences for both the district and school district officials.” Yet nowhere in the regulations or laws concerning education in NYS is there anything to indicate that schools stand to lose funding or Title I monies due to test refusal.

It should be noted that a 2014 survey conducted by the New York State Council Of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS) revealed that 35% of superintendents self-reported that their schools did not meet the 95% participation rate, and that none of these districts have been found to have lost any funding. Despite the lack of evidence for loss of funding, NYSSBA stands by its baseless claims. By putting forth false information and utilizing scare tactics, NYSSBA has essentially robbed many local BOEs of the opportunity to advocate for parents who wish to refuse. This is especially true in districts that are significantly under-resourced where loss of funding would be especially devastating.

The fact is, at every turn, this organization discourages school districts from recognizing parents’ rights to protect their children from a controversial test that no one, save the child, may view. According to NYSSBA the “State Education Department has stated that there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests.” The March 24th interview with Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner reports that “Wagner did not deny that there is nothing in place forbidding parents to refuse.” And it is worth noting that the Empire State School Administrators Association (ESSAA) reported to school administrators on 3/25/15 that the NYS Commissioner of Education’s Office has advised that “while the ordinary procedure is to present the test to a student and have him/her refuse, if a parent asks you to not present the test at all, NYSED has recommended that you comply with the parent’s wishes.”

These actions do not align well with NYSSBA’s self-proclaimed core beliefs in “open communication” and “Public education as grassroots democracy.” Their goal to “Serve as the primary information source on public education” is clearly undermined by what appears to be either a willful dissemination of false information or a failure to do their due diligence.

In response to NYSUT president Karen Magee’s very recent call for parents to refuse the NYS Common Core Test in grades 3-8, NYSSBA president Tim Kremer credits the union with a “brilliant strategy.” With this statement, Kremer once again undermines the role that parents have played in directing their children’s education and falsely characterizes test refusal as a union initiative. It is doubtful that Kremer is unaware that prior to President’s Magee’s 3 day old call for opt out, the parent driven test refusal movement has been in full swing for almost two years with more than 60,000 refusals last year.

In response to the passing of Governor Cuomo’s budget, the NYS PTA issued a statement in which they said, “Today is a sad day for the students and teachers of New York. The Governor, claiming to be the best advocate for children, has tied inadequate school funding to questionable education reform based on volatile state tests…” The School Administrators Association of New York (SAANYS) issued the following statement, “SAANYS and its members are extremely disappointed with many of the education components negotiated in this budget, specifically in regard to principal and teacher evaluations (APPR)” and according to the latest Quinnipiac polls, 71% of the public opposes the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. Parents, administrators and educators unilaterally denounced the bill as harmful for public education. Yet NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer had this to say in about the state budget, “All in all, school boards have been given additional resources and tools they need to invest in educational programs and improve teaching quality” and in an interview on the Capital Pressroom Kremer maintained that “overall, school boards are pleased with many of the education changes.” Once again, NYSSBA is out of synch with parents, educators, administrators, and the public.

It seems clear that NYSSBA has made a choice through their advice to school boards to put as many road blocks as possible in the way of parents seeking to refuse tests that erode local control, siphon school resources and adversely affect teaching and learning, thereby downplaying the concerns of communities across NYS. As the information available has evolved, NYSSBA’s direction to those they advise has not. Without speculating about why this organization seeks to diminish the role of parents in the direction of their children’s education, the effect of their disdain and disregard for opt out has in many ways diminished local control by attempting to silence the concerned voices of parents, and in many cases, school board members. If a school administrator or a Board of Education presents false information to a parent or community, can they be faulted if they are acting on false information from the body tasked with advising them?

While parties may agree to disagree on the merits of the Common Core and the Common Core based ELA and Math tests and their impact on children and schools, shouldn’t those in positions of school leadership be tasked with providing their communities with the most factual information available? NYSSBA claims that “School board members are the educational leaders of their communities.” Is it not then incumbent upon these leaders to educate parents and allow them to make informed, reasoned decisions for their children? It is ever OK for those in positions of power to mislead the public, no matter how well intentioned their reason? Until NYSSBA is willing to advise Boards of Education on how to effectively advocate for the rights of parents within the parameters of the law and until NYSSBA provides fully factual information to our local boards of education, parents and community members will urge their elected board members to spend tax-payer dollars elsewhere.

I can not hold the BOE co-liaison to DWPC and the Kingston School Board of Education at fault for presentation of this untruth since I am sure the BOE is trusting that NYSSBA will provide them with factual information.  However upon presentation of the errors in this legal advice from NYSSBA and the blatant disregard being shown for the rights of parents by NYSSBA, I can not condone tax-payer dollars being used to pay the membership fees to NYSSBA.  I will be requesting that the KCSD Board of Education request a correction and apology from NYSSBA and if it is not received that KCSD not renew their membership with NYSSBA.

I also ask that other KCSD parents and community members join me in this request to the KCSD Board of Education and that KCSD parents and community members contact NYSSBA executive director Timothy Kremer (contact information below) to express displeasure with NYSSBA’s statements.

Demand NYSSBA tell the truth

 

tim.kremer@nyssba.org  and (518) 783-0200

** Note that all comments presented here are the personal opinion of myself, Jolyn Safron, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of other members of DWPC.

 

Meetings and events for KCSD Parents this week – January 26, 2015

Below are some meetings and events that might be of interest to parents in the Kingston City School District this week:

  • Regents Week – January 26-29, 2015 – no regular classes for KHS students – exam schedule and KHS bus schedule available here
  • KHS Parents Association (KHS PA) meeting – Tuesday January 27, 2015 6:30pm at KHS room 107
  • Community Budget Forum hosted by KCSD – Thursday January 29, 2015 6pm Cioni Building – details here
  • Friday January 30, 2015 – regular school day for all students at KHS

Next week:

  • KCSD Board of Education meeting – Wednesday February 4, 2015 public comment generally begins at 7pm Cioni Building
  • District Wide Parents’ Council (DWPC) monthly meeting – Thursday February 5, 2015 9:30am Cioni Building
  • Autism Parent Support Group – Tuesday February 10, 2015 6:30pm Chambers Elementary School – details here
  • Robert Graves PTO meeting – Tuesday February 10, 2015 6:30pm
  • Parent Education Night hosted by KCSD – Tuesday February 10, 2015 6:30-8pm Chambers Elementary School – Learn about how data-driven instruction is shaping education in Kingston.
  • IEP Development with Dorothy Richards of RCAL presented by Kingston Special Education Parent Group and KCSD – Wednesday February 11, 2015 6pm Cioni Building
  • Presidents’ Day weekend – No School – February 13-16, 2015

 

If you know of an event/meeting that should be added to this list, send me a message so I can update the list.  Also send me a message or call me if you find this sort of list helpful and you would like to see it be a weekly feature on Jolyn’s Education Corner.

parentmeeting

 

 

Parent meetings – week of June 9, 2014

Parents – with the end of school just around the corner, things are happening at break-neck speed.

Here are some opportunities that I have heard about to meet with other parents this week.

 

DWPC Middle School Restructuring Committee Meeting

Discuss the various middle school schedule changes currently under consideration – open to all parents

Monday June 9, 2014   7:00pm
Panera Bread restaurant – Ulster Avenue

Contact:  Diana Kuster (845) 943-9271 or skuster@hvc.rr.com

 

Kingston Special Education Parent Group

Special education and RTi families are invited to meet with other parents.  Share experiences and get questions answered.  Students that are attending their CSE meetings and learning to self-advocate are strongly encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, June 10th  6:30 – 8:00 pm
Kingston Library
Contact: Michele Hirsch Thompson michele.hirsch2009@gmail.com

 

Bailey Middle School PTO Meet and Greet for incoming 4th grade parents

Current 4th grade parents (parents only, no students) who will be moving up to Bailey in September are invited to meet with Bailey PTO officers in the Bailey library and tour Bailey school.

Tuesday June 10 5:00 – 6:00 pm

Bailey PTO on facebook

 

KCSD Autism Information and Discussion Group

Connect with other parents as we talk about what autism is, how to manage challenging behaviors, and what supports are available to you in the school and community.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014  6:00 – 7:00 pm

Chambers elementary school

RSVP to Edie Schwimmer, LCSW, school social worker at Kingston High School 845-943-3866  eschwimmer@kingstoncityschools.org

 

 

Are you registered to vote?

One of the privileges and duties we have as citizens of the United States of America is to vote.  As parents we can set an example of citizenship for our children by exercising this privilege and duty when we vote in both national and local elections.  The duty portion comes into play when we take the time and effort to become informed regarding the candidates and issues on the ballot so we can cast informed votes.  Some parents take their children with them to the polling places so children become familiar/comfortable with the voting process.

District Wide Parents’ Council (DWPC) believes that parent’s voices are so important within the school community that there should be at LEAST one person voting on behalf of every child within the school district and to that end DWPC’s ongoing One Child, One Vote committee strives to encourage voter participation through ongoing voter registration efforts as well as  get-out-the-vote efforts at election and/or budget vote times.  If you would like to become involved in DWPC’s One Child, One Vote effort, you will find committee contact information on the DWPC website.

Are you registered to vote?  If not, it is very easy to get registered.  You may register online

New York State Board of Elections Register to Vote

or you may pick up a voter registration form at the Board of Elections on Wall Street in Kingston.

In order to vote in the Kingston School Board of Education Election/School Budget Vote on May 20, 2014 you will need to be registered by May 6, 2014.  Voting locations for the Election/Budget Vote are listed here and an absentee ballot may be obtained here.

 

Jolyn Safron for Kingston City School District Board of Education

I am running for the KCSD Board of Education and am asking you to vote for me in the Board of Education Election/Budget Vote on May 20, 2014.

  • Born in Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Science, concentration in Computer Science
  • Resident of the Kingston City School District for the last 24 years
  • Worked as a computer programer at IBM for 11 years
  • Husband Sean works at IBM; 2 daughters – Mira in grade 10 at Kingston High School; Julia in grade 7 at J. W. Bailey Middle School
  • Active at Kingston Alliance Church as Church Board secretary, Christian Education director, Sunday School teacher, and co-director of several children’s ministries of the church
  • Past president of Hudson Valley Youth Chorale
  • Involved with school parent groups at Edson Elementary School, J. W. Bailey Middle School and Kingston High School
  • Served as Edson District Wide Parents’ Council representative; currently Bailey PTO Secretary (3 years) and KHS Parent Association president (2 years)
  • Current DWPC co-chair serving for a total of 5 years
  • Co-founder of Kingston Action For Education

Parent involvement is essential in the education of our children. Parents can be involved in many different ways and successful parent involvement looks different from family to family. My passion throughout the time I have been a part of the Kingston City School District has been focused on

  • how parents can be involved in the education of their children,
  • how parents can be informed,
  • how parents can confidently ask questions or raise concerns when they need to,
  • how parents can have a voice in the educational process.

Communication between home and school is vital and an area that can always be improved. With the additional layers of confusion and complexity added by the Common Core Agenda and the impact it has on our local school district, there is even more need for the board of education and administration to work with parents, teachers, and the community to find solutions that work for everyone and provide the best education possible for the children of the Kingston City School District. I am running for school board to help parents and caregivers be active partners in the education of their children and to get their needs and concerns successfully addressed by the school district.

Of course I will also dedicate myself fully to the many responsibilities of a school board member as I work with the other 8 members of the Kingston board of education to oversee and manage the school district’s affairs, personnel and properties.

Jolyn Safron Bio

Please plan to attend Meet the Candidates Night hosted annually by District Wide Parents’ Council on Tuesday May 13, 2014 6:30pm at Kingston High School to hear answers from all the candidates for school board to questions posed by members of the audience.

If you have any questions that you would like to pose to me personally before Meet the Candidates Night, please do not hesitate to contact me.  You may use the contact form below or obtain my e-mail and/or phone number from the attached Bio sheet.

April and High-Stakes Tests are just around the corner

April means the start of ‘test season’ especially since Common Core with the increased emphasis on high stakes testing via the New York State Tests and SLOs (Student Learning Objectives)  was implemented.  There are SLOs at the beginning of the year to set benchmarks and some high stakes testing throughout the year but things really kick in about now.

Upcoming spring testing was a topic of discussion at the March 6, 2014 District Wide Parents’ Council meeting and the DWPC Parent Calendar has been updated with known test dates K-12.  Regents tests and other tests that actually affect a student’s grades are not listed.

The Kingston City School District has clarified for parents that “[KCSD] does not have a practice of leaving students without exams to just sit and stare at their classroom walls.  [They] believe in treating all students with respect and compassion.”  The remainder of the response in Setting the Record Straight changed slightly since being initially posted this afternoon as to whether the students refusing the tests would be in a separate location or with the other students taking tests so that might vary from school to school but parents can be confident that their children will not ‘sit and stare’ during the time state tests are administered.  Be sure to get the written letter refusing the test submitted soon though if you believe that your student should not take the state tests.

New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) issued a statement today expressing concern that some districts might require students to give a verbal refusal of the test in addition to the written letter submitted by the parent.  However I believe that all Kingston students will indeed be treated with respect and compassion during the administration of the state tests and parents who have decided to refuse the test for their child can rest confident that their child will not be forced to give a verbal refusal.

Parents might be interested in checking out documents on the NYSED Office of State Assessment website such as school administrator’s manuels or teacher’s directions for the various New York State tests to see the extremes that our teachers and administrators are forced to go to to ensure that the tests are ‘secure’.  One could be excused for thinking they were entering a maximum-security facility on testing days rather than an educational building.

Test books and scoring materials must be kept secure. You are not to discuss the test, show it to anyone, or photocopy the materials, as the security of the test could be breached.   2014 Common Core English Language Arts Tests Teacher’s Directions p. IV

Teachers and administrators who engage in inappropriate conduct with respect to administering and scoring State assessments may be subject to disciplinary actions in accordance with Sections 3020 and 3020-a of Education Law or to action against their certification pursuant to Part 83 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. – 2014 Common Core English Language Arts Test Teacher’s Direction p. 1

Pages 11-14 of “2014 Common Core English Language Arts Test Teacher’s Directions” contain the directions that the teacher administering the test must read word-for-word to the third grade students on Day 1 of the test and then make sure that the students totally understand.  Five pages of directions!!  Only four pages of directions for day 2 of testing and three pages of directions for day 3 so it gets a little better each day – whew!

Extended Learning Day/Time from a Parent’s Perspective

The Extended Learning Day/Time discussion began for me back in December 2012 and has been fraught with unclear communication and lots of questions.

In December 2012 DWPC liaison Mrs. Bowers made brief mention of the possibility of an extended school day but when I followed up with her in an e-mail, she thought it would be for elementary school and was a long way off.  Later in the month Dr. Padalino mentioned the possibility of a mandatory 10th period at the middle schools at an Anna Devine/Robert Graves transition meeting.  This possibility raised a lot of concern in parents’ minds and was brought up for discussion at the DWPC January 3, 2013 meeting.

For anyone not familiar with middle school 10th period, it is an optional period at the end of the school day that students can use to get homework help, participate in clubs and do intramural activities among other things.  The regular buses take students home before 10th and the ‘late buses’ take students home who stay for 10th period.  Note that with the changes made to the middle school schedule this year ’10th period’ is now called either 19th period or activity period – at least those are the terms used at Bailey Middle School.

As a result of the discussion at the January 2013 DWPC meeting, a DWPC member was assigned to gather input from parents regarding thoughts on making 10th period mandatory.  Input from more than 40 parents was gathered in short order and presented at a Board of Education Coffee & Conversation on January 10 and e-mailed to all BOE members.  Read parent comments/concerns in Mandatory 10th period parent feedback .  Parents then planned to speak at the board of education meeting the following week.  However through several different conversations parents received the impression that a decision regarding the middle school scheduling and the mandatory 10th period might be made before the BOE meeting so DWPC felt compelled to request an immediate district-wide meeting for all parents to discuss the concerns at hand.  Read DWPC Middle School 10th period letter to Dr Padalino and BOE .  DWPC heard back immediately from Dr. Padalino via e-mail that the mandatory 10th period had merely been mentioned as a possibility in a scheduling committee meeting and there was not a large scale movement to implement a mandatory 10th period.  Upon further discussion at the February DWPC meeting, DWPC thought we had assurances that if a mandatory 10th period (or an extended school day) were to be considered, parents would be involved in the discussion.

Fast forward to the September 18, 2013 Board of Education meeting where we find that the Board of Education has as one of their goals ‘Continue to explore the development of an Extended Day Pilot Program for this school year to assist those students who need additional support’.  Dr. Padalino then mentioned applying for the Extended Learning Time grant at the BOE meeting on October 16, 2013 and reported that results from the grant were delayed until January at the November 20, 2013 BOE meeting as part of the Superintendent’s Quarterly Goals update.  At no point in any of these meetings did the board or Dr. Padalino make any mention of the concerns parents raised back in January regarding the possibility of extended the school day.  What happened?  Did the entire board simply forget the concerns submitted by parents?

In January 2014 I decided I could no longer wait for the BOE to ask about the grant and I presented questions regarding the Extended Learning Time Grant during public comment.  Another parent also raised her concerns.  Dr. Padalino responded that he would discuss the grant at the February DWPC meeting which ended up getting snowed out.

Parental concern over the thought of our children spending more time in school and less time with family has continued to grow and has developed into Kingston Action for Education which will be organizing a Rally Against Extended Learning Day program on Wednesday March 19, 2014 from 3:30-5pm at J.F. Kennedy Elementary School.

As a result of the Kingston Action for Education (KAFE) activity, we now have some additional information about the Extended Learning Time Grant as well.  A variety of questions and answers with regards to the grant were posted on the district website today which are helpful in moving the discussion forward.

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.

[or]

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

Sincerely,

**[End of DWPC Sample Letter]