Tag Archives: Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk

Common Sense Education Lobby Day Report – June 17, 2014

Four Kingston parents, including representatives from Kingston Action for Education, traveled to Albany for Common Sense Education Lobby Day on Tuesday June 17, 2014.

Kingston parents in Albany

We met up with eight parents from the Onteora school district intending to meet with our legislators after attending the rally.

We did not attend the press conference before the rally and had to leave before the rally concluded to meet with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill but full videos of the press conference and rally are available here.

Mary Calamia opened the rally with the following (video here):

We are all here today because we are trying to fix something that is very, very broken.  We have joined in a battle to fix a broken educational system that has created a hostile learning environment for our children and a hostile working environment for those who teach them.

Mary then encouraged the attendees that we are not just parents but advocates and even lobbyists.  And I was very proud to wear those titles with approximately 200 other people standing for New York’s children in Albany yesterday.

Mary quoted Governor Cuomo as saying “too often government responds to the whispers of lobbies before the cries of the people”.  Her response:

This from a man who is completely deaf to the cries of the people!  So Governor Governor, I say this – we are the people, we are the lobbyists.  We are not crying and we are so NOT whispering!  Today as lobbyists, you are going to meet with legislators and do what any other lobbyist does, try to influence legislation on behalf of the special interest and what more special interest can we have than the children of New York State?

We, the people will go into more than 50 legislative meetings and tell them what we know, what we have experienced and what we need from them and we will follow up this summer and talk with them again and again until we can restore Common Sense in Albany and Common Sense to our schools.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who was a member of the original Common Core Validation Committee charged with reviewing and approving the Common Core standards but refused to endorse the standards, spoke about the havoc that Common Core is wreaking on our education system and what parents, students and school board members can do about it. (video here)

  • (mark 5:10) Dr. Stotsky pointed out that the four most important stakeholder groups in the education of our children – parents, teachers, state legislators and school board members – were generally left out in the draft stages/early development of the Common Core Standards.
  • Students were also left out of the development of Common Core.  Go to mark 6:10 in the video segment for how high students got involved in Massachusetts and how Kingston students might want to get involved if they, particularly our current 7th and 8th graders, want to make sure they have adequate math course availability when they get to grades 11 and 12.
  • (mark 8:45) Common Core is wreaking havoc in our high schools particularly in the area of the math standards.  The Common Core Standards do not require courses above a weak Algebra 2 which will not get students to needed STEM fields – will the courses be there when budgets continue to be cut?  We have already lost accelerated math for our KCSD middle school students.  7th graders did not have it this year and we have been told that it will not be offered for next year’s 7th graders either.  ‘unless there  if they are in grade 8 or 9 now, your children are going to be the victims of Common Core’  Recruit your children who are old enough to understand the academic issues.
  • What can parents do?  (mark 12:50)  Parents have the right to do what they feel is best for their children.  Parents can send in a note stating that their student will only take ‘teacher-made’ tests.  Parents do not need to ask for permission – they have always had these rights.  Parents can send a note and indicate that they want instruction, not testing, on the days of state sponsored tests.  Also parents can say that they want to see their student’s scores from the ‘teacher-made’ tests within a week so that they can see what those tests look like and what scores/grades their kids are getting.
  • “What the law does not explicitly forbid or explicitly require in a free country, you can do.”
  • (mark 17:55) importance of local self-government – Legally elected school board members still have almost all of the legal authority they have had for 100s of years in this country.  Board members have rights and responsibilities as locally elected officials. All states, save one, have the right for local school boards to set/adopt their own standards.  They might still be responsible to take the tests but they can reject Common Core Standards explicity, adopt a superior set of standards, ask their local superintendent/teaching staff to create superior standards.  Teachers and administrators are not in an enviable state.  They are doing what they think they have been ordered to do by a state board of education.  People need to start straightening out who is the master and who is the public servant?
  • (mark 24:00)The State Board of Regents did not ask the questions they should have asked before accepting Common Core.  No state board of educations asked for a cost benefit analysis.  No state boards of ed asked their higher education teaching faculty (people teaching at the college level in mathematics, science and engineering) to look at the Common Core college-readiness standards in high school to see if they were adequate (were they really college-level standards?) or at least no boards are on record as having asked these questions.  Dr. Stotsky recommends that parents ask teachers from our STEM colleges to look at standards and see if they are indeed adequately preparing students for entry into those college.

Conversation with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill

12 parents from Ulster County (from Kingston and Onteora school districts) met with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill outside the assembly floor at 1pm on June 17.

  • We told Assemblyman Cahill that we were very concerned about Common Core and asked for his support of bill A8844.  He asked if that was the Graf bill and when told ‘Yes’ responded that ‘the Graf bill politically can not pass’.  He went on to tell stories about his 8 year old granddaughter and her four and a half hours of homework and upset parents and how he understands that the Common Core implementation is not working but he believes that the Common Core Standards are good.  Cahill mentioned at one point that the Graf bill had “bad stuff” in it and I wanted to ask what that was but decided it wasn’t worth getting into an argument over at this time.
  • Parents brought up concerns with regards to special education and Common Core and Assemblyman Cahill affirmed that he understands that every child is unique.
  • Assemblyman Cahill stated dissatisfaction with Commissioner King.
  • He talked about the reappointment of Regents this year and how that he learned of a paper, from Regent Jackson himself, that Regent Jackson had written regarding high-stakes testing that stated the many problems with implementation.  In the interview process Cahill asked Jackson about the paper and why he hadn’t communicated the concerns to the other regents when and Jackson said that he hadn’t thought about it and probably should have (it sounds like Jackson forgot about the paper he had written during the discussion of Common Core) and Cahill decided he could not vote for Jackson for reappointment.  When I asked why he voted for someone (no one could remember Regent Josephine Finn’s name but I came home and looked it up) who did not know anything about Common Core instead, Cahill responded that the new regent was appointed because she was well respected and it was believed she would be someone who would ‘shake things up’.  Cahill stated that the Regents work in task forces and only the few Regents (5 he though) who are on the Common Core task force are actually responsible to know anything about Common Core.  He recommended, as had Assemblywoman Nolan on June 3, that we the parents speak to our regent who happens to be Regent Finn about our Common Core concerns.

Conversation with Senator Tkaczyk

We found out last minute that Senator Tkaczyk’s office had requested a maximum of six people to attend the meeting with her so 2 parents from Kingston and 2 parents from Onteora attended and I was not one of them as I have spoken with her previously.

Conversation with Senator Seward

Instead of speaking with Senator Tkaczyk, Madeline and I sat in on a meeting with Senator Seward who appeared to be very supportive of the educational concerns raised by the parents/teachers speaking with him.  The primary focus of the discussion was on the high school level and regarding students who tend to fall through the cracks both special education students and those who might not be special education but still struggle in school.  The 9th grade Common Core math test was shared with Senator Seward and the question raised about how was that test useful to be required for every student and would it really prove that every student was college ready?  The example was given of current college students in programs for television, to be a chef and something arts-related (can’t remember the specific field) where each student was excelling in college and the math test would have been no accurate indication of anything to do with their field of study yet if a student can not pass the test, they will not be able to graduate and go on to college.  Discussion of the RCT (Regent Competency Test) took place and in particular a student who had to take it 5 times and just managed to finally pass before aging out of high school.  Now students do not even have the RCT option and must pass 5 Regents tests in order to earn a diploma at all!

Note:  This report was written in June 2014 after Common Sense Education Lobby Day but never published.  I think there might have been more information that I wanted to include.  The information included is still relevant (and someone was just asking about Assemblyman Cahill’s stand on Common Core) so I am posting it on November 15, 2015.

Election 2014 Wrap-up for the Kingston City School District

The November 4, 2014 election is over and before I put all my campaign posts to bed, I wanted to summarize regarding the various candidates and their educational stands.

For some reason I never posted this after writing it back in November 2014.  I am posting it now (May 2015) even though quite a bit of time has elapsed.  I thought it might be interesting to look back on what the various candidates had to say about education now that we are almost six months into their current term.

Some of the candidates who I have advocated for won and some did not.

Regardless of who won and who lost, our job as citizens is not done.  We must continue to interact with our elected officials and make sure that they are representing us properly in government.  We need to remember what they said during their campaigns; make sure they are sticking to the promises they made; work with them to determine if we can change their perspectives or come to satisfactory compromises if they have stands with which we do not agree.  We can not just wait until the next election and then vote.

New York State Governor – Andrew Cuomo defeated Rob Astorino but by a much smaller margin than many would have anticipated.  Rob Astorino actually ‘won’ the majority of the vote in Ulster County (46.6% for Astorino versus 41.7% for Cuomo according to politico.com) by a slight margin and the margin increases if the votes for Green party candidate Howie Hawkins (11%) are included.  These leads me to conclude that a number of people in Ulster County are not thrilled with Governor Cuomo and I like to think at least some of that discontent is due to his educational policies.  Governor Cuomo stated right before the election that he intends to ‘break the public school monopolty’ (read here) and his actions regarding education is an issue that we will need to keep an eye on in the upcoming months.  I personally liked many of the aspects of Rob Astorino’s education platform and will be keeping it in mind to see if there are ways they can be incorporated into New York’s educational policy even though Rob Astorino did not win the position of Governor.  Astorino-Moss Education Plan 2014

New York State Senator – 46th Senate District:  George Amedore defeated incumbent Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk.  Senator Tkaczyk made education a significant part of her focus during her time in office so George Amedore is going to have to step up and take a stand on the educational issues as he moves into his new position as Senator for the 46th Senate District.  He ran on the new StopCommonCore party line and will be held accountable in that area.  There are many areas of concern in education beyond Common Core that he will also need to address including school funding and unfunded mandates.

New York State Assembly – 103rd Assembly District:  Incumbent Assemblyman Kevin Cahill defeated challenger Kevin Roberts to retain his seat as representative for the Kingston City School District.  As with the governor position, I would like to see if there are ways that we can work with Mr. Cahill to change some of his perspectives on education to achieve the goals that Mr. Roberts would have taken with him to Albany had he won the assembly seat.  This  video provides a clear distinction between the two on their education stands.

U.S. Congressman New York State’s 19th Congressional District:  Incumbent Congressman Chris Gibson defeated newcomer Sean Eldridge and will be returning to Washington D.C. to represent the 19th Congressional District.

Smart Schools Bond Act (proposition 3):  The Smart Schools Bond Act passed and we will have to wait and see how Kingston City School District will use the money and how much it will cost the taxpayers.

StopCommonCore party line:  The new StopCommonCore party line received just over 50,000 votes and is therefore eligible to be its own party and to appear on the ballot as a party for the next four years.

Read here for a summary of campaign platforms and campaign videos about the various candidates.

This summary is focused on the Kingston City School District but I would like to highlight one other post that has Ulster County wide information regarding the Assembly candidates for four districts (assembly districts 101, 102, 103 and 104) since the candidates had such clear and differing stances regarding Common Core/education.  Click here to access the post.

November 4, 2014 Voter update

I have posted a variety of information related to the upcoming election on November 4, 2014 in past weeks.  I thought I would pull some of the information together in one place to make it easier to access.  This is definitely not all-inclusive and it is also not intended to be totally unbiased.  I definitely have personal opinions although I will try to refrain from stating too many of them here.  Also my focus is on where candidates stand with regards to education since the state of education in New York State is my primary concern at this time.

New York State Governor:  

  • Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor include:  Incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo/Kathy Hochul (Democractic party, Working Families party, Independence party, Women’s Equality party), Rob Astorino/Chris Moss (Republican party, Conservative party, StopCommonCore party), Howie Hawkins/Brain Jones (Green party), Michael McDermott/Chris Edes (Libertarian party), Steven Cohn/Bobby Kalotee (Sapient party)
  • There are a variety of reports regarding debate discussions between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino but no debates have been confirmed.
  • I wrote a blog post in early September regarding various gubernatorial candidate’s stands on educational issues – click here – which included a scorecard from New York Allies for Public Education.  You can also check the ‘Governor Cuomo’ and ‘Rob Astorino’ tags in the right sidebar here for additional blog posts that I have written related to these two candidates including this one with video of Rob Astorino’s visit to Kingston on September 24, 2014.

New York State Senator – 46th Senate District:

  • Incumbent New York State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk and George Amedore are facing off again (they challenged each other in 2012 as well) for representation of the 46th senate district which includes the City of Kingston and the towns of Esopus, Hurley, Kingston, Lloyd, Marbletown, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock within Ulster County.
  • Debates are being held between Senator Tkaczyk and George Amedore.  I attended one sponsored by the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce on September 23 and here is the video of the hour long debate.  Common Core and education funding were discussed briefly by both candidates.
  • George Amedore is on the StopCommonCore party line.  Senator Tkaczyk collected signatures for the Women’s Equality party line but ran into a challenge with some of the signatures so will not be on the party line.

New York State Assembly – Assembly District 103:

  • Incumbent Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Kevin Roberts are running for the seat in the 103rd Assembly District which covers most of the Kingston City School District.
  • I have not heard any debates yet between the two candidates but here is a little Common Core related information.  Kevin Roberts supports full repeal of Common Core in New York State per his campaign materials and personal conversations with him.  From a conversation with Assemblyman Cahill at a lobby day back in June, I know that he stated there were problems with Common Core but feels that the actions of the Democratic legislative majority are adequate to deal with any issues and the bill A8844 to halt Common Core that was presented by Assemblymen Ra and Graf had ‘problems’ and there was no way it could pass.  Here are posts about the Ra/Graf bill if you are not familiar with it – here and here.

U.S. Congress – New York State’s 19th Congressional District:

  • Incumbent U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson and Sean Eldridge are running for New York’s 19th Congressional District which includes all of Ulster County.
  • U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson and Sean Eldridge will hold a debate locally next Monday October 6, 2014 at Miller Middle School.  Doors open at 6pm I have been told but having a hard time finding exact info.  This article has some details but the name of the school is wrong – the event is definitely at Miller (since we don’t have a ‘Lake Katrine Middle School’ in Kingston).
  • I have had personal contact with Congressman Gibson and know that he is opposed to high-stakes testing and Common Core.  I am not familiar with Mr. Eldridge’s educational stands and look forward to hearing his thoughts at the debate next week.

New Parties on Ballot:

  • There are two new parties on the November 4 ballot – the StopCommonCore party and the Women’s Equality party.  You can read details here.

Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014:

  • A referendum will be on the November 4 ballot asking the New York State voters to approve a 2 billion dollar bond act for school technology.  You can read details of the bond act here as well as the thoughts of those for and against the bond act.

Are you ready to vote?

If you have never voted, have not voted in a long time or have recently moved, you will need to register to vote.  You can pick up a voter registration form at the Board of Elections on Wall Street in Kingston or you can register online at New York State Board of Elections Register to Vote.  In order to vote in the November 4, 2014 election, you need to be registered by October 10, 2014.

Post updated on 10/6/14 – Kevin Roberts supports full repeal of Common Core but is not on the StopCommonCore ballot line.

Common Sense Education Lobby Day – June 17, 2014

Common Sense Education Lobby Day Ulster flyer

Please come to Albany with me on June 17 to participate in Common Sense Education Lobby Day.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D, NYS Assemblyman Ed Ra, NYS Assemblyman Al Graf and NYS Senator Lee Zeldin will be speaking at the 11am rally and then we will be meeting with our legislators Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk to lobby for a withdrawal from Common Core State Standards, high stakes testing, and data mining; a restoration of control of curriculum to local school districts.

Albany Lobby Day press release  **see below**

Local radio celebrity, Richie Phillips, from 107.7 WGNA will entertain the crowd with a live performance of his original song, “Cure for the Common Core.” at Common Sense Education Lobby Day in Albany, NY 6/17/14.

Common Sense Education Lobby Day in spirit

Contact me for information on car pooling or more details about the local group traveling to Albany for Common Sense Education Lobby Day.

Related post here.

**UPDATE: The press release link above no longer works.  For an unknown reason, the press release was removed from the WNYT website ( events.wnyt.com ) the day after being posted.

ALBANY LOBBY DAY- NYS PARENTS DEMAND WITHDRAWAL FROM COMMON CORE STANDARDS

Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Parent Groups to Attend Albany Lobby Day; Demand NYS Withdraws from Common Core Standards

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Assemblymen Ed Ra and Al Graf, and Senator Lee Zeldin to address crowd of parents, teachers, and grassroots organizers

Date: Tuesday June 17, 2014

Location: Legislative Office Building, 198 State Street, Albany, NY 12210

Press Conference:
10:00 am – 10:45 am; LCA Room, Room 130

Speakers:
11:00 am – 12 noon; “The Well”

CONTACT: Mary Calamia, 631-835-1824, UnitedAgainstCC@gmail.com
Nationally renowned Common Core expert, Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D., Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, will be addressing New York State parents and grassroots organizers in “The Well” at the Legislative Office Building, 198 State Street, Albany, NY 12210, on June 17th at 11:00 am. Dr. Stotsky’s speech will kick off “Common Sense Education Lobby Day,” during which the attendees will meet with NYS legislators to lobby for a withdrawal from Common Core State Standards, high stakes testing, and data mining; the group seeks to restore control of curriculum to local school districts.
Dr. Stotsky was a member of the original Common Core Validation Committee, which was charged with reviewing and approving the Common Core standards. She refused to endorse the Common Core standards as internationally benchmarked, rigorous, and research-based and is now an outspoken Common Core critic, advocating instead for internationally benchmarked academic standards for K-12 in mathematics and English language arts that will fulfill the goals intended for Common Core. Dr. Stotsky will be discussing educational reform and what she suggests we need to do to strengthen the American educational system.
Also addressing the crowd will be Lobby Day sponsor, NYS Assemblyman Ed Ra, along with Assemblyman Al Graf and Senator Lee Zeldin, who have sponsored legislation to halt the implementation of Common Core in New York State and create a multidisciplinary blue-ribbon panel to evaluate the standards and determine their appropriateness for New York State schools.
Local radio celebrity, Richie Phillips, from 107.7 WGNA will entertain the crowd with a live performance of his original song, “Cure for the Common Core.”

A press conference will be at 10:00 am in Room 130, prior to the event.

Join me for Common Sense Education Lobby Day – June 17, 2014

Common Sense Education Lobby Day Ulster flyer

Please come to Albany with me on Tuesday June 17, 2014 to lobby our legislators for a return to common sense education.  We will rally from 11am to Noon and then meet with legislators.

An appointment with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill is scheduled for Noon and an appointment with Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk is scheduled for 1pm.

You do NOT have to speak to the legislators if you are not comfortable doing so.  Just come and make your presence known.  Let’s show Albany that the parents of the Kingston City School District are NOT going to allow our children to continue to be harmed by education run amuck!

Action needed on Vote for Board of Regents today

Today the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate will be voting on four Board of Regents members. If you are satisfied with education in New York right now, do nothing. If you are NOT satisfied, call Assemblyman Kevin Cahill this morning and urge him to show up for the vote and vote NO on the incumbent regents.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill contact information:
Albany office (518) 455-4436 Kingston office (845) 338-9610
cahillk@assembly.state.ny.us

Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk has indicated that she WILL be voting NO on the incumbent regents. We need to contact her to thank her for the stand she is taking for our students and for education.

Senator Tkaczyk contact information:
Albany office (518) 455-2470 Kingston office (845) 331-3810
tkaczyk@nysenate.gov

If you are like me and did not even know what/who the Board of Regents was prior to six months ago, here is some information .