Tag Archives: technology

Cybersafety Presentation – December 1, 2016

Check out this presentation at UCCC tomorrow evening.

The Ulster County Safe Harbour program will host “Internet Awareness: Tools for Keeping Youth Safe in Cyberspace”  on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at UCCC’s  Quimby Auditorium from 6-8:30pm .  

According to a study titled, “2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying,” 87% of youth have witnessed cyberbullying versus 2013 when 27% of youth witnessed cruel behavior online. Additionally, an increase in cases of suicide have been attributed to sexts gone viral.  

While 79% of youth have never used the Internet or social media to reinvent themselves, one in three youth feel more accepted on social media than they do in real life.  Traffickers utilize social media sites such as Facebook to groom and lure youth into trafficking situations via tactics such as fraud (promises of a romantic relationships or lucrative employment offers) and coercion (threats to the life of the survivor and their family).  Thorn, an agency that studies technology’s role in sex trafficking, found that 70 percent of their surveyed child sex trafficking survivors were, at some point, sold online.


Contact Jackie Arsenuk at (845) 340-3927 or ulster.safeharbour@gmail.com with any questions.

Cybersafety Presentation

Parents – Mark your calendars to attend the presentation “Internet Awareness:  Tools for Keeping Youth Safe in Cyberspace” on Thursday December 1, 2016 from 6-8:30pm at UCCC’s Quimby Auditorium.


The event is hosted by the Safe Harbour Program.  Contact Jackie Arsenuk at (845) 340-3927 or ulster.safeharbour@gmail.com with any questions.

A New Vision of Education

The following resolution from the Patchogue-Medford school board on Long Island, New York was reported by Diane Ravitch and is well worth a read through.

A New Vision of Education:  A Resolution Passed by the Patchogue-Medford School Board in New York

I will include the resolution as well in case you can not access the link.

WHEREAS, Learning standards must serve as a guide to what all children should develop toward and be based on developmental norms rather than systematic back-mapping of any given college and career readiness benchmark; and that such standards should be created by New York State classroom educators and content area specialists experienced in the grade level for which they are creating standards, with feedback from parents, community members, and where appropriate, students; and that such standards must specify at what level of difficulty a student is expected to demonstrate proficiency on state tests; and that such standards should be based on peer reviewed and evidence based research for each grade level, including lexile benchmarks; and that such standards should serve as a guide to what skills to what skills and concepts are taught at each grade level; and that such standards must be broad enough to allow local teachers, as professionals, to determine methodology, content, and instructional practices and assessments that will best suit the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that such standards must include fine and gross motor skills, including handwriting; and that such standards must broadly address play skills, a well researched and critical aspect of learning for students, to ensure that schools allocate instructional time for self-selected and guided play, particularly in the early grades; and that such standards in all grades must address cultural competencies;

WHEREAS, School districts must be given adequate funding to create or purchase culturally relevant curriculum that meets the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that all schools must have dedicated funding for curriculum-based field trips and project-based, experiential learning; and that music, art, physical education, and technology should be integrated into the curriculum for all students in grades K-12; and that all schools must offer at least one consistent foreign language in grades K-12; and that any state-wide digital learning platforms must be evidence based, piloted, and studied for both efficacy and safety before being implemented; and that all high schools must offer advanced mathematics and science courses as well as advanced electives in all disciplines; and that all schools’ curricula should offer significant opportunities for students to exercise choice and direct aspects of their own learning;

WHEREAS, Any federally mandated statewide assessments must be created by New York State classroom educators, including test question construction and reading passage selection; and that in a system that includes local assessment, classroom educators must have the primary role in constructing or selecting the assessments; and that tests must be criterion referenced rather than norm referenced and results must be given back within 4 weeks of administration; and that College and Career readiness benchmarks aligned with test proficiency must be aligned with strong indicators of post-high school success that have been vetted for racial, cultural, and socioeconomic bias; and that any federally mandated statewide assessments must be no longer than one day per subject with time limits established by a committee of classroom educators experienced in the grade level for which the assessment has been developed; and that time limits must be based on grade level expectations for time on task; and that the misuse of assessment data must stop; and that statewide exams must be decoupled from any high stakes including but not limited to teacher and principal evaluations, grounds for school takeover or closure, use as admittance criteria to selective schools, promotion, programs, and retention; and that on any statewide test, all test content, reading passages, and questions must align to the grade level benchmarks and lexile levels for the grade in which it is being administered; and that test scores and high stakes exit exams must not be the only pathway to graduation; and that students must have the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in other ways such as portfolios and interviews; and that Regents exams must be scheduled in such a way so as to ensure that no student must take more than one Regent exam per day; and that assessments must be subject to full transparency, including the annual release of comprehensive technical reports that provide transparency on specific items; and that all parents and guardians must be notified of their right to refuse standardized tests for their child(ren), with notification must be provided in the parent or guardian’s native language;

WHEREAS, New York State must fully and equitably fund our public schools; and that reasonable class size caps (for example, 18 students in K-3, 23-25 in other grades) must be used in aid and funding formulas as the basis for school aid determination; and that all schools must have at least one full time nurse, social worker, and security guard/safety officer, with all security guard/safety officers receiving crisis intervention and cultural competency training; and that all schools must have a well-resourced library and a full time librarian; and that all schools must have adequate counseling support provided by a psychologist, as determined by the overall number of students, the number of students with special needs, and the level of poverty a school is experiencing; and that all schools must have up to date technological infrastructure and resources, where state aid and funds for these resources should not be contingent upon schools increasing their capacity to administer computer-based assessments; and that in conjunction with parents, educators, school board members, and community members, the Board of Regents should develop a framework for what every public school in NYS must have in order to ensure equity and student success, where this framework should help drive the State’s accountability system as well as its funding; and that in Pre-K and in grades K-6, all students must have at least 60 minutes of recess per day in addition to the federally mandated 120 minutes of physical education per week; and that all students must be guaranteed at least 30 minutes for lunch, and this time may not be used for instructional purposes; and that all teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals must receive training in cultural competency, crisis intervention, and restorative justice practices; and that mandatory common planning time should be provided for general education, special education and ENL teachers, and intervention specialists who share students; and that New York State must prioritize the recruitment and retention of teachers from diverse backgrounds that reflect the students they serve, are trained in a fully accredited education program, and have completed a full course of student teaching with a trained mentor; and that all school districts must offer a strong teacher mentoring program to help new teachers navigate their first few years of service; and that schools must provide access to medical and dental services as well as high quality nutrition for ALL students who need them; and that all families must have access to fully funded, high quality Pre-Kindergarten;

WHEREAS, The role of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be restored and allowed to drive instruction for the individual student and should be guided by the needs, interests & development of each student; and that the needs of the student must inform IEP goals rather than alignment to learning standards that are currently in flux; and that all special education teachers must receive training in evidence-based methodologies for teaching math and reading to struggling learners; and that all co-taught models must have a full time special education teacher; and that students with disabilities must have access to pathways that lead to a diploma and provide access to vocational training that is aligned with student interest and strengths; and that special education teachers must have time set aside on a weekly or daily basis to engage in differentiated curriculum work, intervention planning, communication with parents, and fulfillment of IEP and special education mandates;

WHEREAS, The following five principles should be incorporated in any law or policy regarding the protection of personal student data in grades preK-12, and after students reach age 18, all these rights, including those related to notification and consent, should devolve to them:

Transparency: Parents must be notified by their children’s school or district in advance of any disclosure of personal student information to any persons, companies or organizations outside of the school or district. Once notified, parents to must be able to opt out of the disclosure of their child’s personal data. All disclosures to third parties should also require publicly available contracts and privacy policies that specify what types of data are to be disclosed for what purposes, and provide a date certain when the data will be destroyed.

No commercial uses: Selling of personal student data and/or use for marketing purposes should be banned. No advertising should be allowed on instructional software or websites assigned to students by their schools, since ads are a distraction from learning and serve no legitimate educational purpose.

Security protections: At minimum, there must be encryption of personal data at motion and at rest, required training for all individuals with access to personal student data, audit logs, and security audits by an independent auditor. Passwords should be protected in the same manner as all other personal student information. There must be notification to parents of all breaches, and indemnification of the same. No “anonymized” or “de-identified” student information should be disclosed without verifiable safeguards to ensure data cannot be easily re-identified.

Parental/ student rights: No re-disclosures by vendors or any other third parties to additional individuals, sub-contractors, or organizations should be allowed without parental notification and consent (or students, if they are 18 or older). Parents must be allowed to see any data collected directly from their child by a school or a vendor given access through the school, delete the data if it is in error or is nonessential to the child’s transcript, and opt out of further collection, unless that data is part of their child’s educational records at school. Any data-mining for purpose of creating student profiles, even for educational purposes, must be done with full parental knowledge. Parental consent must be required for disclosure of personal data, especially for highly sensitive information such as their child’s disabilities, health and disciplinary information.

Enforcement: The law should specify fines if the school, district or third party violates the law, their contracts and/or privacy policies; with parents able to sue on behalf of their children’s rights as well.


BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Patchogue-Medford School District, in agreement with the New York State Allies for Public Education, calls upon the Governor of New York State, the New York State Legislature, the New York State Commissioner of Education, and the New York State Board of Regents, to consider this outline as a new framework for public education in New York State, a framework that serves all students; an equitable public education system in which ALL students can succeed; a vision of public education that prioritizes child-centered and developmentally appropriate learning standards and assessments, research and evidence based practices and policies, equitable resources and opportunities, and an accountability system that supports rather than punishes; what all schools must have in order to foster creative, critically thinking, confident, well-rounded, independent, self-motivated, culturally competent, and well-prepared students who can work cooperatively and excel post-high school, whether they choose to attend college or pursue a vocation. Further, we call on all aspects of public education to be rooted in ethical practices and democratic decision making.

New Paltz BOE Stands Against Use of State Tests to Evaluate Teachers

The New Paltz Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution against the use of state test scores to evaluate the efficacy of teachers and schools on November 4, 2015.

Read the resolution here.

After seven points about the Value Added Model (VAM), the BOE concludes:

Our conclusion is that the results produced by the current assessment system are unproven, volatile, and lack utility. We call upon the Board of Regents and Legislature to immediately suspend all state assessments that use a VAM or growth theory until there is evidence of efficacy.

The BOE gives four points about APPR and concludes:

Our conclusion is that the current APPR mandates are invalid measures of educator- and school district-effectiveness and present serious short- and long-term risks to the availability of instructional talent.

Finally after three points on the utility of student assessment data, the conclusion is reached:

Our conclusion is that the data produced by the state assessment system provide no value while simultaneously diverting resources away from initiatives that serve districts’ missions.

Based on the conclusions presented, the New Paltz Central School District makes the following recommendation:

The Board of Education of the New Paltz Central School District asks the Board of Regents, State Education Department, New York State Legislature, and Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare an immediate moratorium on the current testing mandates and for that moratorium to continue until such time as a body of evidence for their efficacy in improving instruction has been fully established. We also request that no Smart Bond funds are expended to computerize an evaluation system based on the Value Added Model. – New Paltz CSD Board of Education Resolution Regarding Value Added Model

Note the request to not use any of the Smart Schools Bond fund money for testing.  A concern of many of those who advocated against passage of the Smart Schools Bond Act was that it would be used to cement testing/Common Core within the schools.  We need to make sure that does not happen while everyone is still ‘deciding’ what is to be done about Common Core/testing.

The New Paltz BOE will send their resolution to the Board of Regents, including our local Regent Josephine Finn, for consideration before the Regents meeting on November 16, 2015.  The New Paltz BOE also asks that the resolution be shared widely so that other New York parents and school districts can contact the Board of Regents to show support of the resolution.

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.

What should Kingston do with the Smart Schools Bond Act Money?

Did you know the details of the Smart Schools Bond Act before voting on November 4?  Unfortunately the statement/description of the bond act was not terribly clear on the ballot in my opinion.  This bond act is going to cost New Yorkers a pretty penny.

The debt this $2 billion bond will create is no small amount in the annual budget. E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, puts the total at roughly $130 million per year, but that figure could change drastically depending on how long the note is for.  – How Bright is the Smart Schools Bond Act?  GothamGazette.com

Before the November vote, one article reported: “New York’s state and local debt burden is already enormous, totaling more than $17,000 per resident.” (from “New York’s school-bond boondoggle” article).  The debt for the bond act in 2016-2017 is expected to be $126,000,000 and then go up to $156,000,000 (yes 156 million dollars!) in 2017-2018.  If I understand correctly the duration of the bonds will be from 8 to 30 years depending on the percentages of how the money is used (technology/security versus infrastructure changes for pre-school) so I am not sure exactly how long we will be paying at those huge figures but it is a long time (New York City is expected to use all their $783 million for pre-school enhancements) and a lot of money!

Who decides how the money is spent?
If voters approve Prop 3, the Smart Schools Review Board, which is comprised of the Chancellor of the State University of New York, the Director of the Budget, and the Commissioner of Education (or “their respective designees”), will issue guidelines.

Using the guidelines, each district will be required to submit a Smart Schools Investment Plan.

According to the rules, school districts are required to consult with parents, teachers, students, community members, and other stakeholders on how the money will be spent. But it is unclear when the public will be given the opportunity to provide input (i.e. before or after a district draws up a plan). – How Bright is the Smart Schools Bond Act?  GothamGazette.com

Since school districts must consult with tax payers as to how the money is spent, we, as tax payers, need to do our due-diligence to be informed so that we can ask questions and provide input regarding Kingston’s best usage of the Smart Schools Bond money.

Please read this report about the Smart Schools Bond Act from the Citizens Budget Commission and become informed about the various issues.  You can ignore the fact that the commission recommended a “no” vote since the bond act was passed but there are a number of issues explaining why the recommendation was made that should still play into the decision about how Kingston spends the money it will receive from the Bond Act.

Capital investment in technology devices is unlikely to yield lasting benefits. Research has shown successful technology programs require significant investment in implementation and the integration of technology in pedagogical practice, not merely the purchase of new hardware like laptops and iPads. Moreover, no research establishes that investment in technology equipment generates a return in terms of cost savings or other benefits. – Vote “No” on the Smart Schools Bond Act, Citizens Budget Commission

If the Kingston City School District is going to use the money to invest in technology, how will each of the issues raised in the report be addressed in Kingston?

  • Mixed evidence from previous technology programs
  • Successful technology programs require ongoing, costly operational support
  • Short useful lives of technology
  • Other technology challenges

I am not saying that these issues can not be successfully addressed but that the issues must be faced so that we will not be paying for unsuccessful programs.  Articles here and here also discuss some of the issues associated with using the bond act money for technology.

Another option not mentioned much in the bond act discussion before the vote is the option to use the money to replace trailers.  Kingston does have trailers being used at Crosby, however based on comments from Crosby Principal Ms. Anderson in her board welcome at the October 15, 2014 board meeting, the Crosby trailers have just received new siding and some other repairs/updates and are very nice.  She was looking forward to being able to use them very soon so it does not sound like there are any plans to get rid of the trailers.  Do any other schools use trailers?  Bailey has one but I don’t know if it is used regularly or just as ‘back-up’ space. From what I have heard from my student at Bailey, it is actually a pretty nice classroom space.

Dr. Padalino mentioned at either a Coffee & Conversation or a board meeting before the bond act passed that Mr. Olsen was doing a side project to come up with some ideas of how the Kingston district might use the money should the bond act pass.  Since the bond act has now passed, we, as taxpayers, need to be prepared to hear what the district proposes and participate fully in the conversation regarding the best use of the Smart Schools bond money for the Kingston City School District.


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.

Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014

The New York Bonds for School Technology Act, Proposal 3 (or Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014) was proposed by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address in January 2014 and was approved by the legislature in the Governor’s 2014-2015 state budget with the press release stating:

The Budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond act. Bond proceeds will fund enhanced education technology in schools, with eligible projects including infrastructure improvements to bring high-speed broadband to schools and communities in their school district and the purchase of classroom technology for use by students. Additionally, Smart Schools will enable long-term investments in full-day pre-kindergarten through the construction of new pre-kindergarten classroom space, replace classroom trailers with permanent classroom space and make investments in high-tech school safety projects.
Now the bond act must be approved by the New York State voters on November 4, 2014 to take effect.  The ballot text as it will appear on the November 4 ballot reads:


The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014 be approved?

If the Smart Schools Bond Act is approved by voters, Kingston City School District will receive approximately 5.3 million dollars that could be used to purchase computers, servers, white boards, make infrastructure upgrades for broadband, security or preK expansion.  Dr. Padalino has stated that Kingston does not need construction for preK because, while the preK program at George Washington is full, the preK program a JFK is not.  However if the bond act were to pass, the KCSD board of education and administration could put the money to good use within the confines of what is allowed to be done with the money.

Since the Smart Schools Bond Act was announced as part of the budget package, several concerns have been raised causing parents and community members around the state to question whether they should support the bond act by voting yes in November.

On April 17 Governor Cuomo announced the formation of a three-person Smart Schools Commission intended to make recommendations on how districts should use the money they receive from the bond act.  Commission member Constance Evelyn, superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County said in support of the bond act,

There is a stark difference between a classroom outfitted with up to date, advanced technology, and one without. As we prepare our students to compete and find jobs in an economy that places high value on technical literacy, it is of vital importance that all our children have access to the classrooms where they can develop these skills. – Cuomo announces commission for school bond act, lohud April 17, 2014
However Assemblyman Bill Nojay focused on the tax dollars.
I’m not aware that this panel is anything other than a sort of a gimmicky Cuomo move, they’re not really going to decide where the money is spent.  The problem with the Smart Schools Bond Act is we already have more debt in New York state than we can reasonably expect taxpayers to pay for the next 20 to 30 years. – Cuomo announces commission for school bond act, lohud April 17, 2014

In addition to Constance Evelyn and Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, Governor Cuomo appointed Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of of Google to the Smart Schools Commission.  Having the head of a major technology company that could significantly benefit from the situation as one of the three committee advisers leads to some serious questions of propriety as pointed out by Consumer Watchdog in their formal complaint about the matter.

Nicholas Tampio is concerned about the Schmidt/Google relationship but even more so that the constituents in the local districts (parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders) will not really have control over how they spend the money the district receives because plans must be approved by the Smart Schools review board (not the Smart Schools commission as it turns out) which consists of the chancellor of SUNY Nancy Zimpher, the Director of Budget Robert Megna, and the Commissioner of Education John King.

On Nov. 4, New Yorkers will have a chance to vote on the Smart Schools Bond Act. This bond has little to do with education and more to do with Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving a gift to the tech industry and circumventing political opposition to the Common Core. – Smart Schools Bond a Bad Investment, Nicholas Tampio, lohud September 2, 2014

Also Common Core rears its ugly head in this picture.  New York is going to have to start administering the Common Core-based PARCC tests soon, per our Race to the Top application, and that means the school districts have to have the necessary technology to administer the tests to the students all at the same time.  This bond act will help to provide the necessary technology in the short term but as Tampio points out,

… make no mistake: This bond helps cement the Common Core in New York schools. The technology makes possible the Common Core tests, and the smart schools review board is made up of three individuals who support the Common Core. – Nicholas Tampio

Finally this bond will take money from our taxes that could be spent on other things.  Tampio mentions smaller class size as an educational endeavor he would prefer to see the money spent on.  Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney introduced the Clean Air/Clean Water/Green Jobs Bond Act of 2014 which is a $5 billion package (details here) but only one bond act per year is possible and since Governor Cuomo included the Smart Schools Bond Act in the budget, the environmental bond isn’t even an option.  I don’t know that I agree with all of the things in the environmental bond but as I think about the hole in Washington Avenue (not sure if that would be eligible or not), I can easily imagine how communities would need the money.  Perhaps we need to not have a bond this year to allow tax payers the opportunity to prepare for the environmental bond, or some portion of it, next year?

E. J. McMahon from the Empire Center questions whether a bond act is appropriate for technology which gets old so quickly and feels that the state already gives school districts money for technology.  McMahon appears in this news video (September 8, 2014) from Time Warner Cable along with a summary of several other view points including Governor Cuomo’s comments on the bond act.  He has the following to say about the Clean Air/Clean Water/Green Jobs Bond Act:

Sewer and infrastructure upgrades are a significant expense faced by many municipalities, including some that still directly discharge waste into the Hudson River during storms. Beaches in communities along Lake Erie are regularly closed during summer months because of sewer discharge into the water. Old pipes, decaying electrical systems and other infrastructure problems have stalled private development in many upstate cities, McMahon said.

While McMahon said he didn’t support the whole environmental bond, the $2 billion directed toward infrastructure is increasingly necessary, but gets little notice during an election year.

“It’s the non-sexy, really important thing that seems like it won’t happen while we’re paying for iPads and technology for schools,” he said.

Cuomo’s school bond would stall environmental measure, Capital New York January 9, 2014

Please carefully consider the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 before you walk into the voting booth on November 4, 2014 and determine whether it is how you want your tax dollars spent in the coming years.

Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 – Referendum that will be on the November 4, 2014 ballot

Here is information from a parent in Ballston Spa who has done a lot of research into the “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014″ which will be on the November 4 ballot as a referendum due to Governor Cuomo’s 2014 budget.

Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 – Nov 4th Bond Referendum

In relation to the Ballston Journals article on the BSCSD Board reshuffles leadership, the bigger question lies within the statements from Jeanne Obermayer on UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten). The UPK is a bit of concern for me. We already have Head-Start for disadvantaged pre-k children housed in our school district. So why the need for UPK??? This may very well be connected to the NEWEST CC program to be rolled out PK-12 and is most likely connected to the “Smart Schools Bond Act 2014.” that will be on the November election Ballot.


This 2 BILLION $$ bond act will be required to be used for technology needed for PARCC and also expanding pre-k, in this case “UNIVERSAL.” Another RED HERRING…. once the $$ is used up, it then becomes another unfunded mandate to local tax payers to cover the continual financial costs of the programs.


If Cuomo initiated it, it’s connected to the expansion of CC. Just think about it. We’ll still have to replace and cover costs of aging technology, costs related to anything connected within 3-5 years as another tax burden, LONG BEFORE the NYS citizens and taxpayers pay back the bond over the next few decades.
It’s the BIG BOONDOGGLE!! 1 Billion $$ ifiasco in LA


“E.J. McMahon, President of the Empire Center, argued that the bond would pay for technology that will be “outdated and useless” before the state’s bonded indebtedness is even paid off.”

Data mining our children

Many parents are concerned about the multiple (400+) points of data that the New York State Education Department wants to collect on each student in their Statewide Longitudinal Data System* being created and managed by inBloom.  Others might wonder “What’s the big deal?  Why are parents so concerned?”

Here is a photo taken from a Pearson marketing video that might explain just a little bit of the concern.


I am not good at judging ages so I can’t tell how old this boy is but the concept that a computer program can determine what his college major and/or career should be causes me great concern.  I started college convinced that I was going to get a double major in math and biology with a secondary education teaching certificate.  I graduated with a degree in computer science (still in 4 years mind you!)  Even if teachers and guidance counselors are contributing to the date being used, how is a parent to know with confidence that some colleges are not being more heavily favored because they have some ‘special arrangement’ with the vendor providing the software?

Here is the full video (photo is taken from about the 5:20 mark):

Vision for Personalized and Connected Living video

My daughter thought the tables that were giant computer screens where the students worked were really cool.  I was chilled by the ‘attendance’ being taken as the students walked through the school door!  Was there retina scanning going on or were the tablets each student was carrying being scanned?  The students collaborating on the train might be neat but what about students like me who get carsick if I try to read at all in a moving vehicle and what kind of wifi access are the students using on the train?  I sure hope they have been thoroughly briefed by the school on what is safe to share via ‘public networks’ versus ‘home networks’ (ie secure networks).

We are told as parents that we need to limit the amount of screen time our children have – looks like this boy is living his entire life by/on the computer!

As a parent, what do you think of Pearson’s “Vision for Personalized & Connected Living” for your student(s)?  Are you willing to allow the school district and New York State to provide the data on your child(ren) to make it happen?  Please post your thoughts so we can find out what parents from all around the school district think on this important topic.



*Statewide Longitudinal Data System – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included Race to the Top monies as part of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.  As a requirement for applying for the Race to the Top money, states had to assure the federal Government that they would establish a Longitudinal Data System.  The Federal Government defined the pieces of data, which would range from PreK through college (P-20) that the states had to include in the LDS as part of the America COMPETES Act.  New York State submitted their application for stabilization funds in April 2009 signed by Governor Patterson and Commissioner Mills.

The EngageNY Portal is the interface teachers, students and families will use to access the SLDS data managed by inBloom.