Questar III begins DS search

Questar III BOCES is moving forward with its search for a new district superintendent to replace James N. Baldwin, who retired from public service in mid-September.

The BOCES received the recruitment go-ahead from the State Education Department following a survey of school districts on whether a study was needed to review a change in configuration. No change was recommended.

The Commissioner of Education appointed Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES District Superintendent James Dexter – formerly a superintendent in the Questar III region – to assist with the search. The Board is looking to secure a new district superintendent by July 1, 2015.

During the month of November, Dexter will lead sessions with local superintendents and BOCES staff to collect input on the qualities and characteristics sought in the next district superintendent.

The Questar III district superintendent serves dual roles – chief executive of the BOCES that oversees more than 275 cooperative services statewide and field representative to the Commissioner of Education and State Education Department.

REC principal honored

Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center co-principal, Tracy Racicot was recently honored as a 2014 Woman of Distinction. Senator Kathleen Marchione hosted the awards ceremony at the Canfield Casino in Saratoga Springs on September 24.

racicot_tracyThe “Women of Distinction” event recognized the work and accomplishments of 15 women from across the Capital Region. Applicants were nominated, some by family members, and then chosen by Shelia Lobdell of West Sand Lake and Susan Reynolds of Easton.

In her career in education, Tracy is always working on and thinking of ways to improve and better the learning experience of students. One of Tracy’s hobbies includes participating in triathlons. She was nominated by a fellow runner and triathlete. She volunteers as a coach and mentor of the No Boundaries 5k Training program

Through her efforts as a coach and mentor for the program, Tracy’s willingness and commitment to helping others has helped many individually, and in turn, improve the communities in which we all live.

“I’m honored to have been in the same room as the amazing women who were recognized at this event,” said Racicot.

In addition to volunteering as a coach, Tracy volunteers for Adopt-A-Highway for Capital District Triathlons, various road running races, and has organized activities for her colleagues such as the Workforce Challenge.


NYSPRA honors Questar III

Questar III BOCES earned 10 awards in the New York State Public Relations Association’s (NYSPRA) 35th annual communications contest. This included three awards of excellence – the top honor given by NYSPRA each year.

Questar III’s Communications Service produced the following winning entries:

Chatham CSD
Budget newsletter
Merit award

Adam Charbonneau, Communications Specialist
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Greenville CSD
Honor award
Christine Kozin, Senior Website Manager
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Hudson CSD
Honor award
Christine Kozin, Senior Website Manager
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Ichabod Crane CSD
Excellence award
Christine Kozin, Senior Website Manager
Mary Prusak, Communications Specialist
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Questar III

Erin Clary, Communications Specialist
Caitlin Dederick, Communications Specialist
Dan Sherman, Director of Communications
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Erin Clary, Communications Specialist
Dan Sherman, Director of Communications

Career-Tech Guide
Merit award
Dan Sherman, Director of Communications
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Adult Education graphics
Merit award
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

Social media
Honor award
Jason McCord, Senior Communications Specialist

Troy CSD
Merit award
Kim Vigars, Senior Graphic Designer

A full listing of winners is available at

Questar III receives Virtual AP grant

Questar III BOCES has been awarded a 10-month grant under New York State’s virtual learning initiative, the Virtual Advanced Placement (VAP) Program, Round II. The grant will expand access to Advanced Placement (AP) and pre-AP classes and exams in participating component districts. This will allow more low-income students to prepare for college and careers. Questar III was awarded $534,261 in Race to the Top funds to develop online and blended courses.

The Questar III-led consortium will provided VAP courses to five participating school districts: Catskill CSD, Greenville CSD, Taconic Hills CSD, Germantown CSD and Rensselaer CSD. The consortium also includes Tech Valley High School®.

While the number of low-income students taking AP courses has increased from past decades, disparity still remains between low-income students and their peers in the enrollment and achievement of AP coursework. Often times districts are forced to cut their AP programs due to lack of resources or declining enrollment.

“This grant helps supports Questar III’s continuous mission of providing innovative education to not just some, but to all students,” said Questar III Deputy Superintendent Gladys Cruz, Ph.D. “It will provide many low-income students with their first opportunity to take AP courses, crucial to college and career readiness. It will also expand the course selection for those who already have access to these courses. This grant is the result of the hard work and collaboration of those participating in the consortium and we look forward to beginning implementation in the fall.”

“We’re extremely pleased to be part of this consortium. Online video conferencing and other formats provide alternatives to traditional learning and have become part of college and the rest of the adult world,” said Catskill CSD Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Farrell. “Because students can work at their pace, at their own convenience, those who previously had scheduling conflicts will now have the opportunity to take such courses along with and those who may have been worried about the pace of a traditional AP class.”

The grant will be used by Questar III to develop courses based on Apex Learning, a national provider of blended and virtual learning solutions for schools. It will also be used for professional development, the purchase of needed technology and support for the cost of AP exams taken at the end of the course.

Students will have the opportunity to take the following VAP courses: US History; English Literature Spanish Language; and Calculus AB.

For additional information, including a full list of districts and consortia receiving VAP Round II awards, please visit

Gov. announces New Tech Valley HS

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the completion of the new Tech Valley High School, which focuses on providing students with a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and math skills, which are increasingly important as New York continues to expand its leadership in the development of next generation technologies. Located at the Albany NanoTech Complex, the school is the result of collaboration between Tech Valley High School and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering /SUNY Institute of Technology. Over 140 students are enrolled for the Fall 2014 semester, with the freshman class at capacity.

Working to improve assessments

A consortium of local school districts led by Questar III BOCES will receive $399,314 in grant funding to review and improve student assessment practices this school year.

Questar III received a “Teaching is the Core” grant from the New York State Education Department to work with Brunswick CSD, Cairo-Durham CSD, Catskill CSD, Coxsackie-Athens CSD, Hoosick Falls CSD, Hudson City SD, New Lebanon CSD, North Greenbush CSD, Rensselaer CSD, Tech Valley High School, and Wynantskill UFSD.

As part of this grant, each district will organize a review team comprised of teachers and administrators to identify and improve high-quality assessments. This grant will advance a priority of New York’s Commissioner of Education John B. King and the State Board of Regents to eliminate or modify locally adopted tests that are redundant or do not advance teaching and learning.

Through this process, districts will identify and implement performance-based assessments that can be used to measure student learning and school and educator effectiveness. This may include essay writing, completion of projects, real-world problem solving and conduct of experiments where students demonstrate knowledge and skills.

Districts will also establish a parent engagement program to share information concerning how parents can support learning at home and how assessments inform instruction and help children learn.

“Ultimately, high-quality assessments – and the feedback they provide to teachers, students and parents – are an integral part of excellent teaching and advancing student achievement,” said Questar III District Superintendent James N. Baldwin.

Gibson wins NYSSBA’s highest honor

Robert Gibson, president of the Questar III BOCES board and former president and member of the Brittonkill Central School District Board of Education, is the 2014 winner of the Everett R. Dyer Award for Distinguished School Board Service. The honor is the New York State School Boards Association’s top award for school board service.

Mertz advocates for CTE

mertz_assembly_hearing_CTEOn Wednesday, July 16, Questar III Career and Technical Education (CTE) Recruiter Pam Mertz  provided testimony regarding the importance of CTE programs to the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Education on Graduation Pathways related to Career and Technical Education.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) called for the hearing in order to garner public comment on the importance of such programs and to position it as a valued pathway to graduation and careers for high school students. NYSUT advocates that a CTE assessment should be allowed in place of one of the five required Regents tracks in order for NYS students to successfully earn a high school diploma.

Mertz participated in a CTE task force, convening in November 2013, and helped develop recommendations to the State Education Department regarding CTE as a viable pathway to high school graduation.

Mertz works with high school sophomores interested in enrolling in CTE courses for their final two years of high school. She spoke about the feeling of excitement these students get when they learn about hands-on, project-based options available in their high school. She also discussed her role in educating parents about CTE pathways.

“This was a great opportunity for me to present at a public hearing and learn first-hand about the importance of advocating for CTE to New York State Assembly staff that has the influence to introduce bills to make CTE a viable graduation pathway,” said Mertz. “Both assembly members were genuinely interested in what I had to say and were particularly pleased to hear what I shared via student feedback.”

Also in attendance was New York State Education Commissioner John King, as well as New York State Board of Regents Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar. Also delivering testimony were several BOCES district superintendents, teachers, local business and industry stakeholders, representatives from several local community colleges, several youth organizations and union and apprentice representatives.


Baldwin to step down from Questar III

James N. Baldwin, district superintendent of Questar III BOCES, announced that he will retire from public service effective September 15, 2014.

“Over the years, we have worked together and with our component districts to transform Questar III, implementing reforms to increase transparency and respond to the changing needs of students and school districts,” said Baldwin in a letter to staff and school superintendents.

Originally appointed as Questar III district superintendent in February 2002, Baldwin has been an outspoken advocate for school reform, student-centered instruction and greater transparency, accountability and responsiveness of public schools. He focused on the need to effectively engage today’s students with instructional practices and experiences that develop critical thinking and problem solving skills along with subject matter mastery.

Highlights from his tenure at Questar III include:

  • Expanding and strengthening career and technical education (CTE), including adding new hands-on programs in aviation, aviation maintenance technology, HVAC/R and certified nurse assistant.
  • Opening four academies for special needs students (Sackett Center in Schodack, Catskill Academy, Rensselaer Academy and George Washington Academy in Averill Park) – shifting away from private leases to leases with local school districts.
  • Adopting standards-based ELA and math curriculum and instruction in programs for special needs students – and increasing resources at the classroom level to support teachers and students.
  • Securing support and approval from the state legislature and Governor to develop and open Tech Valley High School, a national model of 21st century teaching and learning. The school has close ties to emerging tech businesses, laptops for every student, and a project-based curriculum. The school will relocate to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in September.
  • Building a consortium with Troy City Schools, Hudson Valley Community College, Center for Economic Growth, GE Healthcare and Regeneron to open Riverfront P-Tech in September 2014. The school, one of 16 winners of the state’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (NYS P-TECH) program, will prepare Troy students for high-skill jobs in technology, manufacturing and healthcare.
  • Conducting dozens of superintendent searches for local school boards.
  • Developing and implementing a number of support services to school districts that save taxpayer dollars; including the internal audit inter-municipal service, GASB-45 actuarial service, and expansion of the State Aid Planning Service, Communications and Health and Safety services.
  • Reforming the Health Insurance Trust to address the rising cost of employee health benefits for districts and Questar III and securing refunds in the millions for participating school districts.
  • Establishing a School Improvement Office to help school districts implement the Regents Reform Agenda and to support best practices and collaboration.
  • Expanding local, regional and statewide partnerships with colleges, universities, non-profits and businesses.

Baldwin has spent more than 36 years in public service at the state, regional and local levels.

At its September meeting the Questar III board will select a chief operating officer to run Questar III day-to-day. The board and Commissioner will also designate an interim district superintendent to oversee the BOCES.

By law, the State Education Department will conduct a survey of school districts and BOCES in the region to determine whether the Questar III BOCES should continue in its current configuration.

Following that survey, and upon making a decision to sustain the configuration of the BOCES, the Commissioner would then authorize the Questar III board to begin its search for the next district superintendent. The board’s finalists will then be referred to the Commissioner for approval.

Tech Valley summer camp

Students participating in the Tech Valley Summer Camp spent the day at Questar III’s Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) learning about renewable green technologies, and aviation, in preparation for their last day of camp where they spent the day on the third floor Observation deck at Albany International Airport, followed by the camp closing ceremony.

07 013The week long camp was for students entering 9th grade in the fall. During the week students visited the region’s top professionals in nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced materials, alternative energy, aviation, information technology and robotics. Some of the different Tech Valley businesses that students visited and engaged in exciting, and fun hands-on activities were, Hudson Valley Community College, New York State Museum, Regeneron and Taconic.