Students gather for PR/HYLI Reunion

PRHYLI Reunion-19On Tuesday, April 28th, student delegates from the Capital District gathered at Questar III BOCES for their Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI) reunion. During the reunion, elected officials, student delegates, parents, and trainers shared their experiences regarding the PR/HYLI local trainings and weekend Institute activities.

Assemblymembers Crespo and Moya speak to Capital Region PRHYLI students

Assemblymembers Crespo and Moya speak to Capital Region PRHYLI students

Hon. Marcos Crespo, Chair of the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and Hon. Francisco Moya, Executive Member of the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force attended the reunion event.  Both Assemblymembers shared their personal stories about their early involvement in politics. Their stories further encouraged students to become active members in their Hispanic/Latino communities. They also answered questions from students about becoming an active participant in government at a young age.

Among the many topics discussed during the 2015 PR/HYLI reunion, Trainers Theresa Longhi, Ruth Nova De Los Santos, Danny Ramirez, and Yesenia Valle, explained the student selection process for the PR/HYLI weekend. The Capital District Delegation selected 12 students to attend the 2015 PR/HYLI. Eight of the selected students were seniors and six of those seniors were awarded scholarships during the 2015 PR/HYLI Student Delegate Recognition Dinner.  The scholarships were awarded as follows:

Jonathan J. Adorno- Amsterdam High School
Alexandra Betancourt-Pérez- Niskayuna High School

Maia Loi- Shenendehowa High School East

Mario E. Vásquez- Maple Hill High School

Sabrina Medina- Rensselaer Junior Senior High School
Catherine Wislous- Colonie Central High School

The $7,900 awarded to the Capital District Delegation was just a portion of the $37,960.00 in total scholarships awarded by SOMOS, Inc. at the 2015 PR/HYLI Student Delegate Recognition Dinner.

Board appoints Cruz as new DS

Robert Gibson and Gladys Cruz

Robert Gibson and Gladys Cruz

The Questar III Board of Education appointed Dr. Gladys I. Cruz as district superintendent at its April 16th meeting. Effective May 1, 2015, Cruz will serve a dual leadership role – acting as both a field representative of the commissioner of education and chief executive officer of the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

“Gladys Cruz is a highly respected and experienced school leader,” said Questar III Board President Robert Gibson. “The board was unanimous in its conviction that Gladys has demonstrated the ability to lead and work cooperatively across our region and beyond – and we are very excited to appoint her as our next district superintendent. Her prior experiences with our organization will enable Gladys to move Questar III forward in providing even stronger support and opportunities for the education of our children and the school districts that we serve.”

Cruz is well-known across the region and state. Over a 30-year span, she has established a distinguished career as a teacher and education leader. Since joining Questar III in 1998, Cruz has served in a number of leadership positions including chief operating officer/deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, director of school improvement and BETAC specialist. During her tenure she has expanded Questar III’s School Improvement services, initiatives and relationships with staff development networks and the New York State Education Department.

Cruz began her career as a teacher in Puerto Rico and her education experience ranges from K-12 schools to universities in New York State and Puerto Rico. In addition, she worked briefly as director of curriculum services for the New York State Education Department.

She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and a master’s degree in curriculum development and instructional technology from the State University of New York at Albany. In addition, she holds a master’s degree in bilingual education and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and English from La Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico.

Cruz said she looks forward to continuing her work in support of local students and school districts. “I am honored to accept this extraordinary opportunity to lead such a collaborative, innovative and responsive organization. Moving forward, we will continue to put a focus on student needs, collaboration and high-quality programs and services,” said Cruz.

Cruz’s three-year contract provides a total annual salary of $166,762, which is equal to the salary cap set by law for all BOCES district superintendents in New York State.

Questar III earns safety award

Questar III is one of 131 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and school districts in New York State to receive the Utica National Insurance Group’s “School Safety Excellence Award” for 2015.

Utica National officials presented the award to Questar III BOCES at its 35th annual school safety seminar in Saratoga Springs, NY. This is the seventh consecutive year that Questar III has been honored. Questar III received a certificate from the insurance company to commemorate the organization’s safety efforts.

Questar III’s Health and Safety Service provides safety and security audits, program development, training and consultation to assist school districts in compliance with a number of state and federal mandates, including emergency management planning, blood-borne pathogens, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout, indoor air quality investigation, pest management and playground inspections. The service also provides on-site consultation, emergency notification communication and AED/CPR/First Aid training.

Utica National’s School Safety Excellence Award Program helps participating schools and BOCES enhance their overall safety through measurable assessment. The program evaluates school districts and BOCES on several categories, from playground safety to indoor air quality, with specific, quantifiable data-gathering surveys.

“Safety and health concerns continue to be a priority in our school districts,” Utica National Regional Manager Mark Aquino said. “Districts that go ‘above and beyond’ to provide a safe, healthy and focused culture for learning are to be applauded, and we’re pleased to count Questar III BOCES among them.”

Aquino also noted that an added benefit of following the safety program is the chance to pinpoint specific threats to safety.

Germantown advances to world finals

Students from Germantown Elementary School advanced to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. The Division I winning team for the “Pandora’s Box” problem tied for second place at the State Finals Saturday at Binghamton University.

The Div. I team from Germantown CSD tied for second place at the State Finals and will advance to the World Finals in May at Michigan State University.

The Div. I team from Germantown CSD tied for second place at the State Finals and will advance to the World Finals in May at Michigan State University.

Germantown was one of 18 teams from Region 4 (Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene Counties) to advance to the state finals after the regional competition March 7 at Algonquin Middle School in Averill Park, sponsored by Questar III. The world finals will be held May 20-23 at Michigan State University.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international problem solving competition for students in grades K-12. Students are judged on their ability to use creativity and teamwork to solve a pre-selected problem. Teams from Ichabod Crane, Wynantskill, Brunswick, Troy, Hoosic Valley, Coxsackie-Athens, and Rensselaer School Districts also advanced to the state finals.

At least one team from Rensselaer, Columbia, or Greene County has advanced to the World Finals every year since 2007, including 13 in the past five years alone, with four advancing in 2013, and three in 2014.

For a full list of results from the state finals, head to

How the RBERN supports districts

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic increase in the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) enrolled in public schools in New York State. In response to this increasing need to provide quality education to all students, the Board of Regents made significant changes to Commissioner Regulations Part 154 in September 2014, changing the legal requirements to educating ELLs. The Capital District Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) – based at Questar III BOCES – helps school districts, students and their families navigate these changes and other challenges facing ELLs.

The Capital District RBERN is one of eight in New York State that provides services to districts who have or who will have ELLs enrolled. The RBERN helps educators provide culturally responsive instruction while adhering to state regulations. It also works directly with parents, and students through the Puerto Rican Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PRHYLI), which is also coordinated by Questar III.

“With the changing demographics comes an increased need for support to provide every child with a quality education beginning at an early age,” said Gladys Cruz, Chief Operating Officer/Deputy Superintendent at Questar III BOCES. “Through the RBERN, educators gain a better understanding of educating English Language Learners and as a result students have greater opportunities to be academically successful and prepared for college and careers.”

The RBERN provides professional development opportunities in the form of embedded coaching, and local and regional conferences, some of which feature national speakers. This will become especially useful for districts during the 2015-16 school year when the changes to CR-154 take effect. Fifteen percent of the required professional development for all teachers will be specific to educating ELLs. Fifty percent of the professional development Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language Language/ESL teachers must be specific to educating ELLs.

Hudson CSD Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino said her district utilizes the services of RBERN through embedded coaching as well as professional development for groups during Superintendents’ Conference Days and their summer institute. Teachers also reach out to the RBERN on their own.

The RBERN serves as a liaison between educators and the New York State Education Department. Since the new regulations were announced, the RBERN has been busy sharing the CR Part 154 changes and providing feedback to SED.

April Mlambi is a 4th grade co-teacher and middle school ESL teacher at South Colonie CSD. She said the RBERN staff are accessible and ready to listen to their needs.

“What’s so wonderful about the RBERN is that they come to us and see our challenges on the ground level,” she said. “They advocate on our behalf and have the ear of those in power in a way that we simply do not.”

The RBERN holds monthly meetings with ESL coordinators as well as focus groups with teachers to provide that feedback to SED. Mlambi said the focus groups allows ESL teachers – who are often isolated in their buildings – to bounce ideas off one another.

“The focus groups have been tremendously helpful in providing a forum to hear other educators’ challenges as well as to disseminate information,” said Mlambi.

In addition, the RBERN is part of the School Improvement Office at Questar III BOCES, home to more than 20 content specialists.

“We are constantly interacting with those content specialists which has afforded us to go beyond what we’re already doing and tap into their knowledge on those subjects,” said RBERN Resource Specialist Xrystya Szyjka. “ELLs take the same assessments as everyone else, so we’re all working on the same standards with the same goals.”

For additional information, visit the RBERN website at You can also sign up for the monthly e-newsletter full of announcements regarding professional development opportunities, SED updates, instructional tips and more.


Youth attend leadership conference

From March 21-23, 2015, over 200 Hispanic students from high schools across New York State traveled to Albany to participate in the 25th Annual Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI). The purpose of this Institute is to develop an in-depth knowledge of the New York State legislative process and develop leadership skills of Latino/Hispanic Youth.

00015.MTS.Still001Siena College hosted the 2015 PR/HYLI team building activities during day one of this year’s Institute where student delegates participated in activities focusing on leadership. Welcoming remarks were given by Questar III Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Superintendent Gladys I. Cruz, Regent Betty A. Rosa and Angélica Infante-Green, Associate Commissioner of the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages at the New York State Education Department. Author and motivational speaker Wes Moore was the keynote speaker.

During the Institute the student 00024.MTS.Still001delegates took a firsthand look at the state legislative process and participated in a Mock Assembly debating actual bills that reflect key issues in their communities. These bills included: A00797 – to establish the office of law enforcement professional standards and policies regarding stop-and-frisk searches; A00329– to provide incentives for bilingual education in elementary school and college students wishing to become foreign language teachers; and A00255 – requiring school districts to establish a language assistance program for limited English proficient parents of students

The leadership program continues the work of the late Angelo Del Toro, a member of the New York State Assembly who died in 1994. Del Toro was influential in helping Hispanic youth understand their civic duty and encouraging them to give back to their communities.

00024.MTS.Still002“This leadership program provides students with a unique opportunity to understand the inner workings of New York State government,” said COO and Deputy Superintendent Gladys Cruz. “This event really changes the students – it transforms them! They become more civically and politically minded.”

This year, nearly $38,000 in scholarships was awarded to 37 students from across the state:

  • Lilia Escobedo
  • Rosangelica Montalban
  • Alexandra Betancourt-Perez
  • Jonathan Adorno
  • Yakaira Cabral
  • Libia Sanchez
  • Bridget Guevara
  • Melanie Barreiro
  • Olivia Nievez
  • Maia Loy
  • Hillary Rodriguez
  • Mario Eduardo Vasquez
  • Alberto Martinez
  • Jennifer Guevara
  • Tannya Palacios Otavalo
  • Samantha Vasco
  • Issmar Diaz
  • Sodelys Hilario
  • Stefanie Reyes
  • Alyssa Ortiz
  • Juan Guzman
  • Chole Siegel
  • Pablo Fuentes
  • Ismael Bajana
  • Sheydgi Rivera
  • Christopher Callejo
  • Catherine Wislous
  • Sabrina Medina
  • Kevin Lagares
  • Melanie R. Rivera
  • Daniel J. Rivie-Ossining
  • Dylan Sierra
  • Erika Caraballo
  • Arly Perez-Cordero
  • Taysha Mendez
  • Mario Cabral
  • Kevin Lopez

Questar III BOCES currently holds a five year contract awarded by the State Education Department to coordinate the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute Statewide. Questar III’s staff works closely with the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force in conjunction with the annual SOMOS El Futuro Inc., the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages, the New York State City Board of Education, Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN), and other agencies as appropriate.

Questar III applauds the 2015 Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership student delegates for their determination and participation.  For more information on the program, visit


Cannell picked for statewide team

Jen CannellQuestar III School Library System Director Jen Cannell has been chosen to serve in a New York State leadership program that will design library solutions at the local, regional, and statewide levels.

The ILEAD USA (Innovative Librarians Explore, Apply, and Discover) program exists through a partnership between the New York State Library, the New York Library Association, and the Mid-York Library System. New York is one of many states that are involved in this national initiative.

The program is made up of eight teams. Cannell will be working with Team Premier Learning, which consists of five school library system directors from across the state. The team is tasked with developing a digital platform by which library media specialists can access, sort through, and assess the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum (ESIFC), a K-12 framework for the instructional aspects of library programs.

The team will be led by Dr. Barbara Stripling, former director of the American Library Association and a professor at Syracuse University. Her model, the Stripling Model of Inquiry, was the basis for developing the ESIFC.

“All of the different School Library Systems have really been working with the ESIFC,” said Cannell, “and we’ve each been helping our libraries implement it in schools, so we each come with a whole lot of resources that we’ve used. We’d like to create a place where we can put all of that information for others to see.”

Cannell’s team hopes to develop a website and an app whereby faculty can access sample lessons and see links between different skills and assessments, and students can work online to develop the skills that are integral in the ESIFC. Cannell is confident that her work at Questar III has prepared her for the challenge. “I’ve presented the ESIFC to several administrators, and it seems that all of our districts have embraced the idea of librarians teaching skills to help their students meet the Common Core Standards,” she said.

Cannell’s team applied for the opportunity after the New York State Library put out a call to librarians statewide looking for groups of professionals to step up and lead. “They wanted to think big,” said Cannell. “I knew that if we could think of something that was scalable for all of New York State, then that would have a much better chance of being approved.”

Cannell will be attending meetings with ILEAD in Utica from March 24-26, June 22-25, and October 26-29.

Students earn awards at SkillsUSA

Questar III’s career and technical education (CTE) students excelled at the 2015 SkillsUSA regional competition on March 18. The regional competition took place at Schenectady County Community College, Modern Welding and Stratton Air National Guard Base.

Students serviced automobiles, prepared dinners, styled hair and delivered speeches as part of the annual competition testing job-related and technical skills.

Congratulations to the 19 Questar III students who earned awards at the regional competition and to HVAC teacher Danny Ramirez, who was nominated for SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year.

Columbia-Greene Educational Center, Hudson

First Place:

  • Michael Pinney Jr. (Greenville) – HVAC

Second Place:

  • Wesley Knichel (Ichabod Crane) – Job Interview
  • Samuel Waite (Taconic Hills) – Internetworking

Third Place:

  • Shylee Bain (Coxsackie-Athens) – Cosmetology Junior
  • Marcus Hinds (Hudson) – Auto Vehicle Maintenance
  • Zach Kerr (Hudson) – Internetworking
  • Jacob Mabb (Ichabod Crane) – Welding
  • Tee Quan Davis (Hudson) – Food Prep Assistant

Fourth Place:

  • Russell Lewis (Greenville) – HVAC

Fifth Place:

  • Morgan Knott (Ichabod Crane) – Junior Cosmetology

Rensselaer Educational Center, Troy

First Place:

  • Caleb Hendricks (Berlin) – Carpentry
  • Chris Salvati (East Greenbush) – Networking (CISCO)

Second Place:

  • Alyssa Casatelli (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology
  • Doug Haskins (Lansingburgh) – HVAC
  • Madison Paloski (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology

Fourth Place:

  • Shane Barney (East Greenbush) – Carpentry

Fifth Place:

  • Garrett Bartlett (Tamarac) – HVAC
  • Marrisa Littlejohn (East Greenbush) – Cosmetology
  • Ryan Ramundo (East Greenbush) – Automotive Mechanics Technology

SkillsUSA is a national organization for high school students enrolled in CTE programs. It provides quality educational experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.

School leaders travel to Albany

School leaders traveled to AlbanyA group of seven superintendents from the Questar III region traveled to Albany on March 10 to advocate for education, including the need to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cuts to school funding in next year’s state budget.

Meeting with Jeffrey Cleary, Director of Governmental Relations, in Sen. Kathleen Marchione’s Office, the group included Cynthia DeDominick (Lansingburgh CSD), Kenneth Facin (Hoosick CSD), Dr. James Hoffman (Averill Park CSD), Robert Horan (Schodack CSD), Dr. Angelina Maloney (Brunswick CSD), Leslie Whitcomb (New Lebanon CSD) and Dr. Steven Young (Berlin CSD).

“This is a positive group. We want to work with you and help you in any way that we can,” said Superintendent Horan, who chairs Questar III’s Legislative Committee.

Superintendents discussed a range of topics including the need for the state to release more assessments, the impact of charter schools, an initiative that allows science teachers to work with researchers, and changes proposed to the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) requirements.

But superintendents stressed the most important issue for schools is ending the GEA cuts to educational funding, something the State Senate proposes to do in its recent state budget proposal.

Mr. Cleary noted that Sen. Marchione agrees with many of their issues, particularly ending the GEA cuts.

The group ended their visit by inviting Sen. Marchione to visit their schools once the state budget was finalized to see the great things students are learning.

“We are glad that Senator Marchione and her staff understand the financial stress districts face, as well as the hurdles we face in implementation of standards, assessments, and teacher evaluation,” said Dr. Hoffman. “Her support is critical to helping schools in this area meet our community’s expectations.”

Odyssey teams advance to state finals

Eighteen student teams from schools in Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties advanced to the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament in Binghamton on April 11.  They were selected from 106 teams competing in the Region Four Odyssey of the Mind Tournament coordinated by Questar III at Algonquin Middle School in Averill Park.

Teams from Ichabod Crane, Averill Park, Germantown, Brunswick, Coxsackie-Athens, Troy, East Greenbush, Hoosic Valley, and Rensselaer finished in first place.

Since 1978, Odyssey of the Mind has been an international educational program where students apply their imagination and ingenuity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

The winners by contest and age group (Division I, Grades 3-5; Division II, Grades 6-8, Division III, Grades 9-12) are as follows:

Problem 1: Runaway Train
The team’s problem is to design, build and operate one or more vehicles that will travel on tracks and make stops at different stations without touching the floor. While traveling between stations, the vehicles must overcome obstacles —moving uphill, towing something, and more. The theme of the performance will explain the vehicle’s difficulties on the track and will include a ‘conductor’ character. Once the vehicle reaches its final destination it will display a flag or banner during a victory lap!

  • Ichabod Crane Elementary/Middle School- Division I
  • Ichabod Crane Elementary/Middle School- Division II
  • Averill Park HS- Division III

Problem 2: Experiencing Technical Difficulties
The problem is to design, build, and demonstrate various devices that complete specific tasks. The team will create a theme where technical failures must be resolved through completing the tasks. There will be a list of tasks to choose from including ring a bell, change the wording on something, sound an alarm, move an object, etc. There will also be a mysterious engineer character. Of course, there’s a twist — all of the devices must be powered by rubber bands!

  • Miller Hill-Sand Lake Elementary School- Division I
  • Algonquin Middle School/Gardner-Dickinson School- Division II*
  • Averill Park HS- Division III

Problem 3: Pandora’s Box
In this classics problem, teams will put a video game spin on the story of Pandora’s Box. A gamer character will take on this multi-level game inspired by the Greek myth. The game will include a prologue that depicts the original story of Pandora’s Box, three characters representing different evils that escaped the box, and a power meter that represents the gamer character’s health. To beat the game, the player will advance to the final level where it will release hope into the world.

  • Germantown Central School- Division I
  • Gardner-Dickinson School- Division II
  • Tamarac Secondary School/Catskill HS- Division III*

Problem 4: Lose Your Marbles
This problem requires teams to design, build, and test a structure, made only of balsa wood and glue, which will balance and support as much weight as possible. The structure will also hold five marbles that will be released during weight placement as a result of a team-created device removing a piece of the structure. After the crusher board and one additional weight are placed on top of the structure, the first marble will be released. After the next weight is supported, the team will use its device to release another marble, and so on. The team will incorporate weight placement and “losing your marbles” into the theme of the performance.

  • Germantown Central School- Division I
  • Troy Middle School- Division II
  • Hoosic Valley Jr/Sr High School- Division III

Problem 5: Silent Movie
Lights, camera…action! In this problem teams will create and present a performance depicting a Director character that produces and presents a silent movie featuring a humorous villain character that commits three silly acts of “villainy”. Characters that are in the movie may not speak as part of the presentation of the movie. Instead, like classic silent films, the team will use music played on a team-created instrument and creatively displayed subtitles to convey its story to the audience and judges. Also, teams will use a signal to indicate when the movie begins and ends.

  • Red Mill Elementary School/Miller Hill-Sand Lake Elementary School- Division I*
  • Coxsackie-Athens Middle School- Division II
  • Rensselaer Jr/Sr High School- Division III

Teams winning in Binghamton will move on to the World Competition at Michigan State University May 20-23.

At least one team from Rensselaer, Columbia, or Greene County has advanced to the World Finals every year since 2007, including 13 in the past five years alone, with four advancing in 2013, and three in 2014.

*Divisions with two winners account for three “large region” slots given to Region 4 by New York State Odyssey of the Mind