Community rallies for public education

More than 1,000 people packed into Colonie Central High School on January 30 to hear students, teachers and school district leaders talk about the financial challenges facing public education. Billed as “NY Schools STILL in Fiscal Peril: Our Kids Can’t Wait Another Year,” the panel discussion centered on Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cuts but touched on ways schools are affected as their budgets are annually slashed.

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QIII receives REDC award

Questar III BOCES has been awarded nearly $100,000 through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 Regional Economic Development Council Awards to provide free or low-cost training to 30 long-term unemployed adult workers in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R), Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and welding.

Questar III chose to include HVAC/R in its consolidation funding application (CFA) based on Department of Labor statistics indicating the Capital Region is in need of more skilled workers in this field. Welding was chosen based on the success of Questar III’s community education welding program. Funds will also be used to offset a portion of the tuition for students enrolled in Questar III’s LPN program.

During the program, set to begin in September 2014, students will earn certificates of completion for the HVAC and welding programs to add to their portfolios. LPN students will also receive a certificate of completion making them eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN®).

HVAC/R and welding students will also learn job skills including resume writing and interview techniques and will earn Certificates of Employment from the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce. They will also complete OSHA 10 training and certification.

“These programs will be ideal for a person who has had difficulty finding employment,” said Christine Perry, Questar III Workforce and Personal Development recruiter. “This is an opportunity to be trained in an emerging field with good entry level positions that provide stable employment.”

This is the second successful CFA Questar III has submitted. In 2011, Questar III was award funding for Computer Numerical Control (CNC) manufacturing as well as the LPN program.

Perry attributes this success of this year’s CFA to Questar III Grant Writer Arlene Sampson, and to Questar III HVAC/R teachers Dan Ramirez and Mike Veeder who collaborated over the summer to develop the curriculum prior to the submission of the CFA.

“The teachers really came together to make sure the modules and curriculum were all set,” said Perry. “This is why we got the money; their work means we can hit the ground running.”

Interested adults are required to have a high school diploma or GED as well as a minimum Grade 10 reading level determined through TABE test.

For additional information, please contact Christine Perry at 518-273-2264.

TVHS move gets $1.5 million boost

Tech Valley High School’s® relocation to the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) received a $1.5 million shot in the arm this week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council awarded the Tech Valley High School Foundation $1.5 million to provide for the physical classroom and other space when TVHS it relocates to the CNSE campus next year.

QIII receives NYSERDA grant

Questar III BOCES was recently selected as one of seven schools in the state to receive funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to support clean energy training for high school students.

Nearly $200,000 was awarded to Questar III for the “Improving Bridges for Clean Energy Training from High School to College and Career,” grant. These monies will fund a program that, through the use of both hands-on and virtual exercises, will enhance Questar III’s current educational and training programs related to energy efficiency, renewable energy and advanced technology.

Courses are expected to be available through the Questar III Green Technology and Renewable Energy Program and at Tech Valley High School beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Students will participate in exercises related to power generation, electrical grid management and climate change. They will gain a solid understanding of how these systems work and will also be required to complete projects using simulation technology that incorporate weather conditions and other real-life variables.

Students will also have the opportunity to earn college credit through SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Morrisville State College. They will also work on-site with various energy partners including NYSIO and National Grid.

MESO, Inc., an atmospheric modeling company based in Troy, NY, Kidwind, based out of St. Paul, MN, and Morrisville State College will develop specific classroom projects and teacher training during the summer of 2013.

“This hands-on, project-based approach to the program is advantageous because it really gets students engaged and motivated in the STEM environment,” said Glenn Van Know, Vice President and Director of Educational Services for MESO Inc. “They’ll come out of this program with actual skills that will allow them to apply that knowledge in college and in the field.”

Van Know went on to add that there is a need for educated and skilled workers, particularly in the engineering field. “This program is going to get young people interested and make them understand there is a job waiting for them.”

This program is also intended to serve as a model that will allow other school districts to leverage the tools and strategies developed and incorporate them into their respective course curricula with the need for only a small amount of initial funding.


Regional tests align with standards

Part of the state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for teacher and principal evaluations now include student achievement and growth measures on the state and local level. However, given that Common Core aligned assessments have only been administered to Grades 3-8 in Math and ELA, other grades and subject areas must create Student Learning Objective (SLO) processes to obtain these measures.

In August 2012, Questar III BOCES created an assessment liaison group consisting of teachers, administrators and superintendents from throughout the region. This group also collaborated with educational consulting group Learner-Centered Initiatives, retired teachers and teachers from outside the region to create 47 assessments, each with two versions, to be used for baseline and summative data, as well as for local measures. (To learn more about APPR, click here.)

Assessments were created and revised with feedback from various teachers and Questar III School Improvement specialists with expertise in both the content areas and the Common Core.

This process not only resulted in high-quality assessments available for both Race to the Top Network school districts and non-network districts, but also provided important professional development for teachers in the region who are learning how to adjust their instruction to coincide with the new standards.

According to Questar III Race to the Top Network Coordinator Colleen Hall, the regional assessment development process, funded through Race to the Top allocations, allowed teachers and administrators to identify the standards critical for students’ long-term success. It also provided an opportunity to discuss the increase in rigor, as students are now required to show they can cite evidence from text, among other skills.

“Students needs to think critically,” said Hall. “If teachers are exposed to these shifts in instruction, students will be more prepared for the state assessments and most importantly college and careers.”

Questar III also provides several options for scoring and data analysis. Districts can purchase pre-printed answer sheets and data analysis, or they can use E-Doctrina, an assessment analysis tool that allows students to take tests either via paper or online.

For more information, please contact Colleen Hall at 518-479-6898 or

Partnership earns P-Tech grant

Riverfront P-Tech – a consortium of Troy City Schools, Questar III BOCES, Hudson Valley Community College, Center for Economic Growth (CEG), GE Healthcare and Regeneron – was one of 16 winners of a statewide competition that will help prepare high school students for high-skill jobs in technology, manufacturing and healthcare.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced winners of the state’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (NYS P-TECH) program on August 28. The regional consortium, led by Troy CSD and Questar III, asked for $2.4 million in aid over a seven-year period.

Pending approval of the consortium’s budget, Riverfront P-Tech will spend the 2013-14 school year recruiting students, building partnerships and training teachers and principals, and will enroll its first class of students in September 2014. It will also build skill inventories with industry to guide curriculum.

About 300 students are expected to participate in the new Riverfront P-Tech program over the next seven years, with a cohort of 30 students entering in years one and two and 60 students entering in each subsequent year of the grant.

As part of the program, students will earn a high school diploma and associate degree at no cost to their families. They will also be first in line for jobs with participating companies when they graduate.

All Riverfront P-Tech students will begin earning college credit from Hudson Valley Community College starting in grade 10. Students will also have the opportunity to obtain Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification, a recognized industry credential in lean manufacturing.

The program will build in additional academic support beyond the normal school day. Prior to entering the program, students will also attend Tech Valley Summer Camp, a longstanding camp sponsored by Questar III, Tech Valley Career Pathways Consortium and local employers that introduces students to biotechnology and advanced manufacturing careers. The camp was a precursor to Tech Valley High School, a collaboration with Capital Region BOCES.

Questar III District Superintendent James N. Baldwin said the P-Tech partnership builds upon the success of Tech Valley High School, BOCES career and technical education programs and the Tech Valley Career Pathways Consortium – a group of BOCES, community colleges and businesses that have worked together over the past four years.

“I’m pleased the Governor’s Office has recognized the potential of our regional partnerships and efforts to redesign public education. Questar III is pleased to support the Troy City School District and its efforts to provide students with another option within their public school system,” Baldwin said.

Hudson Valley Community College President  Andrew J. Matonak said he looks forward to leveraging resources to give more local students the opportunity to earn associate’s degrees.

“Hudson Valley Community College is proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort to create an educational pipeline from high school to college and work for students in Troy schools, students in our own backyard. It is an unbelievable opportunity for high school students to earn a marketable associate degree during their high school years and to look forward to the job opportunities that degree will open in technology or manufacturing for them. It is yet another example of how we serve a vital part of Rensselaer County,” Matonak said.

Troy CSD Superintendent John Carmello said this partnership will help his district prepare more students for a successful future.

“This is exciting news for the Troy City School District. The P-Tech program will help us with our mission of graduating all students college and career ready. I look forward to working with our partners in this endeavor,” Carmello said.

As part of the Riverfront P-Tech, CEG, GE Health Care and Regeneron will also support the development and operation of the program.

Jeffrey Lawrence, Executive Vice President of CEG, said his organization “will facilitate connections between Riverfront P-Tech and local industry partners, particularly those affiliated with the Chief Executives Network (CEN), to recruit mentors and provide work-based learning opportunities for students.”

Tom Feist, General Manager of Global X-ray Detection at GE Healthcare, said, “We look forward to welcoming students to our high tech manufacturing facility at the Rensselaer Technology Park. Our staff has been very active in working with educators to align curriculum with industry needs and we’re excited to grow the advanced manufacturing talent pipeline right here in the Capital District.”

“Regeneron is a growing biotech company, and we rely on the central role advancing science education plays in developing a robust pipeline of students to compete and excel in Tech Valley’s industries. We are delighted to be part of the P-Tech collaboration, and to offer students a first-hand look at biotech through a number of career awareness activities,” said Kristin Pasquarelli, Human Resources Supervisor at Regeneron.

NYS P-TECH was announced in January as part of the Governor’s 2013-2014 Executive Budget.  The public-private initiative was launched in partnership with IBM, which helped create the P-TECH program and will provide tools, training and support to each NYS P-TECH school. It will receive additional funding and support through the State Education Department.

According to the governor’s press release, the winning partnerships were selected through a highly competitive process and represent leading industries in each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Council areas.

Cuomo said “linking our secondary and higher education institutions to the economic development of the region is a logical connection that will greatly improve our work force and help students find jobs directly out of college.”

Summer training for new standards

Principals fill the Questar III conference room for the state-required APPR Lead Teacher Evaluator Training.

Principals fill the Questar III conference room for the state-required APPR Lead Teacher Evaluator Training.

Although school is out for the summer, the Questar III BOCES central office is bustling on a daily basis with superintendents, principals and teachers from 23 school districts throughout Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties.

This is because Questar III’s School Improvement Office is offering 19 professional development sessions throughout the summer, all focusing on the new Common Core Learning Standards and other Race to the Top initiatives. These sessions include: state-required Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) lead teacher evaluator training and recertification; state-required APPR lead principal evaluator training and recertification; Math and English Language Arts (ELA) training; and more.

By summer’s end, over 1,000 educators will benefit from the expertise of more than 22 Questar III staff developers, specializing in math, ELA and data analysis. These specialists also attend New York State Education Department training to keep current on requirements.

According to Questar III Deputy Superintendent Dr. Gladys Cruz, Questar III’s regional approach allows districts to share the cost of professional development and also allows them to share best practices.

“The Common Core Learning Standards are relatively new and educators are looking for ‘how to’ training,” said Cruz. “Our approach also provides an opportunity to have real and constructive conversations between districts,” said Cruz.

The Questar III principal and teacher lead evaluator trainings allow educators to work in teams using the state-approved rubric they’ve selected in conjunction with APPR. Sixty percent of the APPR evaluation is based on “multiple measures” including the observations that follow the district’s rubric. Twenty percent is based on “student growth” and the other 20 percent is based on a “local measure.”

“We recommend principals bring their teachers to the lead teacher training, and superintendents bring their principals to the lead principal training, so everyone is on the same page and knows what’s expected,” said Cruz.

Questar III professional development training opportunities in Math such as “Common Core learning Standards Geometry Institute” provide concepts for even non-Math certified teachers who may require an even deeper understanding of the Common Core requirements.

Questar III’s summer training opportunities also include national speakers such as Secondary Literacy Education expert Kelly Gallagher, whose discussions and concepts also align with the standards for ELA.

To learn more about Questar III’s professional development opportunities offered this summer and throughout the school year, please visit

Questar III wins 22 national awards

NSPRA Northeast Vice President

From left to right: Capital Region BOCES Communications Manager Deborah Bush-Suflita, Questar III Coordinator of Communications Dan Sherman and NSPRA Northeast Vice President Nancy Dzija Vaughan. Vaughan presented Bush and Sherman with NSPRA’s Gold Medallion award for work related to the “Fiscal Peril” series.

Questar III BOCES recently received 22 awards from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for work completed for local school districts and the BOCES, including the association’s highest honor – the Gold Medallion.

NSPRA awarded Questar III and Capital Region BOCES its Gold Medallion for joint efforts to develop an extensive, regional advocacy campaign designed to:

  • Inform and energize influential stakeholders from the 47 school districts.
  • Draw region-wide attention to the looming fiscal crisis facing all public schools.
  • Help elected state representatives understand their responsibility to adequately and equitably fund public schools.
  • Catalyze local grassroots organizing and effective public information campaigns to help school district leaders build informed consent for potentially contentious school budget votes.

Questar III also received 14 awards in NSPRA’s annual Publications and Electronic Media contest. The following publications and media received the Award of Merit:

The following publications and media received the Award of Honorable Mention:

Questar III received seven Golden Achievement awards in recognition for exemplary communications in the following areas:

  • Participating in the 2012 Back to School Expo
  • Using electronic media to promote student success
  • Developing a budget communications plan in Chatham
  • Planning a strategic planning process in Averill Park
  • Launching social media in Brunswick and Schodack
  • Improving internal communications through faculty meeting discussions
  • Sharing information on public education reforms through employee and media outreach

Led by its Communications Service, Questar III helps school districts plan and implement a customized communications program. The department serves 14 districts as well as the BOCES and its partner organizations. It also provides onsite service to eight school districts. Specialists work out of offices based in the districts they serve, but also collaborate with other members of the team.

Students win songwriting competition

Original music by New Visions: Visual & Performing Arts students Lindsey Baldwin and Maliha Azeem was selected as part of the NYSUT Music on Hold competition.

Beginning June 3, their music will be featured on and as hold music for callers to NYSUT. Azeem’s music will be featured from June 24-July 14 and Baldwin’s music will be featured from August 5-August 23. During that time, anyone can call and be put on hold by calling 1-800-342-9810 and pressing the number “7.”  

Original music by New Visions: Visual & Performing Arts students Lindsey Baldwin and Maliha Azeem was selected as part of the NYSUT Music on Hold competition.

Original music by New Visions: Visual & Performing Arts students Lindsey Baldwin and Maliha Azeem was selected as part of the NYSUT Music on Hold competition.

Thirty-five students submitted original music to the statewide competition. Baldwin and Azeem, both seniors at East Greenbush School District, submitted five songs between them.

Baldwin began the New Visions program focused on her love for visual arts. Throughout the program she was encouraged to try new mediums of art and developed a talent for songwriting. As a new musician, she never imagined her work would win. Her first song ever written was the one chosen in the NYSUT competition.

“This program has exposed me to many different types of artistic formats. If you told me a year ago that I’d be performing in front of people, I would have said you were crazy,” Baldwin said. “I’ve gained so much confidence from the opportunities this program provided. It’s been a phenomenal experience.”

In the fall, Baldwin will major in Visual Arts and minor in Music at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont.

Azeem has been playing the guitar and writing songs for ten years. With encouragement from her English teacher at Columbia High School she applied to the New Visions program to help develop her skills.

“I’ve never pursued anything with my music until this and it has provided me with opportunities to play gigs and develop a platform,” said Azeem. “I was shocked when I found out my song had won. I never tried to put myself out there before and it helped validate my decision to pursue my interest in music.”

Azeem will attend UC Irvine in California and major in Philosophy in the fall.

New Visions: Visual & Performing Arts teacher Margaret Danner-Frank is extremely proud of her students and their accomplishment.

“I am thrilled for Lindsey and Milli, as this recognition is the result of their hard work as both students and musicians,” said Danner-Frank.

New Visions: Visual & Performing Arts provides opportunities for high school seniors to explore a wide array of careers in the visual and performing arts. Based at The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, the program blends an integrated curriculum in college-level English, music, art, theatre and film studies with hands-on experience in a creative academic environment.

Rep. Tonko visits Questar III program

On Monday, May 13, Rep. Paul Tonko visited Questar III’s Green Technologies & Renewable Energy program based at Rensselaer High School. Students demonstrated how this hands-on career and technical education (CTE) course helps them better understand energy management and sustainability as they prepare for careers in a growing field locally and across the nation.

This program, which expanded to Rensselaer last fall, prepares high school seniors for emerging careers that can literally make a world of difference. Students learn about solar and photovoltaic energy, wind technology, energy saving solutions and efficiency, as well as renewable energy. Students complete a DC Electricity course and are eligible to receive five college credits through Hudson Valley Community College. The program includes work-based learning, a senior project, and networking with local businesses.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to get hands-on experience and to compete robustly in the innovative technology sector,” said Representative Tonko. “We have no choice but to move forward with sound investments in our workforce, and that starts here in the education system. We will win this race on innovation and thanks to the faculty and leadership at Questar III BOCES and Rennselaer High School.”

During the visit, Representative Tonko drove a student-built solar powered car. He, along with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO Frank Murray also built their own solar chargers with the guidance of the students.

Several months ago, the program was awarded $50,000 in funding from NYSERDA for the purchase of energy efficiency and renewable energy training equipment, including the equipment used to make the solar chargers. Money was used to purchase Energy Auditing Technology Trainer and Sustainable Conservation Trainer equipment that will provide real-world skills to CTE students at our Rensselaer, Troy and Hudson-based locations.

“At NYSERDA, we are very focused on workforce development and on the green economy. We must make sure we create jobs for the future and that we have a capable workforce,” said Murray. “To do this, we must penetrate the lover levels of education with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and we are very pleased to give you even a small amount of money to achieve that.”

This funding augments Questar III’s existing partnership with Hudson Valley Community College and NYSERDA as a participant in the Home Energy Analyst Technician (HEAT) program, which provides construction and HVAC students and teachers with curriculum and hands-on training in building science and energy auditing.

“We appreciate the support of Congressman Paul Tonko and NYSERDA President and CEO Frank Murray as we seek to provide more students with hands-on learning opportunities,” said Dr. James N. Baldwin, Questar III District Superintendent. “Our students continue to demonstrate that applied learning is a critical part of the pathways to future success in college and careers.”

For more information on the program, please visit the program’s website at