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 Veichle 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


Students prepare for PRHYLI

Hispanic students prepare for 25th anniversary of the statewide leadership program

Students from throughout the state of New York are currently preparing for the 25th Annual Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI) to be held March 21-23, 2015 at the New York State Capitol Assembly Chamber in Albany.

Students are currently participating in training sessions across the state coordinated through the statewide RBERN (Regional Bilingual Education – Resource Network) and the New York City Department of Education. They use a training manual aligned with Critical Thinking Elements and Standards enhancing the training manual to a higher level thinking processes by skillfully analyzing, assessing and reconstructing the activities.

PHRYLI Delegates will receive a copy of Wes Moore's book, "The Work"

PHRYLI Delegates will receive a copy of Wes Moore’s book, “The Work”

Students must attend five trainings before they can be eligible to attend the state-wide conference. Selected student delegates focus on identification and research of local issues, study of the New York State legislative process, parliamentary procedure and selected bills.

The March event features a mock assembly in which students will debate actual bills that reflect issues in their communities. They will participate in team-building exercises to develop inter-regional relationships at Siena College.

The students will be joined by various legislators. Last year’s attendees included: Assembly members Chad A. Lupinacci, Marcos A. Crespo, Patricia Fahy, Felix Ortiz, Phil Ramos; and Congressman Paul Tonko.

Students are also currently finalizing their essays for the Angelo Del Toro scholarship. This year’s essay focuses on education equality. As part of the Institute, they will attend a student recognition dinner at Franklin Plaza in Troy where winners of the PR/HYLI scholarships and other awards are announced.

The Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute is an innovative collaboration with the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force in conjunction with the annual SOMOS El Futuro conference, Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies, the New York State City Board of Education, and other agencies as appropriate.

PHRYLI Books2Questar III coordinates the leadership institute as part of a five-year contract awarded by the New York State Education Department. PR/HYLI is co-sponsored by the State Education Department Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Studies, New York City Department of Education and RBERNs. For more information, visit


Bromley named NYSAMS president

heidi-bromleyThe New York State Association of Mathematics Supervisors (NYSAMS) recently named Questar III senior math specialist Heidi Bromley as their president. The organization is devoted to helping leaders in math education keep current on the latest trends and practices in their field.

A NYSAMS member for more than 10 years, Bromley’s new leadership position involves coordinating their annual leadership summit and helping leaders from throughout the state get the information they need to help their students succeed.

According to Bromley, the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards has created a need for additional coaching and training for teachers and parents.

“We expect so much more understanding now and less memorization and the reason for that is that these kids are going to be doing this we don’t even know about. But whatever they do, they will need to be able to problem solve and the Common Core addresses that,” she said.

Like Questar III, NYSAMS communicates regularly with the New York State Education Department and provides instructional coaching for educators throughout the state.

At Questar III, Bromley works with in the School Improvement department along with five other math specialists providing professional development to math educators in the Capital Region and throughout the state.

Odyssey of the Mind needs judges

On March 7, the Rensselaer City School District will host the 2015 Region 4 Odyssey of the Mind Tournament.  This year is set to be a record year for participation, with 108 teams from 36 school districts in Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties registered to take part.  Students from grades K-12 are put into divisions based on grade level, and are given a problem to solve on their own, without assistance from parents or teachers.

Odyssey of the Mind is coordinated by Questar III BOCES, and encourages students to use their imaginations and to work in teams, learning skills that will be useful throughout their lives.

With such a large number of students and teams participating, there is also a great need for volunteers and judges for the event.

If you’d like to volunteer to judge the competition, you must attend a training session.  School districts participating are asked to provide one judge for each of its teams. Judge training sessions will be held at Shenendehowa High School West on Saturday, January 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at Rensselaer High School on Wednesday, February 11 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  You can register to judge and indicate the training session you will attend here.

If you’d like to volunteer for event setup the day before or for various activities the day of the event including registration, parking, merchandise sales, serving as door guards at problem sites, or assisting with hallway/stairwell flow throughout the day, you can sign up here.

For more information, please contact Arlene Sampson Region 4 Program Director,; 518-479-6843 (office); 518-573-9104 (cell).

Winning teams will move on to the statewide competition April 12 at Binghamton University.

Teachers, scientists work together

The opportunity to work side-by-side with scientists on real life research helped two Maple Hill High School science teachers improve how they teach students in the classroom.

Last summer, Kaitlin McGann and Nate Porter took part in Questar III’s Summer Research Program for Science Teachers which partners teachers with researchers in local industry. They were two of five teachers selected for the first class of science fellows.

Ms. McGann worked at Momentive Chemical, investigating why a plastic was not performing the way the company had hoped. Through research they discovered the plastic was molded at a higher temperature than what was recommended, which affected its properties.

The experience helped Ms. McGann not only in terms of teaching polymers in organic chemistry and material sciences in nanotechnology, but also how she designs problems for students to solve.

“It really has increased student engagement because I think I’m doing a better job of molding lab assignments as a real problem and not just this classroom problem,” said Ms. McGann. “That really makes students feel like they’re solving something. They’re interested in the problem and they’re getting the skills they need along the way.”

Mr. Porter had a similar experience working at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering where he used gold nanoparticles to sense the type of gases that exist in a high temperature, combustion environment like a turbine.

When he got back to the classroom, Mr. Porter said he had a better sense of how to design less “cookbook-type” labs where students followed a set of instructions. Instead, he focused on “one sentence” labs where he gave students only a sentence and they had to design their own lab and work through the process.

“I see more confidence in my students,” said Mr. Porter. “I think going through the program has given me a better idea of how to scaffold the inquiry process with them, where they need to start and where they need to be at the end. Seeing the process in the lab allowed me to concentrate on what I can help students more with and where I can let them flounder a little bit.”

Ms. McGann came to a similar finding: allowing students to struggle on their own helps them learn.

“The thing that struck me the most was that I really need to give students many more opportunities to fail. I think we structure things too carefully to make sure they get the right answer and that’s not the way it works when you’re doing research,” said Ms. McGann. “I have built in many more opportunities when I’m doing inquiry design for them to not just get the wrong answer but go with the wrong answer and see where that takes them so that they can figure out why that answer isn’t right.”

The two teachers also found that participating in real scientific research reinvigorated their passion for science when they got back to the classroom.

“It was a great experience,” said Ms. McGann. “It’s very important to get ourselves in active real science that’s going on in industry because it re-excites us about what we do. Every time I do something like this program, or any kind of research over the summer, I always come back to school much more excited about what I do.”

“I really enjoyed the time in the lab again,” agreed Mr. Porter. “I think it gave me another chance to really experience the scientific process which, as a science teacher, you live for.”

To learn more about the Summer Research Program for Science Teachers, please attend the Workshop and Information Session on Wednesday, Jan. 21 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Questar III Conference Center…

An application form for the program can be found here… Please note, the application deadline is Friday, Jan. 30.

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.