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.
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.
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.
Questar III received a grant to provide access to Advanced Placement courses for qualifying students in the Catskill, Germantown, Greenville, Taconic Hills and Rensselaer school districts as well as at Tech Valley HS.
On 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
A team of criminal justice students from Questar III’s Columbia-Greene Educational Center in Hudson won first place at the 2014 New York State SkillsUSA Competition.
The Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team of Gabby Cidras (Germantown), Stephen Naegeli (Ichabod Crane) and Sara Paul (Cairo-Durham) will now move onto the national competition in Kansas City, Missouri in June.
This first place finish continues Questar III’s record of success at statewide skills competitions. This is the tenth year in a row that at least one Questar III student has finished in the top three statewide.
Students from Questar III’s Columbia-Greene and Rensselaer educational centers competed in a wide range of contests at the SkillsUSA New York State Conference held April 23-25 at the Syracuse State Fairgrounds.
In total, more than 2,400 students across the state competed in this annual competition, which tests technical and professional skills through hands-on and written contests.
SkillsUSA is a national Career and Technical Education (CTE) student organization that promotes professional and personal growth and leadership through seminars and workshops, campus activities, community service and competitions.
Three student teams from area schools were top winners at the New York State Odyssey of the Mind competition at Binghamton University.
Algonquin Middle School (Averill Park CSD), Tamarac Elementary School (Brunswick CSD) and Tamarac Secondary School (Brunswick CSD) all finished in first place. The three teams will go on to compete at the world competition May 28-31 at Iowa 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.
The Algonquin Middle School team placed first in The Stackable Structure Division II competition, the Tamarac Elementary School team placed first in the Driver’s Test Division I competition and the Tamarac Secondary School team placed first in the Seeing is Believing Division II competition.
They were 16 teams from Region Four (Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene Counties) that advanced to the state competition from the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition sponsored by Questar III in March.
The other districts from Region Four with teams competing were: Catskill, Coxsackie-Athens, East Greenbush, Ichabod Crane, Lansingburgh, Tech Valley High School and Troy.
A number of teams have advanced to the worlds from this area in recent years, including 11 teams in the past four years. A team from Averill Park CSD has advanced to the world competition for the past seven years in row.
A full list of winning teams can be found at: http://scores.nysoma.org/stateresults.php.
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.
Miss the event? Watch a recording online at http://breeze.neric.org/p8jbqcsn6q8/.
Follow the conversation on Twitter
Video: Our kids can’t wait another year
Trivia: test your knowledge about school financing and public education
- WCNY: Rick Timbs and Jim Hoffman discuss forum with Susan Arbetter on Capitol Pressroom radio show
View photos from the event