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.

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.

Questar 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.


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.