Mertz advocates for CTE

mertz_assembly_hearing_CTEOn 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.


Baldwin to step down from Questar III

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.

Tech Valley summer camp

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.

07 013The 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.

Criminal justice team wins 1st place

Criminal justice team advances to national competition

The winning team with Criminal Justice Teacher Dave Dimmitt and Teaching Assistant Ann Cioffi.

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.

Teams head to world competition

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.

The Tamarac Secondary team will advance to the World Competition May 28-31 at Iowa State University.

The Tamarac Secondary team will advance to 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:

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.

Miss the event? Watch a recording online at

Follow the conversation on Twitter

Video: Our kids can’t wait another year

Trivia: test your knowledge about school financing and public education

Print/online coverage

TV coverage

Radio coverage

  • WCNY: Rick Timbs and Jim Hoffman discuss forum with Susan Arbetter on Capitol Pressroom radio show

View photos from the event


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