Friday, December 20, 2013

Wynantskill BOE passes High Stakes Testing Resolution

On December 19, 2013 the Wynantskill Board of Education passed a resolution against High Stakes Testing. The vote was not unanimous.

3 Yay ~ Andrea Paone, Ann Marsh & Andrew Lanesey 

WHEREAS, The Wynantskill Union Free School District is dedicated to provide opportunities for all students to reach their fullest potential; empower all to achieve personal excellence and encourage a life-long love of learning: and

WHEREAS, the decline in state support for public schools has forced our District to reduce programs and limited our ability to implement the new programs mandated by the state such as the Common Core Standards, creating an uneven rollout of the standards among school districts around the state; and

WHEREAS, while the implementation of Common Core will ultimately help students, teachers, and teaching and learning, the growing reliance on and misalignment of standardized testing is eroding student learning time, narrowing the curriculum, and jeopardizing the rich, meaningful education our students need and deserve; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that research recommends the use of multiple measures to gauge student performance and teacher effectiveness, the state’s growing reliance on standardized testing is adversely affecting students across all spectrums, as well as the morale of our educators and further draining already scarce resources; and

WHEREAS, the federal elementary and secondary education act’s testing policies fail to appropriately accommodate the unique needs of students with disabilities and English language learners in assessing their learning, resulting in test scores that do not accurately represent a true measure of the contributions of teachers and schools; and

WHEREAS, it is time for policymakers to recalibrate the number, duration, and appropriate use of standardized tests so that we can refocus our efforts on student learning; now therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that we call upon the Commissioner of Education, the NYS Board of Regents, and other policymakers to reduce the use of and over-reliance on standardized testing; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that we call upon the U.S. Congress and the Administration to reduce federal testing mandates and support the role of and focus on multiple measures of student learning and school quality in accountability systems.

The Wynantskill community was also  delivered with the good news that Lee Bordick will continue on as Superintendent of the district for an additional two years, which starts as of January 1, 2014. It was a good night. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wynantskill District Operation Study Presentation (Video Included)

After several weeks of meeting with parents, teachers, staff and community members of the Wynantskill School District the results of the District Operation Study were presented Thursday night November 14. The Board of Education members present included Board President, Andrea Paone, Board Vice President, Ann Marsh, Board member and Andrew Lanesey; missing from the meeting were Board members Christina Curran and Matt Hug. This study was the product of a very very very difficult 2012-2013 school year under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Henkel, who has since resigned.
The approval of this study at a cost not to exceed $7,500, by the Wynantskill Board of Education, was to be completed under the direction of experienced respected education professional Mike Marcelle (BOE Hires Consultant). This study came after many members of the school community made demands for an outside impartial consultant to investigate the practices of the superintendent, Dr. Lisa Henkel. However, after her sudden resignation, it then became an opportunity for Mike to examine how the district operated, as a whole, and provide suggestions for improvements to help the district and community to heal and to move forward.
Below are links to video of the presentation.  
  • Wynantskill UFSD District Operation Study (Part 2)  Parent- Meredith Gavin and Teacher Union President Matt Lutz present. Mike Marcelle wrapped up the presentation with his recommendations and then opened up the floor for public questions and comments. The meeting was closed out after Board President, Andrea Paone and  Interim Superintendent/Principal, Lee Bordick spoke.
The presentation was extremely honest. The Wynantskill Board  of Education and the community, which consists of teachers, staff, parents and taxpayers, must rebuild the trust between them and work together to take these recommendations and turn them into actions to get results. This presentation is one of many steps  in moving in the right direction, the direction that is best for what this is all about- the kids! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Release and Settlement Agreement b/t Dr. Lisa Henkel and the Wynantskill UFSD

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New administration. New curriculum. New teachers. What does our school look like now?

Please add your questions to be presented to the administration.  Communication has been lacking in the past, let’s give our new administrators the opportunity to hear our concerns and present us with the information we, as parents and the community, need to know. 

Common Core Implementation.
  • Will the administration publish, as soon as possible, a calendar listing the dates and times of all student assessments? State assessments, reading assessments, bench mark exams – all testing.
  • Can the administration ascertain and report back to parents as to what level the new Common Core State Standards have been tested so as we can be assured of their effectiveness? Are we privy to the results of these longitudinal studies or pilot programs as to assuage our fears of yet another expensive curricular mandate that will yield few long term results?
  • Will each teacher communicate to parents exactly how much time and how often children participate in practice tests? And is this decided by the teacher or the administration?
  • Will each teacher communicate to parents how they plan to adopt Common Core in to their individual curriculum? 
  • What steps will the administration be taking to support teachers implementing new curriculum(s)? Can teachers expect to see more classroom support? Will there be additional training? Will there be lesson sharing or collaboration with educators from other schools? Can we get support from student teachers?
  • Will the administration please communicate to the community how much money is being spent on testing and test prep materials?
  • Will the administration please communicate to the community how much is being spent on hardware, software and infrastructure changes to accommodate testing mandates?
  • Will the administration communicate to the community exactly how our teachers will be evaluated under the new curriculum and exactly what impact test scores have on teachers at GD?
[added later] 
  • How does the administration see Common Core integrating with special education plans?   
  • If teachers are being removed from the classroom during the school day for training purposes parents should be notified exactly when and for how long.
  • It was rumored that last year was a “practice year” implementing Common Core, APPR and the new more rigorous test format and teacher evaluation system, and that test scores would not play a part in teacher assessments.  Were last years test scores used to evaluate teachers at Gardner Dickinson? Were any teachers deemed in need of improvement based on test scores?
Data Mining.
  • A component of Common Core is the creation of student learning databases. What specific information is contributed for a GD student? 
  • What organization will maintain the database(s) containing information pertaining to GD students? 
  • With whom will these organizations be permitted to share or sell this information?  For instance, inBloom, maintained primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, states on its FAQ page : “districts who use inBloom in conjunction with commercial applications and services may choose to disclose certain student information to those third-party providers”. Will GD administration give permission to share or sell information gathered on GD students to private companies? If not how will this be prevented from happening? 
  • What data mining software is currently employed at GD and what company provides it? 
  • Will parents be able to opt their child out of this process? If so please provide the steps necessary.
State Testing Refusal.
  • It is understood that the school must present each child with the state test. What will be the procedure when a child indicates that they are refusing the test? 
  • How will students receiving AIS be impacted if they refuse to take the state tests? 
  • What, if any, programs or classes are offered on the basis of state assessment scores? Will GD consider other factors for participation in these programs if a student refuses the exams? 
[added later]
  • How will resources supplied to special education students be impacted if the student refused to take state tests?
  • Could a child be removed from advanced placement classes based on test scores?
Physical activity, recess.
  • Is the administration well versed in the physical, cognitive and social emotional benefits of daily recess? 
  • Will the administration communicate to parents their policy regarding recess for each grade? 
  • Will the physical education teachers communicate to the parents how gym classes will be conducted as to maximize participation?
Field Trips and out of the classroom experiences.
  • What role does the administration feel field trips play in each grades curriculum and what does the administration do to support that? 
  • As parents what can we do to encourage GD to take part in the activities, experiences and performances our area offers? 
  • A fear under the Common Core is the narrowing of curriculum. How can parents help in providing meaningful out of the classroom experiences? Would it be possible for the faculty or administration to present ideas for each grade level that would help parents find appropriate projects or activities to complement their child’s curriculum? Is this something that we could look to student teachers for?
Again, please add your questions to be presented to the administration.  Communication has been lacking in the past, let’s give our new administrators the opportunity to hear our concerns and present us with the information we, as parents and the community, need to know.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The August 15, 2013 Meeting Minutes Have Been Posted

The August 15, 2013 Meeting Minutes Have Been Posted

This link,, leads to the meeting minutes for the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting, which were posted September 26. The meeting was held in the Gardner Dickinson cafeteria, August 15.

These minutes do not reflect the true tone of the meeting as can be seen here on the WNYT news coverage, Wynantskill BOE appoints interim superintendent. It is concerning that much of this exchange, between the Board and the public was not noted on the minutes anywhere. These minutes are also missing information.

The next question that needs to be asked of the BOE: How much is this entire process of the 3020a costing the District, which was filed June 14, 2013? (What is a 3020a?)

1. The District is paying the salary of the teacher who was served and put on paid leave.
2. The District is paying the salary of the teacher hired to temporarily replace the teacher served. 
3. The District is paying the District lawyers to:
  • Build the case
  • Research the case 
  • Represent the District during the hearing the process
So....How much is this costing the District? Or really the Taxpayers that reside in the District?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

PUBLIC: Special BOE Meeting Friday, 08/23/13, 7:30 am.

There is a Special BOE Meeting at 7:30 in the morning. Below is the agenda. Please attend if you are able.

August 23, 2013 @ 7:30 AM
1.0 Call to Order and Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag 
             1.1 Recording of Attendance
             1.2 Review of Agenda/Additions to Agenda                        
2.0 Appointments and Authorizations 
            2.1   Approve Dan DiSotto probationary FT Elementary Education Teacher effective Sept. 3, 2013 @ step 5
            2.2   Approve Kaelyn Kinley leave of absence Third Grade Teacher effective Sept. 3, 2013 @ step 1
            2.3   Approve Amy Murphy as Guidance Counselor (.6) beginning 09/03/13-06/30/14 @ Step 12
            2.4   Approve Lori Audi as Food Service Cook Manager 
            2.5   Approve Tina Albert Food Service Worker
            2.6   Approve Jessica Hubbard Food Service Worker   
3.0 Informational 
6.1 Regular BOE Meeting September 19, 2013 at 7:00pm
         6.2 Public Comment  
9.0 Adjournment

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BOE Announcement: Experienced Educator Lee Bordick Named Interim Superintendent/Principal

Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick

 Lee Bordick

The Wynantskill UFSD Board of Education appointed experienced superintendent Lee Bordick as the district’s interim superintendent/principal at their August 15 meeting.

Mr. Bordick will start Wednesday, August 21. He replaces Dr. Lisa Henkel, who resigned from her position at a special Board of Education meeting on August 14.

Mr. Bordick served 22 years as the superintendent of Lansingburgh Central School District before retiring in 2007. Since retiring, Mr. Bordick has served as an interim superintendent for Ichabod Crane CSD and Chatham CSD. He also served as an interim principal at Catskill CSD.

 “As a Board of Education, we are pleased to have someone of Mr. Bordick’s reputation and experience agree to serve as our superintendent/principal,” said Board President Andrea Paone. “His most immediate priority will be to ensure Wynantskill Union Free School District is fully prepared to open its doors to our students on September 4. We are confident he will successfully meet that short term goal, as well as embrace this board’s mission to provide our students with the richest educational opportunities our community can support.”

The Board approved compensation of $600 per day with plans to negotiate a longer term agreement in the immediate future. Posted 08/19/13.

*copied from 

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Open Letter to the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District

An Open Letter to the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District

I did not sign up to speak at last night’s Board meeting, because I didn’t think that I had anything important to say. I have been relatively satisfied with the way that things have been unfolding, and I was optimistic that we had all decided to work together to move forward, and to repair the damage that has been done to our small community.

However, after listening to some of the comments at last night’s meeting, I realized that I did have some thoughts that I wanted to share, and I realized that those thoughts could not wait until the next Board meeting.

First let me begin by saying Thank You. Thank you to the members of the Board who opened their minds, and their ears, and their hearts, and who created a safe place for teachers and parents and community members to share our concerns. I appreciate the sacrifices that the Board members have made, and the time that they have all taken away from their families in order to meet the needs of our community. These sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, and they are much appreciated.

Second, I would like to address an issue that was raised at last night’s Board meeting, an issue which has been raised at previous meetings, and also in statements that have been made to the public. The issue pertains to the allegations that the teachers did not come forward with their concerns until they decided to “go public,” and that they brought their concerns to the media rather than bringing them to the members of the Board.

As I sat last night and listened to Board members talking about the conversations that they are now having with parents and teachers and community members, and as I listened to talk of the teachers not raising those concerns in the past, I asked myself when this change had taken place. When did people start feeling comfortable sharing their concerns with the Board members? To me, the answer seems clear: it happened when the teachers banded together, and after they went public with their concerns.

Several people have criticized this move by the teachers, saying that they have caused embarrassment to our school, that they should have gone through different channels, that they should have come forward sooner, and that they are guilty of trying to sway public opinion so that they can settle their teacher contracts. To those who would criticize the actions of the teachers, I would ask you to take a moment, think, and ask yourself this: why would these teachers feel the need to come together in this way, and why would they do so in such a public fashion?

One possible explanation is that our teachers are strong, and that they are optimistic. Maybe they believed that they had suffered through situations that were as bad, if not worse, than this one, and they had survived, so they would survive this as well. Maybe they believed that things would change, if only they waited long enough. Maybe they decided to focus on the needs of their students, while ignoring their own needs. Given my experiences with these teachers, I would say that any of those scenarios would be entirely possible.

However, let’s also consider a darker possibility, one that includes threats, intimidation, and the fear of retaliation. Is it not possible that our teachers were not unwilling, but rather unable to come forward, because they feared what would happen to them if they did? Is it not possible that the teachers only felt comfortable coming forward when they knew that they would be doing so as a united front? Is it not possible that the reason they went to the media with their concerns, rather than coming to individual Board members, was that they did not know what would happen to them if they only shared their concerns privately?

As a mandated reporter, I am afforded the protection of anonymity when I make a report of alleged abuse or neglect. This anonymity is designed, in part, to preserve the healthy working relationship between mandated reporters and their clients. However, it is also designed to protect the reporters from potential retaliation by an angry parent. Although not all mandated reporters choose to exercise their right to remain anonymous, the option exists, for the protection of the reporter, and also to allow the reporter and the accused to continue to work together without hostility and awkwardness.

As embarrassing as these past few months of media attention have been for our school district, the public airing of these grievances and concerns has provided a veil of protection for our teachers, and also for parents and community members who had concerns about how they and their children were being treated under the most recent administration. Teachers are now able to engage in an open and honest dialogue with Board members, and change has occurred.

It is unfortunate that it had to come to this. However, in a sense, I’m glad that it did. This situation has created an opportunity for our school district to come together, and it has created an opportunity for us to examine our practices, our policies, and our procedures, to insure that we are providing our children with the best possible education in the best possible environment.

I am looking forward to working with respected educators Michael Marcelle and Lee Bordick. I hope that, through our work with these individuals, we can examine whether or not our District has had an “open door policy,” and whether or not there are protections that can be put into place to allow our teachers, parents, and community members to come forward with any concerns that they might have, without fear of retaliation, and without fear that the concerns will be dismissed without a thorough investigation.

I would like to thank the teachers and the parents who paved the way, and who created the opportunity for this open dialogue and change of environment to occur. Your courage, your tenacity, and your unwavering commitment to the children in our school district is both admirable and unforgettable.

I would like to thank the Board members who have been open to having these conversations, and who have expressed their willingness to continue to listen and to share information. I’m glad that you chose to do what you are doing, I recognize that it was a choice, and I thank you for making that choice.

Finally, I would like to thank the media, both social and commercial, without whom none of this would have been possible. Thank you for maintaining a forum that allows for freedom of speech, and that allows for the sharing of information and for the building of a community. Thank you for maintaining a largely unbiased position throughout these proceedings, and thank you for not judging our school district based on the actions of a few of its members.

And thank you to everyone else for allowing me to share these thoughts. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you, as our community moves forward toward healing together.

Michelle Marte

Recent Media Coverage


Thursday, August 15, 2013

...And a Rainbow Appeared

A New Beginning
On the night that the resignation of Superintendent Lisa Henkel is announced a rainbow appears over Gardner Dickinson school. This photo was taken by a community member at 7:42 pm

There has been a dark cloud lingering over the small Wynantskill School District for the past several months. Last night, August 14th, that all changed. The Board of Education held a Special Meeting where the following members were present: Board President, Andrea Paone, Board Vice President, Ann Marsh, Board member, Andrew Lanesey, Board member, Matt Hug, Business Consultant, Gail Lathrop; missing from the meeting was Board member Christina Curran and Superintendent/Principal, Lisa Henkel. 
This Special Meeting, held just one night before the regularly scheduled monthly Board meeting, was set to start at 7:30 pm and was called to order at 7:35 pm. There was a singular agenda line item to be discussed, “2.1 Resolution Regarding the Superintendent/Principal”, which had not been included on the agenda previously posted on the District’s website since August 9. 
The news that was delivered was what the community had been waiting to hear for weeks; Dr. Lisa Henkel resigned as Superintendent/Principal of the Wynantskill Union Free School District.
As the beginning of the school year rapidly approaches, the community is looking forward to learning what next steps will be taken. Tonight’s regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting begins at 7 pm.
It is believed the media will also be attending tonight's meeting.