The Examiner

P’ville Trustees, State School Boards Group Look to Reconcile on Key Issues

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New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer addressed the Pleasantville Board of Education Tuesday night.
New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer addressed the Pleasantville Board of Education Tuesday night.

The Pleasantville School District and the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) this week tried to resolve disagreements that have recently surfaced on key education issues that has seen the board of education publicly challenge the organization.

Timothy Kremer, NYSSBA’s executive director, and trustees discussed concerns at Tuesday night’s board meeting that district officials have voiced over the past few months.  The board suspended NYSSBA dues payments in October over various policy disagreements.

Kremer said that since NYSSBA represents nearly every school district in the state, typically there is disagreement regarding which issues are most important to address. He explained that recent NYSSBA resolutions, many of which the Pleasantville Board of Education opposed last month, are chosen based on completed surveys that gauge the interest of certain issues.

One area where virtually all districts share common ground is opposition to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was adopted in 2010 to help close the state’s budget deficit, Kremer said.

The comment prompted Trustee Larry Boes to question why NYSSBA has failed to take a stronger position opposing the GEA. Kremer responded that there has been a resolution addressing the issue for several years.

Board of Education President Shane McGaffey said a lack of updates on past resolutions often leads to a perception that issues have been forgotten. He requested that NYSSBA send regular updates and to report whether progress has been made on previous resolutions.

Kremer stated that districts in this region are more vocal about issues such as Common Core and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), likely because the area produces many high-performing districts that do not view the standards as a means of improvement.

Pleasantville trustees and representatives from other districts who attended the meeting said they worried that because some districts in the area have dissenting views on some issues compared to many other districts around the state, they’re of less value to NYSSBA.

“My question is: Can I afford to belong to an organization that may not consider us relevant?” said Dr. William Donohue, superintendent of schools at Byram Hills. “If the rest of the state can’t understand our agenda, and that’s a problem for NYSSBA, then we may be irrelevant to you. If the resolution process is too complicated for quick action when public schools are under attack, then we may be irrelevant to you.”

Kremer, however, assured those in attendance that isn’t the case, but that NYSSBA doesn’t only represent Westchester schools.

Pleasantville is calling for NYSSBA to be more aggressive in addressing issues such as APPR and Common Core and requested that NYSSBA’s biweekly publication, On Board, include more articles that look at these initiatives critically.

“On some of these issues, the time for political correctness is over,” Boes said.

Earlier this year, Pleasantville school officials criticized the publication for printing articles that they believed reflected the interests of the state as opposed to member districts. Kremer said that after hearing those concerns he spoke with the publication’s editor, who has reduced the number of articles regarding  Common Core. Trustees agreed that the most recent issue was an improvement.

They also noted that the state has a variety of media outlets at its disposal in order to relay its message and prefer that On Board provide a forum for the release of school districts’ viewpoints, which may challenge state Education Department (SED) assertions.

Board members suggested that NYSSBA use the study and subsequent reports from a committee formed by the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents,  a group of eight superintendents, to quickly begin advocating against APPR as opposed to taking time to complete another report. Kremer said he would take the suggestion into consideration and at least use the committee’s findings as a way to start a discussion about the issue.

By the end of the meeting, Kremer committed to increased communication, including updates on what NYSSBA has done and its future plans. He assured the board that the organization is able to represent Pleasantville’s interests.

Residents and other districts’ representative praised Pleasantville officials for inviting Kremer and addressing important issues.

Byram Hills Trustee Brett Summers acknowledged the importance of ensuring that NYSSBA works to serve the interests of member districts. Change won’t take place unless thousands of people are working together on the same issue, he said.

“I commend [the Pleasantville Board of Education] for this discussion tonight; it’s really important,” Summers said. “These really are the issues that a community should be discussing.”

Resident Nichole McCarthy, who referred to SED as “schoolyard bullies,” noted that the schools are the front lines of defense against misguided policies.

“To know that you’re on the front lines and combating what makes sense and what doesn’t is very, very important to me as a community member who is paying high taxes for the school system,” she said.


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