Education was on the agenda for state lawmakers and Ulster County school leaders recently at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Ulster County School Boards Association (UCSBA). The Jan. 9 event at Ulster BOCES in New Paltz was a platform for a valuable connection and conversation to occur.
Superintendents and Board of Education members from UCSBA’s eight component school districts, as well as the Ulster BOCES Board of Education, met with New York State Assemblymen Peter Lopez and Kevin Cahill and Senators John Bonacic and James Seward, all who represent Ulster County in the state legislature.
Among the topics raised at the meeting were school safety, the Common Core and testing, unfunded mandates, the Triborough Amendment, Race to the Top, and the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
Calling last year’s Common Core roll out a “disaster,” Seward assured the school leaders that the matter would be a “key issue for us in this session because of the public outcry. We need to hit the pause button and take the time to get it right.”
In response to Seward’s remarks, Highland Central School District Superintendent Deborah Haab urged, “Don’t forget to include us in the conversation when that pause button hits.”
Saugerties Central School District Superintendent Seth Turner raised the issue of testing and suggested that it need not be annual. “Why not test every other year?” Turner asked. “You would get just as valid data and you’d cut the assessments in half.”
Offering another point of view, Robert Curran, a member of the Ulster BOCES Board of Education who represents Onteora School District, agreed changes were needed, but warned the lawmakers to use caution in any revisions to the Common Core. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” Curran urged.
Cahill thanked the superintendents and board members for the discussion and praised them for their efforts on behalf of students. “Administrators are largely the punching bag of our local government,” Cahill said. “And school boards are our most valuable asset.”
Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Charles Khoury, who organized the event for the county leaders, was pleased with the dialogue at the event. "It was very helpful for our legislators and school board members to have an open discussion about the challenges that each face as they strive to provide the best education for the children of Ulster County,” he explained. “This event provided a forum for open and honest conversations–ones that genuinely focused on our children's futures. After all, caring about the future of our children is one thing that we all have in common."
The Ulster County School Boards Association is comprised of the elected school board members from the eight component school districts in Ulster County, as well as the members of the Ulster BOCES Board of Education. Together, they are responsible for the education of over 25,000 students in Ulster County. They meet regularly to explore ideas about issues affecting public education.
For more information, call 255-1400 or visit ulsterboces.org.