Sunday, October 26, 2014

Merger for PCS and CCS? Why we should approve it

Bill Gregory and Pat Brady, the superintendents from Canton and Potsdam Central Schools, were recently interviewed for North Country Matters (NCM) at WCKN (Clarkson University). You can see them at:

(It will show on WCKN on Mon. & Tues. at 7:30 pm and Wed. at 7 pm.)

The facts are simple - the economic crisis of 2008 resulted in severe cuts in state aid to schools. This had little impact in wealthy school districts but it had a devastating impact in poor, rural schools like Potsdam and Canton. They've had to cut 50 positions in each district. This, of course, has led to cuts in educational programs and increases in class sizes. 

Officials in Albany know that rural schools depend heavily on state aid and have made cuts that are harming students. The only option Albany is leaving open to our schools is to merge. 

Anyone who thinks we should sit back and continue to cut employee positions and student programs needs to realize that trying to call Albany's bluff will backfire - they "ain't" budging and they hold all the cards. We simply do not have the political clout in our sparsely populated region to change the Albany mindset that money must be saved via mergers. 

CCS and PCS now enjoy reputations as good schools. However, they have been degraded over the last five years. Metaphorically speaking, don't we all deal with a cancer when it is small? What happens when we sit back and let it spread? In April of 2013 David Acker, Canton-Potsdam President and CEO, said: "If the schools begin to slide, the hospitals will begin to follow that same slope and the colleges will be right behind." 

A merger may not be perfect but it appears to be the only way to rescue our schools. Yes, Canton high-schoolers will have to travel to Potsdam and Potsdam's middle schoolers (6th, 7th, 8th) will have to travel to Canton and that is a sore point. 

However, the merger buys us seven years to pursue getting the funding formula changed so that it takes into account the fact that both Canton and Potsdam have too much untaxed property (the colleges/universities, Canton-Potsdam Hospital - which are also the top employers in the region along with CCS and PCS). CPH President Acker, has also stated: "Stable employment is critical and large stable employers are the most critical because without them there is no tax base, no decent services, no infrastructure that is supportable...there is simply a wasteland of poverty."

It is time to protect our faltering public schools because in doing so we are also protecting the vitality of our North Country.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Still Concerned About the Common Core?

Do you still have questions about the Common Core State Standards - not the tests, the standards? Ever wonder what Canada is doing differently from the US in how it structures it educational system and how its students are rated on international comparisons using tests like PISA?

Tom Burns, BOCES Superintendent in the St. Lawrence/Lewis County region, was interview recently about the CCSS and about his visits to the Ottawa-Carlton school system in Canada.

In this North Country Matters (NCM) Interview, Mr. Burns updates the public and discusses  the CCSS and how the public schools in Ottawa-Carlton are doing with their version the Common Core. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Schools vs. Prisons: A choice to be made

It's been said many times that if society does not adequately fund education, it will end up funding prisons. A recent segment on NCPR revisits this topic in a discussion with Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison.

Some facts from the segment:
  • "The American rate of juvenile incarceration is seven times that of Great Britain and 18 times that of France. It costs $88,000 a year to keep a youth locked up - far more than the US spends on a child's education." Potsdam Central spends about $15,000/year/student. To see what is spent by NYS schools, go to:
  • "About 40% of those we keep in large-scale state facilities - which are intended for the worst of the worse - are there for low-level offenses: truancy, shoplifting, loitering, disturbing the peace."
  • Detention sets juveniles up to commit more crimes.
  • Black kids are five times more likely than white kids to be locked up for the same crime. 
  • Incarceration should be the exception, not the rule. 
NYS leaders need to fund education adequately and spend money on issues related to poverty. However, as the for-profit prison industry expands, there will ever more lobbying to spend taxpayers' dollars on incarcerating juveniles.

As a reminder, the Kids-for-Cash case in Pennsylvania was disturbing. See:

"A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state's juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers. The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers." 

The schools-to-prison pipeline is a compelling argument to use with legislators and all officials who hold the purse strings and who have a long-range vision for society.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Assemblywoman Addie Russell Discusses Schools

Assemblywoman Addie Russell discussed the future of North Country schools (among other topics) at a recent AAUW gathering in Canton, NY. The fiscal problems schools are facing were mentioned as well as the merger study between Canton Central and Potsdam Central. What was most interesting, though, were her thoughts about school governance.

Addie said the schools could consider going to county-wide governance. She explained that if there was a county-wide governing body, the arbitrary and often problematic school district lines could be erased. This would enable a county-wide administration to select schools (like Massena, Ogdensburg, Canton, Potsdam, and possibly Parishville) to serve as regional high schools and would give administration the ability to send students to the school that is geographically nearest to their homes. It would also permit the continuation of long-time sports rivalries.

For those who think a countywide re-organization of schools sounds a bit off putting, consider the fact that such school governance exists right now; it is the model being used effectively by the St. Lawrence/Lewis BOCES to deliver services.

There would be many benefits if St. Lawrence County had one county-wide administration of public schools instead of having the seventeen separate ones that now exist. Regional schools would be able to provide more academic courses, more extracurriculars, and more sports at a time when all of these are being cut back. In addition, having a much larger pool of employees would give such a district more leverage in bargaining with health insurance providers. Administrative redundancies could be addressed and possibly eradicated.

Mergers and consolidations are widely viewed as one way to deal with school districts' fiscal woes. Some think these may be 1950s and '60s solutions in a 21st century environment.  If the BOCES is making a multi-county educational model work (joining St. Lawrence and Lewis counties), it can be done. Larry Casey, in a recent letter to the editor, wrote, "I believe there is another approach, and it will take some serious collaboration and compromise but it can be done. I believe the long-range solution is to reorganize the entire configuration of schools within the St. Lawrence-Lewis County BOCES area."

Maybe it's time for us to hear more from Assemblywoman Russell and Mr. Casey on this important topic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Politicians Working to Protect Student Privacy

Kudos to U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R - Utah) and Edward Markey (D- Mass.) who are proposing changes to FERPA - the federal law that protects student privacy. A blog in The New York Times explained the details. See:

According to the blog:

The senators today made public draft legislation to amend the educational privacy law. It would:
— Require schools to maintain and make available a list of all outside companies that have access to their students’ information.
— Give parents the right to review and correct personal information collected about their children by educational apps, online homework software or any other school vendors.
— Minimize the amount of students’ personal details that schools could transfer to companies.
— Prohibit the use of students’ personal information to market products or services to them.
— Require data security safeguards to protect sensitive student data collected by companies.
FERPA had been weakened in recent years and, according to one NYS official, FERPA is not taken very seriously in the K-12 setting. Thus,  it is all the more important that political leaders from different parties are willing to work together to take action to protect students. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Board of Education Candidates Should Have a Vision for the District

Do your board of education candidates have a vision for the school district? If not, they should. Why? According to a recent research study:

" board members should possess a particular vision for the schools that they oversee. Here, we include their support for improving student learning - what we call an academic focus... After all, it is critical that board members prioritize educating students over the needs of adults and other political considerations if they are to fulfill their responsibility to provide students with a high-quality education."

While many view a board of education position as the lowest level elective office, it is an important position because a board with a vision - that puts student interests first - will positively impact student learning.

My vision for the PCSD (and public education in general) has been shared on this blog. See:

All candidates for the PCS BOE are given an opportunity to write a Candidate Statement which is included in the Budget Bulletin that is sent to all community members. It is a chance for candidates to introduce themselves and tell the public their thoughts on important educational issues facing the district, the state, or the nation.  In other words, board candidates can share their platform as well as some biographical information.

District voters will benefit from knowing what BOE candidates want to accomplish and what they believe are the major issues facing the district.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Your Educational Vision for PCS?

What is your vision for the PCSD (or public schools in general)?
This is another question that was posed to me by someone who signed my petition. My background... teaching, serving on the PCS board of education and other boards, raising three children (with my husband), reading and studying, blogging, and just living life have taught me many lessons and informed my perspective about how schools can better serve students.

  • Schools must put the students' interests first. It is easy to give lip service to how decisions are for the kids but all too often, the decisions are political. To that end, students should be surveyed annually so school officials and the public know the student perspective and so school leaders and support what is good and improve what is weak. In addition, compliance with FERPA must be elevated in importance. At the PCSD, no formal records were being kept about FERPA violations. That must change. Finally, data collection on students must become highly transparent for the public, made easily accessible to parents, and become well-understood by school officials. 
  • There must be proper funding of schools: Under current school funding methods in NYS, the wealthy are guaranteed a better education for their children. It is time for the have-nots to be given an equal opportunity. This is a civil rights issue. We can fund schools properly or we will end up funding prisons - an industry that is flourishing. "By 2007, states spent more than $44 billion on incarceration and related expenses, a 127% jump from 1987. Over this same period, spending on higher education rose just 21%." Bill Moyers. com   "Billions of dollars have gone from the public treasury into private corporations to design, build, and maintain prisons. This has happened while over 14 million children in the U.S. live in poverty."   Such monies would better serve society if invested in education and problems related to poverty.
  • The role of unions in protecting middle class employees should be safeguarded: Since Pres. R. Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union, the movement to weaken unions has accelerated (think Chris Christie, Scott Walker, etc.). While union leadership can be imperfect or intransigent at times, unions are one of the last protectors of a dwindling middle class. Health insurance costs, for instance, are crippling school budgets for rural schools like the PCSD. Those in a position to negotiate need to work cooperatively to seek viable options. However, the underlying greed that is causing health care costs to be so high (thus creating sky high health insurance premiums) needs to be examined and addressed. One Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO had a base salary of $1.1 million and was given a $14.9 million bonus in 2012. She was just one among many. See:
  • Voters must take the time to vote and then elect those who place education high on their priority list. Right now, only one in ten eligible voters bothers to vote in school board elections. Students deserve an engaged populace.
  •  Education Leaders and the public must be informed about the movement to privatize education (via a takeover by charters). This puts education dollars in the hands of private corporations that have no requirement to be overseen by the public. Certainly, there is a role for charter schools in NYS and elsewhere but that role is not to supplant public schools. Failing and mediocre public schools need proper financing (think Campaign for Fiscal Equity) but they need more than money - they need administrators who are insightful educational leaders, teachers who are effective, schools of education that prepare competent novice teachers, and a learning environment that that is student-friendly and student-centered.
  • Schools leaders must break the mold.  The old adage that if someone fell asleep for a hundred years the only things they'd recognize upon waking would be prisons and schools says much about becoming entrenched in one educational and often outmoded model. Schools are mandated to provide certain courses but, in my estimation, it is time to re-think business as usual. For instance:

  1.  Finance Courses: Students should be taught a 3-4 year sequence of courses in finance and banking. Too many, possibly most, students are graduating from high school but have little understanding of banking, interest rates, mortgages, amortization tables, IRA's, 401K's, reconciling a checking account, credit and charge cards, predatory lending practices, the importance of saving, and the lifelong consequences of onerous DEBT. They should understand what caused the economic meltdown in 2008 and  how "too big to fail" banks knowingly engaged in unethical, high-risk practices to profit themselves. They should read what Sen. Elizabeth Warren and John Bogle have written about the financial sector. Bogle said that well over 90% of what's going on on Wall Street is akin to casino gambling. Economist Anat Admati has asked, "Why do banks, even under new post-crisis rules, do business with 95% borrowed money when no other business would dream of it?" It's time for financial reform. Students should not be graduating without the information they need to protect themselves from greed-driven, predatory practices in the financial sector. 
  2. Vocational Courses: All students, from grades 7-12 should be required to take some vocational courses. They will all be called upon in their lives to have a basic understanding of electricity, plumbing, HVAC, etc. In addition, too few people are entering the trades...try finding an electrician when you need one!
  3. Stop Requiring All Students to Get a Regents Diploma: This mandate is absurd. The only way it works is to lower the bar while those supporting it claim the bar is being raised. There must be different pathways to success, different choices to accommodate students' interests, abilities. We must know what jobs are available and prepare students for those jobs. 
  4. Stop the "strangling of the curriculum with standardized tests, drill-it-to-kill-it pedagogy, loss of art, music, recess, physical education..."  
  5. Require a meaningful course in ethics before graduation. 
  6. Require internships, job shadowing, mentoring, community service for high school students. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Invest in schools or invest in prisons

What can be done about the tax burden on the public?

This is another question that was posed to me as I passed around my petition for the BOE. It is understandable that some members of the population are feeling overtaxed. After all, we all pay federal, state, county, school, school library district, etc. Some of the taxes are on income, others on home value, other on sales, etc.

When it comes to the school district, I will say one thing: since the economic crisis in 2008, NYS has taken back millions taxpayer dollars from the PCSD. (It's called the GEA - gap elimination adjustment.)
In point of fact, so many state taxpayer dollars have been withheld, that the PCSD has cut teaching and non-teaching positions. Lost jobs impact the local economy.

The NYS cuts to education  also resulted in the reduction of educational programs which diminishes the quality of the education students are receiving. If a school district is perceived as weak or faltering, it becomes hard to attract businesses and professionals to the region. If this starts occurring, the local economy will be further damaged because the main employers in Potsdam (SUNY Potsdam, Clarkson University, PCS, and CPH) need professionals. If they have recruiting problems, all entities will endure negative economic consequences.

So, to those who are unhappy about school taxes, I would simply say that we all need to consider that a lousy school = a lousy local economy. More importantly, we should do what we can to give the next generation a helpful start in life by providing a good education. Remember the schools-to-prison pipeline? We can either invest in schools or we will end up investing in prisons. And right now, we are not properly funding schools and we have a thriving prison industry - the best in the developed world.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thoughts on the Common Core

 Because I have decided to run for the PCS BOE, I thought I would answer some questions that community members asked of me. Below are some of the questions on just one topic - the Common Core.

1. What do you think of the Common Core State Standards?
   A. First of all, some (possibly many) people think these more rigorous learning standards are from the federal government. Actually, they were spearheaded by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Interestingly, they were initiated by governors across the country as a pushback against the federal 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law which the governors saw as federal overreach in education (which is the purview of the states).

   B.  Like many, I think more rigorous standards were overdue. In fact, one in three college students needs at least one remedial class in order to do college level work. In addition, the US was and is scoring low on international tests. Finally, business leaders are complaining that graduates were not prepared for the workforce.
 The problem is not the standards, it is the implementation - which was pushed too quickly before teachers were given adequate time to prepare. In addition, the standards have become conflated with the mandated 3-8 testing, the evaluation of teachers based on student performance on those tests, and the curricula used to meet the new standards. The common core standards are distinct from tests, teacher evals, and curricula.

2. What do you think of the 3-8 testing?
There is too much testing. Students are forced to sit for too many hours taking high-stakes tests. Another problem has to do with the reliability and validity of the tests.* NYS and its test designer (Pearson) do not make validation data available to the public that is paying for the tests. Until this data is given to the public, the quality of the tests remains an open question and, thus,  the use of the tests to evaluate teachers is unacceptable.

3. Why are so many states dropping the CCSS (or postponing implementation)?
According to a Wendell Steinhouer (president of the NJ Education Association) one problem is that teachers unions have complained about the botched implementation of the CCSS and about their belief that testing is crowding out teaching.
 Others believe some politicians are dropping support for the CCSS to try to pander to interest groups in the lead up to the Nov. elections. Jim Douglas, former Republican governor of Vermont, who worked on the CCSS, says even the most conservative governors supported the CCSS. He said the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will soon engage in efforts to explain their support for the CCSS and the need for these rigorous standards.

      Test reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable in measuring what it is intended to measure. Most simply put, a test is reliable if it is consistent within itself and across time. To understand the basics of test reliability, think of a bathroom scale that gave you drastically different readings every time you stepped on it regardless of whether your had gained or lost weight. If such a scale existed, it would be considered not reliable.

      Test validity refers to the degree to which the test actually measures what it claims to measure. Test validity is also the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and meaningful. 
The Relationship of Reliability and Validity
      Test validity is requisite to test reliability. If a test is not valid, then reliability is moot. In other words, if a test is not valid there is no point in discussing reliability because test validity is required before reliability can be considered in any meaningful way. Likewise, if as test is not reliable it is also not valid. Therefore, the two Hoover Studies do not examine reliability.  Source:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

School Boards: Do they matter?

Arnold F. Shober (a St. Lawrence University assistant professor of government) and Michael T. Hartney are authors of a new study, Does School Board Leadership Matter? (March 2014 - Thomas B. Fordham Institute) 

Thought-Provoking Questions Posed by the Study:

~ Are school boards leading school districts effectively?
~ Do board members have accurate information about the condition of their districts?
~ Is there a link between school boards and student achievement?
~ Are voters "choosing candidates with an overriding commitment to student learning?"

School Board Members - Educational Leaders or Petty Politicians? 

According to the study, some believe school boards are vital because local board elections compel district leadership to be responsive to community sentiments. "Others maintain that the notion of a board member as a leading citizen committed to protecting the public good is outdated, replaced by aspiring politicians, single-issue oligarchs, representatives of employee groups, and aggrieved former employees or community members with grudges to settle." Which is it?    

A disinterested public?

The authors point out the voter turnout in school board elections is extremely low. They note that only one in ten voters casts votes in board of education elections. It is my opinion that if board of education members are to be truly representative of their communities, voter turnout must increase.

Does your school board have a "vision"?

The study contains the following statement: " board members should possess a particular vision for the schools that they oversee. Here, we include their support for improving student learning - what we call an academic focus... After all, it is critical that board members prioritize educating students over the needs of adults and other political considerations if they are to fulfill their responsibility to provide students with a high-quality education."
During my two stints on the PCS Board of Education, I recall long-time member Judith Rich repeatedly pressing for the board to discuss and develop a vision for the education of students. Her efforts (and mine) were met with ridicule and disdain. She only half-jokingly said to me that every time she brings up the the vision thing, they decide, instead, to build something. (In other words, bury the Board in minutiae about drainage, heating problems, and co-axial cables so they could avoid the vision discussion. So they could avoid discussing how to improve learning.)

One of the study's conclusions is that "boards with members who have an academic focus and exhibit certain work practices are associated with better student achievement than expected, given their district conditions. They beat the odds."

There is much more to read in this important study. Read it at:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do Charter Schools Pose a Risk to Public Education?

Should the public be worried about the expansion of charter schools? Until recently, I wasn't. I thought most of these schools were handling students who were not having success in the public school setting. However, I recently saw a PBS show (Moyers and Company) with a segment called "Public Schools for Sale." The guest, Diane Ravitch, was interviewed by Bill Moyers about charter schools. See: 

Ravitch addressed the issue of how public education monies are being targeted by those who see dollar signs in the privatization of America's public schools.
"As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, 'When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”' Given Murdoch's  run-ins with the British government due to the predatory invasion of people's privacy by employees of his newspaper, News of the World, and given his vast wealth and media empire, he is not someone I like to see targeting education monies in the US.  Other wealthy businessmen are also looking at this emerging market and Bill Moyers described it as a gold rush [to privatize pubic schools].

I was taken aback when I learned that Netflix's CEO, Reed Hasting, had given a speech in which he stated that within the next 20-30 years he hoped charter schools would have 90% of American (K-12) students. See:

Education historian Diane Ravitch made some interesting points. She has written, "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools." 

  • Entrepreneurs are trying to profit from the public education "industry." (Ms. Ravitch said she does not look at education as an industry.)
  • Business interests want to takeover pubic schools.
  • She has changed her mind about charter schools because they started out as entities to help and work collaboratively with public schools to try different approaches with students who were not succeeding in public schools. Now she believes they have become competitors with a goal to take over.
  • Charters gained power when the federal government offered over $4 billion in competitive grants to the states. One proviso was that the states had to lift their caps on charter schools. (This drove the increase in the numbers of charter schools.)
  • Other drivers of the expansion of charter schools were the political forces of wealthy hedge fund managers who saw there was money to be made. In addition, charter money is going to political contributions so those elected  may view charter expansion in a positive light.
  • Ravitch said she believes the charter schools will take the successful students and leave public schools as a dumping ground for problem students.
  • While some claim charter schools are public schools, Ravitch pointed out that when they go to court they declare they are private corporations that have contracts with the government. In NYS, a recent court decision stated that charter schools could not be audited by the NYC Comptroller because charter schools are not a unit of the government. Thus, charter schools cannot be held accountable by the public. 
  • Charter schools are not doing a better job educating students.
  • Ravitch said education leaders should aim for equity and excellence will follow. In other words, all public schools should provide an equally strong education. 
  • The societal problems associated with poverty must be addressed in order for schools to prosper. 
  • Finally, Ravitch does not defend the status quo. She stated that there are many problems in public schools that must be addressed but said privatizing public schools will be a detriment to our democracy. She said "The public is not yet ready to relinquish its public schools to:
          ~ speculators
          ~ entrepreneurs
          ~ ideologues
          ~ snake oil salesmen
          ~ profit making businesses and
          ~ Wall Street hedge fund managers."

Maybe it's time for all of us to learn more about the potential impact of the growth of charter schools.

"Charter School Refugees," The New York Times

"Protections for Charter Schools Threaten DeBlasio's Education Goals," The New York Times

Today's ELA Test: Parents Beware!

Today is the last day for testing students in English Language Arts (ELA) - one of the required 3-8 NYS tests to determine...
1. Student improvement/growth
2. Teacher performance
3. Impact of Common Core State Standards

Here is one of the three essay questions for grade 3:

"...the passage is organized by an introduction of a central problem and then its solution. How do paragraphs 8 through 10 contribute to this organization?"  

Does that seem like age-appropriate language for a 3rd grader? A friend said to me, "A large percentage of Americans cannot name the vice-president but Pearson (the test makers) thinks third graders should understand that question."

If Pearson had given an age-appropriate version of the passage above, they could have presented the following:

What is the central problem in the story and how was it solved? 

A central problem with these tests (tied to the Common Core Standards) is not the content but the multi-leveled questioning. If the question is not understood by students, how can they give their best answers?

In addition, in one story (in today's 3rd grade ELA), there was an essay question about why a "chronometer" is helpful. Throughout the story there were repeated references to "time," "clocks,"to being in a "sailboat," and to "sailors." In the last sentence of the story, the word "chronometer" was introduced. It read: "We now call marine timekeepers chronometers." Students were exposed to the words "timekeeper" (instead of clock) and "marine" (instead of sailing) both without a single context clue.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that many (maybe most) students are stressed and frustrated with such questions. Some teachers may be wondering if the test maker is purposely aiming to confuse students. Just who is charged with determining if these tests are valid? If the tests are not valid (as many believe), how can they be used to evaluate teacher performance and student learning?

The only winner here is Pearson. It is time to stop diverting extraordinary sums of taxpayer money (intended for education) to private companies only to have Pearson craft tests that many would characterize as invalid and unreliable. Opting out  of these tests sounds more and more appealing and one of the few ways parents' voices can be heard.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chief Information Officers (CIO's) Role in Public Schools

According to the article "Protecting student data in the age of marketing and advertising," District Administration 2014,  school districts need well-informed CIO's in order to protect students. See:

The writer notes:
  1. "District CIO's need to have a complete understanding of a district's legal obligations to protect student data as more information is stored with online, third-party providers and parents' privacy concerns reach new heights..." (How well-informed is your district's CIO? Are Boards and superintendents ensuring the CIO's have this "complete understanding" alluded to by technology experts? Is this topic being discussed publicly by Boards of Education?)
  2. "CIO's and technology staff need to understand what questions to ask vendors before storing information in the cloud." (What are these questions? Do your school district officials and tech staff know them? The answers to the questions are as important as the questions themselves. Can the public find these questions and answers on school district websites?)

Listen to Tom Burns on the Common Core State Standards

Tom Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES superintendent, recently visited the studio at WCKN to discuss the Common Core State Standards as part of North Country Matters.  The Common Core has become controversial and Mr. Burns explains why he supports these more rigorous standards and explains the misconceptions surrounding them.

Take a listen as Donna Seymour (AAUW/LWV) and Ann Carvill (Education Blogger) discuss the CCSS with Supt. Burns.


Thanks to Donna Seymour, Prof. Dan Dullea, and the Clarkson University students at WCKN for making this available to the public. Additional thanks to Mr. Burns for his participation.

Autism Center at PCS: Some Facts

Potsdam Central officials have decided to convert the former daycare building (now owned by the district) into a BOCES autism center. After twenty years of daycare use, the building needs to be renovated and converted into a space suitable for such a center.

While this renovations project was going to be voted upon this month, State Education officials have temporarily pulled the plug. Their concern centers around having such students placed in a campus building that is separate from the K-8 building and the high school building - in other words, seemingly isolated from other students. The BOCES and PCS superintendents are appealing the decision and, obviously, are looking for SED approval.

In the meantime, it is worth noting some facts about the proposed renovations project:

  • Renovations Cost:    $350,000
  • Interest Cost:             $118,000
  • Total Cost:                 $468,465
  • State Aid:                   $397,850 
  • Local Share:              $ 70,615
  • Rent/year                  $ 68,000/year  (which increases 3%/year)
  • Rent over 10 years     $700,000 (estimated)
  • Cost of Custodian       $300,000 (est. over 10 years)
  • Bonding Period:         15 years 
  • Proposed Occupancy Date: Sept. 2014
Since the bonding period would be for 15 years and the lease period would be for 10 years, consider the following:
  1. Since school districts, by law, can engage in 10-year leases - as a maximum term, less, of course, is permissible - (a second 10-year lease can be agreed to when the first ends). PCS BOE member Rachel Wallace asked what could occur if BOCES decided not to sign for a second 10-year lease. She was told that there would be very little owed by that time so it would not be a financial problem for the district. 
  2. Since the lease permits BOCES to end the lease with 120 days notice, another question would be, what is the financial risk to the PCSD if BOCES decided, for some reason, to opt out after a year? Two years? 120 days?
  3. $350K is a small amount of money in an approximate $28M PCS budget. Why bond it over 15 years instead of over the proposed 10-years of the lease?
  4. If BOCES opted out, for some reason, would NYS still give the same state aid ratio on a building that is not occupied or is not used for classroom purposes? 

The Feds Weigh in on Student Privacy

An attorney for the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) recently summarized the new federal guidelines about student privacy.

The following are just some recommendations to school districts from  the federal government as reported by NYSSBA:
  • "Consider the appropriateness of parental consent even when FERPA does not require such consent." (It is refreshing to read about the importance of keeping parents in the loop especially given the extent to which their rights and role have been ignored.)
  • "Be as transparent as possible with parents and students about how the district collects, shares, protects, and uses student data, as well as the type of information collected when students use online educational services..." (How transparent is your school district? Can you go to the district's website and easily access information about student privacy laws like FERPA and COPPA? About contracts district officials have signed that involve the sharing, storage, deletion of private student information? About the scope of student privacy training required of district employees? About pending NYS legislation pertinent to student privacy issues?) 
  • "Adopt  and enforce policies for evaluating and approving online educational services..." [Emphasis added] (Are your school board members adopting and enforcing such policies?)
Like never before in history, technology now enables the collection and sharing of enormous amounts of private student information. Who can be counted on to be most committed to protecting students' privacy interests? Parents - whose Achilles' heel is that they have limitations in their ability to organize. 

School officials who are willing to sacrifice or risk student privacy in exchange for the purported benefits of sharing vast troves of private student information have their priorities misplaced. Where do your school officials stand on the matter?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Victory for Student Privacy

Governor Cuomo appointed a panel to advise him about what should be done regarding the Common Core (CCSS) implementation - which most agree has been a disaster. The summarized the recommendations.

"Among the panel's recommendations are halting New York's relationship with inBloom, a data storage nonprofit that has drawn the ire of parents distrustful that the data collected on their children's lives and academic performance will be protected."

The other recommendations:
  1. Protect Students from Inappropriate High-Stakes Testing
  2. Provide Better Support from Parents and Teachers
  3. Improve Public Trust in Common Core Implementation
  4. Protect Student Privacy
It's nice to see there may be hope for a victory for student privacy, for protecting students against too much testing, and for giving a central role to parents who, to this point, have been ignored. However, there will be no victory until the recommendation are acted upon.

To read more specifics about the recommendations, go to:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Are NYS's 3-8 Tests Valid?

It's been widely reported that the College Board decided to revamp the SATs and is partnering with Khan Academy wherein Khan Academy will provide free online test-prep tutorials.

What is really interesting, though, is that the validity of the SAT is really being called into question. Does this test really serve as an effective predictor of likely success in college? Many believe the SAT does not.. The essay part of the test is of particular interest. Apparently, the students who wrote the most, received higher scores. Quantity over quality. Some students decided to make up facts, book titles, quotations, characters, etc. The essays were not fact-checked. So much for test validity.

In addition, I am sure that those with neater handwriting received better scores and since females often have neater handwriting, I believe females - as a group - probably received higher grades than males on the essay section of the test. Whether this likely bias in favor of one gender was examined by the College Board, I do not know. However, what the proposed  SAT changes prompts us to question is the validity of the SAT and of tests in general.

NYSED has mandated math and English (ELA) tests for for students in grades 3-8. Students are sitting for three 2-hour sessions one week and the same the following week. As a former English & reading teacher who worked with students in grades 3-12, I am astonished that anyone believes six hours of testing in ELA is needed to ascertain skill levels. Many have complained about the quality of these tests. What is unacceptable is that students, and their teachers and parents, are not permitted to prepare for upcoming tests by examining tests given in the past. NYSED permits high schoolers to review past Regents Examinations but the same benefit is not being given to elementary and middle school students. Why?

These 3-8 tests are being used to determine student learning levels and teacher competence. If The College Board (makers of the SAT's), after all these years, are publicly discussing the inadequacies in (and thus validity of) the SATs, maybe it's time for parents and school leaders to demand that the validity and age-appropriateness of the 3-8 tests be examined asap. Let's not wait for Pearson, like The College Board, to tell us - years after the fact - that its tests (and the grading of them) are flawed and  need to be changed and improved. And, maybe it's also time for parents to be able to opt-out altogether.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Privacy & Data Mining Show on North Country Matters

Privacy and data mining are the topics discussed on the most recent segment of North Country Matters. Moderated by Donna Seymour (AAUW and LWV) the guests were Clarkson University professor Dan Dullea and CU senior Hannah Marchitell. While Dan discussed privacy in a broad sense, Hannah focused on the college student, young adult perspective. Both shared facts and insights. To see the show just click on:

The talented students in Prof. Dullea's communications class at Clarkson's WCKN studio recorded the episode.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What's up with the Common Core?

If you're interested in finding out the latest news about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Tom Burns, BOCES superintendent, will be interviewed on Friday, March 7th on this very topic.

Much has transpired lately with the Governor, the Commissioner, the legislature,  the Regents, parents, and teachers all weighing in on the topic. It can be hard to keep up-to-date on the latest news so be sure to check out Mr. Burns' interview - which will be available on You Tube shortly after taping.

The interview is made available by North Country Matters - a local video public affairs magazine produced at WCKN under the leadership of Dan Dullea and Donna Seymour.

Monday, February 17, 2014

School Financial Woes: Health Ins. Costs or Health Care Costs

For years teachers (and other school employees) received a benefit: their health insurance was paid by the district taxpayers. At the time this was offered to employees, it seemed to be a good idea. Of course, few seemed to recognize that health insurance costs could skyrocket in the future.

 I was on the Board of Ed. for most of the 1990's as HI costs rose 20% per year. During my second stint on the PCS BOE, HI costs started to bury the district financially. Jobs were being cut because more and more money was needed for health insurance premiums. Management focused on how the district could mitigate this onerous cost by negotiating insurance premium co-pays from employees. This is wrong-minded.

 Having employees pay a percentage of their premiums will not solve the problem of hugely escalating premium costs. Health care costs need to be addressed - not employee co-pays. Board members, administrators, teachers, and CSEA employees should be using their collective influence (NYSSBA, SAANYS, NYSUT, CSEA) to lobby state leaders to do something about runaway health care costs. 

Health insurance is an essential part of the social safety net. A vigorous middle class is vital to the country's future but the middle class is getting poorer and poorer. (Consider the fact that, "The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation's wealth. In fact, just 400 Americans own more wealth than 150 million Americans combined."*) High health insurance premiums are symptoms of a problem that needs to be addressed - bloated health care costs.

David Acker, CEO of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital, spoke publicly about this issue last year. He said, "The heart of the problem is the uncontrolled health care spending that is blowing up his (the PCSD superintendent's) budget - whether for current employees or retirees - and the hospital is the face of that problem. And if we stay on that path, where our hospitals go is to get more of the school's money, and we will sink them, which will sink us, which will sink others."

Isn't it time for us all to do something so our modern day Titanic can avoid that iceberg?

* Hartmann, Thom, The Crash of 2016, p. 82.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Schools and Electronic Privacy

Attorney Christopher Librandi recently wrote an editorial entitled, "Electronic Privacy: Do schools have a role to play?"

He notes:

  • Smart phones, tablets, and cloud storage are replacing textbooks and filing cabinets.
  • Most schools use cloud services for record retention and data analysis.
  • The new technology comes with risks to privacy and information security.
  • Only 20% of apps disclose their collection practices to users.
  • "The Center on Law and Information Technology at Fordham found that schools are routinely handing over troves of student information to cloud service providers but that the schools have little knowledge of how that information will be used."
Regarding laws governing privacy of student information, he mentions:
  • COPPA - Children's Online Privacy Protection Act 
  • FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
His advice to school leaders:

  • ASSEMBLIES: Conduct assemblies for students, faculty, and parents and discuss privacy challenges with each group. Like geo-location. Geo-location tracking is tied to many apps and people should be aware of the "obvious risks inherent in unknown parties following the movements of students."
  • PRIVACY LAWS: Inform all parties of the laws related to privacy and how to find safe apps.
  • CONTRACTS WITH VENDORS: "As a second crucial step, schools should look closely at their vendor contracts to understand what information they are handing over and how the vendor plans to use the information. Has anyone read the vendor's terms and conditions? Do they say anything about use of student information for marketing purposes?"(According to the writer, contract provisions are very important when dealing with software vendors and cloud service providers.)
  • COMPLIANCE WITH PRIVACY LAWS: Do the contracts comply with FERPA and COPPA and other relevant privacy laws? This is a minimum standard.
  • ADMINISTRATOR AND FACULTY TRAINING: Administrators and faculty should have periodic training to keep current on the issues thus making them "valuable resources to parents and students."
Are your school officials knowledgeable about these issues? Are these topics being discussed at Board of Education meetings? Faculty meetings? Are parents and students being kept informed? 

NYS Court Judgment Hurts Student Privacy and Parental Rights

It was reported yesterday that NYS Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin ruled that the State Education Department (SED) can release and transfer private student data to inBloom, Inc. where data will be stored in a cloud database. According to a news article by Jon Campbell, "Judge Breslin's decision should establish once and for all that Commissioner King is properly safeguarding student data..."    

Does anyone believe that the NYS Commissioner of Education is able to "properly safeguard student data"? In 2013, the following were among those breached by hackers:

  • The New York Times
  • Facebook
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • NSA
  • Living Social
  • Washington State Administrative Offices of the Courts
  • Target
Will the inBloom, Inc. database somehow be more secure than that of the entities noted above? 

Last week The Washington Post contained an article about how James Meredith had penned an Education Bill of Rights. One of the rights he included was that students had a right to transparency by their schools. "A school where records of every dollar of taxpayer money spent are available for public inspection; where personally identifiable student information is not shared with outside parties without express parental consent; where parents and teachers are involved in school management and policy; and where core public school functions are not sold off to for-profit operators." 

Wouldn't it be nice to give back to parents their central role in controlling the collection, transfer, and sharing of private information about their children? The bureaucracy has swept away too many parental rights.

To read Judge Breslin's decision, go to:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Education Bill of Rights

What do schools owe students? James Meredith, a civil rights advocate who successfully sured for admission to the all-white U of Mississippi in the 1960's, has crafted an Education Bill of Rights.

According to Meredith (and as reported in the Washington Post) "every American public school child has the right to:"  

1.  Experienced Teachers: A school run and staffed by fully qualified professional educators and teachers; a lead classroom teacher with a minimum of a masters degree in education and three years classroom experience; a school where computer products are never used to replace teachers; and a school the leaders of society would send their own children to.

2.  Equity of Resources: A nation that sends many of its most experienced and effective teachers to help its highest-poverty and highest-needs students; strives to deliver educational equity of resources to all students; and strives to reduce the harm done to children by poverty and segregation.

3.  Involved Parents: A school that strongly encourages and helps parents to: be directly involved in their children’s education; support their children with healthy eating and daily physical activity; disconnect their children from TV and video games and read with them on a daily basis; and a school that regularly invites parents to take part in school activities.

4.  Quality Learning: A nation where educators and officials collaborate to identify the best evidence-based practices; a nation that rigorously tests classroom products and reforms before spending billions of dollars of taxpayer funds on them, including testing them versus smaller class sizes and more experienced teachers; a nation that that does not spend billions of taxpayer dollars on excessive, unreliable and low-quality standardized tests that displace and damage authentic learning; and an education with an absolute minimum of standardized tests and a maximum of high-quality, teacher-designed evaluations of student learning and progress.

5.  Effective Teachers: A school where teachers are evaluated through fair and aggressive professional peer review, not unreliable standardized test data; and a school where under-performing teachers are coached, mentored and supported, and when necessary fired, through a process of professional review and transparent, timely due process.

6.  Personalized Instruction: A school with small class sizes, similar to those enjoyed by the children of political and business leaders, so all students can receive a truly differentiated and personalized instruction, with regular, close feedback from their teachers.

7.  Full Curriculum and Services: A school system that provides universal pre-K; a strong early education based on research fundamentals, correct developmental milestones and educational play; a rich curriculum including the arts, civics, literature, history, science, field trips, and music; fully funded, effective and inclusive special education that strives to intervene early and prevent problems; and if necessary, wraparound social services and a free, healthy breakfast and lunch.

8.  Transparency: A school where records of every dollar of taxpayer money spent are available for public inspection; where personally identifiable student information is not shared with outside parties without express parental consent; where parents and teachers are involved in school management and policy; and where core public school functions are not sold off to for-profit operators.

9.  Respect for Children and Teachers: A nation that respects teachers as well as it respects other elite professions; and considers every child’s physical, mental and emotional health, happiness and well-being as critical factors for school behavior, academic achievement and national progress.

10.  Safety, Freedom and Challenge: A school and a classroom that are safe, comfortable, exciting, happy and well-disciplined; with regular quiet time and play time in the early grades; regular breaks through the school day; daily physical education and recess periods; a healthy, developmentally-appropriate and evidence-based after-school workload; and an atmosphere of low chronic stress and high productive challenge, where children are free to be children as they learn, and children are free to fail in the pursuit of success.

11.  Reform Through Rigor and Accountability: A nation that uses rigor, accountability and transparency when it comes to education reform; where any proposed major education reforms must be tested first, and based on hard evidence, independently verified, before being widely adopted and funded by taxpayers.

12.  A 21st Century Education: A school and a nation where children and teachers are supported, cherished and challenged, and where teachers are left alone to the maximum extent possible by politicians and bureaucrats to do their jobs – - which is to prepare children for life, citizenship, and careers with true 21st century skills: not by drilling them for standardized tests or forcing a culture of stress, overwork and fear upon them, but by helping them fall in love with authentic learning for the rest of their lives, inspiring them with joy, fun, passion, diligence, critical thinking and collaboration, new discoveries and excitement, and having the highest academic expectations of them.


© The Washington Post Company

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Laws Governing Student Privacy

Parents should be aware of some of the major laws governing student privacy. They are:

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) - which governs the disclosure of educational records by school officials. This would apply to cloud sharing.

PPRA (Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) - which regulates the disclosure of certain types of information about school children (for analysis or evaluation) related to certain characteristics and might apply to various cloud computing activities by school districts. 

COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) - which regulates the online or web-based collection of information from children and may apply to various could services. 

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) - which related to individually identifiable health information.

* Sources: FLASH: "Privacy and Cloud Computing"  and 
                  US Dept. of HHS "Privacy"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Transparency in Public Schools: A Public Policy Problem?

Note: Transparency is how the public holds public entities accountable. By law (the Freedom of Information Law), many documents produced by public entities, like schools, must be provided to the public when requested. Citizens in the US are given the right of oversight of their governmental agencies.

Do public schools have a public policy problem?  Dr. Joel Reidenberg, of Fordham Law School, thinks they do.

When Fordham Law School released its recent report on Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools, problems with transparency in public schools were discovered. According to an article in The New York Times, 54 school districts across the US were asked for public information about how districts were handling the outsourcing of private student information. "...only 20 of 54 districts provided full documentation by the deadline... and "researchers said they encountered 'significant difficulty reaching any district personnel who were familiar with the district's outsourcing practices.'"

If district personnel are not familiar with their own outsourcing practices, how can they effectively protect student privacy in an era when so much private student information is being collected, shared, and stored? Well, the is answer is they can't. This problem exists across the country. NCPR recently aired an OnPoint segment on privacy. Potsdam resident and former Board of Education member Susie Rice called in to discuss the topic. She stated that data is the new currency. Data is valuable and data-mining is rampant. Thus, students must have their interests protected by the concerted efforts of parents, school officials, and lawmakers. 

The NY Times article noted that the South Orangetown Central School District in Blauvelt, NY "is conducting an audit to examine how its contracts cover the sharing and reuse of student data." Parents should ask their Board of Education to have such an audit conducted.

Transparency, by school districts, the State Education Dept., and vendors, about the use, reuse, and sharing of student data is vital if this public policy problem is to be addressed and students are to be protected.  

Student Privacy: Questions for Parents

What student privacy protection questions should parents (and interested community members) be asking of school officials? The Fordham Law Study (on cloud computing in K-12 public schools) and pending legislation in NYS provide a wake up call for parents and prompt the following observations and questions:

Questions for Parents to Pose to School Districts About Student Privacy and Parental Rights

  • Which school official(s) is highly knowledgeable about the contracts entered into by the school district (with third-party vendors) that pertain to the sharing of private student data? Many (possibly most) school officials have no employees who are knowledgeable about the contracts.
  •  Do the contractual provisions protect students and respect parental oversight rights? Two bills introduced in the NYS Assembly last year  (A07872A & A06059A) contain language to the effect that a form should be made available to allow parents (or eligible students 18 yrs. or older) to opt-out of the disclosure of personally identifiable student information and biometric records to a third party [unless such release is permissible under current law without permission]. Among other provisions: 1. student data must be under the direct control of the school district 2. security audits must be conducted annually by third-party vendors and the results must released to boards of education along with remediation plans 3. security breaches must be reported to school districts and the costs associated with security breaches must be paid by the third-party vendor 4. Finally,"The Department and District Boards of Education shall publicly and conspicuously disclose on their website and through annual electronic notification...the existence and character of any personally identifiable information from education records that they, directly or through contracts with outside parties, maintain. 5. Are there explicit prohibitions on the nonacademic use of student data that is being outsourced?
  • Is the school district transparent about student privacy protection and documents related to such? According to the Fordham Study, most school districts are opaque on the topic of student privacy, student data outsourcing, and the provisions of their contracts with outside vendors. 
  • What information has been outsourced on my child and us (the parents)? How do we see this data to verify accuracy and examine the scope of the data collection? Parents, for the most part, are being left out of the data collection and sharing practices of school districts.
  • Does the school district negotiate contract provisions (with third-party vendors) such that parental consent rights and student privacy rights are protected? Most school districts sign boilerplate contracts with vendors instead of negotiating contracts that protect student privacy and parental consent rights. For instance, do the contracts contain provisions....requiring parental consent for the sharing of their child's private data? permit parents to view the information about their child that is in the possession of third-party vendors?  require/permit the auditing of the vendor by the school district to ensure the student data is being used properly and deleted when appropriate? prohibit the re-selling or release of private student data to other vendors? 
  • Is student privacy protection a high priority for school officials? The Fordham Study reveals that private student data is not well-protected by school districts.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Parents should know school districts' privacy policies and practices

According to the recently published Fordham Law School study, "Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools," parents are concerned about the sharing of private student information. Why?

  • Student data will be sourced in data centers operated by third-party vendors.
  • ...parents worry about the extensive quantity of student data being collected and the access being granted to that data.
  • Is the data being held for an indefinite period of time? 
  • Is the duration of storage outside the control of the school system?
  • What access is being given to third-party vendors for marketing purposes?
  • Services such as email and document sharing that are offered to educational institutions for no financial payment also flag privacy and data security concerns.
  • Re. inBloom, Inc., one parent group has stated, "the plan to share personally identifiable and highly confidential student data in such an unrestricted manner, in an open-ended time frame, without parental notification or consent, is unprecedented in US history, and would violate both FTC and HIPAA protections..."

 The study notes that schools' actual policies and practices overseeing student privacy "remain largely unknown."  
~ Do you, as parents and community members, know your school district's actual privacy policies and practices?
~ Are Board members reporting to the public about such policies/practices/contractual provisions and making the answers "conspicuous"  on the school district's website?
~  Who is representing and protecting your child's privacy? Since parents have been cut out of the picture to a startling level - with no parental notification or consent required for so much data sharing - who is left to protect the sharing, storage, and disclosure of private information about your children?

If ever there was a time for parents to organize and make their voices heard, it is now.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

More Student Privacy Concerns: What's P-20?

For all who are worried about the risks to student privacy facing students in NYS, it is worth reading this article:

It certainly prompts us to learn about P-20 -  which is a NYSED plan to collect and share student data with other agencies. The data gathering begins in Pre-K and ends when students enter the workforce.

One superintendent is quoted as saying, "Why are we doing this? What's the purpose? Why do they need students' names? Why do we need to share information about 5-year-olds with colleges? Unbelievable."

Years ago, Alvin Toffler and other futurists correctly predicted that technology would move ahead of our capacity to predict its negative implications. The P-20 plan to gather so much information about students is alarming. Just how closely should Big Brother be watching citizens?

At this point, what type of student data is being collected and poised to be shared with the likes of inBloom, Inc.?

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Sometimes Social Security Numbers
  • Records of Learning Disabilities
  • Test Scores
  • Attendance Records
  • Hobbies
  • Career Goals
  • Attitudes Toward School

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Student Privacy and Cloud Computing

Last month The Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship and History (FLASH) released a lengthy study entitled "Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools."  Many parents believe their right to be consulted about and to give permission for the release of personally identifiable information about their children have been trod upon by NYS public schools in their agreements with 3rd-party vendors who are gathering vast amounts of student information.

The Fordham legal team presents their goals as follows:
  1. To provide a national picture of cloud computing in public school
  2. To assess how public schools address their statutory obligations
  3. To make recommendations based on the findings to improve the protection of student privacy in the context of cloud computing. 
Some of their key findings, noted below, are alarming.
  • 95% of school districts rely on cloud services
  • Cloud services are poorly understood, non-transparent, and weakly governed.
  • Districts frequently surrender control of student information when using cloud services. For instance, fewer than 7% of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors.
  • An overwhelming majority of cloud service contracts DO NOT address parental notice, consent, or access to student information.
  • School district cloud service agreements generally do not provide for data security and even allow vendors to retain student information in perpetuity...
More valuable information from the study will in be included in future postings.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PCSD: Why take a financial risk?

The Potsdam Village Board took action this week to write off the remaining $220,426 on a loan given to the Building Blocks Daycare 20 years ago. In 2009, the Village Board wrote off approximately $170,000 in interest payments on this loan. Thus, close to $400,000 in revolving grant monies have been lost because the funds were granted to a business that was highly unlikely to be able to repay its obligations.

Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it. Therefore, it is important for school and village officials ensure that the monies they oversee are used properly.

PCSD officials are now planning to engage in a $350K renovation project on the former daycare center building (now owned by the PCSD). The public has been told that BOCES wants to rent the building for special needs students. Legally, once the building is declared unneeded by the PCS BOE, the district is free to engage in a ten-year lease with BOCES. State Ed. permits a future BOE to agree to a second ten-year lease if it is requested by BOCES. However, the PCSD wants to bond over 15 years. Thus, risk would be taken on by the PCSD should BOCES decide, in ten years, that a second lease is not wanted.

The public should be told why officials are willing to take this risk so they can either support the risk or express opposition to it.