Student Safety-Our #1 Priority for Prop #1

From the beginning of our planning process in 2013, the BOE members, school personnel, students and community members agreed that improving the safety of our parking lot for our students and community members is our #1 priority. We spent a considerable amount of time evaluating how to gain more space, including a removal of the bus garage and reconstruction of outside parking of buses off the campus.

Ultimately the BOE responded to the concerns of the bus drivers and to their own concerns about tearing down a building that we have, determining to leave the bus garage intact. That left us with the task of determining how to improve safety with a clearly delineated parking lot plan and at the same time, a much needed increase in parking, considering our limited space.

What does this new parking lot design provide us that we don’t have now?

  1. Two way traffic in and out of our campus on what is currently a one way entrance and a one way exit drive. This plan allows for greater access in and out in the event of an emergency and it also provides multiple parent drop off spots so that all traffic is not moving through one exit point at the same time that our buses are unloading/loading and our students are moving across our campus.
  2. Separate bus lane areas.
  3. Additional parking of 42 new spots.
  4. Extended parent drop off/pick up lane. Three designated parent drop off options.
  5. Raised crosswalk with gate control between our two buildings.
  6. Expanded parking areas at the elementary and tennis courts.
  7. Safer curbing and distances between parked vehicles and the main entrance to the high school building.
  8. Daytime visitor parking along the entire west side of the bus garage with all outside transportation vehicles parked off of the campus. This was the concession to keeping inside parking of our buses that we then have at least the space up to the building for the improved safety and parking.
  9. Clear safe crosswalks through our parking lot to our multi-purpose field, athletic stadium.

Parking Lot Changes

Elementary Building Improvements/Proposition #1

The changes to our elementary building are similar to those I talked about yesterday in our high school building.

  1. Replace the master clock system with a wireless clock system.
  2. Intrusion detection devices integrated with video surveillance.
  3. Code compliant hardware locksets for all classroom doors that allow teachers to lock their classroom doors quickly in the event of an emergency, without using a key.
  4. A handicapped toilet room in the occupational/physical therapy multi purpose room.
  5. Smartcard technology security access that interfaces with our video surveillance systems and replace our analog cameras with IP, integrating our two systems.
  6. Replacement of boys toilet room urinals.
  7. 18,000 square feet of carpet replacement.
  8. Stage lighting control updates in the gymnasium.
  9. Preparing for a conversion to hot water heat in a future, phase #2 project: crawl space abatement, steam piping, ventilator and pump conversion.
  10. Replacement of HVAC that is at end of useful life.

Elementary School Improvements

High School Improvements/Prop #1

So what changes will we see in the high school building if the voters approve Proposition #1 of the capital project? Many of the items won’t be seen easily when visiting our building because they are items we need to do to take care of what we already have here.

  1. Our boilers will be near the end of their useful life cycle in about five years. We are taking care of work in this project that will get us ready to move to hot water heat in a second phase project five years from now. We are changing steam piping to hot water now.
  2. Roof areas need to be replaced over the gym, the second floor and stairs/lobby adjacent to the Auditorium.
  3. Our stage rigging is antiquated and unsafe for use by anyone. That’s being replaced.
  4. A new, wireless master clock system throughout the building.
  5. Adding 25 fire alarm detection system devices.
  6. Refinishing and repairing wood wall cabinets in the 1931 2nd floor section of the building.
  7. Adding emergency power and AC to 5 data rooms.
  8. New theatrical lighting dimming panel for the Auditorium.
  9. 12,000 square feet of vinyl tile flooring abatement and replacement in the 1931 & 1965 2nd/3rd floor sections of the building.
  10. Toilet component replacements in the 1931 section.
  11. Wood door refinishing in the 1931 section.
  12. Door hardware to be replaced to meet ADA requirements.
  13. Door hardware to be code compliant and include locksets on classroom doors that don’t have to be locked with a key by the teacher in the event of an emergency.
  14. Kitchen ceiling replacement and a 2nd floor ceiling replacement, 1931 part of the building.
  15. Total track resurfacing-the track is beyond it’s useful life and has not been previously replaced.

High School Improvements

 

Frequently Asked Questions on the Capital Project

Capital Project Questions & Answers

Q. Why is the District having a bond vote?
A. Randolph Central School District is committed to providing a safe learning environment and well-maintained facilities for students and public use. Just as one’s home ages and needs upkeep and repairs to keep it in good shape, so do our schools. Many routine repairs and projects are funded within the annual District budget, with local taxpayers bearing the full cost. Larger work items and safety concerns would have a greater impact on everyone’s taxes if they were to be included in the annual District budget. However, a capital project bond issue results in a much lower tax impact and is a fiscally responsible alternative because the State reimburses a large percentage of the cost and the expense is spread out over a longer period of time.

Q. Why was this work chosen?
A. Every five years, all school districts are required by the State to have a certified Architect review the condition of their buildings and grounds. Recently, our architectural consultant and construction management firm examined the District’s facilities and helped the District to define over $40 million in potential needs. A significant portion of these items are either required by State regulations or were developed to improve safety concerns in the parking areas and with traffic circulation throughout the campus. A District subcommittee studied those items and developed a recommended list of the most critical improvements and safety upgrades.

Q. Why are there two propositions?
A. The Board of Education divided the project into two distinct areas. Proposition 1 is work that pertains to building and safety needs that are high on the list of priorities. The District’s Building and Grounds personnel and the Facilities Planning Committee felt these work items were considered to be “needs”…those items primarily included safety, security and improvements to extend the life of building systems. During the scope definition process, that same committee also identified a synthetic turf field as the highest priority “want”. This work, however, would receive less aid from the State Education Department. Therefore, Proposition 2 was developed separately, primarily due to the difference in the State’s building aid, for consideration from our community.

Q. Why is a synthetic turf field being considered?
A. The concept of a synthetic turf field in Randolph has been discussed for years. The benefits of synthetic turf include significantly increased use by our sports teams, gym classes and by the community; less maintenance time and water usage, and; increased playability even in the most extreme weather conditions. More and more school districts throughout the State are providing synthetic turf fields for their students and their community use. The Board of Education and the Facilities Committee feel the time is right for the voters to consider this option for our students and our community.

Q. How will the project be financed?
A. The project will be paid for by a combination of State Building Aid funding, the District’s cash reserves especially set aside for capital projects and taxpayers’ local share.

Q. Isn’t State Building Aid just my tax dollars too?
A. Yes, it is. The New York State Legislature has given all Districts in the state an opportunity to use tax dollars to enhance their communities through school building improvements and renovations. This is an opportunity to keep some of those tax dollars in our own community, working to improve the educational setting for our children and the public.

Q. If the 1st proposition doesn’t pass, can the 2nd proposition pass?
A. No. Proposition 2 is contingent on Proposition 1 passing.

Q. When will the work take place?
A. It is anticipated that the State Education Department’s approval for the project will be received by early 2016 with the bulk of work starting in the summer of that year. Based on the State’s approval of the project, completion would be expected in 2017.

Q. How will contractors be selected to build the project?
A. The project must be contracted utilizing State of New York competitive bidding laws. Essentially, this requires that each project 1) be divided into at least 4 prime contracts (general construction, mechanical, electrical and plumbing); 2) utilize the NYS Dept. of Labor prevailing wage rate and; 3) be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. Also, the District and the Project Team recognize the importance of local contractor participation. Therefore, during the bidding process, the construction manager will be actively recruiting local contractors and subcontractors to submit bids to the District.

Q. Who is eligible to vote?
A. Any US citizen that is 18 years old and who has resided within Randolph Central School District for at least 30 days prior to the vote is eligible.

Q. What will it take to pass the vote?
A. A simple majority of the total votes is needed.

Q. Where can I learn more about the project?
A. Please go to the District’s website for the most up-to-date information (www.randolphcsd.org). Also, a public meeting will take place in the High School auditorium on March 18, 2015 and the Capital Project Newsletter will be mailed to each household in mid-March.

Q. How do these propositions affect the district’s overall debt when considering previous construction projects?

A. We currently have 3 bonds on previous projects for which we receive state aid and make annual payments. We have a bond that’s paid in full June, 2018 and carries an annual payment of $1,306,750 with state aid of $1,326,066 annually. We took advantage of refinancing last year, which is why our aid exceeds our payment. 

When that bond is paid off in June 2018, this Proposition 1 Project is an annual payment of $543,072 and the state aid we receive will be $513,371, a local share of $29,701.

If Props 1 & 2 both pass, they will carry an annual payment of $810,750 with state aid at $603,522 annually. Both propositions, combined with debt from the other 2 bonds left result in total payments of $2,735,393 with state aid of $2,580,968 and a local share of $154,425 for debt in the 2018-19 school year.

Letter to the Community on our Proposed Capital Project

Dear District Resident,

On March 24, 2015, you will have an opportunity to vote on a capital project that is primarily designed to address critical facilities and equipment needs in each of our buildings, along with vehicle and pedestrian safety concerns throughout our site. The project is based on the needs assessment required by the State Education Department every five years to be sure we are planning for and maintaining the district’s assets.

The study, review of recommendations, and planning were achieved through the collaboration of our Buildings and Grounds team, headed by David Flaherty; our Chief Information Officer Mike Frame; the leader of our transportation services Brian Hinman; our administrative and professional services team; our Board of Education (BOE) Facilities Committee, which includes Julie Milliman, Daniel Jackson, and Marshall Johnson; and members of our community.

During the process, this team identified and prioritized over $40 million of facilities, site and educational needs. To maximize our available state aid and minimize the impact to taxpayers — key objectives set by the Board of Education — the team recommended a capital project to address the most critical and beneficial needs, amounting to $9,815,000. It is important to note that the team considered and evaluated a variety of options to address immediate needs, competing priorities and funding scenarios. This proposed project is their final recommendation. It includes the following two propositions:

Proposition 1: The number-one priority of our BOE members and our planning teams was to improve the safety in our parking lots. Therefore, a large part of Proposition 1 will include the reconfiguration of our campus for improved site circulation and parking. Also included are high-priority improvements to our Elementary and High School buildings. Additional scope highlights are provided within this newsletter.

Proposition 2: The committee also looked at items they felt would be of significant benefit to the district but could not be achieved without some additional cost to our local tax payers. As a result, we are asking you to consider upgrading our football field to an all-weather multi-purpose field. Resurfacing the field with synthetic turf would extend outdoor activities to additional physical education classes and many of our athletic teams throughout a greater portion of the year. Proposition 2 cannot pass unless Proposition 1 also passes.

All work will be paid for using a combination of state aid funding, cash from the capital project reserve fund established and built up by the district, and the local tax share. Years of careful financial and operations management by the district will enable RCS to fund the work in Proposition 1 at a relatively minor local tax impact — an average of 0 – 33 cents/month, depending on applicable STAR exemptions. If Proposition 1 passes, the work for Propositions 1&2 combined would cost an average 0 – $2.08/month.

Over the years, we’ve experienced the pride and involvement that our community has in our district. Capital projects like these are meant not only to help keep our facilities in good working order, but also to improve the conditions under which our children learn and thrive. We need and appreciate your support, and we ask that you come to learn more at the Public Hearing on March 18, and to cast your vote on March 24.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Moritz                                                     Michael Evans

Superintendent of Schools                               Board of Education President

Capital Project Vote, March 24, 2015

We are preparing for a capital project vote here at Randolph Central School on March 24, 2015 from 2:00 pm-8:00 pm in our High School Cafeteria. As we’ve been doing public presentations to inform the public on the details of the project propositions, it may be helpful for me to share the information in a series of blog posts also.

Over the next couple of days, I will write about the different parts of the proposed project. We have a public hearing on March 18, 2015 at 6:00 in the Auditorium. During the hearing I will present these same details and community members will have the opportunity to ask questions.

A special thank you to BOE members Julie Milliman and Janet Huntington, who have been with me this week as we presented after the Grandparents’ Breakfasts and last night during a community forum. Thank you to all of our BOE members, RCS employees, and community members who have worked so hard to plan a project that addresses the critical needs of our district and is mindful of the cost to the taxpayers.

If you can’t make it to the public hearing on the project, please feel free to call me or stop by at any time. Also, our BOE members are very well versed in the details.

Please come and vote on March 24, 2015!

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My Social Media Mistake

Gosh darn it. Have you ever done something that afterwards you thought, “I’m an idiot”? I made a mistake last week that I can’t erase, I know better, it reflected poorly on me and I’m so sorry.

Social media. Ugh. I’ve tried to use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with our school community–primarily about all of the positive things happening here–and last week I totally blew it.

Calling snow days, cold weather days, making good decisions for the students–all of it results in emotional responses from parents, faculty and staff who weigh in on both sides of the issue. I can’t reiterate enough how many conversations with staff here, the highway superintendent and my colleagues in other districts  go into our decision. I always prefer to have our students here in school, that’s why we exist! I do think about the finances too–how much our payroll is for 186 days and that every time we cancel, we lose that day of productivity.

But that’s not the point of this post.

Last week I received a “tweet” from our students regarding the cold weather call we made to pick up our students door to door and to be in session on Friday. It was a short video that showed our students at play practice responding to my all-call that we would have school the next day. It was awesome and I loved it.

Then I tweeted–which goes to 800+ followers and then links to Facebook–a tweet that I meant primarily for those same students but of course went to everyone. I forgot about audience and perception and my professional role that is required as superintendent that is beyond being “tongue in cheek” with our students. It was a mistake. I’m not explaining it away–I was wrong.

For everyone who read my tweet that included an emoticon that showed me blowing a kiss–believe it or not, I meant that to say to our students, “love you!” but I can see that it didn’t come across that way. I also said, “giving you your money’s worth”–which led readers to interpret that money was more important to me than student safety.

How stupid I was! I cannot expect people who don’t even know me to “get” my message, delivered in 140 characters. The tweet was unprofessional and I should know better. I will not make the mistake again, we’re better than that–high expectations for everyone in our district starts with having high expectations for myself first.

Capital Project Consideration

The purpose of this post is to help our community understand the process of developing a capital project and about how the financing works. This is not a simple post–it’s a complicated, lengthy topic and I will do my best to keep it straightforward. Please know that I write this in an effort to be transparent about our process. When my mom was alive she always provided me with feedback about my blog posts. She definitely would have said this one is TOO LONG and BORING. 😉

Our BOE is considering two contingent propositions for possible presentation for a public vote on March 24, 2015.

In the summer of 2013 the Randolph Board of Education and I began the process of evaluating and planning for a proposed capital project.  Every district conducts a five year plan that is submitted to the NYS Education Department and in that plan, we analyze all aspects of our buildings and grounds to identify and prioritize our areas of need. Good planning means identifying critical items and then putting them together in a capital project to minimize the local share of expenses–in our case an approved capital project that meets all of the guidelines of NYSED will result in about an 83.5% state share.

For Randolph Central, the structural, health and safety items –critical items– at this time include things such as replacing pumps, balancing valves, upgrade ventilation, replacing steam piping, improving state lighting controls and replacing stage rigging. The items also include things like replacement floors, a handicap toilet room in the elementary school, security cameras, urinal replacements, a few rooftop replacements, track replacement and some ADA required interior door hardware. I often refer to these items as the “non-glamorous” items, those things we NEED to take care of to be good stewards of our facilities and grounds.

The first possible proposition that the BOE is considering putting before the public for a vote, our essential NEED based items total almost $3 million dollars. Those items, from the very beginning in the summer of 2013, have been our priority. Taking care of what we already have and maintaining it–that’s what the BOE has directed me to do from day one in considering a project.

In planning any project, community input is valuable. We put out notices asking for volunteers to work with us. The BOE members and I formed a facilities committee to consider any other needs and or wants that we may have as a school district that would improve our facilities, our programs, or our services to students and the community.

A well meaning group of people met with us through the fall and winter of the 2013-14 school year to brainstorm those things that would improve our school district. No one’s ideas were immediately dismissed and everything from a swimming pool to a community center to new sports fields were discussed. The BOE facilities committee then met with me throughout the spring and summer to consider those suggestions and to try to determine the best course of action.

A major priority from the beginning of our work was to improve the traffic flow, configuration and parking on our campus. The safety of our students and community are our #1 priority, along with the essential NEED based items described above.  A lengthy process began in which we evaluated many different options for improving traffic flow with parent drop off locations, bus only zones, clear student walkways, and more parking. For a long time we talked about a demolition of the bus garage that sits right in the middle of our campus. We ultimately determined that this was not something everyone could support.

The final traffic flow plan drastically improves the safety of our campus while maintaining our existing bus garage. This plan, to be detailed in upcoming capital project presentations, totals about $4 million dollars.

The reality of financing always comes in to play and determining what we as a district and our taxpayers can afford is critical. Think about that 83.5% state share I mentioned in the beginning; where’s the other 17% coming from? We then look at our capital reserves and any unappropriated excess reserves we may have to determine how much we have that can be used to offset the cost to the local taxpayers. To keep it simple, all of that planning results in a project that we can put forward to the taxpayers of about $7 million dollars that will result in a minimal local share. How minimal? This $7 million project would result in a .65% increase or about $2 per year more on an $60,000 home for taxpayers with STAR; a zero increase for Senior STAR taxpayers; and for taxpayers who don’t have STAR because it’s a non-primary residence, it’s about $4 per year added to your taxes on a $60,000 home.

The BOE members are in the final stages of preparing to adopt a resolution to bring this project to the taxpayers. In addition they are considering putting forth a second, contingent (cannot pass unless the first proposition passes) proposition to the voters for a synthetic turf multipurpose field. While there were many other ideas from our original facilities committee that would be improvements for our district, the cost to our taxpayers precludes us from advancing any of them.

A second possible proposition for a mulipurpose synthetic turf field has been much more difficult for our BOE members to agree to put to the taxpayers.  Their dedication to maintaining a fair and reasonable tax levy (share of our budget that is paid for by the local taxpayers) is at odds with the consideration of a proposition to build something that would be NICE to have but isn’t necessarily something we HAVE to have. The BOE’s dedication to this is unquestionable as they have maintained a 0% increase to our taxpayers every year since the 2009-10 school year. That’s six years that our taxpayers have not had an increase, including two years of decreases.

Some think we should leave the decision of a synthetic turf multipurpose field up to the taxpayers. Put the Proposition #2 up for a vote separate from our Proposition #1, NEEDs based project. What kind of money would a separate proposition for this cost? It would be about an additional $2.6 million dollars. The addition of this proposition would result in the cost to the taxpayers increasing to a 4.37% total increase or about $13 per year more on a $60,000 home for taxpayers with STAR; a zero increase for Senior STAR taxpayers; for taxpayers who don’t have STAR because it’s a non-primary residence, it’s about $25 per year added to your taxes on a $60,000 home.

Taxpayers can rest assured that a BOE decision to put a project to the public for a vote has been thoroughly researched and considered. More to follow, look for a BOE discussion and vote on a resolution at the February 4, 2015 BOE meeting with a proposed March vote by the taxpayers.

 

 

Why We Test

Cross Posted at TheHill

In New York State, the debate over the implementation of the new,  more rigorous common core learning standards has been everything from controversial to impassioned to confusing. The argument has frequently centered on the evaluation of teachers and principals using student test scores.  And the debate has become so heated that some teachers and even some superintendents are refusing to administer assessments tied to the standards. That’s entirely the wrong direction for our schools and, most important, for our kids. And it’s just too simplistic.

Instead, the discussion we must have is both about testing for our children’s understanding and understanding our children’s tests.

Historically, tests have been used as a measurement of a student’s learning at the end of a chapter, book, or unit. That’s what most of us remember, right? The test measured if we studied, did the work, understood the concepts, mastered the material or just did well on tests. Today the testing that we’re doing in our schools can still be what we remember but it can also be more formative in nature. In fact, it should be formative--we should be using what we learn about our students’ learning to inform what happens next in the classroom. Do we need to go back to the drawing board on a concept 90% of the students missed on this test? What kind of progress has each student made toward mastering the next standard? Who needs more support? Who’s got it and is more than ready to move on?

As a superintendent I worked with our teachers and administrators in the alignment of our curriculum to the common core standards. As a measure of our progress–of our alignment and our expectations–we also implemented formative testing four times during the year in grades K-8, Math and ELA. Our families know this as iReady. We do this not to measure learning at the end of a chapter or quarter, but to check student progress toward the attainment of learning standards so that we can make mid-course corrections.

Since we made this commitment to learn more about our students and their learning, our student achievement on NYS tests has improved dramatically as compared to other districts. Why? Not because we’re now “teaching to the tests” but instead, because we are focusing on the standards and individualizing learning through adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction in a blended learning environment. Teachers have always worked incredibly hard here. We are simply providing them with more information that helps them do the job better for every student.

Consider our rank on the achievement index. The achievement index is a metric wherein each district’s academic rank is compared to its socioeconomic climate rank. If a district is 25th academically and 50th in socioeconomics, it is said to have overachieved by 25 places. Using this metric we are the fourth most overachieving district in Western New York. I’m not so crazy about this measure as it’s like saying, “hey we’re doing better than expected given our rate of poverty” but it does demonstrate that ALL children can learn within a system that supports learning in the right ways.

Some opponents of State and federally mandated standards have argued that too much classroom time is spent on testing and test preparation. There is a lot of truth in that, particularly if  accountability measures are mishandled and teachers, administrators and students are made to feel anxiety and pressure about testing or “practicing” for the tests. Without the right leadership actions to provide support to our teachers in building a system of functioning programs and testing that work, teachers cannot figure this out on their own. They will. Because they always have. But it won’t be a system, it will be random. And it won’t give a school district the kind of system wide results in which every child is challenged that most of us are looking to build. However, if schools are using adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction to inform the choice of curriculum for individual students, then making a small investment in testing time enables us to maximize  instructional time.

Adopting high quality tests and administering them with an eye on using the results to provide students with timely individualized help allows us to greatly enhance our educational systems. I see it in real learning in the classrooms and in our students’ abilities, not just on NYS assessment results. For example, in our math classrooms our students now have much better rapid recall of math facts and their understanding of fractions and ability to do operations with fractions is much improved. They are also much better at attacking multi-step problems and seem to have overall better retention of what they have learned. Why? The common core standards are more rigorous and we’ve raised our expectations for all students while supporting them in a more individualized way.

The most significant factors in our school improvement success have been the implementation of a coherent, cohesive common core standard aligned curriculum in grades K-8 and our use of regular adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction. This kind of testing is about giving teachers more information. Computer based diagnostic instruction is about giving all students individualized instruction. The bottom line? Blended learning with adaptive testing allows us to challenge all of our learners not just our struggling learners. And by the way, our NYS test results have also improved significantly.

That’s the kind of comprehensive learning and assessment for which the Common Core standards were designed. Simply turning your back on the learning standards and “opting out” as a public school system is a disservice to the work of educating all of our students. It’s hard work to get it right, and it’s worth it.

Hope for Public Education

I’m hopeful about public education. As educators, we are a group of adults who hold our students first and foremost in our hearts and minds. We think about their stories. We worry about basic needs being met for some of them and we agonize over the decisions we see some of our older students making. We listen to them and we try to guide them.  Sometimes we just listen. We take an interest in what they think and for some, we’re the only ones who do so.  We advocate for them when they are in danger. We celebrate their many successes. We support their fundraisers and cheer them on in athletic, musical, and dramatic events. We pull for them in every competition. For some of us, we pray for them. I love them and expect the best of them, always.

While the noise continues in print and visual media, on social media, and in countless opinions espoused everywhere someone wants to air a complaint–as educators we continue to do what we’ve always done. We head to our schools with a joy about learning and a love for the children we serve.

None of the pressures from outside of our school buildings can detract from these simple facts about us. The governor doesn’t change this about us. The federal government doesn’t change that about us. The anti common core cries, the privatization of school advocates, the crazy people who don’t know US but judge us anyway, and the challenges we face together don’t change the simple facts about us.

We are and always have been well intended, caring adults who do this work because we love our students and we endeavor to make a difference in every life that we touch. When my children stand at my funeral some day, I want them to hear the stories of students I influenced, teachers who entered leadership roles and administration because of my example, and colleagues who remember me as someone who supported and respected them. I want my two kids to hear that my expectations for excellence in myself and those who work here encouraged someone to be better, work harder, go farther. I want them to hear that I made a difference in Randolph, that I improved the quality of the education our children receive through my leadership actions.

These are the reasons we are educators. None of the criticism and noise and political agendas will ever affect those reasons. They’re simply challenges for us to overcome together. I’m hopeful about public education.

FAPE. Free Appropriate Public Education for ALL students. The single greatest accomplishment of our great nation. Amidst the noise, don’t you forget it.