2012-02-29 / Front Page / Schools

Haldane board hears plans for advanced courses

Also reviews budget; tax increase just under 2 percent
Kylie McConville

 Haldane Board members tackled a budget discussion, but also made room for compelling educational presentations given by members of their Middle and High School staff at their most recent regular meeting­­.

 To kick-start the meeting, Middle School Principal Brett Harrington shared with the Board and the public his continued plans to balance equity and excellence in the Middle School Acceleration Program. Speaking specifically about the Algebra and Living Environment courses, the acceleration model historically exposes children to the content before they are mandated by the state to have such skills and concepts. Children were tracked at the end of their 6th grade year according to state assessments in 5th and 6th grade, as well as by report card grades.

 But what about the students who are not tracked into accelerated math and science programs prior to beginning 7th grade? Is there an opportunity for students to ride the current and mainstream themselves into these enriching programs?

 What Harrington has offered to the existing model since joining the Haldane community in 2011 is to keep the end goal the same, with opportunities for children to enroll in Regents Algebra and Living Environment programs in 8th grade abundant. He, along with Assistant M.S. Principal Julia Sniffen, have adapted a policy of “rigor and challenge” to their middle school values. Adding that, “preparation for high school coursework is a middle school responsibility.”

 The pair believe that accelerated programs should be offered to students following their 7th grade year because it offers a developmentally responsive and socially equitable delivery. Realigning the curriculum, Harrington told the Board, would prepare all students for 7th grade, insure accessibility to a rigorous curriculum for all and raises the bar across the middle school environment.  And while the old model prevented acceleration for some students, this new model allows for differentiation of learning, ensuring that are given the opportunity to thrive academically.

 In similar fashion, Dr. Bob Mack, a physics teacher at the high school, shared with the Board his plans for adding a Science Research Methods elective (based on the course available at SUNY Albany) for students in grades 10-12. The elective allows students to research scientific proposals as well as develop, plan, research and conduct a scientific report. Laden with life skills, the program will go through a one-year trial period before administrators decide to adapt the SUNY Program for college credit.

 Superintendent Mark Villanti addressed the success of the Foreign Language programs at Haldane High School, referencing how many students enrolled in several sections of French and Spanish for the 2011-2012 year.

 Talk then quickly turned to the 2012-2013 tax numbers. Anne Dinio, Haldane School Business Manager, presented the Board’s first proposal: a 1.93%, which comfortably rests well under the 3.14% tax levy limit. At this point fo

The Board now struggles with Gap Elimination formula, which will reduce revenue to the school. Cleverly nicknamed “gappy”, Villanti fears that with the loss of $500,000 from state aid, Haldane will need to use up reserves and fund balances in order to stabilize the school budget over. Without the $500,000 reimbursement, Board members are looking at a $500,000 cut in programs and staff within two years time.

 Villanti asserted that cutting staff would only contribute to the state’s unemployment numbers and admits that it is step he “doesn’t want to take.” With that said, Haldane plans to apply reserves and fund balances for this year, while assessing the impact that the improved economy will have on the 2013-2014 budget.  Already looking ahead, Dinio was able to predict the 2013-2014 budget will increase by 2.33%, although those numbers will not formally be confirmed until next year.

 

The Board has placed PDF files of all budget documents on the school website. Visit http://www.haldaneschool.org/ and click on the Board of Education tab, then follow links to “Annual Budget.” Superintendent Villanti encouraged the public to attend board meetings and ask questions about the impact the budget will have on the Haldane community.

 

 

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