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january 16, 2013
Dr. James Dawson, a member of the New York State
Board of Regents, visited the district earlier this month after hearing
rave reviews about Schuylerville’s advanced curriculum work, remedial
programs and its early implementation of an annual professional
performance review (APPR) plan. During his tour of the district, Dawson
sat in on a distance learning class at the High School, as well as
French, science and remedial classes. He was an enthusiastic participant
in a “vocabulary Bingo” game during a High School English class…and yes,
Dawson also visited first-, third- and fourth-grade classes, commenting positively about the teachers’ and students’ use of classroom SmartBoards. At the Middle School, Regent Dawson sat in on social studies and math classes and observed students in an English Language Arts class as they rotated through small-group stations, working independently, with peers and with the classroom teacher. He also took the opportunity to converse one-on-one with fourth-grade teacher Peter Carner and to have discussions with a number of staff and Board of Education members during lunch.
Reviewing the “Regents’ Agenda”
At the end of the day, he made presentations at faculty meetings, covering the Board of Regents’ priorities, including changing the funding inequities that take place under the current state aid formulas. “There are a lot of inequities that the Regents are trying to fix,” Dawson said. “The state aid formula is not a fair formula. It’s not proportional to wealth and it’s not current in terms of the data that is used to determine how much aid a district should receive.”
Dawson also talked about the push to ensure all students are college- and career-ready, as well as statewide efforts to create a student database system that’s efficient and more helpful to schools as they strive to improve student achievement. He also touched on the state’s participation in the federal Race to the Top initiative, praising the intent of the legislation, but admitting, “It’s not exactly how New York would have approached improving education [given the choice].”
Dawson also brought up the Regents’ upcoming meetings, saying that the group was going to discuss expanding the options for students to earn a high school diploma. “We’re looking at a ‘multiple pathways’ approach to graduation,” he said.
Teachers were given an opportunity during the meetings to ask questions and provide feedback to Regent Dawson. They expressed concerns about the increasing number of high-stakes tests students are required to take, as well as the state’s new teacher evaluation system and challenges involved in teaching in a rapidly changing educational field. Dawson acknowledged all of the comments and criticisms, thanking staff members for their insights.
In a follow-up letter to the district, Dawson said the meetings with teachers gave him a chance to “put education in 2013 into a larger context.” He also thanked the district for providing a “superb learning experience.”
“This was a great opportunity to showcase the educational programs Schuylerville has to offer,” said Dr. Ryan Sherman, superintendent of schools. “We are extremely proud that Regent Dawson chose to spend time in our district.”
The district’s last visit from a Regent was more than 15 years ago.
About Regent Dawson and the Board of Regents
The Board of Regents oversees all educational activities in the state, including the New York State Education Department and the university system. Regent James C. Dawson was appointed to the Board of Regents in 1993, and reappointed in 2000, 2005 and 2010 to represent the 4th Judicial District (the North Country from the Mohawk River to the Canadian border). During his service on the Board he has chaired the Regents' Cultural Education Committee, the Regents' Administrative Committee, and the Regents' State Aid Subcommittee. He is currently serving on a budget/state aid committee. He believes that he is the first Regent in the 220-year history of the Board of Regents to have visited every school district, and every school building, in his judicial district. Dawson has been active in the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), which represents the state education boards of the 50 states and has served as its president and as the chair or member of several of study groups on topics as diverse as school construction, the achievement gap, and arts and foreign language education. Since 1970, Dawson has served on the faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he teaches courses in geology as a distinguished service professor.