BOE Meeting – Aug 26, 2021

Saratoga Springs Board of Education Meeting
8/26/21 7:00pm
Saratoga Springs High School
Notes taken by Lisa Glazer

Agenda Link:

Approximately 25 people in audience

It is really hot.

All trustees and administrators are designated by initials. Anjie Emeka is AnE and Amanda Ellithorpe is AE

7:00 Meeting Opens

7:01 Approval to accept the agenda

  • AnE welcomes members of the public. Reminder that they are not for the public but in front of the public. Reminders of public comment protocol.

7:02 Public Comments

  • Tara Gaston: Offers thanks to the board and the district. Discusses that of her 3 children, 1 is at high risk from long term effects of COVID as is their other parent. Thanks district for making decisions to protect our students.
  • Michelle King: Addressing mask mandate that was set before state – the science since 2020 go against masking students “the science, the data, the facts” “is coming out” is more mask wearing is more detrimental to students than COVID and that accommodations can be made for high-risk kids. Second point Equity and Inclusion is another term for Critical Race Theory – has multiple times had to address this. Claims that children are being indoctrinated. Offered thanks to teachers who are not doing this. 
  • Kelly Shepperd – He’s a chemist. Offers thanks. Science is iterative and when you can control for a variety of factors – masks are proven to reduce transmission of viruses. Notes article in the journal science published today that covers decades of research to support this. Equity is not CRT – equity is not “finding accommodations for students with accommodations”. He says masking per CDC guidelines provides equity. 

(there was some applause after each comment from the audience)

No Committee Reports

7:15 Superintendent’s Comments

  • Congratulations to the Class of 2021 August Graduates
  • Summer Programming Recognitions
    • Thanks members of 12-month staff who have been working all summer – Technology department, Counselors, summer school staff
  • Review of District Stay Open Plans
    • Multiple community forums – next one Wednesday Sep. 1 about reopening (over 600 people participated last time)
    • Strong relationship with local health orgs, other districts, etc.
    • Process has been continuous since March 2020 to create and adjust plans
    • Expecting new state recommendations tomorrow or early next week
    • By middle of next week, they should be able to “finalize” stay open plans

7:20 Patton, L’Hommedieu, and Cutting offer presentation on “Stay Open Plan” 

  • Goal: in-person learning for all students, 5-days per week 
  • Top priorities
    • Health, safety, well-being of all
    • Educational Equity
  • Guidance from multiple health organizations, SCPHS, CDC, school district physician, NYS D of Ed, SSCSD work groups, BOCES partner schools, family, community
  • 68.4% has at least one dose but our county is still “high” risk which affects public health recommendations
  • County Vac clinics coming up over the following week
  • Layered approach of health and safety (all subject to update after new guidance from state)
    • Facial coverings, physical distancing (use of assigned seating when possible), cleaning and disinfecting, hygiene, ventilation, vaccination
    • Visitors in the building will be permitted on a limited basis. Parents and guardians will not be allowed past the main office unless necessary for the health of their child. Only visitors deemed essential
    • Hoping to allow extracurriculars as long as safety measures can be followed
  • Teaching and Learning
    • #1 focus – creating mental, social, and emotional space for learning
    • Equitable instruction – in person instruction allows for more support
    • Focus on clear communication between home and school
    • Currently reviewing applicants for virtual school. For K-6 this is all inclusive for 7-12 this is individual classes that are offered but not a cohesive “school”
    • MTSS – Multi-tiered Systems of Support (with the idea that Academic is supported by other two areas)
      • Academic
      • Behavioral
      • Social/Emotional
        • Added staff for this year and also providing PD on Trauma informed Instruction and DEI
        • Hoping to get counselling services from Parsons Clinics in all buildings – currently just in HS, MS, and Geyser
        • Resource guide created 
    • Seesaw and Canva will be used to provide resources for quarantines students (no hybrid)
  • Technology
    • 1:1 at MS and HS and classroom sets in elementary is the goal.
    • Working to provide internet to teachers and students without sufficient access
  • Transportation – schedules available week of August 30
  • Patton takes a moment to acknowledge the work of the transportation department who used the feedback from the transportation survey in order to reduce bus runs (especially helpful in lieu of driver shortages)
  • Nutrition
    • All students will have access to breakfast and lunch at no cost and meeting nutritional needs

Questions from the Board

  • A. E. asked about options for parents who are uncomfortable with the current return plan but whose children are not able to go to virtual school.
    • Answers:
      • Conversations happening now about transitional programs. Some students are able to start early to ease transition.
      • Homeschool is always an option for families who are truly uncomfortable
    • A.E. asks if we should talk about an option for those parents for families who cannot homeschool
      • Patton says there are support resources in place to help with transition
    • A.E. asks about the lack of the virtual offering for 7-12
      • Patton reiterates that the in school services
  • A.E. asks how board fits in in regard to stakeholders
    • Patton says that the board is one of several stakeholders
    • Most of the decisions made about reopening are administrative decisions and that the board meeting is the opportunity for admin to communicate to the board and get feedback from the board
    • J.B. clarifies the role of the board as coming from more of the policy side (also confirms that admin has his support) and that if board as a unit wants to push in a particular direction, they can 
  • N.L. asks about what “correct mask use” is and for a common definition so that it is clear.
    • D.L. says that it was clarified in the reports and county health has clarified this.
    • Patton says it will be clarified.
  • N.L. asks about quarantines that are more than 5 days. Asking about the prior designation of 10 day required.
    • L.C. says they are still waiting on full guidance on this – quarantine may vary based on vaccination status
  • C.W. asks if a teacher may record a lesson for quarantined students or wants to allow students to zoom in.
    • L.C. says recording is always an option. And they are still working through other options. Seems like it is at teacher discretion but not mandated.
  • C.W. asks if there will be other mask breaks
    • D.L. At teacher discretion, to take drinks. Yes.
  • T.K. asks about research on hybrid instruction
    • L.C. says that the research has been ongoing before pandemic from “hybrid academies” but that more recent research has continued to support the fact that it is not as effective
  • J.B. asks for clarification on the “mask break” question
    • M.P. clarifies that mask breaks are more just for a drink of water – not an extended break.
  • E.B. asks about grant funding for SEL and tutoring – how will it be distributed and how are those decision being made
    • L.C. says they are currently working on it
    • All K-5 and 6-8 program get the program
    • They have worked with consultants to help with these decisions
    • Who qualifies for tutoring is still being determined
  • E.B. asks about onsite testing for unvaccinated students. Would it also be open to all students?
    • M.P. said they would wait for state direction
    • County has federal money for schools to do diagnostic and screening testing – this will help students to return to school more quickly – not having to wait for results.

Presentation on District Pathway Priorities 2021-2022 (pending board approval will be shared in buildings with faculty and staff)

  • Review district core-values this school year with help from all stakeholders
  • Review of 4 Core beliefs and this year’s priorities under each one
    • Equity of Opportunity (all goals tied to metrics and stats which are funky right now because of COVID effect on testing)
      • Continue culturally responsive practices 
        • Welcoming and Affirming Environment; High Expectations; Inclusive Curriculum; Ongoing professional learning and support
      • Increase students in k-8 who are at or above grade level in reading and math
      • Increase number of graduates earning college credit or career credentials
      • Increase cohort graduation rate and number of students earning Advanced Regents Diploma
      • Review of data
    • Collaboration
      • Discussion of Professional Learning Communities
    • Communication
      • Continued assessment of safety and security plans and communication systems
        • Redesign of website will take about a year and is pricy
        • Capital region BOCES has done a review of our website to see what is visited and what isn’t and other metrics
    • Personalization
      • Looking at systems of support for students and staff
      • Look at new schedules in 6-12
      • Design flexible and innovative learning environments through legacy project funding
  • Systems to monitor progress on all areas through the year

Questions on Presentation on Pathways?  None

8:32 MODIFICATIONS TO THE CONSENT AGENDA. Moved one item to a roll call vote (NYSED Certified Teaching Assistant Adjustment / Appointments)

8:36 Roll Call Vote – all vote yes

8:36 Consent Agenda – unanimous passing

8:37 Patton recognizes a few folks in the audience of other members in attendance (including Hilary Brewer)

  • Just completed new teacher orientation for 29 new educators
  • Patton recognized by name the teachers who were hired as of today’s meeting

8:39 Second Public Comment Period

  • Kyle Brown stating facts on masking. Says he doesn’t agree with masking of kids. CDC says ages 5-14 .2% chance of dying from COVID – states some other percents of how kids can die.
  • Matt Kopans – has 2 middle schoolers who are excited to be masked this year out of concern . Offers the district and board thanks for all their work.
  • Lisa Adams – Disagrees with masks and wants it to be a choice. Says most kids don’t want to wear masks. Claims that students who have been vaccinated will test positive.

8:43 Close Public Comment

8:43 Agenda Planning

8:46 Board Comments

  • T.K. offers thanks for all donations to the school district. Specifically thanks his neighbor AVa Herzog who through a grant application donated money for scientific supplies including a microscope
  • AnE offers thanks to admin team and facilities to help get students back to the buildings

8:47 Adjourn

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