Garrison School Board Welcomes Community Involvement in Superintendent Selection

Race to the Top participation raises student data security concerns  

By Pamela Doan

The Garrison School Board Meeting opened on Oct. 16, with a moment of silence for a devoted volunteer and parent who recently died, Stanzi Allan-Pouthier. Superintendent Gloria Colucci detailed her involvement with environmental education and the PTA hot lunch program, in particular, describing how she stepped up to help whenever it was necessary.

Colucci then transitioned into appreciation for the contributions of the Garrison Union Free School Board of Education members, Christine Foertsch, James Cannon, Vice-President Diana Swinburne, Charlotte Rowe, Theresa Orlandi, Derek DuBois and President Raymond O’Rourke. School Board Recognition Week is celebrated Oct. 28-Nov. 1.

Colucci read a proclamation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and said, “This is the ultimate in volunteer activity where people run for a seat on the board and then take on the full responsibility of making decisions for a school district and for 300 plus students and staff.” Each member received a pencil holder with an image of the school and their name engraved on it as a token of appreciation.

The board discussed concerns and issues that have been raised about the security of student data that is submitted as part of GUFS participation in Race to the Top. The intention is to roll out a dashboard for students, parents, teachers and administrators to access an online database for test scores and aggregated data related to the Common Core.

While parents are mailed test scores for their children, the online portal would offer faster accessibility, which seemed to be the only advantage mentioned. Outside of the district, Colucci mentioned that parents and other boards are nervous that the data could be hacked and Colucci said she was still looking into options, but didn’t see a reason to opt out of the program.

The consequences for districts that refuse to participate with Race to the Top could mean loss of federal funds and grants. The intention is to provide useful information about a student’s education and an overall picture of the school’s rankings and success in meeting Common Core goals and standards.

Questions from two parent attendees at the meeting focused on the search for a new superintendent to replace Colucci when she retires and a discussion about the mathematics curriculum. Board President O’Rourke detailed the process that will be mailed to everyone in the community soon requesting volunteers to participate with a committee that will interview and recommend candidates to fill the superintendent position.

There are roles on the search committee for non-parent community members, parents, teachers, and administrators, adding up to a total of about 17 people. Information will be mailed to all homes in the school newsletter and also distributed at the library and post office.

“We are about halfway through the process and have created a contingency plan for an interim superintendent to come in January in case the candidate we want to hire isn’t available on our timeline,” O’Rourke said. “The recruitment firm has told us there are many qualified candidates coming in.” A dinner honoring outgoing Superintendent Gloria Colucci, who is retiring, is planned for Friday, Nov. 22, and more details will be announced soon.

The discussion about the mathematics curriculum addressed the lack of textbooks that are up to the standard of teaching the Common Core. For this school year, GUFS is using math modules provided by Engage New York while other materials are catching up to the Common Core standards.

At this time, there are not any textbooks deemed to be sufficient and Colucci reiterated that administrators and teachers were constantly on the lookout for any new materials. There is not currently a timeline for reviewing or purchasing any new textbooks. Board member Charlotte Rowe expressed confidence in the process and the decision not to purchase textbooks until they “catch up” to the school’s needs. The next board meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 6.