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September, 2014

NYSED Commissioner Visits Jansen Ave

NYSED Commissioner Visits Jansen Ave

Dr. King & Students look at computer monitor

Dr. King and students from The Learning Project are engrossed in the task at hand.

Five years ago Jansen Avenue was a shuttered elementary school hoping for a new purpose. On Friday, New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King Jr. arrived at what is now a thriving and vibrant building, alive with brightly painted spaces, updated furniture, the latest in technology and an atmosphere crackling with excitement generated by curious high school students.

Student shows Dr. King a rubberband carSince Fall of 2013, Jansen Avenue’s former library space has been home to Johnstown’s forward thinking program called “The Learning Project.” Led by Johnstown teachers Heather Buskirk and Anne Bagot, students in their senior year may elect to participate in a half-day curriculum centered on hands-on projects that require collaborative work, research, and problem solving, while incorporating multiple disciplines. These Johnstown students earn high school credits and, in some cases, physics credit from FMCC.

Dr. King & P-Tech students in technology cluster

P-TECH students show Dr. King some of the technology available to them.

Over the summer of 2014 a new tenant arrived to occupy many additional rooms at Jansen Avenue. The HFM BOCES Pathways in Early College High School (PTECH) is providing high school students from districts across the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery region the opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school Regent’s diploma and an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from Fulton Montgomery Community College, at no cost to their family. A new model for high school education, PTECH offers four career clusters in Business Management and Administration, Advanced Manufacturing (Clean Technology), Information Technology and Health Sciences.

Dr. King & students listen to morning announcementsStarting his visit in the Jansen Avenue Learning Commons, Commissioner King listened as students took turns sharing morning announcements that included scores from the games they had participated in the night before and personal accomplishments like bench-pressing a personal best, while receiving acknowledgement from their peers. The Commissioner then visited the repurposed classrooms, colorful, sophisticated, technology clusters filled with modern furnishings. At each work space he took time to engage with the students, who were more than happy to share the stories behind their activities and projects, and to provide a glimpse into their new educational experience.

At the end of the student-led tour, Dr. King offered time for a question and answer session. Students were eager to respond when he asked how this school is different from a traditional school setting. They talked about the lack of bells, which they said allows for a flow and keeps them from feeling rushed; the necessity of working in groups, rather than just for themselves; the technology-driven, paperless environment; and a sense of independence stemming from learning to manage their time in a less structured environment.

students raise hands to ask questionsThe students had questions for Dr. King as well. When asked how he chose his career path, Dr. King related that his childhood had been difficult due to the illness and death of his parents while he was young. School provided him with both an escape and a refuge, while the support of his teachers made a difference, keeping him focused and on the right path. Because of this, he said, he wanted to create an environment where kids could learn and feel supported, leading him to start his career as a high school social studies teacher. In true educator fashion, the Commissioner offered an impromptu history lesson for the students, telling them he had resided with his aunt and uncle, a former Tuskegee Airman, and checking to see whether they were familiar with what that meant.

In closing, when asked by a student what he thinks about the new programs at Jansen, Commissioner King replied that he supports project-based learning and would like to see more project-based learning opportunities become available. He also said he is looking forward to coming back to Jansen in a couple of years to see how the students have evolved!

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Johnstown Capital Project FAQs

The Greater Johnstown School District is considering a capital project referendum for voter approval. Answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions about the proposal are posted below. Have a question about the capital project that isn’t answered here? Please contact us!

Why are we discussing a capital project?

While the district’s six buildings have been well cared for, we need to replace or upgrade systems that are not in working order or are coming to the end of their useful life. We also need to improve access for individuals with disabilities. When these repairs are included as part of a capital project, they are eligible for state aid and any remaining local costs are spread over 15 to 20 years. Without a capital project, repairs may still need to be made, but would have to be funded out of the budget, with no state aid for the work.

What would be the scope of a capital project?

No formal scope has been adopted by the Board of Education as of yet. However, many of the items under consideration are related to health, safety and accessibility, including building and classroom door security, roof replacement, electrical upgrades, bathrooms/fixtures, drop-off and pick-up configurations at buildings, lighting and HVAC. Additional areas under review include the aging JHS pool, JHS gymnasium, cafeteria/gym spaces, the track, and education spaces including music suites and art rooms.

How is the Board of Education identifying what to include in a capital project?

New York State requires a Building Condition Survey every five years and much of the project scope is being assembled based on the most recent BCS, from 2010. Additionally, a facilities committee composed of board members, administrators and buildings & grounds staff has conducted several on-site inspections, assisted by architects, to identify areas of concern. Administrators have also met with staff members to discuss their needs. All of the information collected has been compiled into a report that is being carefully reviewed.

What is the timeline for the capital project?

No formal date for a referendum has been chosen as of yet, but the Board of Education is exploring placing a proposition before the voters during the 2014-15 school year, with work to begin in 2016.

What is the total cost of the capital project that is under consideration?

The cost of the project is directly tied to the scope of the project, which is still under discussion. Initial estimates came in at $45.8 million dollars. However, the board is working to reduce this number by identifying high, medium and low priority work. We recognize the financial challenges our residents face and want to balance the recommended building repairs with financial reality.

How will the district pay for a capital project?

It is anticipated much of the funding will be provided by NYS in the form of building aid, currently estimated at 94.8% for Johnstown, with the remaining 5.2% being paid locally.

How will a capital project affect my taxes?

Our Board of Education members reside in the school district and are taxpayers just like you. They are seeking to keep any change in the tax levy low. While no firm figures are available at this time, as a point of reference, it is estimated that on a project of $22.2 million, the tax increase on a Johnstown home with a full value assessment of $100,000 would be $31.48 per year, less any applicable STAR exemptions.

What majority of voters is required to pass a capital project proposition in Johnstown?

This will be determined by the dollar amount of the proposition to be placed before the voters. If the cost of the capital project is below the district’s debt limit (5% of the average full value of last five years’ tax rolls), a simple majority of voters (50 percent plus one), will be necessary; if the cost of the capital project exceeds the district’s debt limit, a supermajority of voters (60 percent), will be required.

Where can I get more information about the project?

Community forums will be announced in the near future and will be open to anyone who wishes to attend. Updates regarding the capital project will also be posted to the school district website.

Download a copy of the FAQs (PDF)

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New Principal Selected for Warren Street

The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicole Lent as the principal for Warren Street Elementary School. She has most recently served as the assistant principal at the Gloversville Middle School.

Mrs. Lent is replacing R. Scott Ziomek, who has served as the principal at Warren Street Elementary since 2009. He has accepted a position as the assistant principal for Schalmont Middle School in Schenectady.

Prior to her 2011 administrative appointment at Gloversville, Mrs. Lent served as an elementary teacher in the Northville School District, teaching Grades 1, 2 and 4 for nearly ten years. She also taught special education in the Mayfield Central School District and at Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga.

Mrs. Lent earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology at SUNY Cortland, a Master of Science Degree in Special Education at Russell Sage Graduate School, and Administrative Certification through the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

The Johnstown Board of Education approved Mrs. Lent’s appointment at their business meeting on September 11. A search committee, composed of board members, administrators, faculty and parents, assisted in interviewing candidates for the position and recommended Mrs. Lent as one of two finalists for consideration. The Board of Education believes she is a great fit for Warren Street School and the Greater Johnstown School District.

Mrs. Lent and her family reside in Fulton County. She will begin her tenure in Johnstown on October 14, 2014.

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Beatles Tribute Motivates Staff to Start Year on High Note

Beatles Tribute Motivates Staff to Start Year on High Note

Gathered for a Superintendent’s Day Conference, all Johnstown School District employees – from administrators and educators to clerical and custodial staff – were told to “Come Together” in the Performing Arts Center at the high school for mandated training on the afternoon of September 3. This was followed by a joint message from Superintendent Robert DeLilli and Director of Curriculum, Testing & Personnel Trish Kilburn, setting the tone for the new school year.

Beatles Photo SmallTheir presentation was peppered – or perhaps “Sgt. Peppered” – with Beatles’ references, comparing the Beatles’ “REvolution,” growth and change over the years to that of education in the district; touching on where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going. However, no one could have “Imagined” what was coming next. As the PowerPoint ended and the screen retracted, the stage curtains parted to reveal the band “Hey Jude the Tribute,” billed as “Upstate New York’s First and FabFourMost Tribute to The Beatles!”

This special event replaced the traditional annual keynote speaker that is usually provided through grant funding as part of ongoing Professional Development. The purpose of a keynote address is to motivate staff to “Come Together” and prepare for a successful year with “A Little Help from My (their) Friends.” By all accounts, the inspiring performance by “Hey Jude the Tribute” was a big success. It didn’t take long before people were on their feet with a “Twist and Shout,” dancing in the aisles, enjoying the moment and relieving the stresses built up over a “Hard Day’s Night” and a summer punctuated by frenzied preparations for the coming school year, including the intense labor of classroom moves for Grade Level Grouping and long hours of curriculum development.

Much has changed in the world – and in education – since The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show fifty years ago in 1964. Some of these changes are easily accepted, and some are more challenging. But in Johnstown, as we say “Hello, Goodbye” to new faces and old ideas, there is no doubt among staff that “We Can Work it Out” as we move forward with the 2014-2015 school year!

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Enjoy video  from the performance:

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