2017-18 proposed budget goes before residents on May 16

On Tuesday, May 16, residents of the Fort Plain Central School District will vote on a proposed $19,890,000 budget for the 2017-18 school year. The Board of Education adopted the budget proposal on Wednesday, April 12.

Improved Learning Environment and Outcomes

  • Safety and Social-Emotional Development Health
  • Curriculum Development and Support
  • Fiscal Resources
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Use of Data to Inform Practice and Decisions

The proposed budget carries a 2 percent spending increase with a 1.95 percent tax levy increase, which is below the District’s calculated tax levy “cap” of 6.26 percent. A simple majority of voters (more than 50 percent) is required for budget approval.

“The priorities identified by the Board of Education continue to guide budget development in the FPCSD,” said Dr. David Ziskin, superintendent of schools.

“A long-term commitment to clearly defined priorities ensures our resource decisions are purposeful and grounded in what we believe will best serve the interests of Fort Plain students and taxpayers. The 2017-18 Fort Plain School District budget directs resources to our greatest areas of need while again remaining within the allowable tax cap for our District.”

Revenues for the district come from two main sources – local taxes and state aid. Fort Plain is slated to receive a 2.57 percent increase in state aid for next year. Ziskin said that while this increase is welcome, a portion of it is offset by the fact that a 10-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) is set to expire, which lessens the potential positive impact of the state aid increase.

Aside from the proposed increase in the tax levy for next year of 1.95 percent (or $5,580,146), Fort Plain is also proposing to use $780,000 from fund balance (essentially district savings) to help fund anticipated expenses for next year.

Resources directed to identified priority areas

The Board, administrators, and faculty teams at the Junior-Senior High School and Harry Hoag Elementary continue to identify opportunities for improvement and to implement corresponding action plans within each of the District’s identified priority areas. Highlights of areas supported in the 2017-18 proposed budget include:

Priority Area: Safety and student social and emotional developmental health

The FPCSD faculty and staff have received research-based training designed to create trauma-sensitive environments for students who have been affected by adverse childhood experiences. In 2017-18 efforts will continue to ensure that all students are supported in ways that enhance their potential to learn.

At Harry Hoag, a Student Behavior Intervention Team gathers data and identifies strategic interventions for students struggling with various aspects of the school environment. A key component for this team has been the addition of a Behavior Specialist who supports students and teachers with strategies that correct and prevent behaviors that can disrupt learning.

The Junior-Senior High School also has a team of professional staff, the Child Study Team (CST), which regularly discusses students who may require supportive interventions. One new option for support available to this team is an Academic Coaching Center (ACC), where the focus is on providing time and space for students who may need extra support to ensure they are progressing toward graduation. Students who present risk factors are referred by the CST to receive academic coaching from a certified teaching assistant. A personalized approach is taken to assist students in coping with factors that may pose barriers to success in school.

“The ACC is a safe place for students who otherwise may have dropped out or not graduated,” said teaching assistant Denise Smith.

Priority Area: Curriculum development and support

2017-18 will mark Harry Hoag Elementary School’s third year of instructional coaching with Dr. Cheryl Dozier, a University at Albany professor with childhood literacy expertise. Dr. Dozier works with grade-level teams and models instructional strategies to support consistent implementation of research-based literacy strategies throughout the school.

Department leaders at the Junior-Senior High School will continue to facilitate the creation of curriculum blueprints and assessment development in 2017-18. Also, the high school planning team is in the process of designing two new pathways to graduation. A pathway is a themed-based approach that includes high school coursework that leads to college credits, or industry certification, as well as a high school diploma. In Fort Plain, two pathways that integrate career education into core academics are in the planning stages. The first is Engineering Technology, which utilizes the Engineering by Design curriculum, the second will be connected to Business Management.

Priority Area: Family and community engagement

The Board has targeted building trust and communication with parents as areas for emphasis over the past two years. Information is made available to parents, students, and the community through various forms of print and electronic communication including newsletters, the District Facebook page, the Remind text service, and the District website which is currently being redesigned.

Priority Area: Fiscal resources

“The Board and administration are committed to providing a strong education to our students in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Dr. Ziskin. “The tax levy increase proposed is again below 2 percent. In fact, the tax levy is still less than it was five years ago.”

As student and instructional needs were assessed, it became apparent that staffing adjustments would be necessary. An elementary special education teacher will be added due to an influx of students requiring special education support entering kindergarten. A speech pathologist will also be added to account for an increased need for services. These additions are being offset by the elimination of two teaching positions in other areas and a reduction in contracted speech services.

 Other items on the ballot

A second proposal on the May 16 ballot will ask residents to vote on the use of $270,000 from the District’s Bus Purchase Reserve Fund for the purchase of new school vehicles. Expenditures of reserve funds require voter approval; however, since 100 percent of the cost is paid from the fund, there will be no impact on the tax levy.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be asked to elect three members of the Board of Education to three-year terms commencing on July 1, 2017 and expiring on June 30, 2020. Todd McFee, Jeffrey L. Jones, and David Przestrzelski terms expire on June 30, 2017.

Qualified residents of the Fort Plain Central School District will vote on the proposed budget Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Polls will be open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Harry Hoag gymnasium. 

Checkmate – The Harry Hoag Elementary Chess Club

Harry Hoag Chess Club had approximately 30 students in grades 3rd – 6th participate in Chess Club this year. They met on Tuesdays in the Elementary School library where they learned about the “Game of Kings” over the last three months. They were guided in their discovery by advisors Mr. and Mrs. Arndt. Several high school student volunteers, including Bradley Najdek (grade 10), Shawn Murphy, Chris Burgess and Cameron Tamsett (all grade 8) assisted the chess club.

Club members practiced fundamentals including board set-up and starting combinations and learned important skills. More advanced players studied beginning and intermediate level strategy.

According to ConnectionsAcademy.com, some benefits for elementary students who play chess are:

Chess playing improves concentration and memory. According to studies done at the University of Memphis, playing chess significantly improves children’s visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability.

Chess playing enhances reading and math skills. Researchers found that students who played chess showed more improvement in reading and/or math assessment scores than their non-chess-playing peers.

Chess playing fosters logic, critical thinking, and creativity. Chess favors the “if–then” thinker. “If I move here, then my opponent may move here, here, or even here.” That’s logic and critical thinking in action.

Playing chess also encourages and rewards hard work. Chess offers immediate feedback. Lose your focus, lose a piece.

Fort Plain’s American Ninja Warrior

It started off as a way to bond with his children but it turned into a three-year physical and mental journey toward becoming an American Ninja Warrior for 40-year old Fort Plain art teacher, Geoff Snyder.

Always fitness-minded, Geoff and his son began building their own Ninja courses in their backyard after watching the television show that features a live-action obstacle course.

“It started with a peg-board in my backyard,” explains Geoff. “This gave me and my kids a way to bond and offered an outlet for me.”

Soon the obstacles became more challenging and he and his kids would go to the playground and practice some of the feats they were watching on the evening show. This turned into traveling and competing at Ninja competitions for both him and his children. He also worked with the high school technology teacher, Kreig Heroth, to build obstacle courses for the elementary physical education program.

Last year, he was one of over 70,000 people who apply to compete for the title of American Ninja Warrior each year. He was turned down. “It was the best thing that could happen,” said Geoff. “It pushed me to work harder.”

Working hard is not new to Geoff who was born with a heart defect and received a pacemaker at the age of 16. “I’ve never allowed that to be a limitation for me. If it wasn’t for my pacemaker, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”

Last week, as he was packing up at the end of school day, he got the phone call. Geoff will travel to Cleveland May 7-9 to become one of the 600 selected applicants in this year’s competition.

Geoff will get a walk-through of the course prior to the competition, but won’t get a chance to try any of the elements until go time, where contestants will run the course from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., not knowing when they’ll compete during the night.

“That’s when it will hit me,” he said. “When my toes are on the line and they start counting down.”

With his children and five of his co-workers cheering him on, he will no doubt have fans back in Fort Plain who will eagerly await the Season 9 premiere of American Ninja Warrior in hopes of catching of glimpse of their hometown hero.

If Geoff makes it through the first two rounds in Cleveland, he’ll be invited to compete in the four-stage course in Las Vegas later this summer.

The American Ninja Warrior series began in 2009 and promises $500,000 to the first American champion.

But according to Geoff, “Anything from here on out is just icing on the cake. I’m so much better off than when I began this journey, both physically and mentally.”

2017-18 state budget includes $1.1 billion education funding increase, preserves Foundation Aid formula

On Sunday, April 9, New York lawmakers approved a 2017-18 state budget that calls for an overall increase in education funding of $1.1 billion, or 4.4 percent.

Lawmakers enacted the budget nine days after the April 1 state budget deadline, providing school district leaders with critical state aid information as they finalize school budget proposals for the 2017-18 school year. Voters will consider those proposals during the statewide school budget vote day on Tuesday, May 16.

The overall state aid increase includes $700 million in additional Foundation Aid and growth of $289 million in state reimbursements for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services. These are the predominant sources of state funding for everyday school operations and capital improvements.

The remainder of the state aid increase includes additional funding for charter schools and increased state support for a variety of school initiatives, including afterschool programming, prekindergarten and school technology. The $1.1 billion increase is less than the $1.5 billion that the Educational Conference Board, a coalition of statewide education groups, said last fall would be necessary to preserve current school services next year. The Board of Regents had recommended an increase of $2.1 billion.

The budget preserves the Foundation Aid formula for distributing school aid, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed to discontinue in his executive budget proposal in January. Foundation Aid was enacted in 2007 to ensure all school districts have the funding needed to provide students with a sound, basic education.

The 2017-18 state budget supports several other programs and initiatives related to education:

• Pre-kindergarten: The budget provides an additional $5 million to continue the expansion of half-day and full-day prekindergarten programs for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.

• Community Schools: Total Foundation Aid includes a $150 million “set aside” for community schools, an increase of $50 million over 2016-17. The funding will continue efforts to turn schools designated as struggling, as well as those in other high-need districts, into community hubs that provide academic, physical and mental health care, afterschool programming and other services to students and their families.

• Afterschool Programming: The budget includes $35 million in new funding to expand afterschool programs for students in schools located in designated high-poverty areas. This new funding will create an additional 22,000 spots for students in afterschool programs.

• Technology: The budget includes $5 million to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in nonpublic schools.

• Charter schools: The budget includes a $5.6 million increase in charter school funding.

• Early College High School: The budget includes $5.3 million to add new early college high school programs, with a focus on developing computer science programs, and nearly $1.5 million for the continuation of existing programs.

• Advanced Placement Test Assistance for Families: The budget includes an additional $1.5 million to help low-income students with the cost of taking AP exams.

• Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards: The budget provides $400,000 for a second round of Empire State Excellence in Teaching awards, providing at least 60 selected teachers across the state with a $5,000 award for professional development activities.

• Cyberbullying: The budget provides $300,000 to fund certain school-based initiatives to combat cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment.

• STAR: More than $3.15 billion of the state budget will fund New York’s STAR (School Tax Relief) and Enhanced STAR exemptions for property taxpayers. The budget does not hold the value of STAR exemptions at existing levels, as was proposed by the governor in January.

Additional resources

 Governor Cuomo announces passage of the FY 2018 state budget

 Senate Passes 2017-18 State Budget 

 Enacted state budget (New York State Division of the Budget)

 School aid runs

Fort Plain students participated in Watershed Symposium

On Friday, Mar. 17, the Geology Department at Union College hosted the Ninth Symposium on the physical aspects of the Mohawk Watershed in New York State. The scientific program was partly focused on water quality, in addition to a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal. The meeting highlighted recent and on-going work in the watershed during oral and poster presentations and technical sessions. Fort Plain had two groups of student representatives participate.

 The Fort Plain/Canajoharie Environmental Study Team traveled to Union College to present their poster of this past summer’s research. The Team consists of high school students with an interest in science and service. Their mission is to create partnerships with other like-minded groups, such as the Friends of Fort Plain and the Schoharie River Center, to encourage environmental awareness within the local community. This year’s members of the Fort Plain/Canajoharie Environmental Study Team are: Emily Abrams, Baileigh Behan, Michael D’Arcangelis, Zoe D’Arcangelis, Madeline Elliott, Michael Hoffamn, Jason Huang,Quinn Jones, Calli Logan, Patrick Murphy, Julia Stockwell, Bryce Thibodeau, Lexi Veitch, and Mackenzie Wintermute. A published version of their extended abstract

Also in attendance was Harry Hoag Art Teacher Autumn Slawienski and resident artist, Mrs. Bickers, who displayed the fourth-graders recently created mosaic of the Eric Canal. “It was a wonderful experience to be in a room filled with (mostly) scientists and have them asking questions and being completely astounded at what our fourth graders accomplished,” said Mrs. Slawienski.

Legal notice of budget hearing, budget vote, and election




To the qualified voters of the Fort Plain Central School District, Fort Plain, NY: NOTICE is hereby given that the Public Hearing on the School District Budget for the 2017-2018 school year will be held in the Jr. Sr. High School Auditorium on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.


AND FURTHER NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Annual District Meeting and Election of the qualified voters of the Fort Plain Central School District will be held in the Harry Hoag School Gymnasium in said District on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at which time said vote and election will be held between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., prevailing time at which time the polls will be opened to vote by voting machine upon the following items:


Proposition 1: To adopt the annual budget of the School District for the fiscal year 2017-2018 and to authorize the requisite portion thereof to be raised by taxation on the taxable property of the District.


Proposition 2: Authorization to Purchase Buses: Shall the Board of Education of the Fort Plain Central School District be authorized to:  (a) acquire school vehicles at a maximum aggregate cost of $270,000.00; (b) expend such sums for such purpose; (c) expend from the Bus Purchase Reserve Fund an amount not to exceed $270,000.00 for such purpose; (d) levy the necessary tax therefore, to be levied and collected in such amounts as may be determined by the Board of Education taking into account state aid received and amounts disbursed from the reserve fund; and (e) in anticipation of the collection of such tax, to issue bonds and notes of the District at one time or from time to time in the principal amount not to exceed $270,000, and to levy a tax to pay the interest on such obligations when due?


To elect two (3) members of the Board of Education to a three (3) year term commencing on July 1, 2017 and expiring on June 30, 2020 to succeed Tod McFee, Jeffrey L. Jones, and David Przestrzelski whose terms expire on June 30, 2017.


AND FURTHER NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that petitions nominating candidates for the office of member of the Board of Education shall be filed with the Clerk of said School District at his office in the Harry Hoag School not later than April 17, 2017 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00

p.m. Each petition shall be directed to the Clerk of the District and shall be signed by at least 25 voters of the District, and must state the name and residence of the candidate.


AND FURTHER NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that applications for absentee ballots will be obtainable between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays, from the District Clerk. The District Clerk must receive completed applications at least seven (7) days before the election if the ballot is to be mailed to the voter, or the day before the election, if the ballot is to be delivered personally to the voter. Absentee ballots must be received by the District Clerk not later than 4:00 p.m., prevailing time, on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.


A list of persons to whom absentee ballots are issued will be available for inspection to qualified voters of the District in the office of the District Clerk on and after May 15, 2017 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays prior to the day set for the annual election and on May 16, 2017, the day set for the election. Any qualified voter present in the polling place may object to the voting of the ballot upon appropriate grounds by making his/her challenge and the reasons therefore known to the Inspector of Election before the close of the polls.


AND FURTHER NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the qualified voters of the School District shall be entitled to vote at said annual vote and election. A qualified voter is one who is (1) a citizen of the United States of America, (2) eighteen years of age or older, and (3) a resident within the School District for a period of thirty (30) days immediately preceding the annual election. The School District may require all persons offering to vote at the budget vote and election to provide one form of proof of residency pursuant to Education Law Section 2018-c. Such form may include a driver’s license, a non-driver identification card, a utility bill or a voter registration card. Upon offer of proof of residency, the School District may also require all persons offering to vote to provide their signature, printed name and address.


AND FURTHER NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that pursuant to a rule adopted by the Board of Education in accordance with Sections 2035 and 2008 of the Education law, any referenda or propositions to amend the budget, or otherwise to be submitted for voting at said vote and

election, must be filed with the Board of Education at the Fort Plain Central School District on or before April 17, 2017 at 4:00 p.m., prevailing time; must be typed or printed in the English language; must be directed to the Clerk of the School District; must be signed by at least

twenty-five (25) qualified voters, or five percent (5%) of the registered voters of the District who voted in the previous annual election of Board members, whichever is greater; and must state the name and residence of each signer. However, the School Board will not entertain or place before the voters any proposition if its purpose is beyond the power of the voters or is illegal, or any proposition requiring the expenditure of moneys which fails to include specific appropriations for all such expenditures required by the proposition.


Courier Standard Enterprise

Please publish April 7, 2017; April 21, 2017; May 5, 2017; and May 12, 2017.


Amsterdam Recorder

Please publish March 31, 2017; April 10, 2017; April 19, 2017; and May 10, 2017.


Website beginning March 31, 2017

Notice of Public Hearing and 2017-18 Budget Vote

A Public Hearing on the proposed 2017-18 Fort Plain School District Budget for the 2017-2018 will be held in the District Office Conference Room on Wednesday, May 3 at 7:00 p.m. The annual Budget Vote and Election will be held in Harry Hoag School Gymnasium on Tuesday, May 16, between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be asked to elect three (3) members of the Board of Education to a three (3) year term commencing on July 1, 2017 and expiring on June 30, 2020 to succeed Tod McFee, Jeffrey L. Jones, and David Przestrzelski whose terms expire on June 30, 2017. Petitions nominating candidates for Board of Education need to be filed with the Clerk by April 17 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Each petition needs to be signed by at least 25 voters of the District, and must state the name and residence of the candidate.

Applications for absentee ballots will be obtainable between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays, from the District Clerk. The District Clerk must receive completed applications at least seven (7) days before the election if the ballot is to be mailed to the voter, or the day before the election, if the ballot is to be delivered personally to the voter.

Absentee ballots must be received by the District Clerk not later than 4:00 p.m on Tuesday, May 16. 

A copy of the Legal Notice sent to papers is available here. Follow the budget development on our Budget page. 

Hold the Mayo – Students get a shout out from Subway Corporate Headquarters big wig, Don Fertman, for their creative sandwich ideas

Students in Mr. Cutspec’s, Mr. Bogus’, and Mr. Arndt’s Reading class were recently given the task of creating their very own Subway sandwiches. As part of a daily writing prompt, they were asked to describe their sandwich ingredients and give it a catchy name.

Little did they know, their ideas were sent to Don Fertman, Subway Chief Development Officer and two-time “Undercover Boss,” who selected the three sandwiches he believed showed the most promise.

Sean Alaimo (8th grade) created the Fort Plain Bomb, made of: Salami, buffalo chicken, pepperoni and mayo on choice of bread.

Morgan McFee (9th grade) created The Morganator; a TexMex-based sandwich with tortilla and salsa.

Kayla Alaimo (9th grade) created The Bite, made of ham, salami, baloney, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar and mayo on wheat bread.

Each of the above student’s received a gift card to Subway and a personal video message of congratulations. An opportunity to ‘Eat Fresh’ as a result of practicing writing skills is pretty neat, any way you slice it. In the words of Mr. Fertman, “Rock on Fort Plain.”

Water Tests for Fort Plain Schools

In September 2016, a state law went into effect that requires all public school districts in New York to test water for lead. The law requires school districts to sample all water outlets currently or potentially used for drinking or cooking purposes in buildings that may be occupied by students and to submit those samples to a state-approved lab for analysis. Regulations call for testing to take place again in 2020 and every five years thereafter, unless the state Commissioner of Health requires testing sooner.

The state established an action level of 15 micrograms of lead per liter, typically referred to as “parts per billion (ppb).” If a sample from a water outlet exceeds this level, schools must take steps to prevent the use of the outlet for drinking or cooking purposes until it is remediated and follow-up testing confirms it is no longer above the action level.

School districts are required to report the results of all water testing to the state Department of Health, the state Education Department and the local health department, and to post the results — along with remediation plans, if required — on the official district website.

Fort Plain Central School District is conducting water testing according to the state law. Results of testing are being posted on this page as they become available.

Lead-free Buildings

Lead-free, as defined by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, is based on the lead content of plumbing materials. Federal laws enacted in 1986, and updated in 2011, limit the amount of lead that can be used in new plumbing and fixtures. A building can be deemed lead-free if it was built after Jan. 4, 2014, or a New York State licensed Professional Engineer or Architect certifies it to be lead-free.

Under New York’s new law, school districts are not required to conduct water testing in buildings designated as lead-free. Fort Plain School District has no buildings designated as lead-free, as defined by the Safe Drinking Water Act, so all are subject to the new water testing law.

Mosaic murals almost complete

Harry Hoag fourth-grade students are putting the finishing touches on mosaic murals they have been working on since September. This is the second year students have had the opportunity to work with visiting artist Linda Biggers, thanks to a $3,000 grant received from the Saratoga Arts Council. Saratoga Arts made this program possible with an Arts Education Grant funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

 In collaboration with their social studies unit, students are creating three murals (a triptych) of the Erie Canal. Historian Dave Brooks of Schoharie Crossing kicked off the unit in September with a presentation about the canal. Students then selected images from his presentation that they wanted to feature in their artwork.

Ms. Biggers visits the school a total of five times to instruct and guide students on working with glass to create the murals. She works alongside Fort Plain art teacher, Autumn Slawienski.

Last year’s classes created a mosaic mural featuring historical landmarks and architecture from around Fort Plain which now hangs outside the cafeteria at Harry Hoag. “This program has been so successful, we are hoping to continue next year with plans to depict the current and future projects along the river,” said art teacher Autumn Slawienski.

This year’s murals will be finished by the Christmas break and turned over to Ms. Biggers for grout and drying. They will then be returned to the school for display.