February Board of Education meeting rescheduled to Feb. 12

The Fort Plain Central School District Board of Education will hold its regular meeting in the Ronald  H. Thibodeau  Conference Room at the Harry Hoag Elementary  School at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 12.

The Board’s regular monthly meeting was originally scheduled for Feb. 7.

Fort Plain Boys Bowling wins WAC Title

Congratulations to the Fort Plain boys varsity bowling team that won the Western Athletic Conference league championship at Spare Time Lanes in Schenectady on Jan. 31.

The team of Brady Fureno, Zach Young, Damien Young, Anthony Paradiso, Jacob Hazlett, and Taylor Gifford combined to knock down 2,944 total pins to top second-place Middleburgh (2,854 total pins).

Fureno led the way with a 224-235-221 series for 680 total pins. Zach Young rolled a 157-157-196, Damien Young had a 180-193-206, Paradiso added a 206-217-199, and Hazlett had a 182-189-182.

The team now moves on to the Section II tournament at Boulevard Bowl in Schenectady on Feb. 8.

Jr./Sr. High School Students of the Month – January 2018

Congratulations to January’s students of the month for the Jr./Sr. High School (nominator in parentheses)!
  • Grade 12 – Emily Marsh (Mrs. Jarabek)
  • Grade 11 – Mackenzie Wintermute (Mr. Jarabek)
  • Grade 10 – Franklyn TenEyck (Mrs. Cooley and Mrs. Jarabek)
  • Grade 9 – Rachel Zuppardi (Mrs. Jarabek)
  • Grade 8 – Noah Norton (Mrs. Wilder and Mrs. Summerfield)
  • Grade 7 – Alex Rivkowich (Dr. Pombrio)

Hand-knitted mittens, Happy Faces!

Anne Hoteling of Little Falls – the aunt of Harry Hoag Elementary School teacher Joan Dise – donated over 25 pair of beautifully hand-knitted mittens, in a wide variety of colors to Fort Plain Elementary students this winter.

The mittens have brought big smiles to many.

Beyond the comfort that the mittens have given students, the gift provided an opportunity for students to learn as they wrote thank you notes to Hoteling on cards donated by Jean Ronan Photography.

Students composed messages and wrote neatly enough for the Post Office to deliver the notes and so the messages could be read when they arrived.

“It is amazing what motivation to write there is when the purpose is real, and meaningful,” Dise said. “Joy and happiness was felt by the students, not only because of their comfy mittens – one student actually wore his to bed – but they also felt pride in their completed work. Mrs. Hoteling’s felt the same way when she received the ‘priceless’ letters. It was a great job by our students and I want to give a huge thank you to Mrs. Hoteling. She is, as one student said, a ‘very nice knitter!’”

Governor Unveils Executive Budget, School Aid Proposals

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented an executive state budget proposal that includes a $769 million increase in overall funding for school operations in the 2018-19 school year on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

The New York State Capitol Building.

Under the governor’s proposal, total school aid for 2018-19 would be $26.4 billion, which represents a statewide increase of 3 percent.

The bulk of the funding increase would go toward three areas: $338 million in additional Foundation Aid, which is the primary source of funding for everyday school operations; $317 million to reimburse districts for designated expenses such as transportation, construction and BOCES services; and a $64 million Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

The proposal also targets additional funding for community schools, pre-kindergarten and after-school programs, teacher development and school breakfast initiatives. Other elements that may affect public schools include restrictions on spending and new plans for revenue sources.

The executive budget proposal is the formal beginning of budget negotiations between the governor and the New York State Legislature, with a final state budget due by April 1. The plan put forth by Gov. Cuomo seeks to close an estimated $4.4 billion deficit for the state and to address uncertainties in federal funding and the impact of new federal tax rules.

Find a breakdown of projected state aid for each school district based on the governor’s proposal at https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/exec/fy19local/school/1819schoolformula.pdf.  (Montgomery County schools are on Page 6)

General funding less than half of Regents’ recommendation

The governor’s proposed increase in education funding is less than half of the amount recommended by the Board of Regents and the Educational Conference Board (ECB), a coalition of the state’s major education groups. Last fall, the Board of Regents called for an overall $1.6 billion increase in school funding for 2018-19, and ECB estimated $1.5 billion was necessary to maintain current school services next year.

Both groups also asked the state to fully fund and ensure equity in the Foundation Aid Formula. The formula was enacted in 2007 to ensure all school districts have the funding needed to provide students with a sound, basic education, but its phase-in was stalled during the recession. The state currently owes schools $4.2 billion in Foundation Aid based on the formula.

Last year, Gov. Cuomo called for adjustments to the Foundation Aid Formula, but those changes were not enacted in the final state budget.

This year, he has proposed a new mandate that would require large school districts to develop plans for how they will distribute their state aid among individual schools each year. In 2018-19, the proposed mandate would apply to districts in cities with populations of more than 125,000, and would be expanded in 2019-20 to include school districts containing at least nine schools and receiving at least 50 percent of their total revenue from the state. These districts would need to submit their aid distribution plans for state approval before the start of each new school year.

Funding for targeted education initiatives in budget proposal

The governor’s budget proposal calls for targeted funding in a series of education initiatives and programs, including the following:

  • Community Schools: The proposed Foundation Aid increase includes a $50 million set-aside for community schools. Districts must use these funds for community school initiatives such as before- and after-school mentoring, summer learning activities, health services and dental care.
  • Prekindergarten: The proposal includes $15 million in new funding to expand half-day and full-day kindergarten programs for three- and four-year olds, with a focus on high-need districts that do not currently have a prekindergarten program.
  • After-school Programming: The proposal includes $10 million in new funding to expand the Empire State After School Grants program in districts with high rates of homelessness or that serve students in high-risk communities.
  • Early College High School: The proposal includes $9 million in new funding to create 15 new Early College High School programs in communities with low graduation or college access rates.
  • Smart Start Grants: The proposal includes $6 million in new funding to create the Smart Start program, which would provide grants for teacher development and resources in computer science and engineering. All schools could apply, but grants would go to the highest-need schools first.
  • School Meals:
    • Breakfast After the Bell: The proposal includes $5 million in new funding to support schools with additional meal costs related to the implementation of a mandate proposed for 2018-19. That mandate would require schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to provide all students with breakfast after the school day begins.
    • Ban Lunch Shaming: New legislation in the budget also would require most schools to develop and get state approval for a plan to ensure students are not shamed or treated differently for having unpaid meal balances. It would apply to all public schools that participate in the national school meals program and do not currently provide free school meals to all students.
    • Encourage Use of Farm-fresh New York Foods: The proposed budget expands the Farm to School Program and provides incentives for school districts that purchase 30 percent of their food from New York farmers and growers.
  • Test Assistance for Families: The proposal includes $2 million in new funding to help low-income students with the cost of taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. It also includes $500,000 in grants for districts that don’t have, but would like to offer, advanced courses.
  • Teacher Recognition and Professional Development: The proposal includes $1.4 million in new funding for an additional cohort of master teachers in high-need districts and a third round of Empire State Excellence in Teaching Awards.

New revenue proposals and restrictions in budget proposal

In his budget address, the governor proposed several new “revenue raisers” and restrictions on education spending that would affect schools if implemented, including the following:

  • STAR: The proposal would hold the value of School Tax Relief (STAR) Basic and Enhanced exemptions for property taxpayers at existing levels rather than allowing them to grow at the current rate of 2 percent annually. It would also make participation in an income verification program mandatory for recipients of Enhanced STAR benefits.
  • Cap on Expense-based Aids: The proposal calls for a 2 percent cap on the growth in major expense-based aid categories such as construction and transportation beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
  • Tax Code Changes: The governor shared that the state is exploring ways to restructure its tax code in response to recent tax reforms at the federal level. Some changes could affect school funding such as allowing tax deductible, charitable donations to a public education fund. More details on what the governor is calling the New York State Taxpayer Protection Act are expected in a report from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Visit https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy19/exec/index.html for more details on the governor’s budget proposal.

Legendary Fort Plain baseball coach wins national Coach of the Year honor

Legendary Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips was named a 2017 National Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association last week.

Philips is the only baseball coach and one of just 23 high school coaches from across the country to be selected for the honor that the NFHS has awarded since 1982.

“To be honored with this award from our small school in upstate New York, I am just extremely honored. I hope I have made a difference, but most of all I am so proud that we have such great kids and such a great school and community that support the program and me,” said Phillips. “To be honored in this way is a great, great honor.”

“Coach Phillips’ selection as National Coach of the Year is a tremendous honor. It is also well-deserved,” Fort Plain Superintendent of Schools David Ziskin said. “Craig’s love of the game and his players has defined his career. He has made a unique and indelible imprint on the athletes he has coached, Fort Plain and on high school athletics in New York State.”

“I have known Craig for a very long time and seen him in action for a very long time and this kind of award recognizes not only the success of his teams, but also overcoming adversity,” Fort Plain Athletics Director Charlie Karker said. “This award recognizes the time, effort, and care that he has given to Fort Plain – not just the school or the team – all of Fort Plain.”

Phillips enters his 45th season this spring with more than 750 career wins – the most wins in the history of New York State high school baseball – and that success hasn’t waned over the last few years either.

Over the past two seasons, the Fort Plain baseball team was a combined 37-6, won the 2016 Class D New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) championship and reached the Section II final last year.

Phillips called the 2016 state title “improbable” at the time. The then-No. 3 seeded Hilltoppers beat top-seeded Fort Ann in eight innings, 2-1, in the Section II title game. Fort Plain then went on to beat Genesee Valley, 11-0, in the state semifinal and West Canada Valley in the state championship game, 11-6.

Always the coach, Philips said of his upcoming 2017 team, “We don’t have any seniors this year, but I expect us to still be pretty good.”

Overall, the Hilltoppers have won 24 league championships, 10 Section II titles and a pair of state championships during Philips’ tenure. The first sectional title was in 1981 and the first state crown came in 2007 in Class C. Including the 2016 run, Fort Plain has played in five NYSPHSAA state tournaments.

Even though Phillips tends to deflect his own accomplishments, he was named the NYSPHSAA Coach of the Year in both 2007 and 2016. He has served on the Section II baseball committee for 35 consecutive years and was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He was inducted into the Capital Region Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

“There is something so intriguing about the game of baseball. Every year, there is always a restart of the season. It is always fresh and new. Since we are a small district, we always have new players that are question marks, but they have to play. We are lucky enough that they respond to myself and my other coaches,” Philips said. “I have to thank all of my assistant coaches from over the years. I started out alone, but without them, in this day and age, there is no way we would be as successful without them. I also want to thank the community for supporting our program and the school for giving us, and maintaining, such a gorgeous facility that we get to use.”

Phillips has had dozens of league, section, and state all-stars on his rosters over the years including 2016 New York State Sportswriters Association Class D Player of the Year, and 2017 First-Team All-State selection, Drew Fureno. Former players have also followed in the coach’s footsteps into the dugout. Former Hilltopper Jabin Weaver was named the head baseball coach at Hudson Valley Community College this past fall.

“I have coached so many great kids from great families, but I have never coached a grandson yet,” Philips joked as he rattled off name after name he has put on roster cards over the years. “We have a saying here in Fort Plain, ‘tradition never graduates.’ I know I am a tough guy to play for, but the way that the players, school, and community have rallied around baseball they have made that saying remain true for many years and it will remain true for many more.”