Fort Plain wins $2,000 grant from Walmart

The Fort Plain Central School District won a $2,000 grant from Walmart earlier this week.

The grant will fund “Smarter Social Studies,” and create a Resource Library of more than 120 new books to be used by 60 seventh-grade students. The books will be selected to help students become familiar with early American history concepts.

The grant was written by Laura Whalen from Capital Region BOCES. The grant team has won a total of $52,187,655 for its associated school districts.

Area children, ages 18 and under, can eat free this summer at Harry Hoag Elementary

Parks, Libraries, Schools, and More. Find Summer Meals link.

All area children are invited to receive free meals this summer at Harry Hoag Elementary School every day until Aug. 4. Breakfast is served between 8:30-9:30 a.m. and lunch between 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Just stop in and get a free meal – open to all kids and teens ages 18 and under.

There is also an open meal site at East Hill Elementary in Canajoharie that runs from July 10 – Aug. 18.

Fort Plain Junior Emory Sammons takes First Place at the State Finals Rowing Championship

Fort Plain Junior Emory Sammons recently finished First at the State Finals of the Scholastic Rowing Association of New York State. Featuring competitive rowing for athletes in grades 7-12, the SRA is one of the largest and strongest rowing programs in the country. Emory rows for the Saratoga Rowing Association, traveling to Fish Creek in Saratoga for regular practices and training.

Emory and his teammates recently competed in the state championships on May 12 and May 14. He came away the 1500m Varsity Men’s Singles Champion with a time of 5:44.5, which was 1.8 seconds ahead of the runner-up from Amadeuzs Rowing Academy in Long Island. There were 8 boats in the finals, with 4 from Amadeusz, 1 from Long Island Rowing Club, 1 from Rye HS, and 1 from F.D.R. HS.
Emory then competed with his rowing partner Mike Newell, from Cohoes, in the 1500m Varsity Men’s Doubles finals and came away a champion again! They finished with a time of 5:03.4, almost a full 6 seconds ahead of the second place team from Shenendehowa. Other teams represented included Saratoga HS, Sagamore HS and Canisius HS, along with several teams from Amadeusz.

Emory will now move on to the Northeast Championships in Worcester, MA. This will be followed by the Scholastic Rowing Association Nationals in Camden, NJ. In addition, Emory has also qualified to represent New York State at the Youth Nationals in Sarasota, FL on June 9th-11th. He has also been asked to participate in training with the US National Team in San Diego, CA this summer! Emory is the son of Victor and Amy Sammons.

Voters approve 2017-18 Fort Plain budget on May 16, 2017

Fort Plain Central School District residents voted in support of the district’s 2017-18 school budget May 16, by a vote of 159 to 48.

The approved $19,890,000 budget plan calls for a 2 percent spending increase over the current year’s budget with a 1.95 percent tax levy increase.

Voters also approved a second proposal on the ballot which authorizes the use of $270,000 from the District’s Bus Purchase Reserve Fund for the purchase of new school vehicles with 155 yes votes. 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 re-elected three members of the Board of Education to three-year terms commencing on July 1, 2017 and expiring on June 30, 2020.

David Przestrzelski received 161 votes, Todd McFee received 179 votes, and Jeffrey L. Jones received 173 votes.

Unified Basketball comes to Fort Plain School District

Playing basketball for the school team is something some students never get to experience, whether it’s because of an intellectual or physical disability, or simply a lack of nerves to try out. But thanks to a new program, all students at Fort Plain will now have that opportunity.

The first unified basketball league at Fort Plain CSD kicks off on Thursday at the Harry Hoag Elementary School at 4:15 p.m. The league is put on by the Special Olympics and Section V, which runs school sports in the region.

A unified league means anyone can play including someone with a mental or physical disability. “The end goal is to include everyone and hopefully build friendships that last off the court,” said Linda Cole, Special Education teacher and advisor to the Youth Activation Committee.

Thirteen athletes are participating in grades 9-12. The team will play six games throughout the month of May. Home games begin at 4:15 p.m. and are played in the Harry Hoag Gymnasium.

Come on out and cheer on the team:
Thursday, 5/11, Home vs. Gloversville
Monday, 5/15, Home vs. Amsterdam
Thursday, 5/18, Away at Glens Falls
Wednesday, 5/24, Home vs. South Glens Falls
Wednesday, 5/31, Away at Queensbury

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. 

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.