Schenectady County

Duanesburg superintendent: Canceled class was too advanced

Duanesburg Central School District Superintendent Chris Crowley has released a statement saying the

Duanesburg Central School District Superintendent Chris Crowley has released a statement saying the decision to abruptly cancel an organic chemistry class at Duanesburg High School last winter was reached after it became clear the curriculum was too advanced for students.

In a lengthy statement posted on the district’s website this week, Crowley said a review of the curriculum was launched in January after some of the students and their parents raised concerns. She said district administrators conducted the review in consultation with the state Department of Education and determined the course material to be above the level they intended.

“We intended to offer the course as a higher-level, in-depth honors high school class, not as a college-level class,” she said in the statement posted Tuesday. “Offering a college-level course in high school requires that a designated college approve both the teacher and the curriculum content, but neither had occurred.”

Crowley also indicated canceling the class in February and allowing all nine students to pass was the only amenable resolution to the situation. She said some students didn’t realize the difficulty level and “were not fully prepared to participate” in the class.

“We regret that a lack of proper oversight in the development of this course has led to this outcome, and we have since implemented a curriculum review process, developed by department chairs, to prevent a situation such as this from happening in the future,” she said in the statement.

But the statement did little to appease the half-dozen students appealing to the district for their grades in the course or their supporters. Elizabeth Nowicki, an attorney who took up the cause of the students, characterized Crowley’s statement as disingenuous, since it doesn’t take into consideration the facts that have been laid out before her and members of the district’s Board of Education.

For instance, she said the school board, high school principal and primary course instructor had worked together to develop the course. Also, she said a majority of the students who took the class for two quarters believed they were prepared adequately for the class and are satisfied enough with their marks to lobby for their actual grades.

“Those students were proud of how they did in class,” she said Wednesday.

Students from the class and their parents are accusing the district of purposely manipulating the grades. They filed a lengthy complaint with the state Education Department in March, accusing the district of grade tampering.

Nowicki said the students also have no intention of yielding in their goal to get their grades back. She credited the students and their supporters for waging a grass-roots effort to replace board members supporting the decision to cancel the class.

Incumbent board member Henry “Gus” Geidel was handily ousted from his seat during the district’s election Tuesday. District voters resoundingly supported Kent Sanders for the seat vacated by Cecilia Tkaczyk after she resigned to join the state Senate; Ken Meyer, who had the second-most votes, will replace Geidel when the new board is seated in July.

Nowicki said students used social media and word of mouth to get eligible voters to the polls. She said high school seniors even turned out to cast a protest vote in the effort to unseat Geidel.

“[The election] was really a triumph in terms of the students learning about accountability and government,” she said. “There was a grass-roots effort at the very last minute, and we accomplished something.”

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