Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence Spring has the ability to replace all staff at Hamilton and Lincoln elementary schools because they have been labeled by the state as “struggling.”
But Spring, the schools’ designated internal receiver, has no intention of doing that, Lori McKenna, the district’s director of planning and accountability, said during the first of two hearings Wednesday on Lincoln’s receivership status.
“He, as well as the school leadership and the district leadership, believes in the staff at Lincoln Elementary School, and we believe that the Lincoln students and the families here in the community need the staff that are here,” she said.
The same goes for Hamilton Elementary School, where hearings were also held Wednesday, she said.
“It’s not about throwing the baby out with the bath water,” McKenna said. “It’s about tweaking the existing initiatives that are currently in place at Lincoln Elementary School and really just refocusing our efforts here and targeting, really targeting, the instructional needs of each of our students and closely monitoring those students who are struggling.”
As two of 124 schools across the state labeled as struggling, the Schenectady schools must make demonstrable improvement within two years or they will be taken over by an independent receiver approved by the state Education Department. The schools must make changes to meet 10 benchmarks, five from the state and five identified by the district. The requirement came under a new law passed with the state budget earlier this year.
A state-appointed receiver could change the schools’ curriculum, length of day, instructional strategies and leadership, McKenna said.
“It’s a pretty serious status, even under internal receivership, but certainly much more serious when we get to that external receivership status,” she said.
About 15 people, including teachers and administrators but no district parents, attended the first hearing in the Lincoln gymnasium. It started at 2:15 p.m., shortly after students were dismissed for the day.
Mike Sylvestrie, vice president of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers, said the district’s teachers would be working to improve student outcomes regardless of the receivership status. He looked over one of several posters on the gymnasium’s wall, which outlined how the school can improve its curriculum.
“Would we be having this meeting right now? No,” he said. “But the things you see on these walls, a lot of this would have been going on whether the governor passed this or not. This is what we do for a living.”
Lincoln Principal Laura Buzas said the faculty has the belief, passion and commitment needed to improve student performance on state exams.
“We plan to couple that with data-driven, thoughtful, supportive, instructional moves,” she said. “So how do we make sure that our students get precisely what they need to grow academically every single day? [W]e know that it takes a team approach.”
Community engagement teams consisting of administrators, teachers, parents and other community members have been formed to help guide the schools’ efforts, and will eventually have student representation as well.
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