Review of Schenectady charter school not comprehensive enough
I’m a teacher proud to be part of the many and significant positive changes that have occurred this year at the International Charter School of Schenectady [ICSS]. Despite what’s been said, despite the votes cast, and despite what many have come to believe based on statements by the Charter Schools Institute, I can assure you that our students now are learning at a pace comparable to, if not better than, many of their peer institutions throughout the region.
I believe it’s an incredible injustice to the current team of dedicated administrators, teachers, concerned parents and students to recommend closing our school based on the limited information CSI has chosen to act upon. I’m not writing to discredit the institute’s report based on a two-day observance in November; what I do question, however, is why we were never observed again after making the changes CSI had recommended.
According to CSI Senior Vice President Jennifer Snead [March 4 Daily Gazette], it’s the policy of the institute not to make return visits to schools because there is always another set of test scores and improvements that they could make. Let me try to understand this logic: The people (CSI) who initially determine how well a charter school is performing do so by observing a school only once and never again because of the possibility of witnessing improvement?
How can two days of observation in November possibly be an accurate or fair assessment of how our students and our school are performing now? That would be analogous to a teacher observing a student in November and issuing a report card in early March concluding that the child is failing based on assessments made four months earlier. Forget the new strategies the child has learned; disregard the child’s scores over a four-month period; ignore admissions from the child’s teachers and parents about how much progress they have witnessed because none of this is deemed relevant and worthy of being included in determining the current grade!
I ask the SUNY Board of Trustees to examine closely what CSI has based its decision on. I ask the board to look at current, highly relevant student performance, not results from last year or even before.
Finally, I implore board members to visit our school at any time to witness firsthand what truly happens within the walls of ICSS — genuine learning in a positive environment.
SI Group’s PILOT is a good deal for Rotterdam
Re Mar. 1 letter, “Rotterdam IDA deal with SI Group a bad one for taxpayers,” by Woodlawn Democratic Committee President Robert Sanders: Once again, as with his recent letter on Assemblyman George Amedore, Sanders misstates the facts to achieve his goal of criticizing Republican officials.
Here are the facts of the PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] agreement between SI [Schenectady International] Group Inc. and the Rotterdam Industrial Development Agency. SI Group was scheduled to pay about $13.5 million in taxes over the next 15 years. This was based on an inflated assessment due to an extremely low equalization rate which pushed their assessment to about $31 million after a court ordered their assessment at only $18 million in 2002. SI Group stood to receive $1 million to $2 million in refunds if their litigation went to trial, and would have cost the town about $150,000 in legal fees.
It was likely that a court would have determined their tax payments to be about $11.5 million over 15 years. The PILOT calls for $10 million over 15 years, plus an extra $450,000 to the Schalmont School District. SI Group also waived rights to refunds from its pending litigation and will also provide a site for a new, badly needed water tower in Rotterdam Junction. As a result, this PILOT essentially has no cost to the taxpayers.
The PILOT not only helps preserve 182 jobs and create new ones, it also provides 15 years of stability for all taxing jurisdictions and an excellent corporate citizen, who will remain active in Rotterdam, rather than moving operations to another state, country or continent.
The writer is Rotterdam IDA chairman.
Lobbyists paying to play is the problem
This is regarding the March 3 Charles Krauthammer column, “Much ado over harmless lobbying.” Krauthammer gives only one side of the story — i.e. lobbying is a useful and necessary part of our society communicating its wishes to its legislators. What he conveniently ignores is that our legislators have set up a system whereby those who wish to reach them have facilitated access if they also contribute to the legislators’ campaigns.
Our legislators spend many hours schmoozing with donors instead of either doing the people’s business or spending quality time with their families. Krauthammer is correct in the point he does make, but the public will be much better served if lobbyists left their checkbooks at home.
Only full public funding of elections will clean up this legal corruption. Our legislators can make this possible. Citizens need to call on them to do exactly this.
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