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Schenectady's Hamilton school to leave receivership

Schenectady's Hamilton school to leave receivership

Hamilton Elementary School will be removed from the state receivership list in July after improving
Schenectady's Hamilton school to leave receivership
A sign on the front of Hamilton Elementary School in Schenectady reminds the public of the capital project referendum vote in 2014.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Hamilton Elementary School will be removed from the state receivership list in July after improving its status with the state Education Department, according to a department release Friday.

But Keane Elementary and Schenectady High School were both trending in the wrong direction, with Keane joining Lincoln Elementary on the state’s list of the lowest-performing schools.

Hamilton, along with Lincoln, was one of two Schenectady schools identified as “struggling” under a new state law, placing the schools under superintendent receivership. The receivership status gave the district superintendent greater authority over staffing and program decisions at the school level.

The Education Department on Friday released the state’s list of “priority” and “focus” schools — priority is the designation given to the state’s lowest performing schools. Statewide there are 188 priority schools and just 91 outside New York City.

Since Hamilton was reclassified from priority to focus on Friday, it will be removed from the struggling schools list and the receivership list effective June 30, lifting an administrative and psychological burden from the school’s students and staff.

It was business as usual at Hamilton on Friday. Students in a fifth-grade class, working on iPads, raced against each other to finish multiplication problems. In the main office, administrators swapped receivership jokes — no lunch breaks, “we are in receivership.”

Schenectady schools Superintendent Larry Spring said he was pleasantly surprised that state education officials used the new priority list to knock schools out of receivership. While Spring has said he thought Hamilton didn’t belong in receivership in the first place, he thinks Friday’s announcement was “validation” of the school’s improvement.

“I think it is validation of the work that people have been doing there,” Spring said. “It’s clear that when we pair up enhanced resources and rigorous practice, we will make growth.”

Lincoln, which didn’t change its status, will remain a struggling school subject to the receivership law. Keane School moved in the wrong direction, according to Friday’s release. It was reclassified from focus to priority.

As a new priority school, Keane will be required to implement a “whole school reform model” by the 2018-2019 school year, according to the Education Department. Spring said the district will begin shifting more resources to Keane as well as export the teaching models and accountability procedures that worked for Hamilton. Keane’s reclassification does not mean it will be added to the receivership list; that would happen if it stayed on the priority list for multiple years.

“We recognize that any of our schools could have similar difficulties,” said Schenectady Board of Education President Cathy Lewis, who was also pleased with Hamilton’s reclassification. “So we want to replicate the models of success.”

The high school was reclassified from a “local assistance plan” school — better than focus or priority — to a focus school. Spring attributed the high school’s reclassification to challenges improving graduation outcomes for students with disabilities. A total of 12 Schenectady schools are classified in the focus category.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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