More accountability needed from Schenectady school officials
According to this year’s Albany Business Review Schools report, Larry Spring, Schenectady City schools superintendent, is the fourth highest paid superintendent in the area, raking in a total pay and benefits package of $249,877, of which $192,291 is salary. It doesn’t add up.
Schenectady ranks dead last in student spending; 90 out of 90, a mere $16,531 per student. And that’s not for lack of income, as school taxes on a $300,000 home are $8,344. Higher than every other regional school on that same list.
But the inconsistencies only get more alarming. For a quarter of a million dollars a year, Larry Spring’s leadership should be generating big changes in our schools. And it is, but not in a positive direction.
Schenectady remains at the bottom of the school ranking. This year, Schenectady ranked an overall 83 out of 84 ranked schools — just ahead of Albany city school district and behind the Amsterdam city school district. The biggest failure is the long-term impact our failing school is having on the future of our students. Ranking for 2015 SAT scores shows Schenectady ... well, we didn’t even make the list, having an average SAT score somewhere below Middleburgh’s average score of 1,381. (For perspective, Scotia-Glenville’s average score is 1,521.)
There was one place our school overachieved and that was in not reaching the finish line. Schenectady ranks second in regional school dropouts, with a rate of 8 percent. This is in spite of the fact that locally most schools had fewer dropouts and more graduates, and that the overall dropout rate has been steadily falling statewide and nationally.
So what to do? Well, it all comes down to accountability and metrics ([School Board President] Cathy Lewis, you remember those from your GE days). The shareholders and boards of corporations hold CEOs accountable and use metrics to measure job performance. We expect nothing less as parents and taxpayers.
Here are the three metrics for Mr. Spring’s 2016-2017 school year: 1) Reduce the dropout rate 1 percent to align with the national average of 7 percent; 2) Improve the average SAT test score to a minimum of 1,460; 3) Improve the 2017 overall ranking one place. That’s it.
Three metrics. Just like a major corporation. Achieve the metrics or update your resume. It’s the expectation everyone at River Road gets held to, it’s what my clients hold me to, and it’s the expectation all of us have for someone making a quarter of a million of year with the responsibility of educating our children.
As parents, we can no longer accept statements by board members that there is “no money.” We know that is categorically untrue. It’s now in black and white and sitting in everyone’s mailbox. It’s not about money; it’s about allocation, accountability and measurement.
Mr. Spring and members of the school board, GE may be done with the employee review system, but yours has just begun. It will be administered by parents and taxpayers. Consider us a tough boss.
Raising smoking age to 21 an abuse of government power
I was disappointed to see The Gazette’s June 23 editorial supporting the Schenectady County Legislature’s proposal to raise the age allowed for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Drive — age 16. Vote for congressmen, president of the United States, and the like — age 18. Join the military/fight in a war — age 18. Just these three activities require maturity, responsibility and careful decision-making. All three can affect the health and welfare of the individual, as well as others. What makes the county of Schenectady (or any other Big Brother) think that the same young people participating in the above-mentioned endeavors do not have the ability to make their own choices regarding tobacco? The logic eludes me.
Laws have already been passed to prohibit smoking in public. As a nonsmoker, I especially appreciate that, as those laws protect my health along with that of others. I have a problem, however, with Big Brother making laws that take away the rights of individuals when those rights primarily affect only the individual. Preventing an 18-year-old from buying cigarettes has little, if anything, to do with the health of the general public.
One may naively think it protects the 18-year-old’s health, but that is a pie-in-the-sky idea. There is nothing to stop an older person from buying the cigarettes for the young adult. There is nothing to stop the young adult from driving to the next county or state to buy his cigarettes.
If we trust a 16-year-old to get behind the wheel of a car, we better trust him to decide whether or not to buy cigarettes for himself! If Big Brother is so concerned about an individual’s health, why not raise the age of purchasing tobacco to 25 or 30? Why not outlaw being in the sun between the hours of 10 and 2? Why not outlaw pie-eating contests? Hot dog-eating contests? Certainly anyone under the age of 21 is not capable of making the right choice when it comes to deciding on his participation in sports such as football and boxing. Do you see how out of control this can get?
At some point, each individual citizen must make his own decisions about his own health and welfare. Big Brother would be wise to spend more money educating young people about the pros and cons of tobacco, sun, obesity, etc., rather than taking away their rights. By giving some major privileges (driving, voting, joining the military) to 18-year-olds, and denying others, sends mixed messages, and is wrong. I hope others see the hypocrisy in Schenectady County wanting to get on the bandwagon of no common sense.
Concerned citizens should attend the public hearing at 7 p.m. on July 5 in the Schenectady County Legislative Building on State Street.