School administrators and school of education graduate students gathered at UAlbany’s Massry Conference Center on February 3 to hear our BOCES superintendents discuss and debate complex education and policy issues facing districts during CASDA’s Annual District Superintendent Panel. This year’s discussion featured panelists Gladys Cruz of Questar III BOCES, Charles Dedrick of Capital Region BOCES, James Dexter of WSWHE BOCES, and Patrick Michel of HFM BOCES. The program was moderated by CASDA Executive Director Dr. James Butterworth.
School funding was the program’s initial focus. Panelists shared their reaction to recent rhetoric from Republican legislators and Governor Cuomo on the tax cap, State Aid and the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA).
“Before the economy took a downturn, schools were given a dollar by the state. After the crash, the GEA was introduced and districts had to survive on just eighty cents. The next year, the state told schools they were increasing aid by five percent, and educators rejoiced. Schools, however, were only getting eighty-four cents of their original dollar,” Charles Dedrick said.
This situation allowed legislators to claim they were supporting education without sacrificing political capital while school administrators had to craft budgets, fund instructional programming and meet rigorous standards with significantly diminished resources.
The panel also fielded a question on the future of Common Core Learning Standards. Dr. Pat Michel analyzed the growing disconnect between standards, testing and educational practice. Jim Dexter suggested that the standards continue to maintain some relevance by stating that “when I take a flight, I want to know that the pilot has passed a landing exam.” Gladys Cruz elaborated on the relationship between the Common Core and instructional practice claiming that “standards, essentially, are what students need to know and it is up to teachers to determine how they get there.”
Dr. Butterworth concluded the program by thanking the audience for their thoughtful questions and the panelists for their willingness to share their honest opinions. He reflected on the complex nature of the policy and practice challenges facing the educational community quoting the maxim “for every complex problem, there are simple solutions, and they are wrong.” However, the level of respectful discourse at the District Superintendent Panel suggests that while the issues are complex, intelligent and dedicated educators are continuously working together as they strive to best serve their students and communities.