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Local ‘Focus’ schools aim to address issues

September 10, 2012
By ARTHUR CLEVELAND , The Leader Herald

Three local school districts the state has identified as "focus districts" will develop plans for improvement.

According to New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, 70 districts across the state - including Gloversville, Northville and Amsterdam - were identified as focus districts. A total of 496 schools within those districts are identified as "focus schools." Among these schools are five in the Gloversville Enlarged School District, two in the Northville Central School District and four in the Greater Amsterdam School District.

Focus schools have shown "low performance and lack of progress in English language arts and math combined or graduation rates for one or more accountability groups," according to a news release from King. The accountability groups include racial/ethnic groups, low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities.

King said the focus districts must create and implement a "district comprehensive improvement plan," which will outline how the districts will use Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act money to promote academic achievement.

Focus districts were required to identify a minimum number of schools upon which the district would focus its intervention and support in order to improve student performance.

In the Gloversville Enlarged School District, the focus schools are Boulevard Elementary School, McNab/Meco Elementary School, Kingsborough Elementary School, Gloversville Middle School and Gloversville High School.

In Northville, the focus schools are the high school and elementary school.

In the Greater Amsterdam School District, the focus schools are the R.J. McNulty Academy, the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy, Amsterdam High School and the Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications.

Pat Michel, superintendent for the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said the improvement plans are mandated by the state and will be created with help from the state and BOCES.

As the superintendent for BOCES, Michel said he will make sure the plans are put into practice.

Michel said the plans will be made based on the result of studies.

"They may find that they are lacking in certain areas of special education, or certain areas in literacy or math, so they'll have to address those areas and suggest a scientifically based program to address those particular programs," Michel said.

Michel said the study should be done by the end of October, and the plans should be finished and approved by the end of October.

Michel said many of the schools on the list have been problem schools for decades. He said tough questions need to be asked about problems in the schools.

Pete Semione, president for the Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education, said the schools in Gloversville have been identified as needing improvement in the past.

"We've known this for years. It's just a different way the state is identifying us," Semione said.

He said the Gloversville district is trying to improve special-education programs by bringing in consultants and behavior specialists.

Semione said the district has been reaching out to parents, trying to stress the importance of education. He said the district also has been working with the Fulton County district attorney's office on absenteeism.

"It all starts at home," Semione said.

Joseph Andrews, a member of the Gloversville school board, said the district has a lot of experienced staff, as well as great facilities and students.

"That's what makes this so frustrating. There is no good reason why we have a 53 percent graduation rate," Andrews said. "We have all the factors in place to be a great district in the area and not the bottom district in the area."

Andrews said he feels the state recognizes this and that the district can't use poverty as a crutch for why schools are doing poorly. He said Gloversville has a lower poverty index than some districts.

Andrews said the district will do everything it can to meet the state mandates.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at



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