Board Briefs


April 9, 2015

Gregg Kastanis and Dr. Linda Rachele Burke, instructional leaders for middle and high school science, respectively, held a presentation on science curriculum work at the secondary level. They focused on the Next Generation Science Standards and integration of English language arts and mathematics into science.  

The NGSS represent a national set of standards that will likely be reflected in New York State’s new standards, which are currently being developed through a strategic plan with an anticipated 2016 introduction. The NGSS emphasize depth of content and application of learning, with a focus on inquiry and engineering.

Due to prudent planning, Mr. Kastanis explained, the middle school is already ahead of the curve in becoming aligned with the forthcoming state standards. Curriculum revision work began in 2012 with the goal of meeting or exceeding the NGSS and enhancing student instruction and performance. At this point, all seventh- and eighth-grade teachers have piloted more than one NGSS unit, and the district is working with a consultant to make further adjustments.

Dr. Burke described the ways in which the Common Core Learning Standards in literacy and mathematics fit into the science programs at the middle and high schools. The two subject areas play many roles in science. Students draw upon their literacy knowledge while completing the reading and writing components of science assignments and employ math concepts in collecting and analyzing scientific data. Standards that develop skills in literacy and mathematics are incorporated into science lessons through a variety of techniques. Unit plan development for 2015-16 will continue as the district moves forward in aligning its curricula with the standards.



March 26, 2015
Instructional Leaders Present to Board of Education

Instructional leaders from several departments at the middle school and high school presented an overview of ways in which Common Core has caused instructional and curricular shifts that affect teaching and learning at the secondary level.  Teacher leaders and administrators provided examples of new developments and innovations in the classroom, for example the examination of “truth” from multiple perspectives and through the study of multiple source documents; an understanding of “intended audience;” and an overall shift from content-based instruction to skills-based instruction.  

Board Unanimously Adopts Budget
In a unanimous vote, the Board of Education approved a proposed budget for 2015-16. The Board is presenting a fiscally responsible budget that is actually a decrease from last year’s spending, with a tax levy that is below the calculated allowable limit and is also a decrease over the current levy. This is the second consecutive year of budget-to-budget spending and tax levy decreases.  At the same time, the budget provides for the addition of new courses offered at the high school; continues to support full day kindergarten, instructional leadership, and a senior internship program; and it provides appropriate staffing levels to ensure that desirable class sizes are achieved.  All budget information can be found on the district’s website in ‘Budget Information’ under the BOE tab in the main navigation of the site.

Re-examination of proposed Elementary master schedule changes
A special public forum was held to hear from community members regarding proposed changes to the elementary master schedule in grades four and five. The Board affirmed the need for more general education classroom instruction as brought forward by the administration but also determined that the proposed solution could be decoupled from the budget adoption. This will allow the administration more time to further study the issue and to afford the opportunity for dialogue with teachers and other stakeholders in the coming months.


March 12, 2015

Special Education Review
At its meeting on March 12, the Board of Education heard a presentation from Connie Hayes, Director of Special Services, on a review of the district’s Special Education program and related student services by the Tri-State Consortium, which took place on-site in October of the current school year.

The consortium is a group of 44 school districts in NY, CT and NJ that is focused on exploring continuous improvement methods for high performing schools. Over the past 13 years, Katonah-Lewisboro has been the subject of four peer reviews by the Consortium, with the latest being in the area of Special Education. This review evaluated the extent to which the department is addressing three essential questions in its programming and delivery of resources to students, including alignment and articulation of support, use of data to inform decisions, and preparation for post-secondary pursuits.

Comments from the visiting committee were identified in response to each of the three questions. Eight program standards were then identified, with the district receiving commendations and recommendations in relation to each standard. For example, the district was commended for its work on the second standard (Student Metacognition in the Learning Process) by demonstrating "evidence at all levels that students engage in conversations about their strengths and weaknesses.” It was recommended for this same standard that the district focus on developing and disseminating a research-based district definition of metacognition, along with understanding how students learn, not what they learn.

A steering committee will analyze and address the specific recommendations of the Consortium, which will conduct a follow-up visit in October of 2017.

Continued Budget Dialogue
Interim Superintendent John Goetz presented minor modifications to the proposed budget, which was discussed by the Board. These modifications included staffing reinstatements at the high school and middle school, and adjustments to a variety of support services. Board members also heard a second presentation from administrators on a recommended reduction of 0.8 FTE (full time equivalent) in music instruction at the elementary (grades 4-5) level, which was supported by the Board.

The revised proposed budget represents a budget (spending) decrease of 2.24%, and a tax levy decrease of 2.12%. The administration has proposed four questions for the ballot, including:
1. The Budget
2. Purchase of buses
3. Permission to Establish a $2.5 million Capital Reserve for facility improvements
4. Permission to Bond $1.975 million to replace the Meadow Pond Elementary School Roof


February 26, 2015

Board Briefs: Budget to Constrict for Second Consecutive Year
At the February 26 meeting, Interim Superintendent John Goetz presented the outline of a proposed budget for 2015-16 that calls for a decrease in spending of 2.44% and a decrease in the tax levy of 2.35%. If approved by the Board, this proposed budget would meet the Board of Education goal on fiscal stewardship to "adopt a budget that … does not exceed the tax cap and achieves spending levels at a rate which does not exceed the current 2014-15 budget."
The administrative proposal includes enhancements to the current budget by adding computer aide time in grades K-8; increasing monitor coverage at the MS to provide greater supervision of four new afterschool clubs and activities; increasing staffing in grade 7 to reduce average class size; adding electives at the HS; incorporating a strength and conditioning coach at the HS for the winter sports season; and implementing an EPC (Energy Performance Contract) to reduce energy consumption, among a host of smaller items.
"Major budget increases include health insurance premiums and costs associated with out-of-district special education placements." Offsets to the increased spending include reductions in retirement system costs, debt service, staffing (due to enrollment decreases), equipment and utilities. District enrollment is expected to decrease by 148 students to a total of 3056. As a result, staff reductions of 4.1 FTE (full time equivalent) positions are projected for the elementary school, and the high school will see a reduction of 2.5 FTE in a variety of subject areas.
A proposal for a second proposition to purchase five 66-passenger school buses, one van, and four minivans is also anticipated.
Additional budget review and discussion will be held on February 28, March 12 and March 19. The budget will be adopted on March 26 and a public hearing will be held on May 7 in advance of the May 19 vote date.

January 22nd

Lewisboro Elementary School
Interim Superintendent John Goetz provided the Board of Education with an update on the potential utilization of Lewisboro Elementary School. Mr. Goetz reported that the LES Utilization Committee, which is comprised of 13 members (including five community members, three central office administrators, two district operations & maintenance employees, two Board of Education members, and the Lewisboro Town Supervisor), has met five times since October. The group has reviewed New York State regulations that guide the leasing of unused district facilities, identified the building’s pros and cons, and made contact with a real estate agent who has toured the building as a courtesy and offered thoughts on its potential as a commercial property. An RFP draft has been requested of the district’s legal counsel to help retain the services of a licensed commercial real estate broker to assist the district.

Mr. Goetz noted that the committee is well on the way to aligning the interests of both the school district and the town. Next steps include a site visit to the French Hill Elementary School in the Yorktown School District for a first-hand look at how that district has addressed a similar issue, along with preparations for community focus groups on the utilization of the building.

Veterans’ Exemption
The Board of Education discussed the next steps associated with the implementation of the Veterans’ Exemption. A public hearing was set by the Board for Monday, February 23rd at 7:30 pm, likely in the JJHS library. The Board also reviewed a draft of an online community survey that will made available in February as an alternative means of gathering community feedback on this issue.


January 8th

Highlights from the Thursday, January 8 Board of Education Meeting:
At the first meeting of the new calendar year, the Board discussed the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption. This law expanded existing legislation that provides property tax exemptions to military veterans (who served during wartime only). Like municipalities, school district can now authorize partial property tax exemptions for military veterans.  

Last year, the time frame to study the impact of the law on non-veteran households was too compressed to consider whether to extend the exemption for 2014-15.  The Board of Education discussed the exemption last February and, like most districts across the state, agreed that further study was required.  The district has since analyzed the impact of the exemption on veteran and non-veteran households and the Board reached consensus that it would like to pursue the possibility of implementing the exemption and that it will schedule a public hearing, the next step as required by state law. The exemption can be implemented at various levels which will cause a  redistribution of a portion of the tax levy to all other (non-veteran) taxpaying households. Therefore, the Board wants to hear perspectives on the matter from the community, and will request participation in an online survey where residents can share their thoughts about the matter.

A presentation by Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Debra Legato provided the Board and community an overview of the district’s APPR plan and the results of our district, several peer districts, and other regional and state data. APPR is the Annual Professional Performance Review, which is the state-required evaluation of a teacher’s or principal’s practice. Local districts negotiate with their teacher and principal unions to craft evaluation systems that must be approved under the state evaluation framework. These evaluations, which include quantitative weighted scores for state assessment performance, local testing, and classroom observations, are supposed to measure how well teachers and principals are performing,

This is the fourth year of the controversial tool, which has been criticized by a broad spectrum of education leadership professionals, researchers and even the Governor himself, who decried the fact that recent conclusions show that the vast majority of teachers in the state have been rated as effective or highly effective. In Katonah-Lewisboro, approximately two-thirds of the district’s teachers were rated as effective, and approximately one-third were rated highly effective.  These statistics are very consistent with our comparable districts.

Ms. Legato noted that the Governor has pledged to reform the evaluation tool through the budget process this winter/spring. Interim Superintendent John Goetz noted that most districts are taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude with regard to changes or improvements pending the results of the legislative season.

Chris McCarthy, Director of Health, Physical Education and Wellness was joined by teacher Geoff Curtis in a presentation of the district’s Health, Physical Education and Athletics Plan. Mr. Curtis spoke about JJMS and HS health education developments, which noted the expansion of technology in the curriculum, and Mr. McCarthy discussed the evolution of the physical education program to a fitness-based curriculum, specifically the ‘PolarGoFit’ program to mobilize students to be vigilant about their physical fitness, even if they are non-participants in organized athletics. Mr. McCarthy also updated the Board on policies regarding the selection/classification of student athletes, which is a model program to appropriately place students in grades 7-12 on athletic teams. Mr. McCarthy’s proposal calls for students in grades 7 and 8 to be eligible to participate in the HS varsity athletic program in Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, and Wrestling, and for the same students to be eligible to participate on the JV squads in Baseball, Basketball, Field Hockey, Football, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball and Volleyball.  He did not request any immediate Board action at this time, but rather requested that the Board review the proposal for possible implementation in the fall.

December 4th

Highlights from the Thursday, December 4 Board of Education Meeting:

Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper provided the Board with the FACE report, an annual expenditure forecast to provide the Board with direction for future expenditure budgets. This report does not take into account new initiatives, state mandated costs, and related unanticipated expenditures. It looks forward four years by examining the areas of enrollment, salary and benefit costs, insurance costs, debt service, technology and numerous other areas of operation.

The report provides an early estimate of the next year’s expenditure budget, which shows a projected decline in spending of roughly $2.7 million, or about 2.45%. Spending is projected to remain relatively flat in 2016-17, and generate increases of 2.26% and 2.45% in the subsequent two years.

Program initiatives that could impact the spending budget include curriculum needs, additional technology upgrades, safety enhancements, and class size preferences. Impacts to the expenditure budget that are difficult to forecast include fuel, retirement system contributions and special education placements.

Mr. Jumper noted that a full-day budget workshop is scheduled for February 28, with adoption slated for March 26.

November 20, 2014

Highlights from the Thursday, November 20 Board of Education Meeting:

1. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Alice Cronin, along with several other administrators, presented an overview on student achievement in the district and the New York State Common Core Learning Standards. Results for the English language arts and math assessments were provided for grades 3-8 for the 2013-14 school year, as well as comparison data for 2012-13.

Administrators also discussed the Common Core and how the district is implementing the standards within the classroom. The entire presentation can be found on the district’s website on the Board Docs section for the November 20 meeting (click on Board Meetings/Info/Policies) under the BOE tab.

2. The Board of Education passed a resolution authorizing the district to enter into a leasing agreement to finance an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) with Honeywell International, Inc. By entering into an EPC, the district is able to use future cost savings from reduced energy consumption to essentially “repay” the cost to install energy-saving equipment.

The district has been researching its options for an EPC for approximately two years. Now that the financing has been secured for the project, the district can move into the second phase of the plan and construction can begin. The full resolution can be found on the district’s website on the Board Docs section for the November 20 meeting (click on Board Meetings/Info/Policies) under the BOE tab.


November 6, 2014

Highlights from the Thursday, November 6 Board of Education Meeting:

1. Internal Audit of Purchasing & Accounts Payable

The findings of a recent internal audit were presented to the Board of Education by Mr. David Moran, Director of the Education Practice for Accume Partners.

The scope of this audit included examination of the "adequacy and effectiveness of internal controls over the Purchasing and Accounts Payable processes." Accume auditors reviewed district policies and procedures, interviewed staff, and tested internal controls over the processes of bidding, new vendors, employee expense reimbursements, cash disbursements and accounts payable warrants.

The business office received a Satisfactory rating from Accume, which is the best possible rating.

October 23, 2014 

Highlights from the Thursday, October 23 Board of Education Meeting:
1. Superintendent Search Consultants provided the Board of Education with a Leadership Profile Report in which findings associated with perceived strengths of the district, perceived challenges, as well as desired characteristics of the next Superintendent of Schools were summarized.  This report will be used to inform the recruitment phase and next steps associated with the search process.

Superintendent Search Consultants presented consistently reported themes that emerged in their focus group interviews and through an online survey completed by over 450 stakeholders.  
The Board of Education wishes to thank members of the community, staff, and students for taking the time to meet with consultants and for participating in this information gathering stage of the process.

2.  The Governance team discussed student assessments associated with the district's Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan.

You are welcome to view the full Board of Education meeting when it becomes available on our website at /.

October 9, 2014

Welcome to Board Briefs, a web column of the Katonah-Lewisboro Board of Education, in which we summarize key topics from the prior Board of Education meeting and address District matters that have been brought to our attention.

Highlights from the Thursday, October 9th Board of Education Meeting:

1. Goals Adopted for 2014-2015

The Board of Education shall endeavor to hire a permanent Superintendent with an effective start date of July 1, 2015

The Board of Education shall endeavor to ensure excellence in academic and extracurricular programming while:

a.    Adopting a budget that is fiscally responsible, does not exceed the tax cap, and achieves spending levels at a rate which does not exceed the current 2014-2015 budget

b.    Managing the district’s infrastructural and human resources in a responsible, safe, sustainable manner with periodic reports to the Board of Education


The Board will promote effective practices that foster excellence in teaching and learning including the development and use of data to support deep, rich learning.  During 2014-2015, the Board will:

a.    Remain apprised of progress and best practices associated with the implementation of New York State education reforms including the Common Core Curriculum, the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), testing mandates, and Response to Intervention (RTI)

b.    Implement a curriculum and instruction review cycle which results in recommendations for curriculum modification, professional development, and new opportunities for students (e.g. virtual learning) that align with best practices; for the 2014-15 school year a review of world languages and math K through Algebra 2 & Trigonometrywill occur with recommendations to be made in the spring of 2015.

2. External Auditor Praises District’s Financial Management

As part of an annual review of the District’s Financial Statements, representatives from external auditor O’Connor Davies offered positive remarks regarding the accuracy and thoroughness of the District’s management of its finances.

O’Connor Davies Partner Alan Kassay indicated that exemplary management of the District’s books resulted in an audit where no “significant deficiencies” or “material weaknesses” were identified.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper thanked the District’s business office, audit committee and District Clerk Kimberly Monzon.

3. Board Approves BOCES Resolution

The Board of Education passed a special resolution on October 9 to advocate for BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) to adjust its current administrative fee structure, which would save Katonah-Lewisboro approximately $100,000 per year. We utilize the services of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES for a variety of important goods and services each year, and we are advocating that the fee structure should be aligned with the fee structure utilized throughout the rest of NY State. This resolution will be shared with the BOCES Board of Education and other participating school districts and further dialogue will ensue between our district leaders and BOCES leaders.

You are welcome to view the full Board of Education meeting on our website at