BALLSTON SPA– Members of the Master Teacher Fellowship program gave a presentation outlining the purpose of their group at the Ballston Spa Central School District (BSCSD) Board of Education meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 6 at the Ballston Spa High School Library. The program has served as a way for teachers to collaborate with other teachers not only to work on new teaching methods, but on other aspects of the district.
“Through coaching, teachers essentially work with teachers to meet district, building, and individual goals,” said Valarie Karas, Coordinator of Common Core Standards for BSCSD, and supervisor of the coaching program. “Most importantly, it is collaborative—the coach does not enter as an expert, but as a partner in the process of planning, implementing, and reflecting upon instruction.”
The team began last summer, when BSCSD received a Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Grant. It is composed of Karas as well as six Master Teacher Leaders from the district
According to Karas and the rest of the group, the fellowship has already had 37 sessions in the past three months with over 600 participants, and has received positive feedback based on those who attended. They have also recently attended conferences such as the New York State English Council and the Bureau of Educational Research.
“The biggest successes have been seeing the impact of the collaboration in action in the classrooms,” Karas said. “Our professional development is differentiated to meet the needs and wants of educators throughout the district.”
Karas has sights set on the future of the team, with plans of reaching out to other teachers outside of the district as well as working with education author Dr. Denise Nesse in the coming weeks.
“There are many options for how teachers can utilize coaches, with one of the most powerful being co-teaching and model lessons within their own classrooms,” Karas said. “They are willing to take risks and try new teaching methods, knowing they will be supported along the way.”
During the previous meeting of the Board held on Dec. 17, Superintendent Joseph P. Dragone Ph.D. addressed budget goals for the 2015-2016 school year. Planning for next year’s budget is still underway, but according to the presentation, the New York State Educational Conference Board recommends that here needs to be a statewide $1.9 billion increase in total aid to maintain programs.
Dragone also predicted a student enrollment decline of two percent by 2019-2020 “as smaller classes replace larger graduating classes.” This has been part of an ongoing trend, in the past four years; BSCSD enrollment has decreased .4%, the least of the other Suburban Council Schools.
The school intends to maintain “investments in academic programs, staff, and support of students”, according to Dragone.
The next school year will also be the first year United States Department of Education’s Race to the Top will be ending its funding, giving the New York State Education Department the chance to provide funds to state school districts.
A vote on next year’s finalized budget will be held Tuesday, May 19, 2015
The next BOE meeting will be Jan. 21 in the Ballston Spa High School Library, 220 Ballston Ave. , Ballston Spa at 7 p.m.