Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chancellor & Health Commissioner Community Letter on MRSA (Staph Infections)

If only the school bathrooms had soap...

Office of School Health

Michael R. Bloomberg

Joel I. Klein
Chancellor Commissioner

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.
Department of Education Department of Health and Mental

Dear School Community Member:

If you have heard the recent news about drug-resistant Staph infections, you may be understandably concerned – especially after the recent, tragic death of a 12-year-old child in Brooklyn. We are writing to tell you what you can do to help keep your family healthy, and what the Health Department and Department of Education are doing about the problem.

Staph infections, even resistant Staph infections known as MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), are very common, usually minor, and can be cured. More than 20% of healthy people have Staph bacteria on their skin and will never get any illness from them; less than 1% of healthy people carry MRSA. The most common symptoms, if any, are skin sores. Staph and MRSA infections can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an open wound or by sharing personal items such as towels or razors. Although MRSA is resistant to some antibiotics, there are other antibiotics that can be used if treatment is necessary.

MRSA is a serious problem in hospitals, where it can spread rapidly. On the other hand, lifethreatening infections are extremely rare in our schools. Although hundreds of schoolchildren and staff develop these infections every year, very, very few develop serious complications. Spread of the infection within schools is rare and has been documented mainly among sports teams, e.g.wrestling, who have direct physical contact.

MRSA does not generally spread through a shared environment such as a classroom. It is not necessary to keep a student home from school, or to close the school, if a student has a Staph or MRSA infection. There is no health-based reason to disinfect a school building after a single case is diagnosed.

To reduce further risk, we are redoubling efforts to ensure that school bathrooms are equipped with soap and paper towels. We will also work to promote good hygiene in sports teams and locker rooms, and to increase education about hand-washing. We have also ensured that our cleaning procedures are effective against MRSA and other germs. When evidence suggests risk of spread within a school, the Health Department will notify your principal and work with the
school to address the issue.

Here are some things you and your children can do:

1. Keep hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

3. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and, during school activities, covered with a bandage.

4. Consult your doctor if you’re concerned about a skin infection that isn’t getting better.

Staph infections, even MRSA infections, are not a general health risk in schools. If you have questions, please contact your Parent Coordinator or 311.

Joel Klein, Chancellor, Department of Education

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Commissioner, Health Department

Rudy's Three Words

Joe Biden tells it straight about Rudy Giuliani talking about a record of experience.

"A noun, a verb and 9-11"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Perfected: The Ann Coulter Song

Leah Kauffman - the voice behind "I Got a Crush on Obama" - performs in the music video "Perfected."

Created by Ben Relles
Vocals: Leah Kauffman
Lyrics: Leah Kauffman, Rusty Ward
Director: Tom Small

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - War Criminal Condoleezza Rice Heckled At Capitol Hill Hearing by Code Pink Oct 24, 2007

An anti-war demonstrator accosted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she arrived to testify at a hearing on Capitol Hill, shouting "war criminal" before being dragged away by security.

Members of the Capitol Police department also removed several members of the anti-war group "Code Pink" from the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room, who struggled as they left.

The hearing began on schedule and Rice's testimony did not appear to be affected by the incident.

CodePink member Desiree Anita Ali-Fairooz, her hands painted red, is restrained by members of the Diplomatic Security Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007, after she confronted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, not pictured, prior to Rice testifying before the House Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

CODEPINK's Liz Hourican Forcibly Arrested Without Cause

CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin Gets Arrested for Flashing Peace Sign with Fingers

My daughter Madeline with Medea Benjamin at 2006 Brooklyn Peace Fair

New York State Board of Regents Meeting on October 22, 200y in Albany at the NYS Education Building...and media coverage...

On Monday October 22, 2007, I traveled to Albany NY to observe and attend the New York State Board of Regents Meeting in the State Education Building with the Alliance for Quality Education...

(Regent Geraldine Chapey, Shana Marks-Odinga and me)

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky...I was greeted by the hard working and committed Queens Regent Geraldine Chapey...

The Regents ask the legislature to full fund Full-day Pre-K for both the programs and transportation was recommended for allocation...

The Regents adopted the city's "Contract for Excellence" as an emergency measure only, (it was simply an extension for the city)... while the regents review their data more...a formal determination will be voted on at the December 13th meeting (their next, I believe)...The Regents want to try to approve the contracts for the big "5" at that meeting...The NYSED (Johnanna Duncan-Potier) thought the city went above and beyond the pale for public input by conducting their 5 borough sounded like most districts conducted no public comments period at the city was praised...The SED did not mention that the city waited until July when school was already out and most parents weren't aware of the hearings...SED felt they were well attended...

The Regents also addressed the issue on Long Island of school districts without schools in need of improvement or sufficient eligible kids (kids with needs, ell, special ed, etc)...this was the Padavan amendment that added funding to rich long island districts, as I recall...The Regents want these districts to be deleted from the "contracts" funding...

Vice Chancellor Merryl Tisch asked SED reps why they allow the city DOE to operate a school campus (specifically the MLK, Jr campus my daughter attends) with over 4000 students without having a fully functioning library for the students to use...the SED responded by saying they would expeditiously look into the situation and get it addressed and remedied in some reasonable manner posthaste...

(New York State Education Building)

NY Daily News - Erin Einhorn - Board of Regents Urges More Money for Full-day Pre-K

The State Board of Regents gave a boost to working parents Monday by urging more money for full-day prekindergarten programs.

Although parents celebrated earlier this year when lawmakers okayed a statewide expansion in schooling for 4-year-olds, the money was limited to half-day programs that last 21/2 hours.

"Working families are not really interested in half-days," said Maibe Gonzalez-Fuentes, a spokeswoman for the city Education Department. "Who's going to take care of [the kids] when the program is over?"

Although the city used its additional $61.5 million from the state to create 6,000 new pre-K seats, Gonzalez-Fuentes said part of that money may have to be returned because there's not enough demand from parents for the half-day programs.

(NYS Education Building)

The Regents, in issuing their budget recommendations, not only called for $104 million to be added to the state's $535 million pre-K budget, they also called on Gov. Spitzer and the Legislature to let districts spend that money on full-day programs.

Although the Regents' power is limited to recommendations, pre-K advocate Nancy Kolben of Child Care Inc. said their word is important.

"In this administration ... they look to the Regents as the educational experts in the state," she said. "It is very significant that the Regents have taken a strong leadership position on pre-K."

In the city, there are now nearly 54,000 seats in mostly privately run pre-K programs - about 20,000 fewer than experts say are needed to accommodate every child.

The Regents also called on politicians to increase state education spending by $1.9 billion - mostly to benefit districts with high numbers of poor, immigrant and academically struggling kids.

The New York Sun - Elizabeth Green - Regents Push for Expansion Of School Accountability Plan

In a vote of confidence for Governor Spitzer's plan to hold schools accountable for how they spend a historic influx in state funds, the state Board of Regents is recommending more strings for a larger school budget next year. The Regents are suggesting that New York raise school spending by $1.9 billion next year, to more than $21 billion, from $19.5 billion last year. The recommendation would channel more than $8 billion to New York City in the 2008–09 school year.

But the board also is seeking to expand on an accountability program Mr. Spitzer advocated last year as a way to ensure that the spending improves student achievement. The program requires schools to sign documents, called Contracts for Excellence, promising to spend their extra funds on a set list of policies — and then, at the end of the school year, to show how the policies have paid off.

Last year's push required schools under the contracts to consult with three groups of outside reviewers; next year, the Regents propose that schools be required to follow the reviewers' advice. The Regents also are advocating a new $10 million fund to help cover consulting expenses, which school districts now pay for in full.

(View to the west from the steps of the NYSE Building)

Negotiations over this year's contracts have been dragging on, but the state education commissioner, Richard Mills, said the talks should conclude in the next few weeks. He said the state wants to ensure contracts are as "strong" as possible. "The Regents want to come back into the legislative process and say: 'We used the dollars entrusted to us with great care. We're watching how those funds produced results,'" he said.

The Regents are calling for a larger portion of the funding increase, 73%, to go to school districts with high poverty rates. This year, 65% of the increase in state aid went to high-need schools.

In addition to accountability, the increase would go toward expanding programs at career and technical schools; extending prekindergarten; and expanding resources for non-native English speakers.

Newsday - Regents seek to push school over $20 billion for first time

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The state Board of Regents on Monday proposed a $1.94 billion increase in school aid for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which if adopted would bring total school aid to more than $20 billion a year for the first time.

The proposal would drive most of the increase to high-needs, mostly urban schools in an attempt to reduce the performance gap between students in poor districts and those in wealthier ones.

The proposal would work through the "foundation aid" system of directing state aid adopted earlier this year. That system replaced complex formulas that the Regents said failed to provide aid to the schools that needed it most.

(View of the NYS Capital from the steps of the NYSE Bldg)

The Regents proposal released Monday would increase school aid to New York City by $783 million, to a total of $8.1 billion. In the current fiscal year, New York City schools get $7.3 billion, after an increase of $616 million in the 2007-08 budget adopted in April.

The current amount of school aid statewide is $19.5 billion, after the Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer agreed to a 9.5 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, worth about $1.8 billion.

The proposal now goes to Spitzer who will consider it while drafting his 2008-09 budget proposal expected in January. That proposal would then go to the Legislature, which will try to reach agreement on a budget by the April 1 start of the fiscal year.

Earlier this year, the Spitzer administration warned that declining revenues will make the 2008-09 state budget now being crafted difficult because of a projected $3.6 billion deficit and Spitzer's promise of no tax increases.

Spitzer budget officials said the executive budget to be presented in January will likely increase spending by more than 5 percent before it goes to the Legislature. The Legislature usually adds $1 billion to $2 billion to the budget.

The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - Regents Propose $230 Million for Programs to Improve Achievement by Valerie Bauman

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Disadvantaged students would have an opportunity to receive additional support to graduate from high school with as many as 30 college credits if a new education initiative proposed by the state Board of Regents is successful.

The board is asking for a $230 million increase in spending, most of which would go to school aid to launch new initiatives. Among those is the Smart Scholars program, which would use $100 million to help at least 12,000 disadvantaged students graduate from college in as few as three years. The program is just one of several that would be directed at students and parents in poorly performing public schools.

"It's not just kids taking a course here or there to be interested in college," said Johanna Duncan Portier, the senior deputy commissioner of the education department. "It's really directed at getting kids on a pathway to college completion."

(The base of the flag pole in front of the NYSE Bldg)

If the plan is approved, the Regents also would direct $20 million to create regional education alliances in high need communities. The alliances would incorporate "literacy zones" in such communities and connect school districts with colleges, libraries, museums and other educational services.

The plan would apply $25 million toward preparing 1,000 new teachers for high need schools. College-school partnerships would compete for the funding and teachers would commit to work in high need schools for 4 years.

Money would also be distributed to help parents in high risk communities to be more involved in their children's education.

The proposed $230 million increase in aid is in addition to a $1.94 billion proposed increase announced yesterday.

If approved, the money would be distributed through competitive grants.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills is presenting the proposed budget to the Department of Budget Wednesday at a hearing that the Legislature has been invited to.

The Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer will have to consider the issue before any action is taken

The governor's office did not return calls for comment.

Times Union - Albany NY - Regents Seek $1.94 Billion School Aid Boost by Rick Kaplin

ALBANY -- The state Board of Regents is calling for an additional $1.94 billion in next year's school aid package, with the lion's share going to schools that serve low-income students.

"That's a considerable increase," Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, adding that under the Regents proposal, which the governor and Legislature would have to approve, all the school districts in New York would get at least 2 percent more in their base, or "foundation aid," allotment.

This is the second year that state aid is being given out in this way, which was meant to simplify what had been a complex array of school funding streams.

(The Alliance for Quality Education Crew)

Seventy-three percent of the increase is proposed for "high needs" school districts, up from 65 percent last year.

Among the priorities the Board of Regents lists in its budget proposal: increasing pre-K funding by $104 million to $535 million; expanding career and technical education programs in the Big Five districts of New York City, Yonkers, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo; and continued funding of the Contract for Excellence, an initiative of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's in which 1,648 schools in 56 districts will get extra funding, but will have to choose from a list of prescribed changes such as a longer school day or more tutoring.

"That was really the dramatic event of last year," Mills said, explaining that the Regents are finalizing details of the contracts.

Columbia Spectator - NYS Regents Call for $1.8 Billion More in School Aid by Joey Resmovits

The New York State Board of Regents called for a $1.8 billion increase in foundation aid for schools in the 2008 state budget on Monday.

The Regents did not specify how and where the money that they called for yesterday would be spent, unlike the money allocated by last year’s state budget, which, as it gets spent, must follow a set of guidelines called the “Contract for Excellence.”

“Increasing and accelerating the foundation aid which is distributed on the basis of need puts more dollars to work serving the neediest students in low-performing schools,” Geri Palast, the executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, said in a release.

“What is also refreshing about the Regents proposal is that they do not include any of the politically-motivated pork barrel spending that the State Senate Majority added outside the school aid formula this year,” Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said in the release.

But even after parents and advocates received this strong endorsement for increased education aid, and got billions of dollars for schools from last year’s budget, many are still apprehensive about what they call the vague terms used in the “Contract for Excellence,” and hope the plan does not pass when it is voted on in a few days.

(AQE Shana, April Humphrey and Executive Director Billy Easton)

CFE and AQE both praised the Regents for advocating more funds and urged them to make the “Contract for Excellence” more specific by, for example, mandating that districts publish data showing how their state funding is being spent. They also demanded that terms and phrases such as “neediest” and “predominantly serve the neediest” be clarified.

“The emergency regulations governing the ‘Contracts for Excellence’ require greater clarity, specificity, and standardization,” Palast said.

Many New York City school parents have also criticized the city for refusing to disclose which class sizes have been reduced this year with almost $100 million in “Contract for Excellence” funds. Leonie Haimson, a mother and founder of Class Size Matters, a group that advocates smaller classroom sizes in New York City, called on parents to send a letter to the Regents board urging the board to withhold any further “Contract for Excellence” funding until the Department of Education “provides the specific figures to prove that a substantial reduction in class size in city schools has occurred this year, more than would be predicted by enrollment decline alone.”

News 10 Now - There's Good News for New York State Schools...

The Board of Regents is asking lawmakers to increase state aid by $1.9 billion.

According to State Education Commissioner Richard Mills, it's another step in fulfilling their commitment to support children who need the most help.

(more - click above)

Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY - Regents seek $1.94 Billion Increase in State Aid by Gary McLendon - Staff writer

(October 22, 2007) — The Board of Regents today proposed increasing total state aid by $1.94 billion.
Aid increases for Rochester schools are contained within the total. The majority of the aid will go to “high-need” urban districts. The amount slated for Rochester is yet to be determined.

(AQE Executive Director Billy Easton)

“All school districts across the state will see at least a 2% increase,” State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, during a news conference in Albany this afternoon.

The increase keeps with the needs-based funding formula enacted under Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

“It is vital that we continue the historic reform in State Aid enacted last year. This proposed increase in aid represents what the Regents believe is needed to build on last year’s successes and help close the achievement gap while raising achievement for all through the State,” Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett said.
Education aid reform was adopted by the Governor and Legislature last year. The Regents propose that 73 percent of these funds go to high need schools next year, up from 65 percent this year.

“This proposal is another key step in fulfilling our commitment to give adequate support to the children who need help the most,” Mills said.

The funding increases reflect state priorities such as: Career and Technical Education, Universal Prekindergarten, and improving instruction for English Language Learners.

The Board of Regents proposes increasing the number of proven Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs through $6 million, with a goal of enrolling 20,000 more students. CTE programs enable students to earn a Regents Diploma and get an industry-approved credential.

The Board of Regents also proposes the expansion of Universal Pre-K by $104 million to $535 million. They urge making the funding more flexible to support full-day pre-K, as well as half-day Pre-K.

Additionally, the Regents propose expanded support for English Language Learners (ELL) by increasing the weight given to ELL students in the foundation formula. - Elmira, NY - Regents Want School-aid Hike - All Districts Would See at Least 2 percent Boost by ...

ALBANY -- The state Board of Regents wants to boost school aid by $1.94 billion in 2008-09 and funnel a larger percentage of the money to high-needs districts, Education Commissioner Richard Mills announced Monday.

Currently, poor districts receive 65 percent of foundation aid, the largest state education grant. The Regents want to send 73 percent of the increase in foundation aid -- $1.8 billion of the $1.94 billion -- to the poorest school systems. New York City would get $783 million, or 44 percent, for a total of $8.1 billion in state aid. At the same time, every school district would see an increase of at least 2 percent, Mills said.

The additional funding would build on "the historic reform in state aid enacted last year," Mills said, referring to the largest one-time hike in education funding -- $1.8 billion, to $19.5 billion. The state consolidated about 30 programs into a new foundation aid formula
last year to simplify the funding process.

"It also continues to focus on urban education, particularly New York City and the Big 4 (Rochester, Yonkers, Buffalo and Syracuse)," said Robert Bennett, chancellor of the Board of Regents.

The Regents' plan also includes a request for an additional $104 million, for a total of $535 million, to fund pre-kindergarten classes around the state. This year's funding can only go toward half-day programs, but the additional money could help pay for full-day pre-kindergarten and transportation.

"New York is well on its way to providing this opportunity for all children," Mills said.

"In many school districts, we have a strong base in half-day but the need is clearly for full-day, and so the Regents are going to pursue that," he added.

Additional funding for pre-kindergarten in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years provided enough slots for 76,000 more kids, for a total of about 125,000 kids. The money being proposed for next year would fund up to 34,000 more slots, according to the Education

(AQE Staff Bea, Mike and April)

A lot of districts, particularly large urban ones and high-need rural districts, have determined it's necessary to provide full-day services, according to Johanna Duncan-Poitier of the Department of Education. Some school systems have open half-day pre-kindergarten slots and waiting lists for full-day classes, she said.

"Working parents, particularly in the poorer neighborhoods, want full-day pre-k and, of course, the achievement results are greater there as well," she said.

Transportation is optional for pre-kindergarten, and about 50 percent of districts provide it. In those cases, they use limited grant money or local funds to support it.

School districts were seeking full-day pre-kindergarten during the last session, so the budget proposal is a recognition of "what the reality is for children and families," said Karen Schimke, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.

"I think that there's sufficient resources in what they're proposing to both do some expansion and at the same time start to offer some flexibility in full day," she said.

The Regents make spending recommendations, but Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Legislature decide on a budget. The deadline for doing that is April 1.

Other highlights of their proposal are:

•Increase financial support for non-native speakers of English by giving more weight in the funding formula to those students. The
extra money could be used to create two-way/dual-language programs, professional development for mainstream teachers and administrators, literacy programs for English-speaking immigrant students, special services for non-native English speakers whose formal education has been interrupted, and other initiatives.

•Provide $6 million competitive grants for career and technical education. The goal is to enroll 20,000 more students vocational-education programs that allow them to get a Regents diploma and an industry-approved credential. Only 22 percent of high-school students have access to career and technical education programs now.

The Education Department is expected to approve Contracts for Excellence in the next few weeks. They are required for 56 high-needs school districts that received significant aid increases this year and have under-performing students. The contracts identify specific areas for improvement, such as reducing class size and providing full-day kindergarten, and hold the districts accountable for improving student achievement.

The Alliance for Quality Education and Campaign for Fiscal Equity support the Regents' school-aid proposal but would like changes to the Contracts for Excellence regulations, said Billy Easton, executive director of the alliance. There should be a standard form for all contracts, a specific complaint process, clear procedures and deadlines for public participation and other changes, he said.

Board of Regents Proposes $2B in School Aid - Funds Would Benefit Neediest Shools By Jeremiah Horrigan

Albany — The state Board of Regents has proposed a school-aid increase of nearly $2 billion that it says would benefit the state's neediest schools while still providing at least a 2 percent increase for all school districts.

The proposal, which faces legislative and executive review, also earmarks $104 million for increased part-time pre-kindergarten classes.

Roughly 75 percent of the proposed increase would go to "high-need" school districts, according to state Education Commissioner Richard Mills. Forty-one percent of the high-need increase would be allotted to New York City schools.

The increases are based on the Regents' new "Contract for Excellence," an accountability-based program that offers funding to school districts that meet specific program standards.

Annette Saturnelli, superintendent of the Newburgh School District, said she was cheered by the proposal, especially its linkage to the Contract for Excellence.

"The continuation of these funds is essential to us," she said. "They're holding us to the line here, and I don't mind that at all."

She added that funding under the state contract has provided local taxpayers with some relief last year.

Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for the state Budget Division, sounded a cautious note following the Regents proposal.

"The Regents proposal significantly exceeds the historic increases budgeted in the state's multiyear financial plan," he said. "While education is a top priority for the governor, risks to the state's fiscal outlook require us to carefully scrutinize all proposed spending as we craft the 2008-09 budget."

Barbara Bradley, a spokeswoman for the state's School Boards Association, said the group found the proposal "encouraging" and hoped the governor and the Legislature would be similarly inclined.

With the Regents' budget announcement, a long season of lobbying and political arm-twisting begins.

Spitzer will deliver his State of the State message in January and then release his executive budget. A final state budget isn't due until April of next year.

Journal News - State Board of Regents Proposes New Programs to Close the Achievement Gap by Diane Costello

State school officials propose to eradicate the achievement gap between white and minority students by creating new partnerships in disadvantaged communities supported with new funding.

The Board of Regents and the Department of Education yesterday announced several new initiatives that would help to unite school districts, colleges and community organizations in the goal of boosting student achievement.

"It all boils down to a very simple idea," said state Education Commissioner Richard Mills. "We need all of our young people to thrive as kids and grow up to complete high school and emerge as adults ready to work, ready to be good citizens."

The plan calls for devoting $20 million in state and federal funding to the creation of Regional Education Alliances.

These would link school districts with colleges, libraries, museums and other community organizations. They also would provide comprehensive support to students and work to improve teacher quality.

The alliances would set performance targets and measure results to evaluate progress, with reports going out annually to the public and the state.

Existing Literacy Zones, which offer a variety of community services to defined communities in need, would be incorporated into this approach. Yonkers school officials are talking to the state about becoming a Literacy Zone, according to state officials.

"We can't wait to bring them in," said Bob Purga, supervisor of the Office of Adult Education and Work Force Development. "They have really creative ideas."

A $100 million program proposed yesterday, called Smart Scholars, would provide at least 12,000 disadvantaged students with the support to graduate from high school on time and gain as many as 30 college credits, setting them up to graduate in three years.

The achievement gap between white and minority students is evident in the state's graduation rate, which in 2006 showed that 48 percent of black students and 45 percent of Hispanic students graduated high school in six years compared to 67 percent of white and Asian students, according to the state Education Department.

At Rockland Community College, a program funded through a federal grant already helps students in the Nyack, Spring Valley and Ramapo districts. The college staff coaches students on everything from writing and math to study skills and SAT tests.

"The more students that we are able to save from dropping out, the better," said Eugene Henderson Jr., vice president for student development at RCC. "Because once they drop out, they become a statistic either in the criminal justice system, in unemployment or working at subservient pay."

State officials yesterday also proposed a new three-year, $25 million program aimed at preparing 1,000 new teachers for high-needs schools. Teachers would have to commit to work in these schools for four years.

Plus, the Regents proposed directing $6.5 million toward community collaborations in disadvantaged areas to help get parents and families involved in their child's education. The funding would help to link service agencies with the schools, disseminate information to families and help train parents to be more involved, among other things.

"When parents and schools work together, it's often an unbeatable combination," Mills said.

The Regents discussed a $1 million mentor program for at-risk students to help them make connections between their school experience and future academic and career prospects.

With a student body from about 60 different countries, Ossining has made it a top priority to close the achievement gap, providing mentoring programs for students, hiring qualified teachers who reflect the district's demographics, offering college courses to a wide range of students, and reaching out to minority parent groups.

It takes this kind of multifaceted effort to make a difference when it comes to chipping away at the gap, said Superintendent Phyllis Glassman.

"We've come to learn that there is no panacea," Glassman said. "We need to address it from multiple perspectives. It is a very complex and complicated issue."

News Channel 13 - Regents Board Asks State for Billion dollar Increase in Funding by Abigail Bleck

Last year the legislature and governor allocated more money to education than the board of regents even asked for. So this year, the education commissioner is shooting for the moon.

Monday, the Board of Regents recommended a $1.4 billion increase in spending. If approved all schools would benefit, but urban and high need schools would get the most.

It's almost November and 40 kids are still on the waiting list for Schenectady's Pre-K program. And that's after the district expanded its early education services this school year.

"We don't have the space we don't have the money right now. We're funding some of them through our general fund," said Schenectady Superintendent Erik Ely.

(AQE Communications Director Nikki Jones)

Schenectady was able to grow programs this year, the superintendent says, thanks to Governor Eliot Spitzer's focus on education. Schools across the state received more money than previously. New York Education Commissioner Richard Mills says it's a concerted effort to close the achievement gap.

"New York has turned a corner in the way it funds education. Last year was a dramatic moment, said Mills.

This year the Board of Regents is proposing a nearly $2 billion increase in state funding. All districts would benefit but high need and urban schools even more so. Much of the money would be earmarked for universal Pre-K and improving instruction for non-english speaking students. Both are moves that level the playing field for schools facing those challenges.

"If they are with their peers in the suburban or rural districts they have a much better chance at success. Those become the kids who get tested in 3rd or 4th and take the regents in high school," said Erik Ely.

The Board of Regents requested a $1.6 billion increase last year and received $1.7 billion from the state. So, education leaders are hoping that this year, history repeats itself.

"Last year was a wonderful year. There was a revolutionary change in the way funding worked and a very strong support for education," said Mills.

The education commissioner says he wants to hold schools receiving more money accountable.

That includes documenting how the money is spent and, whether or not, it was an effective use of money.

Education Workshop - Sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer - Getting the Most Out of NYC Schools - October 20 - The New School

On Saturday, October 20th, I attended a conference and workshop given by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, “Getting the Most Out of NYC Schools,” at at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School.

NY Times report Anahad O' Connor, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Dominic Carter and Councilman Robert Jackson...

Author Dominic Carter

The keynote speaker was NY1 Senior Political Reporter Dominick Carter, he spoke passionately
about his troubled childhood with an absent mother, being raised by his grandmother and aunts and how they instilled in him a desire to achieve and learn.. he recently penned his bio in his book "No Mama's Boy"...

The conference featured workshops on finding the best school for your child, how to get help with choosing and paying for a college, and making sure your child receives the services he or she is entitled to – including services for English language learners and those for students with individual education plans.

Dominic Carter and wife, Marilyn

There were also sessions on lobbying, the budget process, and school fundraising.

April Humphrey, Zakiyah Ansara and Shana Marks-Odinga

I attended a workshop entitled "Getting the Ear of Your Elected Officials" given by April Humphrey and Shana Marks-Odinga of the Alliance for Quality Education and parent Manhattan High School Presidents Council Zakia...

Dominic Carter stayed around after his speech and signed copies of his book ...

Dominic Carter, wife Marilyn and son...

New York City Council Education Committee Chairman Robert Jackson attended the workshop, as did Councilman David Yassky.

Dominic and me

Monday, October 22, 2007

South Queens Democratic Club 41st Dinner Dance - October 17, 2007...

The honorees at the 41st Annual Dinner Dance of the South Queens Democratic Club were Sam Dominick, Debbie Egel, Sgt. Sean McCabe, Angelo Mugnolo and Tom Rowland...Read more below...

Other local politicians attending included Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilwoman Melinda Katz...and District Leader Geraldine Chapey...

Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo and Barbara Friedman

Assemblywoman Audrey Pfeffer and Glen

Betty Braton and Frank Gulluscio

Honoree Sgt Sean McCabe and Melody

Pamela and Andrew Baumann

Sunny, Dorothy and Nellie Santiago

Barbara Friedman

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2007 Queens "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" with the St Johns University Liberty Partnership Program (LPP)...

I had the privilege of participating with the St. John's Liberty Partnership Programs walk to find a cure for breast cancer...The LPP group raised over $800 this year...The total contingent from St. Johns University collected over $11,500 before the final totals had been tallied...

It was a gorgeous Indian summer day for the Annual Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk...the walk kicked off from Queens Borough Hall and proceeded down the north service road of Queen Boulevard to the former Alexander's store on 63rd Drive and returned...

Click on any photo to enlarge...

Opening Ceremonies at Queens Borough Hall...this lovely young lady sang our National Anthem beautifully...

Costumed mascots were out in force...

The walk begins...

Here comes the LPP crew...

There they go...

And the walk continues...

The St. Johns University Marching Band provided the walkers with a beat...

while their cheerleaders urged the walkers on...

Things quieted down at Borough Hall once the walk was underway...

The Survivor's Tent...breast cancer survivors were given a carnation and a sash...

There was an ample supply of eager volunteers on-hand...

Local 338...

Queens County Savings Bank...

Queens Health Network Mobile Mammography Van...

US Postal Service...

United Federation of Teachers...

Where There's a Need, Inc...

St. Johns University Donation Registration Table ...and some of the many volunteers...

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and his lovely wife, Denise, stopped by to say hello...

The walkers were literally dancing in the's not every day that you can dance in the middle of Queens Boulevard without sustaining serious injury or death...

LPP on campus before the walk...

[where: queens, new york]