MCS board told grades don't add up

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By Geoff Samuels
At the January 16 Margaretville Central School Board of Education meeting, several parents expressed alarm at the apparent miscalculation of their children’s grades.

During the time allotted for public comment, Doris Warner of Margaretville read a prepared statement in which she claimed that her son’s year-end grades had essentially been miscalculated using “mathematical calculations that simply cannot be explained.”

In her statement, she maintained that the grades that her son received at the end of the year were not supported by the quarterly grades that he was getting on his report card, and that no one at the school had an adequate explanation for this.

Another Margaretville parent, Elaine Conroy, echoed Warner’s sentiment telling the board, “It’s really frustrating when you see your own kid burning the midnight oil, staying up to all hours to make good things happen…..and then he says to me, Mom, please try to get my grades straightened out.” Conroy said she would watch her son on his computer trying to figure out if he had a high enough grade point average in order to get into competitive universities, where a tenth of a point makes a big difference. “Right now,” she said, “there are five errors on my son’s transcript that I can see…and the clock is ticking.”

Warner reinforced Conroy’s argument adding, “One tenth of a point might sound ridiculous, but so many schools now…if you get a 3.9 grade point average you get $15,000 a year, (in scholarship money) if you get 3.7, you get $10,000 a year…that’s a lot of money”

The problem appears to stem from the use of a software program called “Power School” which was integrated into the MCS school system in the fall of 2010. The program, which can be accessed by teachers and parents from the MCS website, is described as a student information system (SIS), and is designed to facilitate easy access to emergency information, grades, and many other types of school related data.

In a letter to the Margaretville Board of Education dated August 27, 2012, Conroy had stated, “After hours of trying to fix this issue, nothing has been resolved. Power School has been called again and again, teachers have been called, teachers’ grade books have been looked at, and yet no one is able to explain this problem. Worse yet, no one who is in a position to fix the problem seems to be alarmed about it.”

Both MCS Superintendent Anthony Albanese and Board President Randy Moore acknowledged at Wednesday’s meeting that, although they thought the MCS staff had been adequately trained for the implementation of Power School, this was certainly an issue that demanded further attention.

Another Margaretville parent, who preferred not to identify herself, stood up and claimed that her third grader had been bullied. The instigator, who allegedly made a bodily injury threat to the entire class, was sent home. Yet the woman maintained that she was left unaware of the incident until a month later. “Every parent in that class should know what’s going on,” she exclaimed. “I know my son doesn’t feel safe, I know there are other children in that class that don’t feel safe…and we’re sending them in there every day to learn, and they’re not learning…because this child has to be dealt with…Is there a protocol?” she asked adding, “When should a disruptive child be allowed back into the classroom?”

Albanese responded that there was a protocol and that steps had been taken to interact with the student’s parents to correct the situation. The woman replied, “But it wasn’t with the parents of the kids who were threatened,” claiming that the school had yet to send her a copy of the Dignity for All Students Act that went into effect last July. She continued to press the board for more school interaction with the parents of children that are affected by disruptive students.

Superintendent Albanese reiterated his stance that the eastern end of Delaware County was in need of more youth accessible mental health services, which is something that he has spoken about adamantly at previous BOE meetings.