MCS counselor cited for lifesaving efforts

By Geoff Samuels
Margaretville Central School Guidance Counselor Nancy Millen will cited for heroism by the board of education for quick action in helping a student who was choking.

On January 24, Millen, a guidance counselor for grades K through 7, was in a classroom setting when one of the young children began to choke. She immediately went to the child’s aid and in so doing, saved it from a potentially terrible fate.

At last Wednesday’s board of education meeting, Millen was presented with a plaque, on behalf of Superintendent Albanese and the board of education, in appreciation for her heroic effort in helping to save a child’s life.

Making the grade
In other business, MCS Superintendent Anthony Albanese assured everyone at last week’s meeting that the Power School grading system, which had previously produced incorrect student grades, had now been fixed.

The superintendent explained that any inaccurate grades from the past would be adjusted retroactively. He explained that the faculty now has a document that “will clearly tell us what is accurate, and if something is not, we will see that very quickly.”

Additional training
In addition, Albanese said that they had done some additional training in the use of the Power School program, which is allowing them to re-look at where some errors might have been made. In the past, he said, teachers were using their own methods of grading, and were letting the parents know what those methods were. “What we found is that we needed to structure things a little more,” said Albanese, as he held up a printed form. “All teachers now have this form,” he reiterated, which gives the specifics of how the Power School grade book needs to be set up.

“I’ve put many hours into this,” said Albanese, “as has Miss Taylor, the guidance staff, and our teachers…to get us to a point where going forward… I have every confidence that we will be right on target.” The superintendent made it clear that if ever there was a question from a parent or student about a particular grade, they could go straight to guidance and the problem would be promptly looked into.

Nothing lowered
In terms of any grades that were inaccurately posted in the past, Albanese said that they would be going through the records of each high school student, starting with the 12th grade, and recalculating their grades. If a recalculated grade is higher than the original Power School grade, then the student would receive the higher of the two. The student’s transcript would then be changed accordingly to reflect the new grade. Albanese emphasized that no student, under any circumstance, would receive a lower grade.

State aid shortfall
At the same meeting, Superintendent Albanese pointed out that there had been “little movement if any” in the governor’s executive budget proposals that were released back on January 22.
“We continue to hear that changes will be made,” he said, “but we’re not seeing anything that has come to us in print.”

He noted that the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which he termed the “Gap Elimination Reduction,” is still in place, and that the school will again lose in excess of $500,000. That money, he said, goes back to the state to offset its own budget deficit, but would have been money that the school district, in normal times, could have held on to.

This year, the governor had spoken of a 4.4 percent increase in education but, as Albanese has brought to light before, the “combined wealth ratio” caused by higher property values in the area has whittled that down to a mere 1.6 percent increase for the district.

School safety issues
Carol Johnson from the Committee on Special Education (CSE). spoke about what is being done to address safety issues in the school. She said that the current emergency plan, put in place back in 2001, “needed a lot of upgrading.”

Johnson said that she had chosen to focus first on issues that would be the least expensive to implement. She recounted to the board that on February 4 they had gone into the pre-K to 5th-grade classrooms to introduce the idea of lockdown drills. They spent about 15 to 20 minutes with each group, and with the younger groups, actually practiced a lockdown drill. The following day a real lockdown drill took place, which she said, went very well.

Johnson said that she has spoken to all three area fire departments and that they will be getting together to “nail down” a district crises plan that will be the most workable solution for everyone involved. She also said she had spoken to Sheriff Tom Mills, who agreed to come to the school to do a walk-through and give the school his input on the plan.