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Superintendent Nolan: 'I'm Guarded' About Cuomo's Proposals

After Gov. Cuomo's State of the State address, Sachem Superintendent stays positive, but cautious about extended school years or lengthening school days.

Sachem Superintendent James Nolan said he was going to stay positive, but was "guarded" by Governor Andrew Cuomo's suggestion to extend the academic school year or lengthen school days, if it is intended to be a "quick fix."

"I don't think there's a cure, or remedy, or quick fix to any educational problem," Nolan said in an interview with Patch. Governor Cuomo's State of the State Address encompassed educational issues all across the entire state. "I can't compare my own children to one another, so I can't see how anyone can compare inner city schools to rural schools, to suburban schools, to schools in higher economic areas, to schools in lower economic areas..."

Nolan said Cuomo's "broad brush" with which he paints the challenges in education is difficult to abide by, and ignores the role demographics play from school to school. In some cases, longer school years might be beneficial, but in others it may not be necessary, Nolan said.

"Do some students need more time? Absolutely. But I'm not sure that school [extensions] will solve anything, and I'd like to know what we're solving."

Nolan added that the district is continually open to suggestions and ways to improve. "But I'm somewhat guarded when people have a quick solution."

Additionally, Cuomo's suggestion would have a significant and immediate impact on labor negotiations, salary increases, and increased expenditures for the buildings. Calls for comment to John Troise, president of the teachers union at Sachem, were not returned. However, Nolan examined the cost and was puzzled by Cuomo's committment to fully fund any changes to the academic calendar. Namely, he was curious to know that if Cuomo had funds to cover these initiatives, why aren't those funds available immediately for current budget shortfalls?

"We're struggling right now," Nolan said. Currently the district has a roughly $20 million budget gap for 2013-14. "I'm just a little curious about that. If the state is willing to fund the resources for [Cuomo's ideas], fantastic. But we're begging for that right now."

 

 

Leo Lehman Jr. January 15, 2013 at 12:34 AM
what is the big deal about kids going to school for an extra few weeks??!! oh yeah I forgot, if school is extended parents & kids will view this as "catastrophic" complain that their 2 1/2 months off is too short.. Kids need to focus more on Education bc very few actually care about it!!
Brian January 15, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Extend both the length of the school day and the year. The amount of breaks and interruptions in the weekly and monthly calendar are outrageous. There is almost no week where there is a half day, day off, conference, etc. You don't see this in Finland, S. Korea, Japan, etc. where their students are far exceeding the work our students produce. Let the elem kids start earlier and the HS kids start later. Brain science says we are doing it wrong based on how children grow and how much rest they need. This is not a quick fix; make it a permanent culture change. The rush everything in the elem years. Lunch, recess, art, library, you name it. All crammed into 20-30 minute blocks where all we do is shuffle the kids from one area to another. We leave them no time to play, explore, create, and grow. That's what we do wrong and what other nations do right.
Brian January 15, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Edit my comment above to read instead: "There is almost no week where there is NOT a half day, day off, conference, etc." Sorry about that.
Kat Lee January 15, 2013 at 03:05 AM
Mr. Nolan a voice of reason in this world today is refreshing. So nice to hear someone speak with a reasonable train of thought.
Kat Lee January 15, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Brian I'm curious as to when you went to school? I'm not looking for specific dates just a general idea.......I went to school in the peak years of the baby boomers and we were in school no more or less than the kids are now. We went to school at 8:00 O clock and were home by 2:30. We did 45 minutes of home work and then went out to play. We were jammed into classrooms 32-35 kids deep with one teacher and often had split sessions. I and most of my class went on to college and for the most part have done well in the world. We were well educated. What we need is not to extend the school year and steal the rest of our already abandoned and angry children's childhoods away from them with their 6 hours of test prep in between social programming and 2-3 hours of homework to make up for the education they are not getting in the classroom. What we need is to take a long, hard look at the system that exists today and the systems that my generation came from and figure out where we zigged when we should have zagged. Extending time spent in a broken system will fix nothing except to further destroy our future generations. We need to as with so many things go back to the beginning and figure out what worked then and implement it and keep what little is good now and integrate it. I agree with Mr. Nolan. This is not a quick fix. This is a recipe for disaster. Financially, physically and generationally..
Kat Lee January 15, 2013 at 03:20 AM
I had written this as a reply to one of the posts, however I really would like to post this as a post for this article. ..I went to school in the peak years of the baby boomers and we were in school no more or less than the kids are now. We went to school at 8:00 O clock and were home by 2:30. We did 45 minutes of home work and then went out to play. We were jammed into classrooms 32-35 kids deep with one teacher and often had split sessions. I and most of my class went on to college and for the most part have done well in the world. We were well educated. What we need is not to extend the school year and steal the rest of our already abandoned and angry children's childhoods away from them with their 6 hours of test prep in between social programming and 2-3 hours of homework to make up for the education they are not getting in the classroom. What we need is to take a long, hard look at the system that exists today and the systems that my generation came from and figure out where we zigged when we should have zagged. Extending time spent in a broken system will fix nothing except to further destroy our future generations. We need to as with so many things go back to the beginning and figure out what worked then and implement it and keep what little is good now and integrate it. I agree with Mr. Nolan. This is not a quick fix. This is a recipe for disaster. Financially, physically and generationally.
Brian January 15, 2013 at 05:53 AM
Kat, thanks for the reply. When I went to school is irrelevant. And, I must have misstated my ideas here. I do not want to increase the school day in order to spend more time on test prep. I want the kids to have more time to create, share, play and overall, be kids, while in school. I do not want to spend time on a broken system. I'd scrap it and rework it completely. Teacher morale is low. Student morale is low (my son went from loving 2nd grade to practically despising 3rd grade - gee, wonder why that is?). You can't go back to the beginning to figure out what worked then and try to bring it back. You are aware of how much money and time are invested in Common Core, new state tests, and other "evaluative" means, right? Have you seen how much time off the kids have had this school year? Throw a hurricane in there, but even without that, there are an inordinate amount of half days, days off, and breaks. Add to that the dozen times my son's teacher has been out because she was in Albany learning about the tests, or pulled out of classes for meetings and you have your recipe for disaster already cooking. In the other edu systems around the world held up by experts as the best (Finland being #1), none of this exists. IN fact, in Finland, the students don't even receive grades until 5th grade.
Brian January 15, 2013 at 05:55 AM
Also keep in mind, the national teacher turnover rate after 3 and 5 years is the highest in ANY profession. By 5 years, nearly 50% of new teachers have left the profession. Higher in urban areas. Something is not working.
Kat Lee January 15, 2013 at 07:31 AM
Brian, I come from a family of teachers, I am not one, but my Aunt was a principle in the private sector, my Uncle was the Principle of one of the Islips schools. ;My sister and my brother in Law are teachers. I understand the frustration of just wanting to teach the kids. It's no wonder we lose them right away when their dreams lay in tatters on the the classroom floor along with the future of the children they have worked so hard to teach. The few that are still involved in the system now are beyond frustrated. They are not educating children they are teaching them how to pass a test.There is a huge difference.The only thing the Educational system is missing is that eventually the account runs dry, when you make no deposits; you can't make withdrawals. Making kids stay in school longer than they already have to is as the old adage says "throwing good money after bad." Throwing more time and assuming children are going to get play time and socialization is a very long shot. I don't know about Finland or any other country for that matter. I know that I was well educated in my early school career.I know at that time we were up there with if not ahead of the other countries. Fixing this system no matter how expensive is got to be a better idea and the least expensive one for our children and their children than making this a bigger mess than it already is.This society , this system is so screwed up and no one really wants to do what needs to be done to make this right.
Brian January 15, 2013 at 02:34 PM
@Kat, at the time you and I were educated, we were not in a global economy. Our kids, my kids, now have to compete with that. So you better bet that our educational system needs to be on par with that of the other top nations. While it is great to be able to look back and say, hey we did ok and we got by fine, why can't the kids now be more like that. The world has changed and the advances in technology in just the last 10 year alone has opened up huge gaps college readiness, the employment market, and the workforce alone. I studied education, was a teacher, and admin and now work in higher ed. I, too, come from a family of educators. Yes, the system is broken. Part of the broken system is the minimal length of the day. I am not sure how up to speed you are with a Sachem elem school day, but you might want to see how they cram the disciplines into these tidy time blocks that are not nearly long enough for the kids to learn, digest, absorb, and apply the newly acquired knowledge. You said you did 45 minutes of HW a night? It is nearly double that now for the typical elem age kid who might be struggling a bit to keep up. Yes, all at the hands of testing and 'results'. Yes, that part of the system is royally screwed up now (follow the money trail). I want a longer school day and year, but not in the current system. http://www.infoplease.com/world/statistics/school-years.html
Bill Morin January 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM
So go live in Finland, S. Korea or Japan...This is AMERICA which too many people forget....
Tom Calabrese January 31, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Extend school year? You really think Nolan wants to go up against the teachers union on this one. It really doesn't matter though. For all practical purposes the school year ends as soon as state testing is over. June is a Joke academically.

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