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December 11, 2010

 

McGraw spans digital bridge to Baldwinsville

By SCOTT CONROE
Staff Reporter
sconroe@cortlandstandard.net

McGRAW — A college-level calculus course taught to McGraw High School students electronically from Baldwinsville could be just the beginning, as schools learn to pool resources in the face of dropping state aid.
That was the message Superintendent of Schools Mary Curcio delivered Thursday to the Board of Education, as she reported on meetings she has attended in Albany and Syracuse about what lies ahead for school districts.
Other superintendents of schools have been stressing that message with their boards and district residents for the past year, but Curcio used the math course as a specific example.
Curcio said a scheduling problem did not allow McGraw to offer the college course this fall, where it normally does, and a student’s mother approached her about finding a solution.
As a former high school math teacher, Curcio said she knew college-level courses were important.
Curcio asked other superintendents in the region for help. Pamela Cassidy, a teacher at Baldwinsville’s Baker High School, said she would add the four to her 27 students and teach them at 8 a.m. every day via video conferencing, just as if they were physically in her classroom.
Students e-mail their homework to Cassidy, and she e-mails quizzes and tests to students via the high school librarian. Teacher Troy Bilodeau supervises.
The course does not cost taxpayers anything.
Curcio said it might have helped that Baker High School’s principal, Joseph DeBarbieri, was her student teacher at one point.
Curcio was a math teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse for nine years before becoming an administrator.
DeBarbieri said Friday that had nothing to do with it but he was glad his school could help, knowing Curcio’s passion for helping people understand math.
High School Principal Mark Dimorier said Cassidy has come to McGraw to teach the class from there, as a one-time goodwill gesture.
She came down this week during a snowstorm, on a day when Baldwinsville schools were on two-hour delay, and taught the class for the McGraw students, then for her own when they arrived at school.
Curcio said such collaborations are one way that school districts can help students even as state aid gets cut repeatedly.
She said education leaders expect Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to cut aid again in January by 1 percent to 2 percent, continuing the policies of Gov. David Paterson, who has taken away millions of dollars in aid from schools to make up for state budget deficits.
Curcio told the board that state Education Department officials believe New York state lags behind other states in use of online classes.
“Some states require students to take at least one class online,” she said. “It prepares students for college, because chances are they would take an online course there.”
She said online courses could also help the dropout rate, as at-risk students — who might be discouraged because they have failed courses and fallen behind — could use online courses to catch up.
Cortland County school superintendents met in recent weeks to discuss how to keep students from dropping out, Curcio said.
Dimorier said he met with principals at Cincinnatus, Marathon and Whitney Point to discuss the same topic.
Curcio said Timothy Turecek, Marathon superintendent of schools, believes the state will start forcing schools to work together in ways similar to the Baldwinsville calculus course.
“I want us to stay ahead of the curve, I want us to control our own destiny,” she said.
“We need to do it for students and parents, who are looking for this,” said board President Dave Bordwell.
Curcio agreed, saying New York students and American students in general are not as competitive now against young people from other nations.
“They’re not competing with other states, they’re competing with China,” she said.

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