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Updates from the District Office

Happy New Year to all! Although we have communicated on various pressing issues of the day, I wanted to briefly provide you with a broader sense of some of our work across the district.

  1. School Security – This topic has been at the forefront of our and most school districts’ attention for some time now due to the ongoing issues with school threats, evolving student needs, and the actual acts of violence that have been carried out. To this end, we continue to work on:
    1. School infrastructure to keep our students and staff as protected as possible from outside intruders;
    2. Emergency drills to continue to refine our response time to a variety of scenarios that have played out locally, across the state, and nationally. In each drill, we vary the situation in order to foster situational awareness by students and staff as each such incident is different, thereby disallowing the “perfect” response plan; and
    3. Balancing security and student well-being­ is something that we continue to keep in mind in all of our planning and this remains one of our biggest challenges. 
  1. Middle and High School Student Pedestrian Safety – As some of you are aware, one of our Middle School students was hit by a car crossing Ballston Avenue in front of the school this fall. As part of our review of the vehicular and pedestrian traffic in this area, we have placed a Deputy Sheriff (SRO Lyons) at the intersection of Garrett, Thomas, and Ballston to give us a sense of how and where students cross the road to the sidewalk and what the vehicular traffic patterns are. As we continue to look for solutions to this, we ask your help in the following:
    1. Please be sure that your children are using the sidewalk on Ballston Avenue and crossing as safely as possible to do so, particularly when crossing from the Saratoga Center for Rehab and Skilled Nursing Care, which is outside of the School Zone speed limit;
    2. As drivers, please be mindful of student walkers on Ballston Avenue and their crossing to get to the schools;
    3. Please adhere to the 20 MPH School Zone speed limit on Ballston Avenue;
    4. Please use Milton/Church Avenue instead of Ballston Avenue from 7:00 – 7:30am each day if not going to the schools; and
    5. Please check the website for additional information at Safety Tips for going to and from school
  1. Mental Health and Student Wellness – As this is an area of growing concern for virtually all school districts, this issue is one of our identified priorities for the year. Accordingly, we are working with various partners in the community and the region to host a policy round table at which we will discuss the issues that our schools are facing, how we are currently managing them, and assistance that we need from our local, regional, and state officials. For too many of our students, these issues are interfering with and/or preventing them from being able to focus on their learning and we simply cannot manage the issues alone. Should your child be experiencing social, emotional, or mental health issues and you need the assistance of one of our counselors, social workers, or psychologists, please call your school to schedule an appointment. Doing so is important to ensure that we have dedicated time for you as our staff is incredibly busy with their daily work with our students. If you experience an issue after school hours, please do not rely on email and instead call 911 if the circumstances warrant. Much more to come on this topic as well as our other priorities and goals for the current year. 
  1. Student Attendance - As a component of our district priorities and goals, we are looking more closely at student attendance and working to find ways to reduce student absenteeism. While there are occasions when students must be absent - illness, critical appointments, unavoidable family obligations, etc. - research, our experience, and our values tell us that it is important that students are otherwise in school every day. With this in mind, each school is currently reviewing their attendance practices while we at the district office are reviewing policies and practices that could potentially have a negative impact on attendance. In each case, determining whether our policies and practices align with the realities of today’s students and families is an important review criteria. We will keep you informed as changes are recommended that will directly impact you and your children. 
  1. 2019-2020 Budget Development - The development of the 2019-2020 General Fund Operating Budget officially began on December 5, 2018 with the presentation of the Budget Principles document to the Board of Education. At the December 19 meeting, the Board was presented with the 2019-20 Budget Goals Both of these documents as well as the district’s Priorities and Goals can be found on our website at the link below. As we progress through the development process, we will be guided by these documents which, in sum, suggest that we will provide the best possible program opportunities to our students within the confines of the tax paying community. Each year this is a difficult balancing act as there are inevitably changes in requirements, learning standards, etc., from the state and federal governments which in turn often require additional training and resources to ensure that we comply with these requirements, while also maintaining a very high standard for teaching and learning within the district. For more information, please visit the website (and continue to check back) HERE.

We will continue to update you on our work through the upcoming newsletter, our social media pages and website, and through additional emails. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions on any of the information provided. Also, please visit the events calendar on the website for additional information on the events in our schools.

On behalf of our team here in the district, our thanks for your continued partnership in the critical work of educating our children.

Sincerely,

Ken Slentz
Superintendent
Ballston Spa Central School District