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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat

A look at BOCES





APRIL, 2014

BOCES: Planning for the future while excelling in the present

Ever wondered what BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) really does? Its leader, Sullivan County District Superintendent Larry Thomas, is the perfect man to ask.

Q: There can be some confusion about what BOCES does. Can you describe it? A: We operate differently from regular school districts. We serve the school districts; so much of what we put together is based on what other schools want. We have three primary areas of focus. The first one is Direct Instruction of Students, which in turn is split into Special Education, Career and Technical Education and Alternative Education. These are all programs that school districts either don’t have enough students to run, or they are very expensive, or they just don’t have other resources to run them. So BOCES creates partnerships amongst various other schools so that we can run them for them. Hopefully, it’s a

little cheaper because we can run them together. The incentive is the cost, but also you’re providing specialized education for some of the students who really should be provided with it. There’s some state aid that can be gotten from participating in certa n BOCES programs. The second component of our services is Instructional Support Services, for the teachers. If you take some small districts, they really can’t afford to have an expert in some of the fields. By pooling our resources in the county, we can have one person support all the schools, which is a lot cheaper than having eight of them around. (There are eight school districts in Sullivan County.) The third is Management Services for the districts. Rather than every district having, for example, a payroll department, we can pool our resources and process them here. Seven out of the eight schools in the county use our business office. That’s a definite saving.

Every school has a business official, for keyboarding, keeping journals, that sort of thing. We handle payrolls, purchasing, accounts payable, recordkeeping for benefits, and all back-office type things. Also we have a full-time electrician, and he’s able to go out and work in various other districts. BOCES also provides Adult Education classes. Q: How are you funded? A: Many people think we get money from the state – we really don’t. We are more a business; we don’t get school aid from the state. Our revenue comes from the revenue generated by the school districts contracting with us for our services. We can’t levy taxes like schools can. Q: What’s new this year? A: A lot of things are going on this year. We’ve extended some of our partnerships in a big way. One of them is the Cornell Cooperative Extension. We helped them build their greenhouses, prepare the land,

we helped them move the electricity, clear out, bulldoze, etc. Our students did that. It’s great for them to participate in a real live project. We’re also working with Cornell with the commercial kitchen. We hope we’ll be able to use it as labs for our culinary students, so to speak. We’re looking at some partnerships with Sullivan County, trying to bring the college into our classrooms a little, so students will be able to, perhaps, take college courses while here. It’s already happening, but we’re R expanding it. Also we’re looking to use distancei learning for college instruction.w Video, Internet, using technology to w be able to share our expertise. As far as Management Services,a we’re looking at a possible extensiont of that. There’s an awful lot of concern how the Affordable Care Act is going to impact schools, our staff.“ We’re looking at how to help schoolsh with our Human Resourcesi Department. There’s probably going to be an awful lot of recordkeeping,A paperwork, and interpreting the law.o



APRIL, 2014


school districts.

BOCES District Superintendent Larry Thomas

Rather than each of the schools hiring an individual to take care of that, we can hire one here instead of eight. We don’t make rules for the schools, we don’t tell them what to do. They ask us, and we provide services for them.

Q: Are you talking about “Obamacare” health benefits which have to be provided to anyone working 30 hours a week? A: Yes, they have to be looked at. And there’s a certain look-back period. When you think about the num-

ber of employees the schools have, it’s a lot. They’re approaching us to see if there’s a way we can deal with this in more efficient ways. Q: How do you communicate with the schools? A: I talk primarily to the superintendents and business officials. We have monthly meetings with all the groups: all the principals, all the business officials, guidance counselors, all in separate groups. We talk about different issues. Our communication lines are really pretty good with our

Q: Any more new developments? A: On the horizon, as we go forward, we’re always looking at programming and technology. I think we’re on track in making changes in curriculum. We want to provide our instruction in a different way, using technology a little bit more, and trying to get our students a little more into the workforce. I don’t know what people feel about the casinos, but the fact is, if we get a casino here in Sullivan County, then BOCES certainly wants to help in making sure the students are ready to go into the workforce, and are prepared. We’re looking at the possibilities if a casino or destination resort opens up in Sullivan County. What are some of the job areas that students and adults could enter into in Sullivan County? We’re trying to support employment in Sullivan County in any way we can. We want to be a participant in this, we want to improve the economy in any way we can. One of the things we’ve started to look at here in BOCES is, we’re going to need some renovation in the next few years. I currently have a group of people visiting the sites, and we’re

! G N I R ble. I H W NObs are availa eer or

trying to match what’s needed in the future with what kind of facilities we have at the moment. I think we’re going to be coming to the public at some point, and asking about making improvements. Q: Can you explain a little more about casinos, employment, and technology? A: There are some things we probably wouldn’t get into because we’re a school. But we want to be able to train our students for a number of jobs a destination resort might offer. There’s always a need for electricians, machinists with precision, and hospitality workers. We’re trying to get a handle on exactly the type of training that a destination resort would want, so we would create our programs with those destinations in mind.

All photographs and stories for this special School Scene are by Sullivan County Democrat Photographer/Reporter Anya Tikka. The Democrat would also like to thank BOCES for all its cooperation in this project.

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re-Tech Program Instructors Paul Maopolski and Pat Killian are enthusiastic about their many innovative projects to challenge students to create new approaches and work “with what you have available.” “Ninth and 10th grade students who are not quite making it in high school – and sometimes are on the verge of dropping out – come to the half-day program to get a taste of all different tech programs,” Donna Hemmer, Director of Communications, explained. “This year we’re integrating STEM programs. The whole program is based on sustainability and renewable energy.” STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The innovative, exciting projects Pre-Tech is working on include a biogas energy generator utilizing cow manure; hydroponic farming; windmill energy; and next year, building a car that runs on air compression. The instructors explained how they use different scenarios to teach the young people how to adapt when things don’t work out as planned. “We use real-life scenarios,” Killian explained. “My job is to introduce the


APRIL, 2014

Teaching cutting-edge skills for both life and work Pre-Tech Instructor Pat Killian shows off part of the windmill project.

STEM initiative to the Pre-Tech program that was developed by Mr. Maopolski over the last three years. There’s a perfect fit, because everything he does, we extend it a little bit, and it goes into the STEM program, building projects that teach con-

cepts, engineering, and math.” Killian explained the use of a hydroponic device. “We pump the water through the pipe on top of the tank,” he explained, “and there are 10 holes on top of the pipe where you plant bar-

ley for fodder. It takes seven days from seed to fodder for livestock, rabbits, chickens, and other animals.” Another project was the biogas generator that was built with cow manure and water. “It produces methane that can be used to generate energy,” Killian said. “We had to adapt to use smaller pipes, because the previous one didn’t work. We failed this system twice, but each time we sat down and brainstormed, and came up with this design. “Killington Ski Resort is run on 300,000 gallons of cow manure per year,” he continued. “They feed it to their natural gas system to power the ski lifts, etc.” The manure is supplied by the BOCES Animal Science program in Jeffersonville. “We work with whatever you’ve got,” he concluded. “It teaches sustainability.” Next year, they want to convert a car to run on air. “The French Peugeot are making ... cars that run on hybrid gasoline-air power. They use compressed air tanks to power a hydraulic motor under the hood. You can also take a

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leges all over the place. One kid, when he started his first year in college, he was 44 percent done already. ... They’re learning while still in high school, so they are ahead of their classmates in college because many of them don’t have that opportunity.” She added that BOCES partners with the surrounding community. “We have a split campus in Liberty and Monticello that has internships in surrounding hospitals and nursing homes. It’s a win-win to everybody.” She concluded, “Extra math, science, English – that’s the integrated approach. We have special education teachers come and work with them on various projects, based on the curriculum here. They tie it in to the topic, so for example, the culinary kids use measuring for cooking. “We’re trying to get our kids ready for what’s out there. There’s so much potential here. They are so far ahead on how they can improve the economy, and the whole ecosystem. This allows the kids to go and figure out – ‘how can I do what I need to do?’ instead of going to the store to get what they want. It’s on the cutting edge of technology to have kids career- and life-ready.”


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bicycle and convert it,” he said. “We’re also working on a ceiling fan to convert it with magnets to an air conditioner. And a lot more…” But do the kids get excited about all this? “They understand it and they get very excited,” Killian replied. “Some kids built by themselves a little hydroelectric plant in their barn, in their spare time, without any pushing from us. It didn’t work, so they brought it in here, to figure it out. They’ll get an extra credit for it.” The students in Pre-Tech also run an enterprise that teaches them how to operate a business. They build items from wood, including planters, benches, dog houses, and wishing wells, then sell them. Maopolski explained, “Once we have them, we take a picture and make a sales flyer and marketing materials. They go to their teachers, parents, and mentors, and sell to them. They also give out brochures. It instills a work ethic, introduces community outreach, customer service, and quality control.” Hemmer explained further, “They’re getting college credits. We have college articulation agreements with col-


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Shooting for the STARS isn’t too far to aim at all


OCES proudly has some rising STARS. “The STARS Program is based on providing services for students who have communication difficulties, or fall somewhere on the autism spectrum,” says Donna Hemmer, BOCES’ director of communications. “We provide them with instruction to enable them to be fairly competent as they grow. We show different methods of working, new methods, and technology. “They all come through referrals from schools. They all have IEPs, or Individual Education Plans, and they are meeting their goals, tying to the Common Core.” STARS stands for Structured Teaching and Related Services. The program has about 40 kids in classrooms of eight students, one teacher, and three aides. BOCES began the program partly in response to the

increase in student referrals. Teachers Teri Knight and Joanne Scialabba, and Speech Therapist Madeline Paciga, sat down to explain the innovative approach that uses research-based methodology developed by Dr. Vincent Carbone, a wellknown specialist in the field. Paciga explained, “Last year, BOCES made arrangements with the Carbone Clinic in Pennsylvania. Dr. Carbone is a specialist who runs a private clinic that uses these methods that are now being brought here.” The school is incorporating a fiveyear plan, starting last year. The Carbone Clinic first evaluated the classrooms, staff, students, and abilities. After analysis, two classes with teachers Knight and Scialabba were chosen to continue contact with the consultant from the clinic, who comes to the school monthly. The system uses ABA, or Applied


APRIL, 2014 A

Richard Welk, 11, doesn't speak but instead uses two iPads to communicate, one to talk to others, and the other for his work. "We teach him to speak as well," said his teacher, Joanne Scialabba.

Behavior Analysis. An older method was more rigid, the teachers explained, and sometimes even detrimental or aversive to the students. ABA uses principles of behavior to enforce socially acceptable actions. Knight explained, “So it’s a different way of bringing ABA, of delivering instruction to the classroom.” “It’s more userfriendly,” Paciga interjected with a smile. Knight expanded, “One of the ways it has changed it to bring out the student motivation. When the student is motivated for something, you use that to your advantage, to steer them. In this program, they are constantly being reinforced for appropriate behaviors and responses, to increase motivation, and to make teaching less aversive.” She continued, “We’re slowly implementing the program based on ABA, which helps us to address problem behavior, as well as teaching skills. It’s data-driven. Data is taken by the teachers daily about the skills learned, as well as the causes of problem behavior in the classroom, so that we can come up with strategies to increase learning and decrease problems.” The Carbone Clinic consultant comes in once a month to look at the data, and gives instructions for the next step.

Everything is structured and predictable, starting with the way the classrooms are set up, since the students often have problems with anxiety. The teachers explained how the new program is filling in the gaps. For example, if students can’t speak, no matter how old they are, they can’t be taught other skills. The teachers have to do the curriculum over for individualized instruction based on the level where students are now. The new method uses positive reinforcement. Scialabba explained, “Some of our kids would act out by screaming, and we would use timeout, punishing. But they got away from doing what they didn’t want to do, and they thought, great, because they didn’t want to study anyway. So now we always go back to that activity that they’re trying to avoid. No matter what they do, they go back to it – for example, math. We always keep that demand on them.” Knight continued, “Demand is placed, like ‘sit down, sit down.’ As soon as there’s a good response, they get a little food snack or ‘good job’ verbal praise – what we think is enforcing the good behavior. And we see it only as enforcing if it increases the behavior we’re looking for. You have to find out what is going to

The system uses ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis. An older method was more rigid, and sometimes even detrimental or aversive to the students.


APRIL, 2014



Teacher Teri Knight works with 5-year-old Jeromiah Cooper.

Teacher Joanne Scialabba, Speech Therapist Madeline Paciga, and Teacher Teri Knight.

increase positive behaviors.” All agreed the success of the program is based on the rigorous data collection. “We take ‘what happened before’, document that, and what the consequence was, so we can clearly see what the trigger was for that behavior,” Scialabba said. “Usually, if they want something, they act out,

Scialabba said, “Many have difficulties giving up their preferred behavior – for example, an iPad. So now we have protocols of how to interrupt. It’s very systematic.” The feedback has been good all around. Scialabba said enthusiastically, “This year has been a rebirth of our teaching. I’ve been teaching 20 years,


scream, and then mom gives them a cookie. For children with disability, that’s the way they continue, because that’s the way that worked.” The new method rewards the kids with a cookie only if they showed positive behavior. Knight continued, “We are replacing bad behaviors with communication skills, retraining.”

and it’s wow, systemized teaching.” “You see huge strides,” Knight acknowledged. “Parents have told me that they see tremendous progress.” The program’s reputation for success is spreading, thanks to obvious results. “It works for all children,” Knight affirmed.


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BOCES School Scene 2014