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Joshua Thomas
New York State Regent James C. Dawson, a member of the state Board of Regents since 1993, leads a focus group with OESJ students and faculty Monday.

Joshua Thomas
New York State Regent James C. Dawson explains the role of the NYS Board of Regents. Seated next to Dawson is OESJ Senior Skyler Viveros.

Joshua Thomas
OESJ High School Principal Ronald Smith asks New York State Regent James C. Dawson whether the state encourages mergers.


NYS Regent Dawson tours OESJ, meets with faculty and students

Thursday, January 09, 2014 - Updated: 10:07 AM


C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- New York State Regent James C. Dawson, a member of the state Board of Regents since 1993, visited OESJ on Monday afternoon, touring the campus, addressing high school students during a general assembly and meeting with a focus group of students and staff, where he listened to comments and answered questions.

Dawson explained to about ten faculty and staff members -- chosen by OESJ History Teacher Phoebe Sitterly and OESJ High School Principal Ronald Smith -- the responsibilities of the Board of Regents, stating that the board makes primary recommendations to legislature. 

"They look at us as experts," he said.

The Board of Regents also sets policies, and under state law, makes determinations such as the length of a school day, authorizes groups of teachers to prepare Regents examinations and organizes BOCES, for example.

He explained that the board also has oversight in public and private state universities, with every college degree offered by the state being authorized by them. They also oversee 50 professions in the state (including dentistry, nursing and veterinary science). Libraries, daycare centers, Head Start, and historical institutions also operate under their auspices.

"This is your time to speak with somebody who controls what happens at the state level," said Sitterly to the students, continuing, "he'll take the time to answer your questions and he'll answer anything you ask."

Senior Skyler Viveros wondered how the Board of Regents rectifies the gap between students who only have limited Common Core Standard education and ones that have been educated under the mandates for a long period of time. Also, a current senior has a limited Common Core education, but must still pass Common Core approved exams.

Dawson answered, "I don't think, in my own mind, that the Common Core exams at the higher levels will be truly Common Core for another two years. They'll look like Common Core, but they too, over time, will morph."

Of Common Core Standards, he said, "it's going to change over time … the full phase-in will take 12 years."

Dawson also offered words of advice, telling students he feels that since college admission standards are becoming more stringent, they should make an attempt to have as many advanced placement courses on their transcript as possible.

"It's a very important thing," he said.

OESJ High School Principal Ronald Smith questioned whether the state encourages mergers.

Regent Dawson stated that a plan was created in the 1950s to consolidate New York State school districts from about 700 to 200-300. 

Beyond that, the state offers an incentive plan, which OESJ is currently operating under, wherein the state will provide 40 percent additional aid for five years with an aid reduction every year thereafter. The plan also offers 30 percent incentive for capital dollars, with high needs districts (which OESJ is) able to receive up to 98 percent reimbursement on capital budgets.

"It's a fairly substantial incentive," said Dawson, noting that currently, the incentive program is the only means by which the state encourages mergers.

Viveros wondered how teachers can successfully motivate students.

"A lot of it is one on one conversation -- walking them through it, and that takes time, and that's the hard part of teaching," Dawson stated, explaining that students, a long time ago, used to receive one on one tutoring exclusively. "We do it to the extent that we can afford to do it," Dawson said, adding, "that works, but it's expensive, and that becomes the problem." 

He continued, "Part of the problem is change. If you've got teachers who are resistant to change, or who have not embraced the change, then the students are not going to embrace the change."


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