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Career & Technical School News

Students put their government skills to the test with state lawmakers
 

New Visions students join BOCES leaders to advocate for changes

For the last six months, students in the Capital Region BOCES New Visions: Law and Government program have been learning how the inner workings of the government and judicial systems work.

On Wednesday, March 2 they took an active role in the government, joining forces with BOCES leadership from around the state as they advocated for legislation that would improve the education system and BOCES.

Student talksArmed with smiles, stiff handshakes and a folder filled with information, two delegations of Capital Region BOCES students, faculty and staff took to the hallowed halls of the state Capitol and Legislative Office Building as their peers from other BOCES around the state did the same.

The students were able to personally lobby state Sen. Neil Breslin and Assemblyman Phil Steck, as well as meet with the aides and interns of other state lawmakers.

The goal of the meetings was to educate lawmakers on the value of BOCES, as well as stress the need for reforms that allow BOCES to continue to provide key services to schools.

The students personalized the message, talking about how they have directly benefitted from BOCES and how they know others who have likewise had their lives impacted through BOCES programming and services.

"I was able to access Advanced Placement classes not available in my home school and better prepare myself for college," New Visions student Alex Wilgocki of Mohonasen told an aid for Sen. George Amedore.

"New Visions: Law and Government separated me from all of the students who applied to Union College and helped me get into the college," said Mutaz Ali of Troy.

"The BOCES New Visions program has provided me a unique learning opportunity and among many things, has taught me to be a better public speaker,� said Keenan Loder of the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District. Before taking the class, he said, he was "uncomfortable" with speaking in front of others.

Amedore aidStudents delivering the message was powerful, as well as an educational, as the participants learned how they had to be direct and how they may not always get access to lawmakers or even their top aides. 

A New Visions student from Scotia-Glenville told an intern for Sen. Catherine Nolan that the classes offered by BOCES are pivotal to the lives of many students.

"Not everyone is going to go to college. I know kids who are going to BOCES for automotive and culinary and these are the type of skills and training they will use to get good jobs," said Daniel Sonthivongnorath.

Many of the changes advocated for by the delegation would not cost state taxpayers any more money and yet would still allow BOCES to provide better, more cost-effective services — such as allowing BOCES to use surplus funds to create a workers' compensation reserve and allowing BOCES to make capital improvements to its facilities or educational equipment without those costs impacting component school districts' tax levy caps.

"Every other business in this country operates with a reserve for workers' comp. It's good business practice, but we are presently not allowed to do that," said Robert Zordan, director
of human resources for BOCES. "It's a simple change that would not cost the state anything."Students talk with Assemblyman Phil Steck

Other initiatives lobbied for included:

  • Raising the $30,000 cap on state aid for BOCES faculty positions that has remained the same since 1990. Because the cap has not increased, costs beyond the cap are shifted to local taxpayers rather than being covered by state aid.
  • Authorizing BOCES to operate regional high schools that would allow individual school districts to retain their identities, but provide their students with a wider range of learning opportunities.
  • Allowing BOCES to create reserves to handle legacy costs for retiree health insurance and other related costs.

Many of the lawmakers and their aides said they already understood the value of BOCES.

"I wish there were programs like this when I was in high school so I could learn about the ins and outs of government before I got here," said Amedore's aide Vinnie Nicosia.

Photos:

Breslin with studentsTop picture: Julian Schlemmer, Troy, lobbies a state lawmaker.

Second picture: Alex Wilgocki, Mohonasen, lobbies an aide for Sen. George Amedore.

Third picture: Students Gabrielle Agostino, Mohonasen, Mathilda Scott, Cobleskill-Richmondville and Margaret Richards, Ichabod Crane, talk with Assemblyman Phil Steck as Mohonasen teacher Brent Pierce looks on.

Fourth picture: Sen. Neil Breslin poses with (from left to right) Mutaz Ali, Troy, Daniel Sonthivongnorath, Scotia-Glenville, Keenan Loder, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Morgan Daignault, Sharon Springs, and Julian Schlemmer, Troy.

Below: District Superintendent Dr. Charles S. Dedrick and New Visions: Law and Government teacher Rich Bader pose with several of Bader's students during BOCES Lobby Day at the state Capitol. From left, the students are Alex Wilgocki, Mohonasen, Margaret Richards, Ichabod Crane, Kyle Hurysz, Maple Hill, Dedrick, Mathilda Scott, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Bader and Gabrielle Agostino, Mohonasen.

Chuck and his kids

 

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