NISKAYUNA: Board welcomes new year

The sound of young people streaming back into schools throughout Niskayuna is music to the ears of one local mother who has helped lead the suburban district for years.

Both of my daughters are out of college now, but the return to school is always an exciting time, explained former school board president Barbara Mauro. "There's always so much to do at the beginning of the school year. It really sets the tone."

Extensive construction at the high school and renovation work at several elementary schools has made that particularly true this year. While the district is making sure the construction doesn't disrupt classroom activities, the ongoing efforts of two key curriculum committees looking to enhance opportunities for gifted students and considering making foreign languages available to elementary school students could have a direct impact on hundreds of students in Niskayuna.

The school board agreed on Monday night, Sept. 10, to bring Deborah Shea on as its new assistant superintendent for educational programs and instruction two weeks earlier than originally planned. A highly regarded administrator, Shea hadn't been scheduled to join Niskayuna until Oct. 1 due to her contractual obligations to the Shenendehowa Central School District, where she was the director of Kindergarten to 12 curriculum and standards. However, when Shen decided to release her from that agreement, Niskayuna jumped at the chance to get her early.

"Dr. Shea possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in instruction and curriculum development," school Superintendent Kevin Baughman said. "This, coupled with her strong background in building and district leadership, will help move our district forward and support the many initiatives under way in Niskayuna."

This is not the first time that Niskayuna has considered making foreign languages available at younger grade levels. The last review of the issue took place when J. Briggs McAndrews was still superintendent of the district (nw he is a town board candidate)and led to sixth graders being afforded the opportunity to take those classes. Previously, foreign languages had been limited to those in seventh grade or above.

"We have talked about having foreign languages in the younger grades for years, and it has been looked at before," said Mauro. "Dr. Shea has an incredible background in curriculum development, teacher training, and staff development and we were very fortunate to land her for this position. With Shenendehowa releasing Dr. Shea from her contract two weeks early, she will be able to join us that much sooner and help work on these important curriculum issues." ""

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