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Niskayuna school district presents survey results

With the budget and Board of Elections vote just a month away, the Niskayuna school board heard a report Monday, April 21, describing substance abuse and anti-social behavior in students.

The report followed a reminder that the district will hold a Meet the Candidates Night Monday, May 5, to introduce voters to the five people vying for two open seats on the Niskayuna Board of Education. At the event, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium, will be incumbents Terry Weiner and Deb Oriola and newcomers Robert Gardner, Peter Glaser and Ronald Anzalone.

Polls in the school board election and the budget vote will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 20. The board recently adopted a $70.1 million budget for 2008-2009 that will yield a 3.48 percent projected tax levy increase.

At the Monday meeting, Deborah Shea, assistant school superintendent, presented results from a survey to asses substance abuse and anti-social behavior in students and the risk and protective factors that predict problem behaviors. The report compared results from 2008 to a survey done in 2006.

The 2008 survey showed that among students, the perception that drugs are readily available has decreased by 10 to 15 percent since 2006. Belief in the difference between right and wrong has increased significantly in all grades except grade 11. Fewer students have sampled alcohol in grades six and seven than in 2006. Use of cigarettes and marijuana remain a problem for some students. Some high school students have reported attending class "drunk or high," but that number has declined since 2006.

"Our objective is to implement preventive programs that will reduce the risk factors and increase protective factors," said Shea.

Some of the risk factors she cited are availability of drugs, a family history of problem behavior, academic failure and lack of commitment to school, and rebelliousness and friends who use drugs. Mitigating factors include giving rewards for involvement in family, community and school.

"If students felt more recognition for positive contributions, they are more likely to engage in them," said Shea.

In other news, the board approved two programs related to students with disabilities. The first requires the school district to prepare plans describing the range of educational programs for preschool and school-age students with disabilities. The second would give the parents of a student with a disability the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with the evaluation obtained by the district.""

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