The New York State Education Department says an unprecedented number of schools were added to the in need of improvement list this year. Oneida, Otsego, and Herkimer Counties are among those with districts identified for improvement. Utica is one of the districts with several schools on the list. And this year, six elementary schools in Utica were added to the list for the first time. And three other schools remained on the list from previous years.
Sandy Paddock of the district says the state's findings were nothing new. The areas the schools need to improve in are there programs involving students with disabilities and students who are learning English as a second language. These are areas that have always been a challenge for the city. And Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the district Lori Eccleston says the state has mandates that are unfunded, so school districts struggle to meet those with their budgetary restrictions. All that aside, she says the schools' staff and teachers are wonderful and do the best with what they're given.
Those schools that have been on the list for a couple years now, Donovan Middle school, Proctor High School, and JFK Middle School, are now getting help from the state, while the elementary schools will be assisted by BOCES.
Both Eccleston and Paddock are hopeful that state intervention and new leadership in the district will help the schools. They agree that a strong district is important for the entire community--something Economy Professor Rick Fenner emphasized. "Clearly the quality of a school district is an important factor that people take into account when buying a house," he says, "a reputation of a school district is going to be very important to a community."
Eccleston agrees, "I believe this district will rise above a lot of the adversity its suffered. And it's very important to keep our students and people in the area." For more information on which schools are on the state's list and what their status is, you can visit: