Volume 51, Issue 6                                                                                                               February 2017 

James M. Ryan, Ed. D.
Budgeting for BOCES
Budget season is upon us, and school districts are under tremendous pressure to maximize resources - this is precisely the moment when the value of BOCES services and programs becomes crystal clear.
More than just a budget line-item, or an "extra," the programs and services purchased through BOCES are quality, cost-effective choices.  In addition to BOCES offering coordinated services that are substantially less expensive than those same services purchased at "market rates," BOCES services often carry state aid, returning a portion of the expense for a given activity back to school districts, making BOCES an outstanding value.
A bit of background:  BOCES was created by an act of the New York State Legislature in 1948 to allow districts to come together to plan and purchase programs and services.  In those early years, the focus tended to be on traditional career and technical education and special education programs.  Today BOCES offers, and continually looks to provide, new services, such as extensive professional development offerings, communications services, safety/risk management and Online Application System (OLAS), just to name a few. As our offerings continue to expand, there are so many ways, through an economy of scale and the benefit of state aid, that we can support our districts in an extremely cost-effective manner.
When utilizing BOCES services, districts avail themselves of opportunities for staff and students that would otherwise be impossible to create locally.  A great example of this is our culinary programs and facilities, such as the Educated Palate student-run restaurant in Building E.  Most local districts could not possibly provide student kitchen facilities or create a program as we do, and the same could be said for our new Tilly Foster Farm Culinary Program, as well.  When I see our culinary students line up during Educated Palate luncheons to announce their home school districts, I am proud to see that our BOCES serves so many districts in such a vitally important way.
As budget season shifts into high gear, we look forward to helping our component school districts reduce costs as we continue to offer an impressive range of quality services to both students and staff.   We accomplish this feat with great success year after year ... a message that certainly bears repeating.

We want YOU!
BOCES Pilots Ambassador Program
Jackie Levine, director of the Hudson River Teacher Center, discussed the
role of BOCES Ambassadors during a recent orientation for new employees.

How do you respond when someone asks 'What do you do?' or 'What is a BOCES?'

The scope of our programming and services almost defies a concise description. But BOCES' new Ambassador Program is aimed at helping employees better communicate about their roles and BOCES' mission and core values. 

"We are our own best ambassadors, and every member of the BOCES family should be prepared to explain what BOCES does and speak easily about it," says Jackie Levine, director of the Hudson River Teacher Center who brought the idea of identifying BOCES Ambassadors to Assistant Superintendent Lynn Allen. Subsequent brainstorming revealed that, in fact, all BOCES employees are potential ambassadors. 

Jackie explains that a BOCES Ambassador is someone who is knowledgeable about BOCES, stays current on BOCES news and programming, and can articulate what they do and what BOCES does. 

But the role of the BOCES Ambassador is more than communicating what we do. "We want them to be our eyes and ears in the community to identify need," says Jackie. "To be able to look for opportunities where BOCES can best serve the districts. So many of our staff are parents and grandparents and going into the schools. There's always an opportunity for them to see a need."

The concept was launched at a new employee orientation in January. "An Ambassador is almost like a cheerleader with a lot of knowledge about our BOCES," Jackie told attendees. "We have to really know what it means to be a BOCES, how do BOCES benefit the school districts?" From that base, she explained, "Ambassadors can help identify a good fit. Is there a problem that a school is trying is trying to fix that we can help with? Are teachers looking for a particular training? We need to be able to listen and see what people need and identify how we can help."

Ambassador training is going to be incorporated into all new employee orientations, and Jackie and Lynn will soon be meeting with Human Resources Director Mike Skerritt to decide additional next steps for the Ambassador program: how to help BOCES staffers become good ambassadors and how they should relay suggestions. They are also working on developing an "elevator" speech that concisely describes BOCES, which staff members can use when next asked, "Where do you work?" with the inevitable follow up, "What is BOCES?"

New employees attending an orientation session learned what it means to be a BOCES Ambassador.

Students explore a variety of sensory activities in the MSE Room at Pines Bridge.

Pines Bridge's Multi-Sensory Environment Room
Soft music plays in the background. Water bubbles up in a clear tube. A kaleidoscope of colors circles the room's walls, floor and ceiling like lights from a disco ball. All of these things take place in the Multi-Sensory Environment (MSE) room at Pines Bridge.

Kenny Sax visits the room at least once a week with two other students and sometimes has another session on his own. On a recent morning when he had the room to himself, Kenny moved from one device to the next, enjoying the colors and lights and reveling in the freedom to do pretty much what he wanted. 

An MSE room offers simple sensory activities for individuals who have physical or cognitive challenges. Designed to empower the individual, while changing behaviors, it is equipped with a variety of devices, each offering a different type of visual, auditory and tactile stimulus.  
Therapists aim to have the student relaxed, attentive and alert by the time the session is over, so that they are more receptive to learning throughout the rest of the day.
"Most of the students love it," says Occupational Therapist Dawn Galvin of the MSE room. "It's a chance for them to get out of their equipment, out of their wheelchairs and move around freely. This is a rare opportunity for them to make choices." 

Students aren't the only ones to favor the multi-sensory experience. "I love MSE. It's wonderful to see the kids enjoying themselves," says Occupational Therapist Sarah Kaplan, who chairs the MSE Committee.  "Most students are entirely dependent on adults to do everything for them so it's important for them to have that feeling of empowerment that MSE can give."

Pines Bridge's MSE room has about 10 stations, including a fan light that responds to sound, bubble tubes that can change color and bubble activity, a repeating parrot, a disco ball and an opti-solar projector that projects a kaleidoscope of colors onto the room's walls. If a child chooses to lie down on one of the vibrating mats, the projector can throw images onto the ceiling. Surround sound music, chosen specifically for that student's needs, plays in the background: loud rock and roll to stimulate, soft piano to sooth.

A key part of the experience is that students, many of whom have extremely limited mobility and dexterity, can make things happen in the room. A big red switch, about 6 inches wide, allows even severely challenged students to change the color of the fiber optics. "With the lightest touch, everything can change around them," says Kaplan. 

IT Department Developing Password Self-Service Solution

A screen shot featuring the future password reset option for PNW BOCES employees.

As technology is infused into just about every aspect of life, security as it relates to that technology has become paramount.  News stories highlighting security breaches have become commonplace, and we are reminded to remain ever vigilant of security procedures for our computers, phones and other devices.

A critical piece of defense on the security front is the computer password, and the Information Technology Department is working to make it easier for PNW BOCES employees to reset their passwords when necessary.

At PNW BOCES, employees are periodically prompted to reset their passwords for security purposes. Those who work offsite or who spend most of the day working in a classroom with students may miss the prompt and find themselves "locked out" of the system, necessitating a password reset. 

Up until now, anyone in need of a new password would need to call the Helpdesk and go through a verification process. This process has been necessary because the IT department has to ensure that the individual requesting the password is the person they say they are. This could involve a time-consuming wait for verification from a supervisor, and this downtime could negatively impact an employee's workflow.

The new system, which will be rolled out prior to the next school year, features a self-service "password reset" screen. When an employee enrolls in the new program, he or she will provide answers to a series of security questions, similar to the type used by many financial institutions.

In the future, any time that an employee needs a new password, the correct answers to the security questions will serve as identity verification, eliminating the need to contact a supervisor and allowing employees to get on with the business of their day.

"Maintaining data privacy and security is a priority while serving the needs of our agency," said Director of Information Technology Jamie Molina. "This option will allow a more expeditious way of resetting passwords."

BOCES' Mission, Vision and Core Values
North Salem/Pines Bridge Students Build Connections Through Partnership
Physical therapists Dr. Barbara Waldron and Dr. Deirdre Toolan assist North Salem Middle School students as they explore equipment used by Pines Bridge students.

For most students, daily tasks such as brushing teeth or pouring water from a cup don't take much thought. However, for young people who live with multiple disabilities, the most basic activity can be a challenge. A group of North Salem Middle School students had the opportunity to learn firsthand about life with disabilities through a longstanding educational partnership with PNW BOCES' Pines Bridge School.

For more than 20 years, North Salem's "Disabilities Awareness Program" has opened many students' eyes to the reality of living with disabilities.  The program begins with a visit from Pines Bridge educators and physical and occupational therapists to North Salem, where they discuss the many services they provide to their students.  They bring wheelchairs, walkers and many other appliances, which the North Salem students try out. 

A few weeks later, the North Salem students visit Pines Bridge, spending time in classrooms and observing teachers and therapists working with their students. The visit highlights services such as occupational, speech, language and physical therapy.  

"It's an amazing experience for the visiting students," said Pines Bridge Principal Csilla Mate. "We can observe big changes in them once they have put themselves in our students' shoes."  

North Salem teacher and 6th grade advisor Jim Savarese feels that the program helps his students develop a better understanding of the experiences of those with special needs.  "For our students, the workshop the Pines Bridge staff conducts for us, and the subsequent visits to the school, provide a unique and powerful opportunity to change their perspective on what school -- and life -- are like for many students and their families," he said. "They gain a new appreciation for things that many of us take for granted, and they are touched by the kindness and generosity of a wonderful group of educators and students."

"There is so much misinformation out there about what students like ours can or can't do," said Csilla. "This experience enables these middle school students to go out into the world and help create positive change for this population." 

Annual AHERA Notification
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), became law in 1986. AHERA requires local education agencies to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.
In accordance with Federal AHERA regulations, building workers and occupants, including parents, teachers and employee organizations, are to be notified in writing of the availability of AHERA Asbestos Management Plans once each year. This is the required annual notification.
AHERA Management Plan Locations:
A complete set of all AHERA facility reports are maintained at the Operation & Maintenance Office. Director of School Facilities and Operations, Katharina Cerreta, is the P/NW BOCES AHERA compliance designee and may be contacted at 914-248-2203 concerning any questions that you may have.
Copies of the plan may also be found at the following buildings: 
Professional Library in School Services (Building A): The plan for all buildings on Pines Bridge, Fox Meadow and Madden Campuses.
Contact: Joseph Mannozzi, School Library System Coordinator  
Walden School Main Office (Building B): The plan for the Pines Bridge & Walden Schools (Building B) only.
Contact: Mike Sowul, Supervisor of Special Education   
Tech Center Main Office: The plan for Tech Center, Tech South & Building E only.
Contact: Steven Lowery, Career & Technical Education Executive Principal
Fox Meadow Main HS/MS Office at Building #9: The plan for all buildings at Fox Meadow only.
Contact: Nicole Murphy, Supervisor of Special Education
Madden Center for Environmental Education: The plan for all buildings on the Madden Campus only.
Contact: Dorna Schroeter, Environmental Education Coordinator 
Virtual Suggestion Box
Please be reminded that you are welcome to share your ideas and suggestions  to boost morale and improve our collective work by using our virtual suggestion box. To access the box, go to the BOCES website at  http://www.pnwboces.org/
(click the employees tab and then suggestion box) or go directly to:

The virtual suggestion box is checked on a daily basis and all suggestions are carefully reviewed and considered. Suggestions of merit that are acted upon are highlighted in the BOCES Reporter.    
Thanks again to all those who have used the virtual suggestion box, and keep the new ideas coming! 
Staff  Stuff
Kathryn Arrowitz, Coordinator of Human Resources, School Services Building. Kathleen Copeland-Fish, Assistant Naturalist, Madden. Geraldine Gilmore, Senior Office Assistant, Tech Center. Hallie Hirsch, Senior Office Assistant, School Services Building. Cynthia Tillman, Stock Clerk, Fox Meadow.

Ann Quinones-Narcisse, Regional Special Education Training Specialist.

Patricia Cartelli, Carol Chiara, Kelly Damiano, Julie Darling, Rita DeVito, Angela Gilleo, Judith Gillet, Laura Giordano, Olga Gonzalez-Tompson, Marguerite Guglielmo, Janine Hoppermann, Justin Huff, Erik Krantz, Cynthia Lehr, Stefanie Longobardo, Michael Marchionna, Veronica McCarthy, Felecia Morris, Philip Nouvion, Teresa O'Donnell, Sharlene Orlowsky, Antonio Paone, Patricia Pfister, Nicole Pulick, Theresa Randall, Lisa Tobin, Doreen Trani and Hilary Wolfson.

     Visit our website at 

We hope you've enjoyed receiving the  BOCES Reporter  as an email newsletter. 
Our goal is to make the news and views of BOCES staff easily accessible to you.
Let us know what you think.  Suggestions and  comments are always welcome. 
Karen Hoffman, editor: 
BOCES Reporter: Karen Hoffman, Editor; Valerie Laudato, Graphic Designer