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Education commissioner visits, has lunch with SLC students

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BRASHER FALLS - Eight St. Lawrence Central School students had a working lunch on Friday as they dined with the state commissioner of education.

Dr. John B. King Jr. joined the students for a lunch of spaghetti and meatballs - and a lot of discussion on their thoughts about school.

“Tell me about school,” he told the students.

Sean Roshia said he was attending St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services to study criminal justice and enjoyed his study of global history.

“We learn a lot and have fun doing it,” he said.

“What’s the one thing you would change?” Dr. King asked.

“My mother is a teacher also. Just the pressure that the teachers are receiving right now, stressing them out,” Mr. Roshia said.

Kyle Montroy said he enjoyed biology.

“Our teacher was fresh out of college. She’s a really good teacher,” he told Dr. King.

“She’s been cut,” Superintendent Stephen M. Putman added.

“I wish there were more teachers,” Chloe Gardner said.

Last year’s budget eliminated three positions - a teacher’s assistant post and realignment of teachers in the elementary school that equated to two position cuts.

Prior to crafting last year’s budget, the district had already cut 23.2 positions in two years. Those include one social studies teacher, 1.4 elementary teachers, two science teachers, a 0.33 Spanish teacher, one English teacher, a 0.4 art teacher, 1.33 special education teachers, a 0.33 business teacher, 2.5 teacher aides,1.4 teaching assistants and one administrator.

Other cuts included a 0.5 maintenance worker, 2.5 cleaners, one bus driver, one nurse and a 0.5 technology coordinator.

Shawn Patrick told Dr. King he most enjoyed the music offerings at the school.

“Music is a huge part of my life,” he said.

Dr. King also asked students what extracurricular activities they were participating in at school. The answers ranged from sports such as lacrosse, basketball, football, softball and soccer to Robotics, chorus and the spring musical production. Others said they were part of Student Council, Spanish Club and National Honor Society.

Dr. King also shared his story with the students, as he recounted his high school history teaching days in Puerto Rico when he was living in an apartment that overlooked the ocean compared to the snow and cold weather in Albany.

“When I was a kid growing up, school played an important role in my life. It was a source of stability in my life. I loved school as a kid,” he said.

After initially teaching high school in Puerto Rico, Dr. King said he relocated to Boston, where had attended college.

He holds degrees from Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities; is the founder of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, a Massachusetts-based charter school; and was director of Uncommon Schools before being appointed senior deputy commissioner for PK-12 Education in 2009.

While teaching at inner city schools in Massachusetts, he said, “A lot of kids came to ninth grade with fifth-grade reading skills.”

He was appointed middle school principal and said his goal was “to try to get them on track so they would be successful in middle school and high school.”

Dr. King later decided to attend law school, but he said it wasn’t the same as working in education.

“I missed doing what had an impact on people. It wasn’t contributing to the world,” he said.

He returned to education and was appointed to his current post in May 2011.

Following the lunch, the commissioner posed with the students under a banner that welcomed him “to the best district in the whole world.”

He also visited classrooms and met with teachers during his stay before departing for Potsdam.

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