In the meantime, please read Meredith Heuer's board comments from the August 31, 2015 Board Meeting.
My name is Meredith Heuer and I have been a part of the Beacon Arts & Education
Foundation since 2010. The mission of this foundation is to raise funds through private
donations and grants to support a more comprehensive education for the students of the
BCSD. BAEF has sponsored the Calico Ball for the last 5 years (a $16,000/year
program) as well as donated funds for field trips, art and music supplies, teaching artist
workshops, and more. Last year alone, BAEF’s donation to the schools totaled over
$25,000 in programming.
One of BAEF’s biggest successes, in my opinion, was to get the district to renew their
lapsed contract with the Dutchess County BOCES Co-Ser in 2012. BOCES stands for
Board of Cooperative Educational Services. BOCES is a public organization that was
created by the New York State Legislature in 1948 to provide shared educational
programs and services to school districts. Qualifying programs are processed
through Dutchess County and the district receives 40-50% of monies spent during a
school year back the next year. For example, if the district pays $16,000 for the
Calico Ball one year, the district receives around $8,000 back the next.
It had taken a lot of work, and a donation of $2500 for the initial ½ year administration
fee, to get the district to sign up with the BOCES Co-Ser but everyone agreed that it
was a sound approach to making every dollar spent toward arts in education
programming go farther. This seems especially poignant today when the BCSD was
just rated ineffective in arts integration.
Even with the success of a renewed relationship with BOCES, BAEF felt that the
BCSD was not getting as many contracts through the Co-Ser as was possible; that
there was programming happening in the district that qualified for the Co-Ser, but it
was not being put through.
That is why last October I approached the superintendent with a proposal that BAEF
offer a $5000 donation to be used as a stipend for a teacher in the BCSD be the arts in
education coordinator. This person’s responsibilities would include:
1. Educating principals, teachers and PTA members about the Dutchess County
BOCES Co-Ser and how to take advantage of it.
2. Helping teachers to understand what existing programming qualifies for the
BOCES Co-Ser aid and helping teachers to fill out and submit contracts to the
BOCES Co-Ser coordinator.
3. Understanding the New York State curriculum and pointing teachers to new
programming that complements the curriculum and qualifies for the Co-Ser
4. Keeping track of what contracts were submitted and letting principals know that
they had earned a credit of funds that they could use the next year.
BAEF offered this after paying an arts in education coordinator outside of the district for
a year. While this person was qualified for the position and was able to make some
progress toward the goals stated above, BAEF felt that the position would be more
effective from within the district.
After hearing the proposal, the superintendent thanked me and told me that she agreed;
the position would be much more effective if it was held by someone within the district.
She told me that she had been thinking the same thing and she explained the idea behind
the TOSA position. This was the first I had heard of it but, from what she told me, it
seemed like a very good use of the position. The superintendent told me that the district
would be appointing a TOSA that would have, among other responsibilities, Arts in
Education Coordinator for the district. I left elated.
A couple of weeks later I was contacted by the new Arts in Education Coordinator, who
enthusiastically told me she was excited to take on the role. Aside from an email where
the Arts in Education Coordinator acknowledged her new position to the Assistant
Superintendent for Business and another to all of the teachers in the
district, I am not sure what she was able to accomplish. I had recommended that she meet with Maria DeWald, the BOCES coordinator to discuss opportunities for our district.
This did not happen. I asked her to coordinate with the music teachers to put the
NYSSMA and DCMA fees through the Co-Ser. This also did not happen. I made contact
with the Arts in Education Coordinator from the Arlington District to ask if it would be
ok for our Arts in Education Coordinator to contact her for advice but I don’t think this
happened either. I thought being in touch with the Arlington District could be really
beneficial since they put over $250,000 worth of contracts through the Co-Ser each year.
The BCSD put fewer contracts through the Co-Ser this year than for the 2012-13 or
2013-14 school year. In 2012-13, the BCSD had 6 contracts totaling $16,237. In 2013-
14, the BCSD had 5 contracts totaling $15,141.50. This year, we had 3 contracts totaling
When I met on August 11, 2015 with the Arts in Education Coordinator, the assistant
superintendent and, unexpectedly, the superintendent to go over how the 2014-15 year
went with for the Arts in Education coordinator position, I was told by the superintendent
that the person who I was told would be the arts in education coordinator was not actually
the arts in education coordinator in any official capacity; that any work she did in this
area was purely volunteer. She said that the arts in education coordinator position did not
actually fit under the TOSA umbrella.
This leaves me with several questions and concerns:
1. This was not how it was presented to me in the October 2015. Did I misunderstand? Did the superintendent misunderstand the TOSA regulations and when she figured it out, did she officially change the arts in education coordinator position? Were there other responsibilities added to her position instead of the arts in education coordinator? What were this person’s total responsibilities as TOSA? Who did she report to? How was her effectiveness measured?
2. BAEF had offered funds to help support this position. The offer was refused and
the job was not performed. Why, when the superintendent decided that the arts in
education coordinator would not be a paid position didn’t she approach BAEF to
revisit the idea of BAEF helping to fund the position.
3. The district pays $5000/year to participate in the Co-Ser. Are we getting the
maximum benefits we can from this program? As I mentioned earlier, for several
years, I have asked administrators to help me coordinate with the music teachers
to put the NYSSMA fees through the Co-Ser. When I asked the arts in education
coordinator about this at our recent meeting, she said that this had not happened
because the music teachers were paying these fees out of their own pockets. Is
this true? Why is this happening?
This all seems very important to take a much closer look at given the August 10, 2015
school board meeting where several board members were prepared to vote to instate four TOSA positions even after the superintendent was not able to give a clear explanation of the roles these TOSA’s would fill. This represents, as far as I am able to understand it, 4
salaries, so more than $300,000. I hope the board will take the information I present here
and make sure that they understand what they are voting for when they vote for these
TOSA positions. I can’t say whether I am for or against them with the information I have
been able to glean. Perhaps the board members know more than the public on this? Is
their job description confidential? I hope the board is doing their due diligence of
research and asking plenty of questions before voting for this or any of agenda items that
require their approval.
chair, Beacon Arts & Education Foundation
vice-president, Beacon Arts