Category Archives: Friends of Schenectady County Public Library

Farewell to a Wonderful Volunteer

J. Richard “Dick” Cahill


J. Richard ‘Dick’ Cahill Scotia Dick Cahill, age 69, died at home on January 13th in the loving care of his family and close friends. Cause of death was cancer. Dick was born and raised in Somerville, NJ, the son of the lateJoseph A. and Ernestine V. Jassa Cahill. Mr. Cahill earned his BA in political science at LaSalle University, Philadelphia. Next he earned his master’s in education at Xavier University in Cincinnati where he met his future wife. Mr. Cahill worked for 34 years as a systems analyst for the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, retiring in 2001. In his retirement he enjoyed traveling, constructing sculptures from found objects, working on his model trains, winding his many clocks, and tending his perennial garden. He was a lover of music, books and art. Recently, he enjoyed volunteering at the Friends of the Library’s Whitney Book Store. Dick was happiest when he was playing with his grandchildren. He was a communicant at Christ the King Church. His greatest love and care was for his family who will miss him dearly. Dick is survived by his wife of 42 years, Mary Moebius Cahill; his children, Rachel Cahill, John (Michelle Matejka) Cahill, and Charles Cahill; his grandchildren, Liam and Sloane Cahill; brother, W. Ronald (Betty Ann Poll) Cahill; sister, Marilyn Van Steelant; and nephews, Kevin (Jennifer) Cahill and Brian Cahill also survive him. The family will receive relatives and friends on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at their home at 29 Washington Road, Scotia. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at Christ the King Church, 20 Sumter Ave., Albany. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dick’s name to Landis Arboretum, 174 Lape Rd., Esperance, NY 12066; or Friends of SCPL, 99Clinton St., Schenectady, NY 12305. The family thanks their Hospice Team for the care provided

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New Schenectady School Superintendent Spring to Speak on Dec. 3

Today’s Daily Gazette has a very disturbing article regarding student progress in the local schools.  You will have an opportunity to hear the new superintendent talk about this at the Table Talks program at noon on Monday, Dec. 3.  Read on for news article:

Daily Gazette article – Nov. 29, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Early grades in trouble, set pattern of failure

By Kathleen Moore

Schenectady student progress looks grim

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady school board members got distressing news in their first look at student progress this year.

It turns out poor performance begins as early as first grade. According to first-quarter grades, only 44 percent of the district’s first graders are reading at grade-level.

And very few of them ever catch up. Only 57 percent of the district’s sixth graders are reading on grade-level right now — and that’s after each grade level inched up steadily, from 46 percent in second grade to 53 percent in third grade.

Not one grade exceeded 57 percent.

The figures only got worse as school board members looked at the middle school grades.

There, only 52 percent of the students were passing all of their classes by the end of first quarter. Fifteen percent — 221 students — were failing three or more classes.

But even those percentages were better than the data at the high school. Only 37.5 percent of the high schoolers were passing all their classes, and hundreds of freshmen were getting at least one grade below a 55.

Teachers issued 998 “no grade” letters for those classes — some freshmen received more than one NG — and this week school officials began delivering letters in person to each parent of a child getting an NG.

New Principal Diane Wilkinson encouraged teachers to give out NGs to encourage students to keep trying.

“Trying to be creative to work with students to not give up hope,” she said. “It may be a rough start, but we’re here to let you know it’s not the end.”

Students who fail ninth grade are more likely to drop out than any other student, so the district has focused efforts on that group. Attendance deans personally knock on their doors, call their parents and patrol the city to get freshmen to come to school, while teachers run a special ninth grade academy and have weekly conferences focusing on students who are doing poorly.

This was the first time the school district collected first-quarter data for the school board. It is an initiative of the new Superintendent Laurence Spring.

School officials will use the data to look for trends and weaknesses. But school board members said it’s hard to know where to start with such serious problems at every level.

“Many of these numbers are disturbing,” said board member Cheryl Nechamen. “Our achievement is not where it should be. But the first step is knowing what the problem is.”

One bright spot in the data was the racial achievement gap. On reading proficiency, there was not a significant gap between races. Blacks and Hispanics had a 46 percent reading proficiency rate, on average, while whites had a 53 percent rate.

The real separation came in terms of wealth.

Students who came from middle-class or wealthy families scored far higher on reading proficiency than students from poor families. While 71 percent of the wealthier students could read at grade level this fall, only 45 percent of the poor students could read well.

When school officials compared the fall results to the results from last June, they found that students also lost far more than expected over the summer. In last year’s kindergarten classes, 67 percent could read at grade level by June. But when those students showed up for school this fall, they had lost so much reading skill that only 44 percent of them can still read at grade level, three months into the school year.

That trend continued through every grade level.

Also worrying were the results about writing skills in elementary school. At every grade level, students scored worse on writing than any other skill, including reading. In most grades, only a quarter to a third of the students could write at grade level.

School officials said they would look at how teachers instruct to figure out why students are not learning to write well.

The report also showed that attendance continues to be a problem at the high school, despite the efforts of the attendance deans. Considering all students who came to school at least 80 percent of the time, the attendance rate was 83.6 percent, with 406 students skipping school regularly.

The high school report also showed that students continue to do worst in the core subjects that they must pass if they are going to graduate.

While large percentages of students were passing music, theater, technology and other such classes, only about two-thirds of them were passing English, science and math. In each class, 68 percent of the students had a passing grade for first quarter.

Social Studies was slightly better, with 72 percent of the students passing so far. Of the core classes, students were doing the best in world languages, where 81 percent took home a passing grade last week.

Grades also may not be a good measure of student success. Spring noted that in some grades, 87 percent of the students were passing English — yet far fewer passed the state test on the same subject.

“It was nowhere near 87 percent of the kids,” Spring said.

He added that the test is “a snapshot in time” and he would expect some students to pass the class yet do poorly on one exam.

“But if it’s more than 10 or 15 percent away,” he said, trailing off before saying that he wants to look at course standards and see whether teachers are setting a “rigorous enough” standard for internal grades.

School board members said they were pleased to see the data, although it was disappointing. They asked to also see the corrective plans that officials will be creating based on the problems revealed by the data.

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Hang On to Those Empty Ink Cartridges!

Did you know the Friends of SCPL can redeem used ink cartridges at Office Max and Staples for credit towards needed supplies for mailings, printing, etc.?  So, next time you change the ink, bundle up the empties and bring them to the Whitney Book Corner on 600 Union St., Schenectady, where the clerks will be happy to take them off your hands.  The Friends of the Library thank you in advance!

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

We love this cartoon – how true!


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Keep Those Letters Coming

Friday, Nov. 23, Daily Gazette contains a letter to the editor from John Karl, concerning the budget cuts proposed for the library. 

Don’t compare county library and nursing home in same breath

In the Nov. 18 article, “Counties priced out of the nursing home business,” Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen made a very misleading correlation between the nursing home losses at Glendale and the costs of maintaining the Schenectady County library system.
   The library does not “lose” money, as he suggested. In fact, the library system is the greatest bargain for taxpayer dollars in the county, if not the whole state. The library does not receive a per-client reimbursement from the federal or state government, as does the nursing home.
   The county budget for the library has been static for more than fi ve years, at $5.5 million to operate the central library and nine branches scattered throughout the county.
   In comparison, the Clifton Park-Halfmoon library (one building) has an annual budget of over $4 million.
   Ask Mr. McQueen why the Schenectady library has been able to keep a level budget, even with costs of everything going up. The only answer can be that there have been drastic cuts in staff over the past five or more years. The library has lost eight professional librarian positions, several senior clerks and numerous other clerks who have not been replaced.
   The new director and assistant director have not been replaced as they assumed their new duties, and they are doing their old jobs on top of the new responsibilities. Volunteers and substitutes are doing a wonderful job of supplementing the overburdened staff to keep the Schenectady libraries providing the best services and materials in the area.
   The library budget will be cut (by the county manager) over $520,000 for 2013, and a half-million the following year and for who knows how many years. How long before we have no library in Schenectady? Ask Mr. McQueen and the county manager he works for.

JOHN KARL Niskayuna The writer a member of the Friends of the Schenectady County Public Library.


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What is the Library Worth to You?

Ever wonder just how much money you save by having a public library at your disposal? Take a look at the Library Use Calculator – you will be astonished! Your library is the best value around! Click here and be amazed!

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Take the Survey

During the month of November volunteers will be at the branches and Central library conducting a survey of SCPL patrons to determine how the library is used and just what improvements the public feels are necessary. Next time you’re in your favorite branch take some time and answer the survey. Or better yet, go online and fill it out.

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Challenges Ahead

From Sunday, Nov. 4 Daily Gazette Editorial Page:

Tough times for Schenectady library

Schenectady County Public Library has a new children’s wing, new director, and big problem: money. Last month, in order to get the property tax increase closer to — but still well over — the state’s 2 percent cap, the county Legislature whacked the library’s 2013 budget by $617,000, bringing it to slightly less than $4 million. Like so many other public institutions in these hard economic times, the library is going to have to make do with less — and probably can while still maintaining an excellent system.

The county Legislature has given the Board of Trustees until May 1 to come up with a plan for dealing with the reduced funds. What changes will be made in terms of programs, personnel, books and other materials, hours and branches? What streamlining, restructuring, consolidation will be done?

These will be significant, difficult decisions, but we like what the new director, Karen Bradley, brings to the task and the way she and the board are going about it.

As program director at the library, Bradley dealt with community agencies, so she is very familiar with the community, its problems and needs. She has some ideas about how different entities, such as the city school district, could partner with the library to get grants (about the only way of getting them days) and provide programs. While she speaks passionately of the library, its programs and central role in the community, she also says that she and the board are up to meeting the fiscal challenges.

And the board of trustees is taking a welcome approach with a monthlong survey (it began Nov. 1) to get a better picture of how — and how much — residents use the library, its programs and materials; what they consider vital and want to keep or could do without. Public input usually leads to better decisions, as does good, up-to-date information. And the board will have it, not just from the survey and community forums but from a recent assessment of operations at the branches, which went so far as to break down circulation by the hour.

That’s important, because one or more of the 10 branches may well have to close. The survey and data can show how do it with the least amount of damage.

Fortunately, there is a very strong, committed Friends of the Library group that stands ready to help, perhaps with a fund-raising campaign. And the idea of a special library district should at least be explored. If Schenectady County residents greatly value their library — and, judging by their high levels of use and affection, they do — they might be willing to tax themselves to pay for it, especially if they knew their county taxes would be reduced.

But all this shouldn’t be necessary. For all the Legislature’s complaining about Medicaid and other unfunded state mandates, which it says have forced it to blow the tax cap and make these cuts, it plans to keep spending $7 million a year to make up for losses on something that is not a mandate at all: Glendale Nursing Home. Without that, it could afford to keep full funding for the library.

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