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State Education Commissioner Visits MOBOCES

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State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia made her first visit to MOBOCES for the 50th Annual Meeting and spent the following day learning about campus programs and initiatives that support learners in the region of all ages and abilities.

Elia served as the Annual Meeting’s keynote speaker, addressing more than 100 current and former board members, senior administrators and program leaders from component districts and MOBOCES. She spoke about current state education issues and her support of the work all BOCES do across the state.

“BOCES are unique to their areas. They provide the things their component districts want and support, and things that will support their components,” she said. “The exciting thing is that they have continued that initial charge to support school districts, and many of you in this room are greatly supported by the work of the BOCES.”

The following day, Elia and two colleagues - Deputy Commissioner Jhone Ebert and Regent Elizabeth Hakanson - spent the morning at MOBOCES, learning about innovative regional initiatives, such as the Transformative Learning Council and Data Privacy Leadership collaborations between MOBOCES and MORIC.

Her visit then transitioned to instructional programs. Elia visited three CTE classes - Criminal Justice, Cosmetology and Engineering - and spoke with students about their college and career plans and their thoughts on graduation requirements. She also visited the STARRS elementary program in the Alternative and Special Education division to learn about an innovative instructional model that integrates academics with social-emotional supports. There, a student presented her with an apron decorated by the class. Prior to the STARRS visit, the Commissioner participated in a panel discussion on mental health and behavior management supports and trainings that MOBOCES offers in collaboration with local partner agencies.

“We’re thrilled the Commissioner took this time to visit our campus and learn about the innovative and collaborative programs and services we offer to support education. Our work is really an extension of her work,” District Superintendent Jackie Starks said. “She has always been a strong advocate for equity and opportunity for all students and she’s not afraid to tackle tough issues - like the ones we discussed today - head on.”

Starks hosted a Commissioner’s luncheon at Oneida BOCES for superintendents and district superintendents from Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties to discuss key state initiatives and standards, including ESSA, Next Generation Learning Standards, state assessments and accountability.

To end her day in the Mohawk Valley, Elia visited the Utica ACCESS Site, one of five adult learning centers operated by the BOCES Consortium of Continuing Education. There, she learned about a variety of adult education services and, in particular, ESL and high school equivalency programs for refugees.

“I spent an incredibly full day learning about the regional collaborations the Madison-Oneida BOCES has established with school districts and other partners throughout the region,” Elia said. “MOBOCES is providing the kinds of programs and services that benefit everyone – educators, area residents and, most importantly, the students who graduate well-prepared for the next phase of their lives.”


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