As students return to classrooms this week, Niagara County's 10 public school districts will spend about $521 million this school year to educate roughly 31,000 children.
The changes students notice will mostly be from capital projects -- $50 million worth of new construction spread throughout the county's schools.
Athletic facilities have been improved in Barker, hundreds of new computers have been placed in Newfane classrooms, hundreds of new interactive whiteboards have been installed in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, and Starpoint also has upgraded its classroom technology.
The pace of capital construction has slowed across many districts as the state budget crisis has taken hold.
There also have been several key leadership changes.
Royalton-Hartland has a new leader at the helm in Kevin MacDonald, who comes from the Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Lockport, North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls will have new principals at their middle and elementary schools, while Niagara Wheatfield High School will have a new leader: Jeffrey Hazel will take over after being named assistant principal at the school last year.
Niagara Falls, which was slammed by the state comptroller's office last school year for poor bookkeeping and questionable spending, has a new business administrator.
Curriculums are being realigned as the state has rolled out new testing guidelines, meaning the order of some lessons will be switched around a bit.
Districts will be offering some new opportunities for students, too.
In North Tonawanda, students participating in the high school's Academy of Finance will have a chance to intern at the Niagara Regional Federal Credit Union. Royalton-Hartland High School students will be the first to participate in "Invisionit," a college and career assessment program. Niagara Falls will expand its Primary Enhancement Program to target even younger at-risk students, now kindergartners.
Almost all public school students start classes Tuesday, although Roy-Hart students have a half-day. Classes in the Lewiston-Porter district start Wednesday.
Here's a district-by-district breakdown.
Students: A projected 1,003 students will attend the district's three schools: Pratt Elementary and Barker Middle and High School.
Budget: $20.2 million.
Key position changes: None.
Physical changes: The track has been resurfaced at the high school. Parking lots have new curbing and lighting. Three new tennis courts have been installed through a private donation by a Barker resident.
Curriculum changes: Three new classes will be added at the high school. They are writing-intensive Advanced Placement Language, a forensic science unit under the current Applied Sciences program and personal finance.
Students: Students: About 2,400 students are expected to attend the district's four schools: Elementary Education Center, Intermediate Education Center, middle school and high school.
Budget: $41 million.
Other staff: 170.
Key position changes: None.
Physical changes: All the buildings at the district's Creek Road campus are being updated as part of a $10 million capital project. The intermediate, primary and community resource buildings will have new roofs while all the buildings will have renovated ceilings, walls and windows.
Curriculum changes: The board last week approved sending Lewiston-Porter High School teacher Joshua Milovich to China as part of a developing exchange program (See related story, Page NC1).
Students: A projected 5,122 students will attend the district's seven elementary schools, two middle schools, high school and the alternative school in the old Charlotte Cross Elementary School building.
Budget: $77 million.
Other staff: 254.
Key position changes: Amy Moeller is moving from assistant principal at North Park Middle School to principal at Dewitt Clinton Elementary. Marianne Hall is transferring from principal at Dewitt Clinton Elementary to Roy B. Kelley Elementary. Nicole Berry was appointed assistant principal at North Park Middle School.
Physical changes: None.
Curriculum changes: The district will begin implementing "On Track," a computer-assisted program of credit recovery for grades nine through 12.
Students: A projected 1,960 students will attend the district's four schools this year: the Newfane Early Childhood Center and the Newfane elementary, middle and high schools.
Budget: $31 million.
Other staff: 20.
Key position changes: The number of administrators in the district was reduced by one by eliminating the assistant principal position at the middle school. Tom Stack, who held that position, will serve as the new assistant principal at the high school.
Physical changes: None.
Curriculum changes: A new Advanced Placement course in U.S. History will begin at the high school. Also, more than 400 computers were replaced this summer, and the district upgraded its technology infrastructure.
Students: A projected 7,332 students will attend the district's eight elementary schools, Gaskill and LaSalle preparatory schools and Niagara Falls High School.
Budget: $127.9 million.
Other staff: 653.
Key position changes: Timothy Hyland will come from serving as chief financial officer at Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo to serve as head business administrator beginning Oct. 1. Rebecca Joyce will be promoted to the newly formed budget manager position. Michael Corsaro will move from dean at LaSalle Preparatory School to interim vice principal at Harry F. Abate Elementary. Pat Kuciewski will be interim principal at 79th Street School.
Physical changes: Many, including 410 new interactive whiteboards installed in most classrooms in all schools. New parking lots with bus loops have been constructed at Abate Elementary, where more parking space was badly needed, and a handful of other schools. Gaskill's cafeteria and kitchen have gotten a makeover, too.
Curriculum changes: Math districtwide has been rearranged to align with new state testing standards. The primary enhancement program, an initiative that had targeted only first-graders at risk of failing to meet state standards, is being expanded to include kindergartners.
Students: A projected 4,006 students will attend the district's six schools: Errick Road, West Avenue, Colonial Village and Tuscarora elementary schools; Edward Town Middle School and Niagara Wheatfield High School.
Budget: $68.8 million.
Other staff: 185.
Key position changes: Jeffrey Hazel will begin as principal at the high school, where he previously taught math. Hazel replaces Donald Mills, who accepted a similar position in Ithaca. Amanda Bennett will come from the Maryvale School District to serve as assistant principal at the high school.
Physical changes: None.
Curriculum changes: None.
Students: About 4,000 students are expected to attend the district's five elementary schools, and its alternative school, middle school and high school.
Budget: $64.1 million.
Other staff: 301.
Key position changes: Wendy Richards will move from leading the district's middle school to serving as principal at Ohio Elementary School. Lisa Colburn will step in as middle school principal after a stint as assistant principal at North Tonawanda High School. The district is looking for a new director of curriculum after Cheryl Cardone left last month for a similar position in Grand Island.
Physical changes: Interactive whiteboards are being installed in every classroom in each school except Grant Elementary. New parking lots are being restructured and repaved at most sites. Heating and air-conditioning renovations have been done, and work should continue after school begins, after school hours.
Curriculum changes: The high school's Academy of Finance will begin offering students internships with the Niagara Regional Federal Credit Union. Writing and math curriculums have been adjusted for new state assessment tests.
Students: A projected 1,547 students will attend the district's three schools: elementary, middle and high school.
Budget: $23.4 million.
Other staff: 83.
Key position changes: Kevin MacDonald will enter his first year as superintendent of schools, replacing Paul J. Bona, who retired last year. MacDonald comes from the Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services, where he had served as assistant superintendent. Michael Murphy will begin as high school principal to replace Kevin Shanley, who left to become superintendent of Cuba-Rushford.
Physical changes: None.
Curriculum changes: At the high school, all students will be participating in a pilot program called "Invisionit," a self-assessment program designed to give students further insight into what career areas or college majors may be most appropriate for them. The district will continue to expand "Rachel's Challenge" for grades five through 12, a program to teach kindness and compassion in the school, which is based on the life of Columbine shooting victim Rachel Scott.
Students: A projected 2,756 students will attend the district's four schools: Fricano Primary and Starpoint intermediate, middle and high schools.
Budget: $44 million.
Key position changes: There are no major administrative moves, but the district has added two new special-education positions and an additional first-grade teacher position.
Physical changes: InFocus projectors have been installed in about 200 classrooms, and 50 new computers have been added to labs in the intermediate building. New auditorium lighting and air conditioning have been added.
Students: About 1,450 students are expected to attend the district's three schools: W.H. Stevenson and Thomas Marks elementary schools and Wilson Middle-High School.
Budget: $23.9 million.
Teachers: 120.8 full-time-equivalent teachers.
Other staff: 91.35 full-time equivalent employees.
Key position changes: Mark Rampado will begin his first year as director of buildings and grounds for the district. He comes from Harrington Sandberg Architecture & Engineering, a construction management company based in Jamestown and Buffalo.