Meeting of 2/15/18: Tech Valley High School  

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-10-54-pmMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
February 15, 2018

Members Attending (17): Andy Leyhane, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Debbie Rodriguez, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Jim Leyhane, Phil Kellerman, Bill Dowd, April Dowd, A.J. Amato, Dean Calamaras, Ray Hannan, Carole Spencer, Charlie Foote, Dick Drumm, Carol Orvis.

Guests (2): Jim Neidermeier, Tech Valley High School principal; Alessandra Barbarossa,  exchange student.


Alessandra Barbarossa

OPENING — President-elect Andy Leyhane presided in Roberto Martinez’s vacation absence. He welcomed the Rotarians and our guests, including Alessandra Barbarossa, an Italian exchange student presently enrolled at Columbia High School.

MIRCACLE LEAGUE DINNER — Andy reported that nine SRC members — Bill and April Dowd, Kevin Leyhane. Roberto, Shannon Romanowski, Burke Adams, John Justino and himself — participated in the annual dinner held at the Greenbush YMCA in cooperation with Rotaract and the Sand Lake and East Greenbush Kiwanis clubs. More than 60 clients and support people from the league, which offers sports activities for special needs athletes, were feted at the Valentine-themed event. Click here for photos from the event.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 2.09.50 PMCLYNK RECYCLING — Bill Dowd said our club account with the recycling company Clynk is set up, and he asked anyone wishing to participate in the bottle-and-can recycling program as a club fundraising activity to see him after the meeting to pick up recycling bags and barcode stickers. He explained the process to redeem the containers at any Hannaford market. Click here to see the “how to,” video, and Q&A he posted on the website explaining the project.

BREAKFAST MEETING / EXCHANGE STUDENT — The agenda for the Third Thursday meeting held this morning at the Greenbush YMCA was a working session. It included discussion of a possible Rotary Youth Exchange student for the next academic year. A.J. Amato, our Youth Officer, said the key to successfully hosting a foreign student is having enough host families lined up in advance, and that whichever school hosts the student needs to be much more involved in finding families. He will make that known to exchange people at the District level.

SRC Bowling LogoBOWLING FOR VETS — Jim Leyhane said he had met with administration at Bell Top School, which will be the recipient of some of the money raised by the March 4 event at the East Greenbush Bowling Center. They are promising a strong turnout of bowlers. Debbie Rodriguez said she has contacted the Blue Star Mothers group which has participated in past events and asked them to send a contingent. We still are looking for more $100 lane sponsorships. Please see Murray, Terry or Jim if interested ASAP.

MISCELLANEOUS — The annual RYLA awards dinner is scheduled for March 10 at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. Reservations are $30. … The Rotary Home Cooking event to be hosted by Dean and Doris Calamaras has been rescheduled from Saturday, February 17, to February 24. Please contact them ASAP if you would like to attend the Greek-themed dinner. … Our next meeting is set for 6:15 p.m. Thursday, February 22, at Quigley’s. It will be a working session dedicated to committee efforts.

PROGRAM: “The Mission of Tech Valley High School”

Screen shot 2018-02-16 at 11.34.23 AM
Jim Neidermeier makes a point during his presentation.

Carol Orvis introduced Jim Neidermeier, a native of the Finger Lakes area who is principal of the innovative Tech Valley High School, which is housed on the SUNY Polytechnic campus in Albany and serves a multi-county region that is home to 29 different school districts.

He explained that students are nominated by their districts to enter a lottery for placement in the 120-student school. They have a mix of students of various academic strengths and differing backgrounds working on project-based study.

Jim asked two key questions to open his talk:

  • What qualities do you think high school graduates should have?
  • What do you remember most from high school?

He said he was told as a young teacher that what students most remember in later years are things like a prom or sports events. However, he said, he has tried throughout his career to create an experience that will help students remember and value their academic experience just as much.

Tech Valley emphasizes “soft skills” that have been shown to be valued by the business and academic community — team building, communications, self-directed work, current technology and problem-solving skills. Many projects begin with a letter from someone seeking help solving a problem — clean water in Haiti, for example, or prosthetics for injured animals.


Students also participate in an “I term” in which they leave the usual classroom to intern at a variety of businesses to give them real-world experience. They also have the opportunity to earn a two-year associate’s degree through Excelsior College with a certification as project managers.




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