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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 1, 2007

15-year dispute
Neighbor objects as Lucarelli plans to build two homes for family

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — A 15-year dispute between neighbors made its way to the planning board here last week, when one of the neighbors asked to build two homes for family members on his 42-acre property.

Jack McDonald, of McDonald Engineering in Schenectady, told the board that Joseph Lucarelli wants to divide 41.9 acres on Old State Road into two lots to build homes for his daughters. The property is zoned for agriculture.

Lucarelli’s neighbor Earl MacIntosh said that the town must protect his property, and the Watervliet Reservoir, from storm water that flows from Lucarelli’s land. MacIntosh presented to the board two poster boards full of pictures showing the installation of a 500-foot drainage pipe that he said was on Lucarelli’s property, and the ensuing damage that he said the flow had caused. He also showed pictures that he said proved that wetlands had been filled in on Lucarelli’s property.

"I just can’t believe that someone can get away with this nonsense," MacIntosh said. He said that the resulting water flow had affected his home.

MacIntosh insisted that the work had been done in the 1990s, but McDonald said that any previous changes to the land were done in the 1980s.

McDonald suggested that the Lucarellis meet with MacIntosh. He said that Army Corps of Engineer regulations for wetlands were different in the 1980s than they are today.

"Today is today, and we want to comply," McDonald said.

"I want them to prove that it was the ’80s. That’s not true. Absolutely not true," MacIntosh said.

McDonald said that the year "1992 was 15 years ago. The issue is what’s going to happen today."

McDonald told the board that the only work proposed is a shared driveway that is partially in place now. The board said that the long driveway must be able to hold a 50,000-pound emergency vehicle. McDonald said that he would check on whether or not the 24-inch culvert currently under the driveway can support that heavy of a weight.

"Erosion, sedimentation control is going to be critical on this project" because of the stream flowing through the culvert, planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney said. He said that the project must consider the outfall.

"Clearly, that’s what the pipe’s for," Feeney said. The water is now moving, he said, but that the work has been done.

Steve Reuter, Lucarelli’s son-in-law who hopes to move into one of the proposed homes, presented pictures he had taken of work that he said was improperly done on MacIntosh’s property.

"I don’t want to get into a neighborhood dispute," Feeney said. "It’s a non-issue."

Feeney said that installing culverts, as MacIntosh may have done, is different than piping water from one place to another.

The board gave the project conceptual approval, and suggested that the applicant could agree to stabilize the property if, after the planning board sees the end of the pipe, it finds that damage has been done.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Continued an application by Dilip and Anna Das, who want to build a home on two of their 11 acres at 6030 Nott Road.

"It’s in the floodplain," Feeney told their attorney, Salvatore Rico, of the Proskin law firm.

Feeney said that the first floor must be elevated one to two feet above the flood elevation. Elevations have not been determined in the area of the Dases’ property.

Board member Thomas Robert said that he had walked the property, and that the proposed house site is below the road.

He and Feeney said that the Dases could still build there.

"The furnace or electrical must be up above the floodplain — if you’re in. You need an engineer to determine that," Feeney said.

The Dases might have to bring in fill to raise the house, Feeney said. "There’s issues with that, too, because it displaces the water," he said;

— Approved a site plan review to allow an in-law apartment at 140 Schoolhouse Road;

— Approved two site plan reviews at 3770 Carman Road at Carman Plaza for a card and gift shop, and for a nail salon.

The proposals had no site changes, and no planning objections from the town planner, "and no one here. That’s OK. We don’t mandate that from the applicants," Feeney said.

Board member Paul Caputo said that he wants the application process to be fair for all Guilderland business owners, and he proposed a minor change in the way future applications are presented to the planning board.

"I’d really appreciate a paragraph"or two from our zoning officer stating why they’re in front of us"as to what has changed in their [special use permit] from what was there," Caputo said.

Administrators say
Mapping curriculum builds community

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland School District is a local leader in curriculum mapping, based on the work of Heidi Hayes Jacobs, an associate professor at Columbia University's Teachers College.

"We began curriculum mapping almost 10 years ago," Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress told an enthusiastic school board during a presentation last Tuesday.

It was 10 years ago, in 1997, that Jacobs’s first book on curriculum mapping was published, stressing how mapping could be used to encourage collaboration among teachers, integration of curriculum, and development of more meaningful evaluation.

"For me, much of professional development and curriculum work is really the same," said Andress. "We have developed curriculum but, at the same time, we have built community."

Andress said it costs $60 per teacher per year.

Farnsworth Middle School is at the epicenter of the process. "We realized in a panic we had spotty documentation of social studies at the elementary level," said Andress, and so a shared consensus map was created.

Now, the process is being launched at the high-school level as well.

Curriculum mapping is a calendar-based procedure for creating a database of the operational and planned curriculum a school or district uses. It limits repetition — such as different grades teaching the same thing — and identifies gaps and areas in need of revision.

"This is much different than the moldy old binders that sit on shelves," said Andress, describing the maps as "living, breathing" documents.

The process capitalizes on what is sound, innovative, and creative in current classroom practices, she said, and it fosters dynamic professional discourse and ongoing collaboration among faculty.

The mapping acts as a blueprint that teachers in any of the district's schools can access and it focuses on "essential learning," she said, with a common vision for desired outcomes regardless of who is teaching or in what school.

The process is constant, said Andress. "You're never really done."

School-board member Gloria Towle-Hilt, who retired in June from teaching at the middle school, said that collaboration was an important part of the process. Classroom teaching can be isolating, said Towle-Hilt. "This breaks those walls down."

"Grand initiative"

Two middle-school supervisors — Damien Singleton for math and science and Lynne Wells for English and social studies — received extensive training four years ago on curriculum mapping and have conducted workshops since.

Singleton went over a pyramid representation of curriculum with student learning at the top. Curriculum mapping, he said, is primarily focused on the connection between the taught curriculum and student learning but is informed by all levels of curriculum.

Singleton called Guilderland's approach "a very grand initiative" and said, "Our work had to be a collaborative project." It involves everyone who works with the students, he said.

Wells went over the process of mapping, which focuses on content, assessment, skills, essential questions, and the state-set learning standards.

Teachers, she said, mapped themselves. "To know the process, you have to live the process," said Wells. "It's not what you say you're doing; it's what you're actually doing."

She also said, "Our commitment is to bring students to where they can reach."

The "essential questions," she said, "really set the stage for everything." Teachers develop two to five questions for each unit. "At the middle school," said Wells, "you often see the essential questions on the board."

"The sheer scope of this project was quite large and a bit daunting," said Singleton. Teachers have different philosophies and priorities.

"We spent an entire year of people coming to the table with how they interpreted the curriculum," Singleton told the school board, calling it a "painful process." Building consensus, he said, is always a challenge.

There were tears and there was head-banging, said Singleton, as teachers worked together. Experts were brought in to help leadership teams that are sustaining the project. Singleton described the process as "a balance between patience and urgency."

Carol Kelly, a new science and math enrichment teacher at the middle school, spoke with great enthusiasm about curriculum mapping.

She said the first step was to collect data, in diaries and journal maps. "It was soul-searching," said Kelly. "We wrote down everything we do."

The next step, the first read through, she termed "a little scary." That was followed by group reviews and then the creation of core maps through consensus, which Kelly called "the fruits of labor — and I mean labor."

From there, points for immediate revision and long-term development were identified, and then the cycle continues.

Kelly also went over Rubicon Atlas, the interactive web-based software that teachers use.

"People are calling it a virtual department meeting," said Wells. She said it was "a virtual lesson-plan book, also."

"It's really live and up-close and personal," said Wells.

Kelly illustrated how a teacher would log on, using a password, and then scroll through different grade levels and subjects to, for example, check out an astronomy lesson.

"They can copy it, fix it, change it, adapt it to meet their classroom needs," she said. "It can go back and forth."

Kelly said that, over the summer when teachers weren't available, she could still find out about lesson plans.

"I don't have to get in the car and come up here and try to find somebody," said Kelly, noting that all of the information is available on-line.

Budget priorities

The school board president, Richard Weisz, polled the eight board members on their priorities for 2008-09 budget.

The majority, while wanting to keep the tax rate reasonable, favored continuing the technology initiatives started this year, maintaining small class sizes, and continuing with the teaching of Spanish at the elementary level as introduced this school year.

Three board members spoke of the importance of professional development for staff and three spoke of the importance of music and art.

Hy Dubowsky said art and music are a priority as they "stimulate the way we learn." His other priority is fitness.

Towle-Hilt wants to look at two-tiered busing and said she is interested in hearing what the committee studying full-day kindergarten has to say.

Colleen O'Connell wants to add modified girls' volleyball so girls can start playing the sport in eighth and ninth grade rather than waiting till they play on the junior varsity or varsity team. She also wants to examine the disparity in class sizes. She cited a German class with 13 students and a French class with 30 and said, "To me, that's too much of a disparity."

Denise Eisele is concerned that salaries for teaching assistants and nurses are too low and she wants to look at risk management. After the transportation department informed her that her son, a BOCES student, was in a minor accident, she received no follow-up call, said Eisele, which led her to ask: Is anyone tracking what's happening, or is it done in isolation, by departments"

Superintendent Greogory Aidala responded that the district has a full-time health and safety officer, and Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders called the district's risk management "fairly comprehensive" as he itemized its different aspects.

Weisz supports high-school curriculum mapping and wants to "revisit" Advanced Placement courses, he said, looking at distance learning. He also wants to build into the technology program "teaching kids how to be safe on the Internet." Weisz said, "It's their Main Street."

The administration will present the board and a citizens' committee with a draft of the budget in February. The board is slated to adopt a final plan on April 8 and the public will vote on the budget on May 20.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Authorized the district to share information with investment providers receiving contract exchanges under a retirement plan, as required by the Internal Revenue Service;

— Accepted the donation of a trumpet from Carol Case;

— Unanimously approved tenure for two administrators — Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Susan Tangorre and Altamont Elementary School Principal Peter Brabant. Aidala said Brabant "is well-loved by parents and students at Altamont Elementary School" and he praised Tangorre for her "hard work and dedication." Brabant, in turn, thanked the board, and thanked Aidala "for modeling for me what it means to develop a colleague";

— Heard from Andress that the Guilderland girls' lacrosse team placed statewide in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete Team Award Program. Each winning team had a cumulative average of 90 percent; and

— Met in executive session to discuss an issue with a teaching assistant, an issue with a student, and an administrative review.

Going Out for Noises Off
British farce provides "a riotous exercise in comedy"

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Creating side-splitting slapstick is a lot of work. Random buffoonery is a matter of strict discipline.

The Guilderland Players were hard at it this week in rehearsals of the British farce, Noises Off, which plays Friday and Saturday at the high school.

Take rolling down a flight of stairs, for example.

Keegan Burke-Falotico stood Monday evening at the top of the stage-set stairs as Director Andy Maycock stood below.

"I can do a shoulder roll down," said the young actor with confidence. Maycock didn’t look so sure, but he nodded.

Burke-Falotico threw himself from the landing and tumbled head-over-heels down the stairs, landing flat-out on his belly.

The rest of the cast, sitting in the darkened theater seats, applauded.

"You hurt"" asked Maycock.

"Just my back," responded Burke-Falotico with a grin.

"Looks good," said Maycock.

Maycock, who teaches English at the high school, is directing a play that he says he wanted to put on "even before I was a teacher."

He cites the New York Post calling Noises Off "the funniest farce ever written."

Playwright Michael Frayn is said to have gotten the idea for the play as he stood in the wings, watching Lynn Redgrave in Chinamen, a comedy he had written. He thought it was funnier from behind than in front and decided he should write a farce from behind the scenes.

Noises Off takes its name from the theatrical term for off-stage sounds. The off-stage sounds inform the on-stage action in this play within a play.

Written in 1982, Noises Off portrays a third-rate British troupe on the road performing a play called Nothing On, with an intentional double entendre in its title. The first act is the troupe’s final dress rehearsal. There are troubles with the props — particularly a plate of sardines — and with exits and entrances, with missed lines, and missed cues. The director yells from the audience and comes on stage to give directions.

"Two of the players have a romance. The director has a romance with two of the women. It’s a set-up for disaster to come," said Maycock.

The second act is set backstage as the troupe is on tour. The clever Guilderland set was designed by James VanHorne.

"The two in the romance are now feuding, each trying to sabotage the other’s part. The set rotates, so they’re racing around, trying to make entrances," said Maycock. He went on to describe some of the many pratfalls and pranks, such as one person trying to tie the other’s shoes together.

"Act Two is two plays," said Maycock. "Nothing On is playing in the front. Meanwhile, this whole pantomime battle goes on in back."

The third act depicts a performance near the end of the run. "Everything has gone awry," said Maycock. "They’re just about to kill each other."

He concluded, "It’s the kind of show you never forget."

Maycock decided his high-school actors were up to a play that has challenged many pros. "It’s difficult to rehearse," he conceded. "It’s a riotous exercise in comedy."

The cast began by isolating Nothing On, and rehearsing the play within the play. "We got it right, which never happens in the script," said Maycock. "There are all these layers and the students have to remember which mistakes to make."

The ensemble cast has five men and four women.

In just six weeks of rehearsal, they’ve mastered a variety of British accents and a range of comic antics.

"I always forget how much the kids bring to a part," said Maycock. "The characters are far more interesting than if I drew them."

At Monday’s rehearsal, Maycock and his actors have an easy give-and-take as they refine the performance. It appears there is now a play within a play within a play as the director of Noises Off talks to the director of Nothing On.

Maycock asks David Alliger, who plays the director, "What am I going to say to you""

"Don’t screw up so much," returns Alliger.

"Entrances!" says Maycock, smiling at Alliger’s self-deprecating response. "You have key moments where you have to be ready. You have to anticipate."

Maycock later compliments Alliger, encouraging him in his difficult role, "David, last year, you had the monologue from hell. This year you have the cues from hell."

Last year, Alliger played Lenny in a classic American comedy, Neil Simon’s Rumors. He delivered the three-page monologue that crowns the play with convincingly bitter sarcasm.

Aware of a family audience, the Guilderland Players have made some subtle changes in this year’s comedy, said Maycock. For example, a character who, in most productions, appears on stage throughout the play in just her underwear, will wear a bathrobe instead in the Guilderland production, he said.

Younger kids will enjoy the play’s physical comedy, Maycock said, while the older members of the audience will get some of the more sophisticated humor.

Describing the play as "sheer lunacy," Maycock said it was "brilliantly conceived."


The Guilderland Players at Guilderland High School, on School Road in Guilderland Center, will present Michael Frayn’s comedy,
Noises Off, on Nov. 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Tickets cost $5 and may be purchased at the door.

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