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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 15, 2007
Clark looks back
Former mayor, super reflects on 23 diverse years as local leader
By Rachel Dutil
NEW SCOTLAND Supervisor Ed Clark says that he is unsure what he will do with his free time after he retires.
"I’m looking around," he told The Enterprise. He joked that maybe hell get a job at Wal-Mart, greeting customers and handing out flyers.
Clark has spent three two-year terms as the supervisor of New Scotland. Before that, he was the mayor of the village of Voorheesville for 17 years.
He has lived in the village with his wife, Patricia, for nearly 40 years, he said.
Clark, 71, grew up on Staten Island. He worked for the New York State Department of Labor, and, when he got a promotion, he was given a choice between working in New York City or in Albany. He chose Albany, he said.
Clark decided to run for supervisor, he said, because he wanted to try something different, and was intrigued by a new challenge.
"I thought I could do it," he said. "I thought the skills I developed as mayor would serve me well as supervisor, and I think they did," said Clark, citing his knowledge of municipal law and of municipal budgeting practices as examples. The village has about 2,700 residents, and the town, which includes the village, has about 8,700.
There is a "very significant difference" between the two posts, said Clark. That difference, he said, was "the change from no politics to nothing but politics."
He recalled that, at one point during his time as mayor, a reporter from The Enterprise asked him what the political composition of the village board was. He told the reporter that he honestly didn’t know, he remembered. "We didn’t run on party lines" in the village, Clark said.
The town supervisor has relatively little power compared to the mayor of the village, Clark explained. "The town board decides everything; the supervisor is just the administrator... The mayor has much more authority, and that’s a big difference."
In his first campaign for supervisor, Clark was enrolled as a Republican. He is no longer enrolled in a political party, but has continued to run on the Republican line, he said.
He designed a palm card with a list of issues and went door-to-door, he recalled of his campaign strategy during his first run for supervisor.
"I went to every single home in town," he said. He asked residents what they felt were the most important issues, and if there was anything he had missed in his list, he said.
"I learned an awful lot about the town of New Scotland," said Clark. "It was very interesting," he added of campaigning.
In each of his three runs, Clark had a Democratic opponent.
For the entire extent of his time as supervisor, Clark has been among the town boards political minority the Democratic Party has held the majority.
"One of the reasons I’m leaving, is that I’m tired of watching what I consider poor management practices," said Clark.
If the supervisor were to be among the board’s majority, he said, "It would be possible to accomplish a great deal more.
"Overall, it’s been a positive experience for me," Clark said of his time as supervisor. But he admits there have been challenges.
A major challenge of the job is the budget process, he said.
During his first term, Clark said that he projected that, with the towns budgeting practices, the reserves would run dry.
"Attempting to get the board to address those issues was very difficult," he said.
"I was right," said Clark. "We’re running out of reserves now."
Another challenge for Clark was his attempt to get the board to adopt more systematic personnel policies, he told The Enterprise. Clark refers his plan as a "systematic job ladder."
The town should have a category of jobs and a list of what the employees for those positions should be paid relative to the other jobs, Clark told The Enterprise earlier. The salary should reflect the amount of responsibility and skills involved, he said.
The Democrats implemented a plan that has a top level and a lower level, putting a cap on raises. Workers at the top level will be paid $19.28 per hour, according to the proposed 2008 budget, Democratic Councilwoman Deborah Baron told The Enterprise earlier. Once employees reach the top level, they would be eligible only for the cost-of-living adjustment, she said.
"The board has settled on an approach I consider absurd," Clark said of the two-tiered system.
The board’s "refusal" to re-appoint Julie Nooney as the town assessor is a "salient issue," Clark said.
Nooneys six-year term ran out in September. She is still working as assessor but without official board sanction.
In this years budget discussions, the board refused to give Nooney a pay increase, and she received only the cost-of-living adjustment, Clark said.
"I frankly don’t know what governs their decision. I think they’re wrong in both cases," he said, referring to the board not re-appointing Nooney and not giving her a raise.
"The job of assessor is never uniformly accepted," Clark said. "There’ll always be people who think they were over-assessed," he said. "The fewer complaints, the better the job... and you’ll never get to zero."
Clark said that the town had "relatively few" complaints from the last townwide revaluation of property.
"I think she’s done a terrific job," he said of Nooney.
Clark and the Democrats have "disagreed on many issues," he said.
The unwillingness on the part of the Democrats to consider a revision of the town’s comprehensive plan has been "very frustrating," Clark said.
The Residents’ Planning Advisory Committee worked hard for over a year, he said. "Their effort was pretty much ignored," said Clark. "Politics intruded in that."
Another "minor" frustration, Clark says, is that many Democrats who ran and lost a campaign were "rewarded for their attempts" by being immediately appointed to the town’s planning board or the zoning board of appeals.
"They’re all good people, and are trying hard to do what is best for the town," said Clark of the Democrats. "They’re trapped by a loyalty to an organization that supports them, and expects their support in return," he said. "That’s the nature of politics."
"I enjoy people"
Clark said that, although the job has been frustrating, his "overall observation is not negative.
"There are a lot of good things about being in this position," he said.
Clark said that he considers his greatest accomplishment to be the maintenance of a town government responsive to citizens needs.
In the past six years, he said, the town’s recreation program has been strengthened and improved. Clark also initiated the senior outreach program, which, he said, is a "terrific service to all who use it."
"We have maintained robust services with fiscal constraint," Clark said.
What he has most enjoyed about the post, he said, are the people in Town Hall, and also getting to know many people in the town.
"I enjoy people... and the variety of things that make up the people in town," Clark said.
"A big part is the people in the office," he said. "I really like them.
"Everyone who works for the town works hard, earns their pay, and keeps the community interests in mind," Clark said.
The people in his office are what he will likely miss most after he retires, Clark said. "I won’t miss night-time meetings," he added with a smile.
The new supervisor, which will be determined after absentee ballots are counted, will take office in January.
Election night is a tense night, said Clark, who joined the Republican candidates at the American Legion Hall in Voorheesville last Tuesday as election results came in.
"It all comes down to one day to see if you did things right," Clark said. "It’s an anxiety I didn’t miss," he added.
"It always felt good to be able to travel around the town and village and know so many people and wave to them," Clark said. "I enjoy the positive sense of community we have in New Scotland... I hope that doesn’t diminish for me because I’m not here anymore," he said of being at Town Hall.
Although he has no specific plans for all the free time he will have come January, Clark said that he will certainly have more time for his favorite hobby taking his dog, Murphy, for walks in the park.
Share things, not food, students told
By Rachel Dutil
VOORHEESVILLE The days of swapping sandwiches in the school cafeteria are over. At Voorheesville Elementary School, students are taught to "share things, not food," says the school nurse, Colleen Brackett.
The lesson developed because of some students’ severe food allergies, she said. "Some allergies can be mild. Some can be extremely severe and life-threatening," said Brackett.
"If a child has a severe allergy, they can go into anaphylactic shock if they come into contact with the food they’re allergic to," Superintendent Linda Langevin told The Enterprise.
Each year, during the first week of class, students participate in bus drills, and Principal Kenneth Lein talks to them in the school cafeteria, he said. "I talk to them about sharing food and why we don’t do it," Lein said. It is important that the students understand why they can’t share food, he said.
Because of severe peanut allergies among some students in kindergarten, the school has enacted a policy where it provides snacks to children in those classrooms, said Lein.
Kindergarten students don’t eat lunch at the school because their school day is only two-and-a-half hours long, said Lein. "We’ve decided to provide the snack," he said.
"At this point, we’re gathering more information to see what we might need to do," Lein said. "Next year is a whole new level," he said.
District parent Laura Minnick, at last weeks school-board meeting, asked about the districts plan regarding children with severe food allergies. She expressed concern that this will become a schoolwide issue.
Parents of kindergarten students were told that no food from home is allowed in the classroom, said Minnick. "What is going to happen in the lunchroom next year"" she asked.
"We want to make sure the students are safe," Lein said to Minnick, indicating that, at this point, the district is considering a policy to address severe food allergies.
"A policy change requires action of the board," said President David Gibson, assuring Minnick that the public would not be left out of the process.
In December, when Lein sends out The Bugler, the elementary schools monthly newsletter, he will give people an opportunity to weigh in on the issue, he said.
Lein told The Enterprise that he has met with the parents of children with severe allergies, to discuss their concerns. "Now we’re just gathering more information from other districts, and the State Education Department," Lein said.
The district asked parents to pay $3 a month to cover the costs associated with providing the snacks, Lein explained. "We can’t really control what comes in from home," he said.
The snacks are generally crackers, or sometimes cheese sticks, or carrots, Lein said. He said that any time a new snack is added into the mix, parents are consulted to ensure there are no issues with the food.
"We’re making sure the snacks are healthy," said Lein.
Currently, there are more than 10 students with severe food allergies at the elementary school, Brackett estimated off the top of her head. It is "not a huge percentage" of the roughly 500 students at the school, she told The Enterprise.
"Whether it be one child or 20, it doesn’t change what we need to do," Brackett said. "The key is the education piece," she said. "The more information you can give, the better off you are.
This year, for us, it seemed to be more than typical," Lein said of the number of students enrolled in kindergarten who have severe allergies.
"We’re still gathering information," Lein said. "It’s about education... and the children," said Lein.
"We start the education piece at the kindergarten level," Brackett said. "We can allow more responsibility from students as they get older," she said.
Its good for the students to understand why certain children cant have specific foods, said Brackett.
"I don’t see it as a problem," she said. "I feel very confident that what we’re doing is good."
In other business at its Nov. 5 school-board meeting, the board:
Increased the hours for Carol Relyea, a teacher’s aid at the elementary school, from five hours per day to five-and-one-quarter hours per day, to supervise students from 8:15 to 8:30 a.m. Gibson said that the supervision of the students who show up at the school early is "an example of something thought out and done well";
Approved the substitute teacher appointments for the 2007-08 school year that was presented by the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Education Services Substitute Registry;
Waived the fee associated with the school districts providing transportation for children from St. Matthews Church to the Adirondack Center near Amsterdam, for a retreat from Friday, Jan. 11, to Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008;
Approved the disposal of a 1995 Yard Man snowblower, and a Kenmore air-conditioner, both of which no longer work. They will be disposed of in a manner consistent with current laws and regulations;
Approved the attendance of four district teachers to the New York State Association for Computer & Technologies Education in Rochester, from Nov. 17 to 19, at a cost of $489 per person for registration, and $240 per night for lodging;
Amended an agreement between the board and the superintendent of the districts operations, maintenance, and transportation, Michael Goyer, outlining his benefits.
Until July 1, Goyer was a non-union managerial-confidential employee. In an agreement made effective on July 1, Goyer became part of the administrative union, but his benefits were not written into the agreement.
His vacation time now matches the benefits for administrators, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell. "We’re trying to be extremely careful with our agreements," Winchell said.
The amendment was approved by the Voorheesville Administrators Association;
Heard from Goyer that the district is in need of substitute bus drivers, and it hopes to hire at least two as soon as possible;
Approved a grant disbursement agreement between the school district and the Dormitory Authority of New York State for EXCEL (Expanding our Childrens Education and Learning) Aid of $409,000;
Heard from Gibson that he had reviewed the files regarding the recent appointment of Robert Baron to coach the girls’ varsity basketball team, and, he said, "There were no certified teachers and no individuals holding a certified coaching license" who applied following Dennis McCormick’s letter declining the position.
"We spent the time to double check, and we’re in compliance with the state regulations," said Gibson; and
Extended congratulations to the girls varsity volleyball team, and the boys and girls cross-country teams.
Willis and Greenbergs book gets to the heart of the matter
By Jo E. Prout
Local lifetime educators Arthur Willis and Marcia Greenberg are now collaborative authors. They will sign their book, Heart of the Matter: The Role of Attitude in Teaching, this weekend at The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza.
Willis and Greenbergs premise is that learning and enjoying school are reciprocal events.
Willis gained 39 years of experience here in the United States, and in Switzerland, teaching social studies. Many of his years were spent at Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville.
Greenberg, who has a bachelors degree in European history from Mount Holyoke College and a masters degree in special education from the University at Albany, has 30 years in the classroom teaching emotionally-challenged students at St. Annes School in Albany; helping to create programs for developmentally-delayed infants and toddlers; tutoring all four core subjects at the secondary level; and helping establish a program for gifted elementary students.
Greenberg described Heart of the Matter as a "teaching memoir" written in a conversational tone.
"It’s about the attitude in teaching," Willis said. "It’s kind of a long effort that draws on our experience." Willis spent a year researching his topic, but he and Greenberg have been collaborating on this book for eight years and through five revisions.
"We were pretty effective," he said. "It’s our best shot" to share with educators how "to have an attitude toward students that is effective in teaching them and working with them," Willis said.
Willis was a co-founder of Leysin School in Switzerland in 1961, and he continued there until 1964. Since then, he said, he has attended many reunions with Leysin students who became successful adults. "They were excited," Willis said. His former students told him that their time at Leysin was the best period of their lives, he said.
"What was it we did that was so effective"" Willis asked.
Now retired, Willis said that he spent his last five years in the classroom trying to identify what approaches really worked with students. Heart of the Matter emerged from his 25-year acquaintance with Greenberg.
"It was a real partnership," Greenberg said. She wrote the two chapters on typology, or the cognitive ways of gathering and processing information. She and Willis take turns offering information throughout the book, she said.
"He’s the ‘philosopher.’ I’m the ‘psychologist,’ " Greenberg said.
The two of them examined teaching methods of many teachers over their long careers, Willis said.
"There’s a wide agreement among really fine teachers. The attitude they had is reflected in the distilled observations of this book," Willis said.
"Control is never a big factor for me. That became a no-brainer," he said. "Once you really see kids...they want to continue that experience [of being seen]. I didn’t throw a kid out for 36 years."
Willis and Greenbergs book has two themes. The first proposes that there are four types of education, rather than the two that are currently taught in schools. Behavior and thought, or analytical abilities, are joined with sensibilities, or the feeling life, and awareness.
"Just plain awareness," Willis said. He said that awareness is the most important type of educational approach. Teachers should be aware and not project their own ideas or inferences upon students, he said.
"It means no judgment, just a state of perception," Willis said.
Sensibilities are also known as the humanities, and how students progress through their feeling life "The first to be cut when there’s a pinch. All the arts," Willis said. Feelings are translated into thought, which then motivates behavior, he said.
"We don’t diminish any of the four," he said.
The second theme Willis and Greenberg discuss is fear, and what to do with fear. Willis said that when people experience fear, they revert to a justice response rules and law and order or a threatening response.
In the place of fear, Willis and Greenberg suggest alertness and attentiveness. Educators should be alert to students, and then move to attentiveness.
"As you become more attentive to students...[knowledge] is translated into an understanding of the individual," Willis said. If these methods are used, "burnout" will not occur, he said.
"Instead, it will be a very exciting career," he said.
A conference book based on Heart of the Matter and written by Rachel Kramer Theodorou is due out by the end of the year. Theodorou is Willis’s niece and a "very fine elementary teacher" who teaches Master of Arts in Teaching students at Brandeis University in Boston, Mass., Willis said.
Heart of the Matter is applicable to "educators at-large, of any stripe, from kindergarten to graduate school," Willis said.
"I think we’re on such a wrong bend for this No Child Left Behind," Willis said of the federal act requiring high-stakes testing. He called the methods used in the national education program "paper-overloaded." The objective testing used with NCLB "doesn’t tell you a thing," Willis said.
He said that British A- and O-level exams are primarily essays, and that the American system is "a digression" into multiple-choice tests.
"We’re on a very wrong track to exciting learning. Exciting learning is a subjective experience, not objective. Through multiple-choice questions" I don’t think so," Willis said.
Willis and Greenberg have culled their knowledge to depict "how exciting education can really be, especially for educators," Willis said. "I’m 72 years old. This is my best shot at explaining how really good teaching comes about. I would love to see it influence policy. I would love to see it influence training."
Asked if readers should buy Heart of the Matter for every educator they know, Willis said, "I think you’ll like it. I really do."
Rumors have it that Voorheesville Dionysians to put on play
By Rachel Dutil
VOORHEESVILLE Rumors will fill the air around Voorheesvilles high school this weekend, and students are excited about it.
The Voorheesville Dionysians will perform Neil Simons Rumors with shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
"I think they’ve done a fantastic job," said Director Wayne Manchester of his cast.
The play, set in 1989, is a comedy that revolves around a couple Charley and Myra Brock who never actually appear on stage. The Brocks are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, and have invited four couples to a party at their home, Manchester explained.
When the first guests arrive, they find that Mrs. Brock is missing, and her husband has a bullet through his earlobe, Manchester said.
The characters conjure up various stories as to what they think happened, Manchester said. They all try to protect each other "though no one has any clue what the real story is," he said.
Manchester and Producer Portia Hubert read through several scripts before settling on Rumors, he said. "We both agreed this one is very, very funny," he said.
Tryouts were held the first week of school, said Manchester. "We needed as much time as we could get," he said. There are exactly eight weeks from tryouts to opening night, he added.
Rumors is Manchesters first play at Voorheesville. He is currently working as a teaching assistant in the high school, he said.
"The students have been very positive," said Manchester. "They are very dedicated to taking direction," he said. When Manchester makes suggestions, the actors "immediately put it right into their performances," he said.
"It’s been fantastic," he said excitedly.
Rumors is "very intense," Manchester said, ranking it as an eight or a nine out of 10 on a difficulty scale.
Manchester said that he has seen the actors’ raw skill develop and become "much stronger and much more sharp."
"Very good cast"
With a cast of only 10 characters, said Manchester, "Each character tends to be more noticeable.
"It’s hard to say that this play has any leads," he said. Even characters that don’t have many lines, have a presence that garners attention, he said.
Krystal Weigand, who plays a female cop named Officer Pudney, has only two lines, Manchester said. "She creates a presence on stage. People will laugh when they watch her on stage," he said.
Eric Sowalskie, a junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School, plays the part of Lenny Ganz.
"I think this play is pretty good," Sowalskie said. "It’s been a pretty long road to this stage," he said. "It’s going to be good. It’s really funny."
Sowalskie’s character is "a bit of an irritable man," he said, adding that Ganz is easily stressed.
"I have whiplash for most of the play," said Sowalskie of his character. "It’s hard to remember that I can’t move my head to the left," he said.
Ganz flips out at the end of the play, and that is difficult, said Sowalskie. Ganz starts yelling at everyone, he said.
"It’s fun, but you’ve got to find the right way to do it," Sowalskie said of his on-stage tirade. He explained that the buildup to the explosion is "hard to get perfect."
John Maddaloni, also a junior, plays Ken Gorman.
Maddaloni describes his character as being in between Ernie Cusack, whom he says is "calm," and Sowalskie’s more "crazy" character.
Maddaloni said that Gorman "freaks out on occasion" but can mostly hold it together.
He has been acting for about a year-and-a-half, Maddaloni said. "I think all of us have acted before."
One of the exciting aspects of Rumors, is that "you never know what’s going to happen next," Maddaloni said. "It’s funny."
Both Maddaloni and Sowalskie agreed that Manchester is a great director.
"He’s really cool... He’s an excellent director, just a fun guy," said Sowalskie. "He gives good pointers on what to do onstage," added Maddaloni.
"We have a very good cast," Maddaloni said. Of its small size, he said, "It’s harder because you’re more in the spotlight, but more fun because the characters have more to do in each scene."
"A small cast is better because, as an actor, you develop more of a relationship with those around you," said Sowalskie.
Maddaloni and Sowalskie say they would both like to continue to act following their high school graduation, though Sowalskie doesn’t think he will continue on after college because "there’s not a lot of money" in acting, he said.
Participating in the school plays is "definitely a positive aspect of the high-school experience," said Sowalskie, adding that it is extraordinarily exciting once it gets into "fortnight" the two weeks prior to opening night.
"I’m going to miss it once it’s gone," Sowalskie said.
For Maddaloni, participating in school plays has helped him with his school work, he said. "Studying lines helps me study" for school, Maddaloni said.
Manchester said that his "only real fear" regarding the performances is that people won’t come to see how much hard work the kids have put into it.
"I’d hate for there to be a small audience," he said.
"I would love to direct future plays," said Manchester.
"I’ve worked with other high-school groups, and, hands down, this group takes notes to heart more than any other group I’ve seen," Manchester said. "They’re so adept at taking criticisms and using it to better themselves."
The Voorheesville Dionysians will perform Rumors this weekend at the Performing Arts Center at the high school on Route 85A in Voorheesville. Show times will be at 7:15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.
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