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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 14, 2008


"Everything is new" for V’ville student from Indonesia

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Students here are eager to explore new worlds.

Monday, the school board was charmed by a visitor from Indonesia and listened intently to a middle-school student who wants to try a new approach to learning.

After the terrorists’ attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a scholarship was established to bring Muslim students to the United States, Happy Scherer, a volunteer with American Field Services, told the school board. She said Voorheesville has had students as part of that program for two years in a row.

Last year, she said, one of the students, Sulemana Abdul-Rafiu, from Ghana, had never played soccer with shoes on. Scherer took him to a podiatrist before he got his first pair of cleats to play on the school’s varsity team.

Monday night, Scherer introduced Ninuk Sumiarsih, a radiant student from Indonesia. "More than a thousand students in her country applied," said Scherer.

Sumiarsih, 17, who has studied English since she was in the second grade, first addressed the board in her native tongue, and then translated. She speaks Indonesian, Japanese, and English and is currently studying Spanish at Voorheesville.

"I love America," she said. "Everything is new...We have a different language, a different culture, different food, different everything...I have black hair. You have different colored hair."

She went on about her Voorheesville hosts, "I have a great family. I love the school...I love being here."

Responding to questions from board members, she said she will have to repeat her senior year of high school when she returns home next year. She plans to go to college to study to be a doctor.

Asked what she found most fascinating here, she replied, "I have not seen snow before. We have a tropical climate."

"We are looking for host families for next year," concluded Scherer, adding those who are interested can contact foreign-language teacher Robert Streifer at the high school.

Tech Valley High

Superintendent Linda Langevin and two faculty members will tour Tech Valley High School to see if its programs can be used at Voorheesville.

A joint venture of two area BOCES, the school opened this fall on a business campus — Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy — drawing from school districts in seven counties. Each participating school paid $18,000 to send a student, a percentage of which was to be reimbursed with BOCES aid.

"I think it’s really important...," said Ilyssa Simsek, an eighth-grader who has applied to be a student there next year; she is one of two applicants from Voorheesville. "I really want to go," she told the board.

Simsek visited the school and liked the working environment and team projects. "It was really cool," she said.

"We’d very much like for you to be able to go," said school board President David Gibson, "but, at the same time, it’s not free."

David Adkins, a resident of the district with children in its schools, said he had heard of teachers at other schools taking lessons from Tech Valley back to their districts and commented, "I’m glad we’re working towards getting the exchange."

"One of the ways of looking at this is it’s sort of a big laboratory," said Gibson. The projects that succeed can be used in other districts, he said.

The students are selected by lottery.

Colleen Bates, a Voorheesville student attending Tech Valley High this year, gave the board a glowing report last month on her first term at the new school.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Heard a proposal from Charles Voss to apply for a grant to put a generator in the high school for use in an emergency.

The school would become a shelter for the community and the project would require agreements with the town and village, said Voss.

Board member Kevin Kroencke suggested the elementary school might be a better choice since it is closer to the population center.

Richard Brackett, a former school board member, said a proposal for a generator had come before the board four years ago. "We snubbed our noses at it because of the security," he said;

— Welcomed Kristen Heyde as a new guidance counselor;

— Accepted resignations for three long-time employees at the elementary school — teacher’s aid Carol Relyea, attendance clerk JoAnn Donohue, and teacher Karen Beck;

— Adopted a resolution honoring Mary Lynn Williams who worked for the school from 1990 to 2008 as a teaching assistant, stating she "gave tirelessly and unselfishly";

— Appointed Elizabeth Ferenczy as a substitute teacher at the middle and high schools. She has worked for the district as a coach and been a student teacher;

— Appointed Cheryl Koenitzer as a substitute teacher’s aid at the elementary school although she does not yet have fingerprint clearance. The school’s principal, Kenneth Lein, said she was a trusted parent and substitutes are needed;

— Appointed Joy Meyer as a varsity track assistant for $1,713;

— Appointed Michael Schafer as an instructor for the Learn-to-Swim program for $12 per hour;

— Appointed Mary Flansburg as the director of the adult education program for $6,000 a year;

— Accepted 19 non-resident students for the 2008-09 school year;

— Awarded newsletter print work to REM Printing after Empire Printing and Courier Printing withdrew their bids.

"They said they couldn’t do it for the price they bid," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell;

— Heard from Theresa Kennedy, middle-level administrator, that the second "Teen Night" of the year had to be canceled because, she said, "We lack parent chaperones."

For safety reasons, she said, she likes 20 chaperones; only seven parents were lined up for last Friday’s event.

"They don’t have to actually run into their child...if they don’t want that to happen," said Kennedy. Parents who want to chaperone can call the middle-school office;

— Heard from Kennedy that the middle-school lunch period will be extended from 20 minutes to 30;

— Heard from high school Principal Mark Diefendorf that Shakespeare & Company’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was well received.

"When you see men in tights, it can cause us to giggle. The students responded very well," he said; they laughed at the right parts;

— Reviewed a state-required School Facility Report Card from Michael Goyer, supervisor of operations, maintenance, and transportation.

The state also requires an architect’s review of school buildings every five years. In 2005, Collins & Scoville Architects found problems at the elementary school, leading to an "unsatisfactory" rating.

With work done on the recent bond-issue project, Goyer said, "We’re in the process of correction." He concluded, "It’s always going to be a work in progress";

— Heard an update from Vice President C. James Coffin, a member of the negotiations committee, on negotiations with the teachers on their contract, which expired on June 30.

Last month, teachers packed the school board meeting, as the president of the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association, Kathy Fiero, spoke of their frustrations and their goal of remedying deficiencies in the contract so it would compare favorably to other schools in the Capital Region.

"Both sides...are working behind the scenes," said Coffin. "I’m hoping against all odds, we’re really getting there";

— After months of discussion and debate, adopted a policy on disclosure of wrongful conduct, now posted on the district website.

Timothy Blow cast the lone dissenting vote. He has argued all along that events off school grounds should be reported as well.

Langevin said that if a teacher were arrested, and had been fingerprinted as required by the state since July 1, 2001, she would be informed of the arrest within 24 hours. If the teacher were hired before 2001, Langevin would hear about the arrest from the local authorities who ask for the suspect’s occupation, she said.

"As long as they’ve been reported by the police," rejoined Blow. "But if an administrator sees a teacher tokin’ up at Smitty’s, right across the street from the school, they can just walk away."

Gibson said the school would have no authority to investigate outside of its jurisdiction;

— Read a draft of a policy to prevent harassment, hazing, and bullying; and

— Met in executive session to discuss negotiated agreements.


If BOCES aid is cut, VCSD will face tough choices

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — If the governor’s proposal on reconfiguring BOCES aid goes through, Voorheesville, which is considered a wealthy district, could lose nearly half its aid.

"The wealthier you are, the lower the aid," Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell told the school board Monday night as she went through detailed lists of current and projected expenditures for Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Districts — particularly small ones — are often attracted to BOCES programs and services because, with the state aid, the costs are less than developing their own programs or hiring their own staff.

The governor’s proposal calls for an overall reduction of $31 million in BOCES aid.

This year, Voorheesville, a small suburban district, got $491,199 in aid for BOCES programs it uses. Its aid factor is now .659, meaning it should get about 66 percent back in aid for services it uses from BOCES.

"We actually get about 54 or 55 percent back," Winchell told The Enterprise on Tuesday. That’s because, she said, "Certain things are excluded." She gave as an example a cap of $30,000 on teachers’ salaries; while most BOCES teachers earn more than that, aid comes back on only $30,000.

The governor has proposed changing the ratio, based on a district’s wealth, so Voorheesville would get just 37 percent back in aid; the floor is 35 percent.

If that formula were adopted, the actual aid to Voorheesville would probably be "in the 20s," said Winchell, again because of excluded items.

If the state plan goes through, she predicted a loss of $235,965 in aid for Voorheesville.

The district’s single biggest BOCES cost is for special education, which totals $501,000 this year. Special education is aided under a different formula, Winchell said. Other major costs are for Vo-Tec and alternative education, and for computer hardware.

Winchell projected an increase of $137,009 in the BOCES budget for next year, bringing it up to $1.49 million.

"We’re going to have to look very, very carefully at every expense for BOCES," said board President David Gibson, to see if it can be reduced or if the district can do it in-house.

"We’re going to have to re-evaluate what we get from BOCES," he concluded.

Regarding her long list of BOCES expenditures, Winchell said, "I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and look at every single one of them."

This year’s Voorheesville budget totals $21 million, for which New Scotland residents are taxed at a rate of $16.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The school board is slated to adopt the 2008-09 budget on April 7 and the public has its say in May.

Winchell had been optimistic about next year’s budget until she found out about the proposal to reformulate BOCES aid. While debt service is going up $226,000, that will be covered by more money in building aid for the current renovation project, Winchell told The Enterprise.

"The timing was perfect," she said of the bond issue. "Here I think I’m setting up a great year and you get the rug pulled out from under you."

She said on Tuesday of drafting a budget with state revenues undecided, "It’s very difficult because your revenues are uncertain." If the aid goes down, she said, "It’s like a huge increase in costs."

Winchell concluded, "We’ll have alternatives. There are a couple of things we can do — none of them are pleasant."


Local filmmaker Chris Faulisi

By Zach Simeone

VOORHEESVILLE—Local filmmaker Chris Faulisi has hit home with his first independent, feature film.

The film, "House of Cards," tells the story of a home invasion in a middle class neighborhood during the holiday season. Written and directed by Faulisi, the film explores the ambiguity of morality.

"The best films are where you pose questions as opposed to where you try to provide answers, and with this film I’m trying to do that," Faulisi said. "In life, there’re really no heroes or villains."

Faulisi’s family moved to Voorheesville when he was in eighth grade, and he couldn’t think of a better place to shoot his film, he said. "We shot mainly in my parents’ home, and in a lot of locations that I knew and was very comfortable with," he said. "This is also my first feature film, so this seemed like the perfect place."

"We’ve only lived in this house for five or six years," the 19-year-old filmmaker said of the house used for the shoot, "but it’s a home that my parents built, and I was even involved in the design and everything."

"It’s very exciting," added Rob Faulisi, Chris’s father. "It was great to see actors come from New York City and up in Vermont who are taking this really seriously and trying to put something together."

On having his home used as a film set, Rob Faulisi said, "Well, I had to leave for a few days for a business trip, but it was for the best since they’re bringing in all this equipment and moving everything around. They practically rearranged the whole house."

Playing his cards

Chris Faulisi graduated from Voorheesville’s Clayton A. Bouton High School, and is now a film major at Emerson College in Boston. He has directed and produced short films and music videos, and was director of photography on the video for "The Party Roll" by the "The Godfather of Go-Go," Chuck Brown.

Faulisi said that the script was inspired by true events. "It came from a story my mom had told me from this news clipping she had brought up. There was a home invasion a few towns over and she was so worried and had us locking all our doors," he said. "I think it’s something people will be able to relate to."

Despite the film’s distance from Hollywood, Faulisi managed to bring some heat to the east coast for "House of Cards."

Larry Holden co-stars as the suburban father whose home is invaded. He’s been in three films by Oscar-nominated director Christopher Nolan — "Memento," "Batman Begins," and "Insomnia" — and in major network dramas like "ER" and "CSI."

"He actually came in kind of late in the picture," Faulisi said of Holden. "We had some other people in mind for his role and they ended up falling through. We had put out ads on the Albany and New York City Craig’s Lists. One of his assistants found our posting and thought it was interesting, so he gave me a call and we just kind of hit it off and talked about the project. He liked me and the project enough that he was willing to do it for pretty much nothing."

"We did it for really cheap," Faulisi said of the film. "Me and my father financed the film, and we did the whole movie for like $3,000."

Faulisi added, "One of the most interesting things is that, with the tight schedule we shot on, and the low budget that we had, we were able to get everything done. Everyone in the film was incredibly awesome to work with, and the actors worked so hard to make this film a reality. No one complained about doing 16 hour days and getting five hours of sleep sometimes."

While he is unsure of when the film will be finished, Faulisi said he’s hoping to be done by this summer. "We’re aiming to start with the festival circuit," he said of marketing the film. "It would be great if after that we got a distribution deal but who knows. At the very least, people will be able to purchase DVDs eventually, and we’ll probably try to do a few screenings in the [Voorheesville] area. But that’s all a little ways away."

As far as life after "House of Cards," Faulisi said, "I’m still kind of trying to figure it out. I still have a lot of work to do. I’m going to be editing for the next few months, and all that fun stuff like sound design. I’m talking with a few people about what comes next, though. I’ve had offers to work on films in Oregon, and I’ve got a project coming up about vigilantes that I might be co-writing."


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