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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 29, 2008

“There’s a fuzziness,” super says
Should town and gown formalize relationship?

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Most of the school board likes the idea of formalizing relationships with the town of Guilderland but the town supervisor warns it could turn into a mess.

School board member Hy Dubowsky broached the idea at Tuesday’s meeting. “We really don’t do a whole lot of formal talking,” he said, adding that there are “so many opportunities for improvement and working towards the common good.”  He gave such examples as traffic control, preserving green space, and forming a school-town foundation.

The board’s president, Richard Weisz, and its vice president, John Dornbush, both cited, as a model, the annual formal meeting that school board members have with Guilderland library trustees.

Dubowsky said he’d like to see more than one meeting a year. While staff members from both the school and town talk regularly, he said, there should be “a formal dialogue on a somewhat regular basis.”

Board member Colleen O’Connell disagreed. She pointed out that, unlike the library, the school district and town boundaries don’t match.

She also said it’s “no secret right now” that it’s a “very political time” for the town board. Two Republican board members were elected last fall to the formerly all-Democratic board and meetings have been contentious.

Town supervisor, Kenneth Runion, cited similar concerns yesterday. While he said “communication is always a good thing,” he told The Enterprise he sees problems with a formal relationship.

Both the library and school boards, he said, are “non-political entities” while the town board is political.

“I’d be fearful when you get into a formal relationship with a non-political entity like the school district. There’s a fuzziness. The line of demarcation gets cloudy.”

Runion went on, “I’ve always had a good relationship with the school superintendents.” He cited conversations about assessment and school resource officers. “That’s a better means of communicating,” he said of the supervisor talking with the superintendent.

He also said that, while the school district covers 90 percent of the town, that leaves 10 percent in other school districts.

“If we have some sort of formal arrangement with Guilderland, we’d have to have arrangements with the other school districts, too,” he said.

Runion concluded by talking about problems between the city of Albany and the Albany school board. “They end up almost in fights…With the city trying to take over the school board or the school board trying to take over city elections, it just turns into a mess.”

Several school board members on Tuesday, however, thought the idea was worth pursuing.

Denise Eisele, who chairs the board’s communications committee, said she would like her committee to explore the idea.

Board member Peter Golden said the town and school district have too many similarities of interest not to talk.

Board member Catherine Barber said there “should be a dialogue. There are a lot of things to talk about,” she said.

“Communication never hurt anyone,” said board member Barbara Fraterrigo, who also suggested that the town and school board schedule their meetings so they aren’t on the same nights.

Weisz concluded that Superintendent John McGuire would contact the town. “Get their druthers, too,” he said.

Singleton appointed

The board unanimously appointed Demian Singleton as assistant superintendent for instruction, succeeding Nancy Andress who is retiring in August.

Singleton, who has worked at Guilderland since 1996, is currently the instructional supervisor for math and science at Farnsworth Middle School

He will earn an annual salary of $115,000 in his new post.

McGuire said the recruitment was rigorous and Singleton was chosen from “a rich and deep pool.”

“Like adults”

After eating and praising strudel made by culinary students, the board heard about their trip to Austria where they learned the art of pastry making, among other accomplishments.

The five students from the Capital Region Career and Technical School, part of a Board of Cooperative Educational Services program, traveled to Austria to study in a hospitality school. One of them was Guilderland student Margaret O’Mara, who will go to school next year at the State University of New York College of Technology at Delhi.

The quintet showed pictures from their trip of visits to a cheese factory, vineyard, and castle as well as many photos of work in the kitchen.

All but one of the students, who will attend the Culinary Institute of America, a premier culinary college, will receive a year’s worth of academic credit for their BOCES work at college next year, they said.

“They did not perform like 15- and 16-year-olds,” said Chef James Haas who went to Austria with them. “They behaved and worked like adults.”

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Honored 29 retiring staff members with a reception. Superintendent John McGuire told the retirees he had learned from the exit interviews he was conducting, “You’re the happiest group of people.”

He also said, “The things you value and treasure…all relate to the quality of life.”

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Susan Tangorre, who is herself retiring, said the retirees had worked a total of 615 years for the district;

— Was charmed by a foreign-exchange student from Norway who told the board that she “made a lot of new friends” at Guilderland and enjoyed being on the high school’s cross-country ski and track teams.

Happy Scherer, with the American Field Service, said the AFS is still looking for homes for foreign students next year. Girls from Brazil and Norway have already been placed but a boy from Germany who plays the French horn needs a home. She said anyone interested in hosting should call the superintendent’s office;

— Heard a suggestion from Dubowsky to set term limits for school board members, which no one else spoke in favor of.

Dubowsky said it is “very difficult for a citizen to take out an incumbent” and added that new board members bring “fresh ideas” and “a new dynamic.”

McGuire, the recently hired superintendent, expressed his opinion by quoting a saying he said was popular with superintendents: “The board that hires you is not the board that fires you”;

— Learned that Amy Zurlo, the district’s public relations officer, won a Golden Achievement Award from the National School Public Relations Organization for the publicity for Guilderland’s recent capital project;

— Awarded Ricoh Corporation a $21,982.80 bid for 840 cases of white paper; it was the lower of two bids out of seven solicited;

— Updated a policy, first adopted in 2004, on distributing advertisements and announcements, commonly known as backpack mail, since students often carry the flyers home in their backpacks;

— Learned that the Guilderland Music Department has been named one of the nation’s “Best Communities for Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation, an association of the international music products industry.

The honor is based on the quality and caliber of the music education in the school as well as the local community support, said Andress;

— Heard congratulations for winners in the National French Contest — Gregory Barber, who placed ninth at the national level and first at the Hudson Valley Chapter level, and Emma Sarachan, who placed 10th at the national level and second at the Hudson Valley Chapter level.

Also, ninth-graders Jennie Robbiano, Julian Girard, and Joana Lule placed in the top 10 at the Hudson Valley Chapter level.

Honorable mention went to ninth-graders Haejin Hwang and Devon Gingrich, and 10th-graders Sohee Rho and Danielle Der Ohannesian;

— Heard congratulations for Carol Kelly, Farnsworth science and math enrichment teacher, who was selected by the Dudley Observatory to participate in the rising Star Internship Program. She received a telescope, which she is donating to the middle school;

— Learned that Susan Lafond, who teaches English as a second language at Guilderland High School, was featured in an article, “Making Literacy a Family Affair,” in the May-June American Teacher magazine. She is part of an Educator Cadre that presented in Austin, Texas at the bilingual literacy conference;

— Learned that Spanish teacher Rebecca Frank, who teaches elementary students at Guilderland, wrote an article on the Foreign Language Early Start program, “Rolling Into Happiness, Thoughts From a First-Year FLES Teacher,” for the spring 2008 Language Association Journal;

— Learned that high-school senior Arunesh Ghosh received a 2008 GE Star Award, which grants him an award as well as a teacher he chooses; social studies teacher Patricia Mackey will receive $500;

— Learned that senior Devang Bhoiwala received the 2008 AXA Achievement Community Scholarship for $2,000. He is one of 360 winners nationwide, recognizing “students who set and reach ambitious goals, demonstrate drive and determination, respect for self, family and community, and the ability to succeed in college.”

Bhoiwala, who will attend RPI, founded a club at the high school, Students for Improving Health Care, which contributed to inner-city clinics;

— Heard congratulations for all of the spring sports teams — boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ track and field, softball, and boys’ tennis — for qualifying for the Scholar-Athlete Award. Each team had to maintain a team average of 90 percent or higher; and

— Learned that the State Education Department has recognized Lynnwood Elementary School, Farnsworth Middle School, Guilderland High School, and the entire district as “High Performing/Gap Closing” schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Statewide, 1,759 public schools and 288 public school districts were recognized. Because they met all state standards for English during the 2006-07 school year, and also made adequate yearly progress in English and math for two years.

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