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

Bids fond farewell to Langevin
Board plans process to hire new super

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Linda Langevin quietly and quickly wiped tears from her cheeks as the school board stood to applaud her Monday night.

It was her last board meeting after three years as Voorheesville’s superintendent. She had announced in April that she would resign at the end of August because of illness in her family.

The lead item on Monday’s agenda was discussing details on finding a permanent replacement for Langevin. Charles Dedrick, the district superintendent for the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services, went over a timeline that should have a new superintendent in place by next summer.

Raymond Colucciello, acting as interim superintendent for Voorheesville, participated in the discussion.

Board President David Gibson presented Langevin with a copy of a framed resolution adopted by the board, commending her for her dedicated service. Gibson cited her work guiding curriculum development. The district hired its first-ever curriculum coordinator under Langevin’s recommendation; Karen Conroy was appointed in July.

Gibson also cited Langevin’s “energy and unselfish effort” which “bettered the entire community” and said she “served with diligence as the district’s chief executive officer.”

Langevin, whom Gibson commended for her “love and caring” of the youth of the school district, regularly attended town meetings as well as school functions. She helped guide the district through a difficult period, soon after she was appointed in April of 2005. Her predecessor was accused by the state comptroller of misappropriating funds. Auditing practices were tightened during her tenure.

Langevin had been superintendent of the AuSable Valley Central Schools in the Adirondacks for seven years and took the Voorheesville job to be closer to family; she said she plans to stay in the area and to continue to be active in the community.

“Thank you to everyone for a memorable experience working here,” said Langevin at Monday’s meeting.

Colucciello, 70, has just finished a three-year stint as acting superintendent for the Ballston Spa Central School District and is being paid $130,000 for 10 months at Voorheesville. An educator for nearly half a century, he has worked in 10 different districts, including Voorheesville, where he has filled in as principal.

Super search

The board will be guided by BOCES, at no cost except for advertising, in its search for a new superintendent.  According to a plan presented by Dedrick on Monday night, the district will gather information from the community in September, advertise in October, interview candidates from January to March, and appoint a new superintendent in April, who will start work in July.

Typically, Dedrick said, five groups are consulted — administrators, teachers, students, support staff, and parents and community members.

Dedrick said Ravena-Coeymans-Selkrik is the only other Capital Region district with an opening for superintendent and, he said, RCS may not draw from the same pool of candidates.

Colucciello said typically a three-month period is set aside to attract candidates. “You’ll see what the crop brings in and you may have to nurture the fields a bit,” he said.

The board agreed to meet in an executive session soon with Dedrick to discuss plans. While some matters can be discussed in public, Dedrick said, the closed session is needed because “personnel decisions will come out of this” and, he said, “I need to know what’s going on in the district in terms of possible legal matters.”

“We’ve got to get a collective head together,” said board Vice President C. James Coffin.

Camille Jobin-Davis, assistant director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, told The Enterprise, “I don’t believe a discussion characterized that way would be appropriate. The Open Meetings Law permits discussion of matters leading to employment of a particular person to be held in executive session, but the procedure to hire would be a matter of policy,” she said, which should be discussed in open session.

Jobin-Davis went on, “If there is pending litigation or the school district is considering taking legal action, where the board is discussing strategy or defensive tactics, that would be permitted in executive session. But that’s not how the discussion has been characterized,” she said.

Meal changes

The board agreed to some changes in the school lunch program at the middle and high schools; the elementary program and prices will remain the same.

In order to cover food costs, breakfast at the secondary school will go from $1.10 to $1.50 and Type A lunches will go from $2.25 to $2.50, beginning with the first day of the new school year.

“What we’re looking to do,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell, “is try to push more kids through the lunch line and limit the snacks.”

Type A lunches, she told The Enterprise, are nutritionally balanced meals with three out of the five food groups, approved by the state and federal government for reimbursement to schools.

Snacks won’t be available at the start of the lunch period and, to speed things along, there will be two lines with two cashiers, said Winchell.

Voters, in May, approved spending $95,0090 to cover accumulated debt from the meal program.

“We dumped $95,000 and we still have an almost $7,000 deficit,” said board member Kevin Kroenke.

If the district sold 40 more lunches, which generate reimbursement from the government, said Winchell, it would break even.

Growing enrollment at elementary school

Ed Diegel reported that Voorheesville Elementary School is expecting 23 new students in September.

Diegel, who retired after 18 years as the elementary principal, is filling in since Kenneth Lein left after four years to become principal of the Montessori magnet school in Albany. The district met in executive session Monday to discuss candidates for the job.

Langevin said that six elementary students were leaving, bringing the enrollment to 545. The high school is seeing less dramatic growth.

“Let’s face it up front and not hide it,” said Gibson of the elementary enrollment, speculating increased class sizes could cause a “furor.”

 He said class sizes for third and fifth grade could be an issue. The first and second grades each have five teachers, while the other grades have four. Enrollment for third grade is projected at 93 students and for fifth grade at 102; the other grades are lower.

Langevin said there were only five special-education students in the fifth grade who “need special attention” and, she said, “There is a lot of support.” Langevin concluded she would not recommend changing the structure.

In another matter related to class sizes, the board discussed its response to the proposed Kensington Woods development.

The board agreed not to blend its analysis with the town’s but to send a letter of its own.

Winchell said the district had presented statistics showing that the 210 houses in Weatherfield, another development, had 89 students. Kensington Woods, she said, would have more expensive houses and statistically they send fewer students to public schools, and more to private schools. The district originally estimated the 169 proposed units would produce 60 students, Winchell told The Enterprise. “The board said, since Weatherfield was older, it had fewer students so we upped it to 100,” said Winchell, adding, “We’re not experts on population.”

Langevin suggested this would mean three teachers and perhaps one more bus route, Winchell said. Even 120 to 140 students would not have an impact on state aid, she said.

The larger classes have now graduated from Voorheesville, Winchell said; peak enrollment was 1,350 in the mid-1990s, before school additions were built, she said.

She questioned what the board wanted beyond what Langevin’s letter had already addressed.

As housing developments age, enrollment may decline, said Gibson. But, he also said, new developments with townhouses may produce more children.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard from two teachers it appointed; both had worked for the district as substitutes. Jonathan Glisson will teach social studies at the high school for $43,060 and Brian Kaplan will teach music for $43,340;

— Declared a bus as surplus and will accept bids for it of no less than $1,200;

— Heard from Michael Goyer, the supervisor of operations, maintenance, and transportation, that the construction work at the elementary school is progressing on schedule and the only thing that will not be done before school opens is the gym floor.

Gibson expressed concerns about strong odors and Diegel responded that the gym doors would be sealed to cut down on fumes.

— Heard from Goyer that all 63 of the district’s buses passed the state inspection;

— Heard from Langevin that Voorheesville is one of a handful of districts statewide with a graduation rate of 97 percent or more. The statewide four-year graduation rate is close to 69 percent; and

— Heard from Winchell that the estimated tax-rate increase for New Scotland residents will be .56 percent, for Guilderland residents will be .52 percent, and for Berne residents will be 6.6 percent, which she called “a product of their equalization rate.”

“The board was very prudent in putting the budget together,” she said.

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