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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 11, 2008

Dr. Dozier named to Voorheesville School Board as Pierce steps down

By Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE — At the first school board meeting of the school year Monday, the board accepted the resignation of one of its members and appointed a new member. The board also installed an interim superintendent, who will help in the search for an elementary principal.

School board member Paige Pierce submitted a letter of resignation to the school board, said board President David Gibson.

“She’s been unable to be here,” Gibson said. “She made significant contributions to the board.” Recently, however, Pierce’s seat has been vacant.

“This gives us an opportunity to fill it,” Gibson said.

After meeting in executive session Monday night, the board appointed Cheryl L. Dozier to fill Pierce’s term until the May election.

The board said Monday night that it would not conduct a large search, and that people with educational experience or former school board members would be considered.

The next morning, Dozier’s name was listed on the school website as a member of the school board.

Board member C. James Coffin told The Enterprise that Pierce had agreed to step down from the board if a strong candidate were found.

Coffin said that Gibson had interviewed Dozier twice before the full board interviewed her Monday.

“We had been looking for somebody to fill that particular seat for a while,” Coffin said. The board wanted someone who would “be able to hit the ground running,” he said.

 “It was a real strong fit,” Coffin said. “We had a good candidate. It was our obligation to move forward on this.”

Coffin said that the district now has a strong curriculum and young, excited teachers. A missing board member leaves more work for others, he said. There are seven unpaid members on the board.

“We don’t want to lose the momentum,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to accomplish this year. That was our incentive to move on this.”

Dozier holds a Ph. D. and has a background in education and literacy. She is an assistant professor in the reading department at University at Albany.

“I was approached by
board President David Gibson to talk about a position on the Voorheesville board,” Dozier said in an e-mailed response to Enterprise questions yesterday. “He indicated he was looking for someone with a strong educational background.

“Mr. Gibson and the board identified issues they will address this year including a search for a superintendent, an elementary principal, and curriculum work. I thought my educational experiences would be a good fit for the needs of the board.”

She concluded, “I am honored for this opportunity to contribute to the Voorheesville School District.”

“It’s the perfect fit at the perfect time,” Coffin told The Enterprise. He said that, in addition to searching for a new elementary principal and a new superintendent, several “leadership positions will be turning over sooner rather than later.”

Coffin, himself, is finishing his fourth five-year term on the board. He has not yet decided if he will run again in the spring.

“Our objective is to meet the needs of the district,” he said about appointing Dozier. “It’s going to make everybody’s life a little easier. We’ve added a real strong new member going forward.”

Pierce’s plans

Pierce told The Enterprise that she was elected to a five-year term, but that board members now serve four years.

“I’ve served four years and three months,” she said. “I’ve had some health issues. I was in an accident in June.” Pierce said that she has also been diagnosed with mononucleosis.

She resigned because “it’s such a crucial time in the history of the school” with the searches for a superintendent and an elementary school principal. She also referred to the state of the economy.

“The New York State budget is strained,” she said. “I felt like it was more important to have my position filled.”

When she ran four years ago, she said, she felt that “something was missing from the board.” At the time, the superintendent and all board members were male.

“That was one of my motivations for running. Having a mother of students in the district was important,” she said. Pierce has four children; one is now in college, and three others are still in the district. Lisa Henkel, formerly an assistant principal at Voorheesville Elementary School and currently a parent of district students, was elected to the board in May.

At the time, though, the board seemed to be “a fairly-closed good-old-boys network,” Pierce said. “That was one of the things I’ve seen that has changed. I think we’re a much more transparent group than we were years ago.”

Pierce’s term would have ended June 30, 2009. Gibson said at the meeting that a mid-term election would take months and cost the district money.

The board chose to appoint someone “who can help us over this year” rather than run an election, Gibson said at the meeting.

The board accepted Pierce’s resignation with “a vote of thanks to Paige Pierce for her help with the board and for her assistance and care for the children,” Gibson said.

Pierce told The Enterprise that she would like to help as a community volunteer during the search for a new superintendent.

“I can help them in a way that I couldn’t help them when I was on the board,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot of serious things facing us,” Coffin said at the meeting. “It’s very important to get the board to a full complement as quickly as possible.”

Anyone can run for election for Pierce’s seat, now filled by Dozier, in the spring, Coffin said.

Class sizes

District Clerk Dorothea Pfleiderer administered the oath of office to new interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello. Colucciello had previously served Voorheesville twice as interim principal.

He gave the school board a tally of enrollment in the district.

“You’re pretty steady in enrollment,” Colucciello said.

In a related matter, the board agreed to a two-week deadline to send a letter to the town planning board about the district’s analysis of the potential student population in the proposed Kensington Woods development.

The district originally estimated the 169 proposed units would produce 60 students, Winchell told The Enterprise last month. District officials had based potential enrollment from Kensington Woods on that of the established Weatherfield development, she said.

“The board said, since Weatherfield was older, it had fewer students so we upped it to 100,” Winchell said then.

“There is no time restraint,” board member Kevin Kroencke said at the meeting Monday. Kroencke also serves on the town planning board.

“Let’s have a deadline of two weeks from today…to bring it some closure,” Gibson said.

New administrators

Coluciello said that the district will reopen the search for an elementary principal. The previous search netted four finalists, one of whom has taken another position, he said.

Kenneth Lein left to become principal of Albany’s Montessori school and retired principal Edward Diegel has been filling in until a replacement is found.

Gibson said that the board wants to “step back…methodically to get input from all involved.”

He said that the initial search was rushed. The search was “not doing justice to the candidates or the district,” he said. The new search for an elementary principal will allow the district to find someone with “the skills and background we were looking for,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Heard from Voorheesville Teachers’ Association President Kathy Fiero that the Teal Ribbon Walk for Ovarian Cancer will be held at 9 a.m. on Sunday at Washington Park in Albany.

Last year, she said, members of the school district participated in the walk to honor “beloved” elementary music teacher Dr. Mary Teresa. Teresa had ovarian cancer, was treated, and is “back on staff,” Fiero said;

— Agreed to add time for personal recognition to future agendas, at Henkel’s suggestion. Those recognized will receive a letter from the school board;

— Approved the salary increase of special-education teaching assistant Kristen Hanlon from Step 2 of the contract at $13.77 per hour to Step 4 at $14.34 per hour.

Coluciello said that she had been employed with the district last year, and that she was “highly-qualified.”

Board member Timothy Blow asked why Hanlon, whose appointment had been approved a month ago, was receiving a salary increase so soon.

Coluciello said that, because of the transition in administrations, Hanlon’s credentials had not been reviewed earlier.

Gibson said that the discussion was about finance and process for the board’s understanding, and not about an individual;

— Approved a slew of field trips for students to visit Canada; Spain; New York City; and Boston, Mass. Kroencke asked if the same students and teachers would go on most of the field trips, and said that the same high- achieving students may be involved in many of the trips.

High school Principal Mark Diefendorf said that the students would be varied, and that not just the “AP” kids, or high-achieving Advanced Placement students in college-approved courses, would go. Diefendorf said that he would watch for duplication of teachers and students, except for language teacher Robert Streifer. Streifer will go with students to Montreal, Canada, and to Spain.

“Mr. Streifer’s going to be out of the building for two school weeks,” Kroencke noted.

Coluciello said that some districts have students on trips keep up with school responsibilities, and that tests and assignments can be given while on a trip.

“The cost of travel is out of sight,” he said. “We have to look at these sparingly. What support does it have for the curriculum?”;

— Received a schedule from Diefendorf for observations of non-tenured teachers, who will have three evaluations.

Coffin said that the district has worked for years to “beef up” teacher mentoring and evaluation.

“It’s important not only to the board, but to the new staff that we bring to the district,” he said. “If you don’t know how someone is doing, you’ve missed an opportunity to grow”; and

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell that the new protocol for lunch plans is working.

“Kids are buying healthier food because there is nothing else to buy at that period,” she said. “If that’s the only food they can get, they’ll eat it.”

Gibson said that parents can check online to see what foods their children have chosen.

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