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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 12, 2009
Field trips to be cut, lunches to be marketed
By Saranac Hale Spencer
VOORHEESVILLE School budget cuts are looming, with anticipated layoffs and halving the spending on field trips.
“I think field trips are essential,” Christine Allard told the school board on Monday night. The 33-year veteran bus driver, who serves as the president of the union, said yesterday that cutting field trips isn’t good for students and it’s not good for the drivers, either.
“That’s where they make their money,” she said, adding that most drivers can only work steadily for four hours a day and depend on the extra trips to sporting events or field trips.
Initially, there had been $15,000 in the budget to pay for transportation on field trips, according to the district’s assistant superintendent for business, Sarita Winchell, but that figure has been cut in half.
“They have been reduced significantly,” interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said yesterday of the field trips. When evaluating excursions, Colucciello said that the district looks at whether the trip has already been arranged and how relevant it is to the curriculum.
A committee is currently working on a field-trip guide, he said, which will recommend trips that are appropriate to the class.
“I’m trying to make things work, save people’s positions, and not make the students lose the impact of a field trip,” Allard said yesterday.
She used the district’s formula for renting out its buses to senior citizens groups, for example to calculate that it would cost $3.15 per student, based on a 48-student trip, which is two bus loads, that could be charged to parents to cover the whole cost of transportation, Allard said. The Duanesburg and East Greenbush school districts have had similar policies, she said yesterday, and the Parent Teacher Associations in those districts cover the costs for those who can’t pay.
“I think that’s kind of insensitive,” high school principal Mark Diefendorf said yesterday of passing the cost to parents who may not be able to pay. Colucciello had a similar reaction, asking, “Are you saving money or just putting the burden on somebody else?”
He concluded, “We have to be careful.”
The district’s school lunch program had run a deficit of about $95,000 over the course of the last five years, which voters decided to cover the cost of last year in a separate proposition during the May budget vote. Now, the district is planning on being solvent in the years to come, Colucciello said.
James Bigley, of HMB Consultants, prepared a report, which, Winchell said yesterday, gave “complete analysis of the operation” of the cafeteria and lunch program.
Bigley suggested to the board on Monday that the district raise the prices for lunch, but create an incentive program with a bonus meal for those who pay $40 for meals up front. That free meal would, effectively, erase the increase in price, he said.
It’s a “softer way” to get the cost of a meal up and commit parents to the program, he said.
Bigley explained yesterday that there are two avenues from which districts can choose for lunch programs: the first is a self-operated system, like the one Voorheesville has, and the second is to contract with a management company, he said.
The second type usually doesn’t lose money, whereas it’s tougher for the first type to make ends meet, but he thinks that Voorheesville will be able to sustain itself.
“I want to promote meal sales,” he said. Therefore, à la carte entrées should cost the same amount as a meal, he said, because the state and federal governments reimburse school districts for meal sales.
“The more meals served, the more reimbursement,” he said.
Bigley described the fare in Voorheesville’s cafeterias as “fresh, wholesome foods.”
According to Winchell, the district paid Bigley $4,250 for his services. She concluded, “We were paying for expertise that will make things better for the students and the taxpayers.”
In other business at its Feb. 9 meeting, the school board:
Recognized spelling-bee winners, fifth-grader Olivia Suozzo, sixth-grader Luke Gorka, fourth-grader Nicole Hooker, and eighth-grader Caroline Weiss, in order of place with Hooker and Weiss tied for third place;
Heard a presentation from Robin Jacob on an allergic reaction policy. “It looked like the document was fine,” Dr. Warren Silverman, the school’s physician, told the board;
Voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Robert Hathaway, a custodial worker, who has accepted another job, and accepted the resignation of Pamela G. Seh, a teaching assistant in the elementary school library, since she will be retiring;
Voted unanimously to approve middle-school science teacher Jessica Bradshaw’s request for parental leave from April 6 to June 8 and middle- and high-school music teacher Mary Abba Gleason’s request for parental leave from May 15 to Nov. 9;
Voted unanimously to appoint Robert Hathaway to do weekend and holiday building checks at a rate of $12.21 an hour;
Voted unanimously to appoint the following coaches for this school year, Kyle Turski for varsity baseball to be paid $3,240, Matthew Fiato for varsity softball to be paid $3,240, Steven Relyea for varsity track to be paid $3,233, Phil Carducci for varsity track assistant to be paid $2,350, and Thomas Kurkjian for varsity boys’ tennis to be paid $3,233;
Voted unanimously to appoint Joseph Santos as the varsity girls’ soccer coach, to be paid $3,733, and Joseph Sapienza as the varsity football coach, to be paid $4,310, for the next school year;
Voted unanimously to approve the substitute teacher appointments from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services substitute registry;
Voted unanimously to accept the following non-resident students for next school year, first-grader Ryan Beardsley at the request of Christina Menetti; senior Conor Cashin at the request of Christine Cashin; first-grader Francesca Coppola at the request of Marie Coppola; sophomore Sawyer Cresap at the request of Robin Jacob; eight-grader Shawn Goyer and senior Garrett Wineinger at the request of Michael Goyer; junior Colin Kelly, sophomore Cara Kelly, and eighth-grader Erin Kelly at the request of Mary Kelly; sixth-grader Camryn Kelley, third-grader Alicia Kelley, and third-grader Jayden Kelley at the request of Timothy and Christine Kelley; sophomore Brianna Nicole Lee at the request of Deborah Lee; fifth-grader Noah Justin Robinson at the request of Lori Farrell; sixth-grader Troy Tracey and first-grader Tyler Tracey at the request of Lauren Tracey; and seventh-grader Austin Zielinski at the request of Judith Zielinski;
Voted unanimously to approve the use of school facilities for varsity baseball, varsity football, and varsity girls’ soccer;
Voted unanimously to accept $550 in technology donations from Theresa Kennedy;
Heard a budget update on the transportation and special education departments with Michael Goyer and Robin Jacob, respectively, presenting on their departments, and Sarita Winchell presenting the budget-related segments;
Heard from Richard Brackett, who was once a member of the school board, that he thought the district should lay off administrators before teachers and commended the governor for tightening school budgets around the state;
Voted unanimously to establish a public information committee;
Voted unanimously to amend the appointment of Daniel Chaize, who had been in a probationary period as a sixth-grade science teacher, to elementary education. The change will be retroactive to Sept. 1, 2008 and go through Sept. 1, 2011; and
Met in executive session to discuss candidates for superintendent.