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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 12, 2009

Long-time teachers retire with $10K incentive, allowing new teachers to keep jobs

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — As budget cuts threaten several teaching posts, two teachers have taken a $10,000 retirement incentive from the district.

Kathryn Brennan, a high school math teacher who worked in the district for nine years, and Sheila Lobel, a sixth-grade social studies teacher who worked in the district for 21 years, each took the incentive, as did Annette Zemser, who worked as a library media specialist for 12 years.

When Governor David Paterson in December announced sweeping cuts in state aid to schools, the district started looking for ways to “minimize the effects on losing employees,” Interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello said yesterday.  Facing a loss of $853,000 in state aid, Voorheesville looked at the possibility of shedding 10 teachers, he said, and decided to offer the retirement incentive as a way to encourage teachers who make high-end salaries to retire rather than firing new hires.  Civil Service requires that the last hired be the first fired.

Voorheesville currently has a $21.7 million budget, about 28 percent of which is covered by state aid.  The proposed budget for next year is about $830,000 less than the current spending plan and would increase taxes an estimated 3.5 percent.

April Levy, who makes $75,100 a year, and Deborah Devenpeck, who makes $59,300 a year, and are both listed in the foreign language department, will be keeping their jobs as a result of the teachers’ retirement, Colucciello said.  Brennan and Lobel made $85,000 and $85,780, respectively.

So far, the district has offered the $10,000 incentive to only one of the three bargaining units in the district, Colucciello said.  If one of the others — the non-instructional or the administrators — came forward with offers that would save the district money, “It has potential,” he said.

Two years ago, the district offered the same retirement incentive and 10 people took it, he said.  When asked what had prompted the incentive at that point, Colucciello answered that it is a technique sometimes used to revitalize an organization.

“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” Lobel said of her decision yesterday.  With school districts around the state facing the same budget concerns, Lobel said, if young teachers lose their jobs at Voorheesville, they may not be able to find work elsewhere.

The retiring teachers and librarian will collect pension money upon retirement as well as continuing health-care coverage.  Colucciello expects that the district will hire a person, for roughly $45,000, to fill the empty library position.

Other business

In other business at its March 9 meeting, the school board:

—         Recognized Adam Katz, a high school student, who won an outstanding delegate award at a recent Model United Nations conference;

—         Recognized Jerry Clark, also a high school student, who had a very successful wrestling season;

—         Recognized two Odyssey of the Mind Teams, one of which included middle-school students Sarah Murray, John Mackey, Lydia Parker, Alex Relyea, Matt Feller, Wolfgang Gehring, and Braeden Morrison, and the other that included elementary students Sawyer Cresap, Casey Morrison, Erika Niner, Alexis Moore, Karen Obertubbesing, and Gabrielle Ligouri;

—         Heard Nadine Bassler present a physical education curriculum plan that will comply with the state-mandated 120-minute minimum for students’ physical activity — the board later voted unanimously to accept the plan.  It will now be submitted to the state’s education department;

—         Discussed the possibility of getting $261,000, split over two years, in federal stimulus money, but Colucciello said yesterday, “nothing is definite”;

—         Voted unanimously to accept the following warrants: a multifund warrant for $435,157.69; a payroll-covering warrant for $488,543.70; a multifund warrant for $385,208.52; a payroll-covering warrant for $470,097.04; and a capital fund warrant for $67,673.74;

—         Voted unanimously to approve Jennifer Zeh’s request for parental leave from about June 1, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2010 and a family medical leave from Sept. 2 to Nov. 30, 2009;

—         Voted unanimously to appoint Mary Rosenzweig as a custodial worker effective March 10.  She will be paid $11.74 an hour and work eight-hour days for 12 months out of the year;

—         Voted unanimously to approve the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services registry of substitute teachers;

—         Voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of the committee on special education.  Special education is the only section of the budget not slated to be reduced;

—         Voted unanimously to appoint Terrence Ryan as the junior-varsity softball coach to be paid $2,803;

—         Voted unanimously to accept Christine Conley’s requests for non-resident students Meaghan Conley, Amanda Conley, and Timothy Conley to attend the Voorheesville School District;

—         Voted unanimously to approve an out-of-town student field trip request for the Yorker Club to go to Kingston from May 7 to 9 at a cost of $120 per student;

—         Voted unanimously to accept technology donations from Karen Finnessey worth $300;

—         Voted unanimously to declare as surplus or obsolete several electronic items;

—         Voted unanimously to appoint the auditing firm Bonadio & Co., LLP to conduct the independent audit of the school district for the year ending June 30, 2009 at a cost of $13,100;

—         Voted unanimously to hold a meeting on April 20 at 7:30 a.m. to have an election for BOCES board members and vote on the BOCES administrative budget;

—         Voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding between the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association and the school district for middle and high school teachers to be paid stipends;

—         In a 6-to-1 vote, with Timothy Blow voting against, approved a memorandum of understanding between the VTA and the school district for teachers to be paid when their presence is required at school board meetings that begin after 4 p.m.  Some teachers had been requesting pay after attending meetings while others hadn’t, school board President David Gibson explained.  “We’re all here for the students and we’re putting a price tag on that involvement,” Blow said.  “I think it’s a bad precedent”;

—         Voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding between the VTA and the school district for “contact minutes” for physical education teachers in the elementary school; and

—         In a 6-to-1 vote, with Kevin Kroencke voting against, the board decided to take a $15,000 grant for full-day kindergarten, although the district will return the money in full if, when the study of the program is done, the district decides not to implement the program.  Currently, Voorheesville has a half-day kindergarten program.

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