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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 14, 2009

On eve of budget vote, BKW school board will talk about librarian, assistant super posts

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

BERNE — With the May 19 budget vote on the horizon, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board will hold a special meeting early next week to discuss the status of the posts for assistant superintendent and elementary librarian.

Superintendent Steven Schrade stressed that any changes, if made, would not affect the bottom line. The budget for next year will total $19.8 million, as already approved by the board, and will not raise the tax levy.

“I want to emphasize that the budgetary amount would not change,” Schrade said yesterday afternoon. “If the board said to the administration, ‘We’d like that in the budget,’ we’d have to cut something, or shuffle things around.”

The current tax rate for Berne is $27.58 per $1,000 of assessed value; for Knox, $29.14; and for Westerlo, which hasn’t revalued in decades, $1,980.24 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The Enterprise received notification of the special meeting yesterday afternoon. The release said that the school board president, Helen Lounsbury, had requested the meeting but that the date, time, and location had yet to be determined.

“That’s because of the late notice, all of the board members aren’t available,” said Schrade.

The meeting will be a public session, Schrade said. The Enterprise will cover the meeting and, if it is held before the May 19 vote, will post a story about it online at www.altamontenterprise.com.

Lounsbury deferred comment to Schrade, whom she said was the spokesman for the district.

The Enterprise reported in April, after the board adopted the $19.8 million budget, that the half-million-dollar cut from this year’s budget was due in part to staff reductions — four retiring teachers would not be replaced and the elementary librarian’s job was to be cut.

Schrade said that, since then, the board has heard a number of requests from the public to re-instate the librarian. Cutting the post would save about $80,000 in salary and benefits, Schrade said.

The post is currently filled by Karen Canfield. “She has indicated, if the post is cut, she is considering retirement,” Schrade said. “If the post is re-instated, she’d have the first right to it,” Schrade said.

The other issue the board will discuss at its special meeting is the post of assistant superintendent. Currently, BKW has three district-wide administrators — a superintendent, a business administrator, and an assistant superintendent.

Additionally, the district has three building administrators — a principal at the elementary school, an assistant principal at the middle school, and a principal at the high school.

The assistant superintendent, Schrade said, oversees roughly 195 special education students with a budget of about $2.3 million; works on curriculum initiatives; and oversees testing and data reporting requirements sent from the State Education Department.

Kim LaBelle is currently the assistant superintendent.

At its meeting on April 25, the school board reluctantly accepted Schrade’s resignation and subsequently appointed LaBelle as interim superintendent once Schrade retires on Aug. 15. At the same time, the board eliminated her former position of assistant superintendent as another cost-cutting measure.

“The question was raised at the board meeting that, since Mrs. LaBelle is being interim superintendent, what if she were not appointed for the permanent spot?” Schrade said yesterday. “The board needs further discussion on that.”

For the 2009-10 school year, Schrade said, there will be no assistant superintendent. The work currently being done by LaBelle will be divided between the other administrators.

What the board will discuss at its special meeting is what should happen to the post in the 2010-11 school year. If LaBelle were to return to the assistant superintendent post, the cost to the district would be in the $120,000 range for salary and benefits, said Schrade “as a result of her long tenure here.”

Schrade concluded on the reason for the special meeting, “Mrs. Lounsbury felt these two items were noteworthy enough to the public…She wanted to make clear to the community that the board values comments from the public.”

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