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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 22, 2010

Emilio Genzano

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — “I’ve been very honored to be on the school board,” said Emilio Genzano. “It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a great deal. I want to help. We have a good group of people.”

Genzano said he was especially pleased with the meeting last week, where the board adopted the $87.4 million budget. “We pulled something together that was respected,” he said.

Genzano, who had lost school board elections in 2001 and 2002, was one of eight men who vied for appointment to the seat left vacant by John Dornbush, who died of cancer last July. In October, the board appointed him to serve until the May 18 elections.

The assistant vice president for engineering and construction at Albany Medical Center, he has said his background in construction is unique among the board members.

On the role of a board member, Genzano said he doesn’t serve one constituency over another. “I got involved primarily to serve the whole community,” he said. “They all participate in the children’s education.”

Genzano is serving on the board’s committee, organizing the search for the new superintendent. On the role of the superintendent in relationship to the school board, Genzano said, “We have to rely on his leadership and we have to provide our vision.”

On the qualities he’d like in the new superintendent, Genzno said, “This is a new time for everyone, across New York State and across the country. We have to look at things differently. That person has to have an open mind,” he said of the new superintendent.

Genzano said that, as a board member, he had learned, “You need at least a year or two to understand what needs to be done.” In a superintendent he said, “You  have to look for a long-term play.” He noted, however, that the average age of a superintendent is well into his 50s. “So that’s a challenge for us,” Genzano said of finding a qualified candidate that could serve for at least five years. “You need at least a five-year piece to give him an opportunity to make a difference,” he said.

Genzano said he supports the $87.4 million budget because it reflects “what the community wanted.” He went on, “It was a budget of transition, allowing for us to prepare for the worst next year, if it should happen.”

Although he is pleased with the budget outcome overall, Genzano said that he regretted the last-minute cut of $73,000 to sports, which removed most freshman sports and repeat sports. “I would like to see the sports put back in,” he said. (Genzano was one of three members on the board that voted to do so.)

He said, if the district got extra aid after the budget is approved, his opinion on what to do with those funds would depend on “how much aid we get.”

Asked what course the board should take if voters defeat the budget, Genzano said, “I’m not thinking we’ll have a problem passing it….We looked at those with no kids on fixed incomes. We looked at young families who wanted kindergarten. We looked at courses and programs students and their families wanted put back in.”

Looking ahead to the tax rate for next year, Genzano said, “With the climate we’re in right now, I don’t think we’ll have an opportunity to raise [taxes] above the 4-percent threshold. I think we’ll have to look at cutting programs and jobs.”

On whether or not to give raises when negotiating contracts next year, Genzano said, “The bottom line is, we’re all parents, we’re all families.” He noted that Guilderland’s budget was $66 million in 2003 and is now proposed at over $87 million, although the number of students has decreased. Genzano said, “I teach my kids, if you have a glass of water, and you drain $2.1 million from it every year for seven years…there’s no more water in the glass…I don’t think raises will become a question”

Referring to school board President Richard Weisz, he went on, “Dick is trying to get everybody to see there’s no more water in the glass. Unless there’s a pitcher of water coming our way…I don’t think there will be a choice.”

Genzano added that he was proud of the $220,000 in concessions made by seven of the district’s 12 bargaining units. “Everyone stepped up,” he said.

On full-day kindergarten, Genzano noted that he voted for it this year but that next year, he would weigh it again. “It was important to maintain it when we had the opportunity,” he said, but the district may not be able to afford full-day kindergarten next year.

On teaching assistants, Genzano said, “I have a special-needs child. He’s experienced wonderful support from the TAs here.”

Genzano also said that the board has approved hiring a consultant to analyze and evaluate the district’s special-education program. “I will look hard at how we can get better,” he said.

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