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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2011
Judy SlackBy Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Judy Slack, who is seeking a second term on the board, says she has learned much in her first three years and enjoyed it.
She and her husband, Joe, have three grown children Julie, Sarah, and Tom. Slack has said they had varying educational needs, all of which were met at Guilderland.
Slack began her career as a high-school English teacher, retiring in 2008 after working for 24 years as a teaching assistant at Lynnwood Elementary School.
“It’s a way for me to be involved in retirement and to watch kids grow,” said Slack of serving on the board.
She went on, “It is so wonderful to see the kids and their excitement of learning.”
Slack summed up the unpaid job of a school board member, “I like it more than it hurts.”
“My primary allegiance is to the students,” said Slack. But, she went on, she also has allegiance to the parents and the superintendent. “You can’t help the students without them and without the taxpayers,” she said. “They have to support what we’re doing.”
Slack said she “strongly” supports the $89 million budget, which she helped shape. “We struggled with difficult choices,” she said, echoing the title used for the community forums.
She went on to comment on specific budget items. “You hate to see FLES cut,” slack said of the Foreign Language Early Start program, which taught Spanish in the elementary schools, “but I couldn’t support it at the expense of other losses.”
Slack continued, “We’ve kept some enrichment, not enough to keep it like it was. I think elementary teachers will work to broaden the curriculum. The classroom teachers have an overwhelming job. The classes are a little larger. If it keeps creeping up,” Slack said of class size, “then it will be more of a concern.”
Slack went on about the board’s last-minute split vote to reinstate half of the funding for freshmen sports, “I didn’t vote for freshman sports. I couldn’t decide. I admire what the parents did last year,” she said of the successful drive to pay for all freshmen sports, which had been cut from this year’s budget. “You hate to put it on them again and you hate to cut it.”
She cited the athletic director’s belief that there’s a stronger need for eighth-grade sports as ninth-graders are eligible for junior-varsity teams.
Slack praised this year’s budget process. “The administrative team obviously listened,” she said. Slack particularly credited the new superintendent, Marie Wiles, with being a good listener. “It was actually the result of community member Don Csaposs asking if we couldn’t have meetings earlier,” said Slack of the idea for a different budget process.
Slack went on, “People had as many chances as you could give them to speak their mind.”
Asked what course the board should take if the budget were to be voted down, Slack said, “I don’t even like to think of that.” After a moment, she went on, “I would like the board to put up a different budget. I don’t know where we’d cut $260,000. We agonized so over each thing.”
On the tax hike for the 2011-12 budget, Slack said, “We don’t have a lot of choices. There was no low-hanging fruit this year. We haven’t cut the heart of the program. We’re cutting the width and depth; we’re cutting off the edges.”
On a 4-percent tax-rate hike, she said, “I don’t know if you can ask the community to do that.” But then she went on, “We’ve cut so deep already.”
Finally, Slack concluded, “I really would like people to get through this year and see.”
On negotiating contracts without raises, she said, “There isn’t any more money in the pot. So, if they get raises above step [increases], what are we going to cut? We have to come to a common understanding. If they get step, they have to talk to us. We can’t find too much more money. I think the community would not support raises above step.”
She concluded, “If they continue to get step, they are getting a raise, when many people are not. If we had it, it would be good to give it. We don’t have a lot to fall back on.”
Slack said at the end of the interview that, when she started her teaching career at Troy High School, she was paid $4,800 a year. “Of course, gas was just 30 cents a gallon,” she added, putting the long-ago salary into perspective.
Slack went on about the roughly $42,000 starting wage for a Guilderland teacher, “It’s not where you start as a lawyer, but it’s a satisfactory wage. People go into teaching I assume because they have the same love for children I do.”
On full-day kindergarten, Slack said that she would continue to support it next year. She had originally voted against the full-day program but said she has come to understand its value.
“Another large expense in the district is special education,” said Slack. “If we help some of these children early, we won’t need extra services and will save money in the long run.”
Slack also said, “A good kindergarten teacher can make all the difference in your success in school.”