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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 13, 2008
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND In eight to 10 weeks, the names of the town’s two top police officers will be the only ones on the Civil Service’s certified list of candidates for the vacant police chief post.
Acting Chief Carol Lawlor and Lieutenant Curtis Cox took the promotion-class Civil Service exam on March 8, and, after the tests are graded, those who passed will be put on a certified list, which will replace and nullify the list of three eligible candidates that the town was given last year.
Although Supervisor Kenneth Runion anticipated this week that there would be five candidates to interview, Civil Service officials said otherwise.
“We don’t combine lists,” said David Walker, deputy personnel officer for Albany County’s Civil Service department. “Once we certify this new list, we will inactivate the old list.”
The promotion class exam is given once a year, as is the open competitive exam, which four people took last year and three people passed, Walker said.
Since James Murley, Guilderland’s long-time police chief, retired amid controversy about a year ago, Lawlor has been acting in his stead. Two of the councilmen on the all-Democratic board who appointed her to the position were replaced by Republicans after November’s election; the Republican councilmen, Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm, campaigned on opening up the selection process.
“I think that the way it’s being done is inappropriate,” Redlich said this week, after Runion, a Democrat, posted an ad for the position with a March 28 deadline on the town website. Another ad is running in this week’s Enterprise.
“It needs to be an open process,” said Grimm who ran on a platform of opening up Town Hall. “At the very least,” he added, “we should have an open discussion.”
Both Republicans have called for the town board to discuss the process. Yesterday, Grimm formally requested that an item be added to the agenda for the March 18 meeting and feels confident that Runion, who sets the agenda, will include it.
“With a police chief leaving,” Runion said last week, “there’s this huge power vacuum, and everyone’s jockeying for position.”
During an executive session on Feb. 12, the board voted, 3 to 2, along party lines, to hire attorney Claudia Ryan to advise the board on the selection process, Runion and Redlich said, independently of each other. On the day before that meeting, the town had been served notice of a possible lawsuit by Lawlor and Cox, who felt that they might be discriminated against citing a blog post from Redlich in which he called them “political flunkies.” (See “Legal action? Top cops threaten to take town to court,” at www.altamontenterprise.com, under “archives” for Feb. 14, 2008.)
According to the minutes from the meeting, the board retained Ryan “to review the letter of Paul Clyne,” who represents the officers, “… and to provide an opinion to the town board as to how to address the contents of the letter and to counsel the board as to how best proceed with the process of filling the position of chief of police or police commissioner in view of the issues raised in such letter.”
New York’s Town Law, Section 150, says that a town board “may establish a police department and appoint a chief of police.” It doesn’t define the duties of the position, but does go on to say that the town board may also create a board of police commissioners. That board can be made up of one or three people, appointed by the town board, and will serve at the pleasure of the board which means they are much easier to fire than a police chief, whose position falls under the realm of Civil Service and, therefore, has protections.
“It’s one of the options,” said Redlich when asked about a police commissioner post for Guilderland. “I think we should consider all options.” He is concerned about the bureaucratic nature of the Civil Service exam process, he said, explaining that a well-qualified person with a college degree may not meet the technical specifications of Civil Service’s required qualifications.
“All municipal positions are Civil Service,” Lori Mithen, of the Association of Towns, said of why the Civil Service is involved.
“Any position that’s created is considered competitive,” said Walker, unless the town requests otherwise, in which case the classification would need to be approved by the state’s Civil Service department.
Redlich, a lawyer, had cited Section 53-a of the state’s Town Law, which says that the town board is to appoint the head of any department created under the law and that the position will be unclassified service. According to New York Civil Service Law, unclassified service applied to “the head or heads of any department of the government who are vested with authority, direction and control over a department, and who have power and authority to appoint and remove officers and employees therein,” as well as various elected and appointed positions.
“You’ve got to read between the lines,” said Runion, who is also a lawyer. “53-a exempt. Commissioner exempt,” he said, emphasizing that section of law and that position are appointed and serve at the pleasure of the board rather than going through the competitive class Civil Service exams although neither are technically considered exempt class. “I’d love every position in Town Hall to be exempt if I wanted unfettered control.” He concluded that keeping the classification as competitive, which requires testing by the Civil Service department, keeps politics out of the job.
“The Guilderland Police Department has been far too political for far too long,” Grimm said in January. Since the Democrats have a 3 to 2 majority on the town board, they can select whomever they want, Redlich said, but he added that the process should still be open.
When asked by Democratic Councilman Paul Pastore at the March 4 town board meeting if he thought the Civil Service process for selecting a police chief was not “open, fair, and transparent,” Redlich cited the recent appointment of a police officer and said, “If the selection of the future chief of police is that… Mr. Grimm and I are presented with an up-or-down vote on one person, I don’t consider that an open process.”
By Saranac Hale Spencer
GUILDERLAND Serdar S. Goz drove from Rochester to Guilderland on March 6 to have sex with a 13-year-old, say State Police.
The New York State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation arrested Goz when he arrived at a “predetermined location” to meet with the teen, according to a release. He was charged with attempted endangering the welfare of a child and attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor.
Goz’s arrest came after a months-long investigation, said Captain William Sprague. It wasn’t “24 hours a day, every day,” he said, but it did take several months to complete the investigation, which was conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the State Police.
Goz sent Internet correspondence that was “sexually graphic in nature,” the release says, and he had planned to meet the 13-year-old “for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct.”
Goz was arraigned in Albany City Court and committed to Albany County’s jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Damn Yankees hits a home run for Guilderland Players
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Despite snow still on the ground, spring is in the air. The Guilderland baseball team is practicing for the season ahead, and the community is invited to a production of Damn Yankees that will make playgoers feel like they’re at the ballpark.
“Three years ago, Bob Oates and I were hanging camouflage netting that had been used in South Pacific, and we talked about how much fun it was to transform the audience into part of the show,” said Director Andy Maycock. “I said we should do Damn Yankees and sell hot dogs.”
And so they are and then some.
Oates has come out of retirement to choreograph another Guilderland Players’ production. The audience is encouraged to arrive a half-hour before show time. Maycock’s kids 8-year-old Abbie and 10-year-old Avery will be selling hot dogs then, as part of a PTSA fund-raiser. Popcorn and soda will also be on sale.
Baseball players from the show will be on stage, warming up, and the sounds of a ballpark organ will be heard along with 1950’s commercial jingles.
“Come early and come hungry,” urged Maycock. “We’re calling it the baseball experience.”
The show, which Maycock described as “a classic American musical,” was a Broadway hit in 1955, with lyrics and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross following their success with The Pajama Game, and a book by George Abbott and Douglas Wallop, based on Wallop’s novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.
An American version of the German legend where Faust sells his soul to the devil, the musical is set in the nation’s capital a half-century ago when the Yankees dominated Major League Baseball and the Washington Senators were at the bottom.
“A disgruntled Senators fan, in a fit of rage says, ‘I would sell my soul if we had one home-run hitter,’” said Maycock describing the plot. Joe Boyd is the middle-aged fan, a happily married real-estate agent.
He suddenly meets a slick salesman, Mr. Applegate, and is convinced to sell his soul to become a young slugger, Joe Hardy. “They never say Mr. Applegate is the devil, but he shows up and says, ‘I’ll make you a deal,’” said Maycock. “Because Joe’s a real-estate guy, he puts in an escape clause,” which gives him the chance to return to his old life by a certain time.
Applegate is played by David Alliger, a senior who had the lead in last year’s musical. “He plays a good con man,” said Maycock.
Sean Teeter, a junior and the son of Rae Jean Teeter, a Guilderland music teacher who has in the past been the music director for the Guilderland Players but is not involved this year, plays the part of Joe Hardy.
“He has one of the great voices in the show,” said Maycock of Sean Teeter. “He likes being that baseball hero. That’s every guy’s dream.”
Maycock went on, describing the story line, “Joe is a huge star. In no time, the Senators are contending for the pennant.”
But he misses his wife, Meg. Joe’s 22 now, not in his 50s. He rents a room from his wife in his old house.
Katie Matthews, a senior, plays Meg. “Katie has a great voice and she’s one of those kids who’s always looking to help where she can carrying scenery, painting...no ego...She was in the chorus for Hello Dolly! and, if we were missing a viola during rehearsal, she’d go off the stage, down to the pit, and play the viola.”
Maycock went on, describing the plot of Damn Yankees, “Meg misses her husband. She figures it’s a mid-life crisis. And he misses her. This infuriates Mr. Applegate. So Applegate calls in his most successful temptress, Lola, to make him forget about his wife. She tries to seduce Joe. It doesn’t work.”
Lola is played by Valerie Wolanski, a senior who has been in the show for three years. Maycock anticipates she’ll be a big hit with the eighth-graders who make up the final dress-rehearsal audience.
“We give out The Dreamboat Award to whoever gets the loudest hoots during curtain calls,” he said.
Returning to the story line, Maycock said, “Applegate finds a way to get Joe past the escape-clause deadline. He’s given his soul away. So the problem becomes How is he going to undo this? Is he going to give up on his team? Lola at this point is on Joe’s side...
“I don’t want to give away the ending, but, basically, true love wins every time,” said Maycock.
The players, he said, have “joked about” the relevance of the current steroids scandal to the play’s theme. “You become the hero everyone wants to be in the blink of an eye but you’re giving up your future for it,” said Maycock.
Maycock writes in his director’s notes about what he sees as the heart of the story: “This is a musical about acknowledging what you have, and getting a second chance to appreciate it. Joe Boyd may have a chance to relive his youthful potential (maybe the show should be called Damn Midlife Crisis!), but in the end, it’s his love for Meg that brings him back to earth.”
“Something for everybody”
The show is propelled by its music. Kerry Dineen, a music teacher at Pine Bush Elementary School, is the players’ music director.
“She has a lot of enthusiasm,” said Maycock. “Yesterday, she sat in the pit, reading the score, making sure everyone is accurate.”
The 1955 original was Bob Fosse’s first Broadway hit as a choreographer. Guilderland’s Bob Oates “loves that jazzy stuff,” said Maycock. Oates is a retired Guilderland administrator and physical-education teacher.
“Bob says, ‘The music tells you what to do,’” said Maycock. “It doesn’t tell me but it speaks to him. He’s an inspirational guy...He buys hardware. He stays late to work on scenery. He’s tireless.”
Jim VanHorne, a technical-education teacher at the high school, is in charge of the scenery. “He’s used to building sheds and big things. He does computer-aided design,” said Maycock. “The kids have a lot of respect for him.”
Maycock, an English teacher, is grateful for the expert help from Dineen, Oates, and VanHorne. “I got engaged on Valentine’s Day to a lovely woman,” said Maycock. He doesn’t see as much of Beth Martin as he’d like in the lead up to this weekend’s production.
The musical, he said, will please all tastes.
“We have some scenes with romantic songs sung by sweet, sincere talented kids,” said Maycock. “And we have songs that are funny with the ballplayers and Applegate...
“Anyone who comes to see the musical will be entertained. There are heartfelt duets; there’s humorous slapstick; and there are goofy one-liners. There’s something for everybody.”
Damn Yankees will play on the Guilderland High School stage Thursday, March 13, at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 16, at 2 p.m.
Playgoers are invited to come a half-hour early to enjoy hot dogs, soda, and popcorn as they watch the baseball players warm up and listen to ballpark tunes.
Tickets cost $7 at the door. Seats can be reserved by calling the high school at 861-8591, ext. 1004.
Muy BienSpanish a hit with GCSD boardBy Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND The school board was charmed Tuesday night with a presentation on teaching Spanish to the district’s youngest students. The program Foreign Language Early Start began this fall after a half-dozen years of parents and teachers pressing for it.
The point of the program, said the district’s foreign language supervisor, Albert Martino, besides developing proficiency in Spanish, is to develop cultural acceptance through understanding.
“We strongly believe in the word ‘acceptance.’ We don’t use the word ‘tolerance,’” said Martino.
All students, including those in special-education classes, receive instruction 20 minutes a week for kindergartners, and 30 minutes a week for first- and second-graders.
The two Spanish teachers Rebecca Frank and Delfino Camilo-Arroyo travel to each of the district’s five elementary schools, where they wheel carts into the classrooms, so the regular classroom teachers participate, too.
Martino presented results from surveys of parents, teachers, and school principals all showing strong support for the program. The students’ progress was assessed in January. According to unfinalized results, kindergartners showed 94 percent accuracy, first-graders, 89 percent accuracy; and second-graders, 95 percent accuracy.
A film produced by the district’s media specialist, Nicholas Viscio, captured the excitement of the children as they sang Spanish songs, counted in Spanish, and identified colors in Spanish. And it captured the energy of the teachers as they riveted their students.
“I’m sharing a little bit of who I am,” said Camilo-Arroyo who is from the Dominican Republic. She reported one student saying, “So, are you from this planet Earth?”
Another young student named James is captured on film, announcing, “There’s no way to say ‘piñata’ in English. My brother told me and he’s in sixth grade.”
“By teaching language,” Martino said, “culture is automatically imbedded.”
The plan is to expand the program by one grade each year. The cost for the program this year is $129,060, which includes $120,000 in salaries and benefits for the two teachers as well as funds for materials, travel, and curriculum development.
Next year, 19 sections will be added as the FLES program is expanded to the third grade. The budget draft allows for two-tenths of a teaching position, and a cost of $11,080 for teaching the third-graders.
School board members, who have been divided recently over some contentious issues, spoke as one in praise of the program and requested even demanded that more hours be allotted in teaching time for the third-graders.
Martino said the original plan was for a half-time teacher.
“I’ll take responsibility for the .2,” said Superintendent John McGuire, stating the cutback to two-tenths of a job was “not ideal” but saying that, in drafting the budget, he used the “most conservative” approach.
Towards the end of the board discussion, McGuire said, “I am hearing very clearly and hearing no small amount of pressure to not be so stingy.”
“Our original idea,” said board member Barbara Fraterrigo, long a FLES proponent, “was an additional full-time teacher… Last year we revised it back; .2 I guess is off the board, so thank God, but even at .5,” she said of the half-time post. “If we’re going to do this, we might as well do it correctly.”
The school board will have the final say on the budget, said President Richard Weisz. “Some of the staffing is considered light, not just in FLES…It’s a work in progress,” he said of the budget.Directory debate continues
Catherine Barber, who heads the district’s policy committee, said that, while committee members had varied views on whether the district’s current policies on releasing student directory information are consistent, they all agreed “our goal is to protect this information from release.”
Barber said that the school’s attorney, Jeff Honeywell, will work to “harmonize” the language in the policies. “We want to be clear,” she said.
At their last meeting, board members, in a split vote, 5 to 2, adopted a moratorium on the release of directory information while policy is clarified.
McGuire had recommended the moratorium after board member Peter Golden raised concerns that releasing students’ addresses to the teachers’ union before last year’s school-board election was illegal either in violation of state law that prohibits school districts from campaigning, or in violation of a federal act that protects students’ privacy.
The teachers’ union used the list for the last two elections to mail cards in support of candidates and the budget.
Board member Hy Dubowsky, who was absent at the past meeting due to “pressing personal matters,” said at Tuesday’s meeting that he would have voted against the moratorium. He said, after talking with various attorneys, he believed it put the district at risk of being in violation of state law.
Dubowsky also said he was troubled by the seemingly inconsistent versions of what took place in 2006 and 2007.
“Above all else,” he concluded, “we must protect the children in the district.”
“The story changes all the time,” said Golden, who again requested that the school’s lawyer address the entire board.
Wiesz said that would be in an executive session. He also said that the same list of names and addresses could be obtained from the assessor’s office.
Guilderland’s assessor, Carol Wysomski, said yesterday, “Anyone can come in and look at the roll. I do not produce a list. Insurance companies have asked for it and I won’t do it; that’s soliciting.
“This is all about the next election,” Weisz told Golden.
“No, it’s really not,” said Golden, whose term expires this year. “If the union can do that,” he said of getting parents’ names and addresses from the assessor, “why didn’t they?”
McGuire interrupted the debate to say he had spoken with the union president, Chris Claus, “who has agreed on a voluntary basis, the teachers would not use the list.”
“Then that’s the answer,” said Golden.
“I think it was a very honorable and ethical thing Chris Claus has done as the union president,” said board member Denise Eisele. “It shows a great deal of integrity.”
Meanwhile, Timothy Burke, a resident who filed a Freedom of Information Law request to get the same directory information the union had, called The Enterprise last week to say his request was denied because of the moratorium.
“I’ve appealed to the superintendent and I expect to be denied also,” he said.
Burke said he is considering filing an Article 78 lawsuit against the district and also asking the state’s education commissioner for a ruling.
Referring to the three board members who were elected after cards supporting them had been mailed out by the union, Burke said, “I don’t think anyone thinks Colleen [O’Connell] or Gloria [Towle-Hilt] or Dick [Weisz] should resign or the budget is invalidated, but they should admit a mistake was made.”
Other businessIn other business, the board:
Heard from Christine Sagendorf, the district’s transportation supervisor, a request to purchase six 66-passenger buses, two 30-passenger buses, and two Suburbans at an estimated cost of $790,000. The board will vote at its next meeting on the proposition, which has to be approved by the public at the same time as the budget vote, May 20.
Guilderland has a total of 116 buses, which include 91 buses for 88 routes and 24 spares. The spares are needed for athletic events, preventative maintenance, and state-required inspections, she said.
Altogether 5,365 students are bused to district schools, 33 to private schools, 32 to special-education placements, and five to vocational education, Sagendorf said;
Learned that on March 3, a shared decision-making district team met to review Guilderland’s shared decision-making plan, as required by the state. McGuire complimented Guilderland’ shared decision-making;
Heard a proposal from Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders to put $250,000 in unallocated funds, beyond the 3 percent allowed by the state, into the retirement system reserve account, which would be used to pay the district’s share to the Employee Retirement System.
The ERS is dependent on the stock market, Sanders said, describing the market as being “in a funk.” He said it would be “prudent financial planning” to ease the district’s future ERS burden.
The district already plans to use $1.5 million from the fund balance to reduce next year’s tax levy. The board is slated to vote on the plan at its next meeting;
Heard a plea from Sanders to contribute to scholarships for Guilderland students, which are detailed on the district’s website. He noted the contributions would be tax deductible;
Agreed to meet at 8:30 a.m. on April 21 to vote on the BOCES budget and board election;
Agreed to support the town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont in applying for grants for sidewalk improvements near Pine Bush and Altamont elementary schools in connection with the Safe Routes to School program administered by the state.
Sanders said the program is to encourage children to walk or bike to school, improving health and preventing pollution.
Barber expressed her appreciation to Donald Csaposs, the town’s development director, for writing the grant;
Accepted two donated drum sets from Daniel Thuener; and
Met in executive session to discuss litigation.
By Melissa Hale-Spencer