By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND — The meeting after the school board approved its last change order for a $27 million project, members were enthused about establishing a committee to consider the district’s next bond project.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders proposed a facilities committee be set up to work with an architect and report to the board on whether a capital project should be undertaken and, if so, to recommend the size and scope of the project.
The last facilities committee, he noted, was set up in 2007.
In November of 2007, voters approved a $27 million project to upgrade Guilderland’s five elementary schools, improve technology across the district, and move the district offices to the high school.
Because of the economy, bids came in lower than predicted and so, in the fall of 2009, the board added close to $2 million in projects — all for the same $27 million voters had approved.
The added items came from what the facilities committee had termed its “wish list.”
The additional work included roof replacement at Guilderland and Lynnwood elementary schools; toilet upgrades, sidewalk repairs, and drain work at Lynnwood; acoustical tile replacement in the Westmere Elementary School gym; and refinishing the gym floor at Pine Bush Elementary School.
At the high school, work included resurfacing the track, making concrete walk repairs, replacing lockers and outside doors, and roof replacement.
Sanders told the school board at its Dec. 11 meeting that it would take a minimum of 18 months to study and bond the new project and to get approval from the State Education Department. The earliest that work could start, he said, would be in the summer of 2015.
Board President Colleen O’Connell suggested that, as with the last facilities committee, its members include people from the different buildings, community members, and workers from the maintenance department.
Sanders said there would be “a variety of stakeholders.”
“Doing it in increments makes it more manageable,” said board member Allan Simpson of having a series of smaller bond issues rather than waiting and having a large one. “It lets us maintain our buildings,” said Simpson.
“It’s less destructive to the educational process,” agreed Sanders, adding that small projects completed more frequently contain costs and are better managed.
O’Connell agreed, too, citing other Suburban Council districts that wait a decade for a $100 million project.
The board was so enthused that O’Connell asked if it wanted to vote to waive its regular wait untill the next meeting and instead take action immediately.
Sanders recommended waiting until the January meeting when he will have the resolution ready.
The plan will be to have the facilities committee start meeting in January or February and work through the school year.
In other business, the board:
— Agreed to refinance bonds issued in 2006 for construction at the middle school, for a savings of $320,000 over eight years. The current interest rate, said Sanders, is 1.5 percent, whereas, when the bonds were issued, it was over 4 percent;
— Heard from Timothy Burke, who had served on the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee before it was dissolved, that honoring an agreement on the middle-school schedule means larger class sizes, that the reason Guilderland now has more students isn’t because of the economy but because of full-day kindergarten, and that board members should be nonpartisan and should not endorse political candidates;
— Heard congratulations for Alan Fiero, a Farnsworth Middle School science teacher, who received a $5,000 Bender Scientific Grant for students to begin a research project monitoring the restoration of the Albany landfill;
— Learned that Guilderland’s program for teaching English as a second language will partner with the University at Albany so that all pre-service teachers in the university’s program for teaching English to speakers of other languages will have to do their 100 hours of work in Guilderland, which has seen an influx of foreign students in recent years;
— Approved an agreement with the Rensselaer-Columbia-Greene Board of Cooperative Educational Services to provide internal auditing services for the 2012-13 school year;
— Approved an addendum to the district’s contract with TRAC Services for additional physical therapy. Sanders said there was “greater student need than anticipated.” The district pays $52 for each 30- to 60-minute session;
— Declared as surplus or obsolete a list of items, including furniture, storage cubbies, televisions, a typewriter, and eight buses. Sanders said the items would be put out to bid. The board will receive the sealed bids on Jan. 4;
— Awarded W.B. Mason Company, the lowest of five bidders, a $59,900.40 bid for 2,520 cases of white paper. Sanders said the district is locking in the price for a year because prices are expected to increase;
— Accepted donations of a guitar and keyboard from Joan McGrath, and $700 from the Class of 1985;
— Approved a trip for April 2014 to Vienna, Venice, Florence, and Paris led by high school social studies teacher Robert Baker;
— Approved a new Italian club, named Ciao, at the middle school. The advisor, Piera Camposeo-Iaia, won’t be paid. Students of all cultures will meet twice a month “to learn about the Italian history, music, literature, art, language, and food,” says the request form;
— Heard from Wiles that the Guilderland Elks, as they have for years, gave each third-grader a paperback dictionary. “Each year, the dictionaries magically appear and I know our students greatly appreciate them,” she said;
— Learned from Wiles that a plan has been drafted for “a systematic review of all our programs.” This will assure quality and relevance, she said, and also help with allocating resources and planning for the future.
Three reviews are to be competed this year: technology for grades 6 to 12, self-contained special education, and teaching foreign languages and English as a second language;
— Reviewed policies on parental involvement, board hearings, board policy, academic intervention services, English language learner proficiency instruction, admission of foreign students, disposal of district property, and student transportation;
— In a split vote, agreed to a resolution urging Congress “to mitigate the across-the-board cuts to education that are scheduled to occur January 2, 2013.” New York is slated to lose $164 million in federal funding, largely for students with disabilities and students in poverty; cuts would average $243,000 per district but, in reality, poor districts would lose more.
Board member Barbara Fraterrigo had proposed an addendum to the National School Boards Association resolution. “Every interest group is going to say, ‘I want to preserve my piece of the pie’…We all have to share in the sacrifice to get the country out of the doldrums,” Fraterrigo told the board. Not enough board members agreed with her to include the addendum.
“It’s not our role to…take a position on how to get there,” said board Vice President Gloria Towle-Hilt.
Ultimately, the original resolution passed 8 to 1, with Fraterrigo casting the sole dissenting vote; and
— Met in executive session to discuss a potential tenure appointment, and to discuss negotiations with the Instructional Administrators’ Unit, the Non-instructional Supervisory Unit and other Management Personnel, and the Guilderland Office Workers’ Association.