School should be managed by local people who care about it

To the Editor:

We are writing about a recent report of a cost-saving measure that would cost Berne-Knox-Westerlo Schools Building and Maintenance Supervisor Pete Shunney his job. 

We have known Mr. Shunney as a good friend and neighbor for over 20 years.  The clean, attractive orderliness of his own residential properties reflect his character and way of life.

The meticulous and forward-thinking, strategic maintenance of the school buildings and grounds by his department demonstrates his leadership and work ethic.  We were impressed by a tour he gave us one day of the BKW garage to show how his department had found ways to save energy, make creative use of existing equipment and supplies, and improve operational efficiency.

For years, we have heard from different sources that Mr. Shunney has been notably proactive in reducing waste and operating costs through a variety of innovative programs and careful purchases. He has been commended in The Enterprise for his energy conservation efforts and for his careful management of operations to achieve significant taxpayer savings (http://www.altamontenterprise.com/Weekly%20Archives/2008/09-25-08/Hilltowns2.html).

We are concerned that, if the school loses Mr. Shunney’s knowledge and experience with the workings of the physical plant, if it loses his expertise and dedication to its preventive maintenance and resourceful cost management, any short-term savings that might be realized by an outside shared-services contract could be costly to taxpayers in the long run.

We recognize the school has competing priorities and very limited resources.  Although money is the bottom line for some people, it also seems that community members, as stakeholders, would be much better caretakers of our school than any outside provider could be.

The effects of this change would reach beyond the buildings and grounds.  Custodians aren’t the main focus of the educational experience for students, but at BKW they really are a part of it.  Mr. Shunney’s attention to details, his accessibility, and his dedication to the care of the school are obvious and instructive. 

The school is a source of pride for the community.  It should be managed by local people who care about it.   

The next board of education meeting will take place on Feb. 24 at 7 pm.

Amy and Russ Pokorny
Knox

Editor’s note: Although Amy Lauterbach Pokorny is a Knox Town Board member and Russ Pokorny is the Knox assessor, they wrote this letter not in their official capacities.

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