BOCES ldquo strategically makes adjustments rdquo as it cuts back

GUILDERLAND — BOCES has cut back — that was the message delivered to the Guilderland School Board Tuesday night by Mark Jones, assistant superintendent for management services of the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“The challenge for us, as it is for you, is to strategically make adjustments…but still fulfill our mission,” Jones told the board.

A key difference, he explained, is that BOCES does not have the power to tax; 98 percent of its revenues are from services that are purchased by school districts. As school districts have cut back on purchasing services, BOCES has adjusted accordingly, for instance, consolidating special-education classrooms and eliminating nine of them, and closing the Maritime Academy, which provided hands-on education for students with social- emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Jones said a rollover budget for 2012-13 for the Capital Region BOCES would have been $113 million, but the proposed budget is $9 million less, just shy of $104 million.

He outlined staffing reductions totaling 86 posts since the 2009-10 school year and itemized salary freezes and other reductions ranging from prescription drug savings to energy conservation — for a grand total of $11.8 million in reductions.

Questions from the Guilderland board members centered on negotiations with unions. Guilderland is currently at impasse with its two largest unions.

“I was hoping you’d give us a magic bullet to get people to give us things Triborough says they don’t have to,” said board member Richard Weisz, referring to the amendment to the Taylor Law, which requires a district to pay teachers with an expired contract their step increases.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo praised the eight BOCES administrators who agreed to a voluntary wage freeze for 2011-12, saving $47,000. “It has to be a shared sacrifice,” she said, thanking those who “bit the bullet…for the sake of the children.”

The March 27 meeting had opened with parent Jeff Cohen telling the board that on May 15 taxpayers will have to vote on Guilderland’s budget “with a tremendous unknown.”

He noted that three-quarters of the budget is for wages and benefits, “a big chunk” of which is unsettled. This, said Cohen, hurts the board and community.

“I have a very, very simple solution,” said Cohen, recommending the board, the union, and the arbitrator get in a room. “Nobody leaves until it’s done,” said Cohen, concluding, “I don’t know who’s right; I don’t know who’s wrong.”

Other business

In other business in meetings this week and last, the board:

— Unanimously approved a bus proposition for $1,050,800 that will go to vote on May 15. If passed, it would purchase eight 66-passenger buses for $885,600, one 30-passenger bus for $51,500, one 24-passenger bus that will hold wheelchairs for $63,700, a maintenance truck for $40,000, and legal fees of $10,000. Guilderland gets back about 60 percent of bus purchase costs in state aid;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that Guilderland has been asked to partner with an elementary school near Shanghai in China. He said the Experimental Elementary School of Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, is a flagship school, opening in August, in a “Tech Valley area.”

“The partnership will focus on sharing of effective methodologies and strategies in instruction, school leadership, and curriculum,” said Singleton. Teacher and student exchanges are also being considered;

— Saw a video on Guilderland’s school libraries, produced by Farnsworth Middle School media specialist Maura Nichols. While the narrative voice stressed that libraries taught the “skills to become responsible digital citizens,” almost all of the kids interviewed cited books and reading in a quiet place as their favorite part of the school library

“Reading is awesome,” said one student. “It’s like a story in your head”;

— Heard from Superintendent Marie Wiles that Friday, May 25, will be a school holiday. “As we approach 90 degrees in March,” she said, the district used only one snow day this year;

— Heard from Wiles that she met with Guilderland Supervisor Kenneth Runion to discuss paying for the school resource officer, a Guilderland policeman stationed in the high school who serves the entire district, which Wiles termed “a terrific asset for the district.” The post is currently held by Nick Ingle.

The portion paid by the district in 2012-13 is $27,580; in 2013-14, the amount is not to exceed $28,407, and in 2014-15, the amount is not to exceed $29,259.

The town pays for the rest of the salary. Ingle’s salary for 2012 is $74,823, Runion said yesterday;

— Heard from Sanders that a certified asbestos inspector had “found no change in any material condition” during the required semi-annual asbestos inspection;

— Unanimously appointed Regan Johnson as director of physical education, health, and interscholastic athletics. He had served as assistant to Wayne Bertrand, who is retiring from the post.

Johnson’s annual salary, for the three-year probationary appointment, will be $103,000.

The board and audience applauded and gave Bertrand a standing ovation.

“Thank you, Wayne, for all of your leadership and for mentoring Regan,” said President O’Connell;

— Agreed to let Maria College nursing students intern at Guilderland schools. Sanders said the nursing students won’t diagnose or treat kids but, rather, will assist the school nurses;

— Approved a trip to Montreal on May 4 and 5 for eighth-grade French students;

— Approved the formation of the Guilderland High School Tech Club;

— Heard from Jane and Roger Goff who were concerned about proposed budget cuts to physical and occupational therapy. They said their daughter, now in second grade, couldn’t catch a ball or walk up and down stairs when she started school. Thanks to the services she’s received, she’s now jumping rope and playing hopscotch.

“Our daughter might be considered marginal because of her progress,” said Roger Goff, expressing concern that some students might no longer receive services.

“These are the children that need extra help the most,” said Jane Goff.

“Every child who needs services will be served,” said Superintendent Marie Wiles later in the meeting.

— Heard from Jeff Cohen, speaking as president of the booster club for girls’ soccer, that the board should keep assistant coaches in the budget, as planned, for safety reasons. He lauded the Friends of Guilderland Athletics, headed by board member Emilio Genzano, which, for the past two years, has raised funds to pay for freshman sports.

“We have a model that works…Under Emilio’s leadership, the community has stepped up,” Cohen said; and

— Met in executive session on March 20 to discuss tenure issues and negotiations with the Guilderland Teachers’ Association, and met in executive session on March 27 to discuss two personnel matters.


More Guilderland News

  • “Guilderland is one of those schools that was historically not fully funded,” said Andrew Van Alstyne, displaying a chart that showed over the last decade Guilderland was underfunded by $4 million to $5 million each year — a gap that decreased with the phase-in until Guilderland was fully funded with $25 million in Foundation Aid this year.

  • “In the end,” Superintendent Marie Wiles said of flag football, “we felt it was fairest to our existing programs and to the overall process that we use to make really tough decisions about what ends up in the budget to put it in the queue for next year.”

  • The Altamont Board of Trustees this month accepted the retirement of its superintendent of public works, Jeffrey Moller. 

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