BKW bids farewell to staff, faculty, board members — and biz manager

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Sarah Blood and Superintendent Timothy Mundell embraced after the Berne-Knox-Westerlo budget — a first for both of them — passed by a wide margin in May 2016. Blood is leaving BKW to work for the Schoharie district.

BERNE — Although graduation is not until Saturday, many goodbyes were said at Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s campus on Monday night at the district’s board of education meeting. It began with a recognition of those leaving the district this year, as well as the announcement that the school’s business manager, Sarah Blood, will be leaving in August.

A retirement ceremony kicked off the meeting, but Blood’s resignation was not announced until later, when the board voted to accept it. District Superintendent Timothy Mundell noted Blood will be going to the Schoharie Central School District. Blood’s resignation will be effective Aug. 18.

Blood has overseen two budgets passed in the school district, one which increased the tax levy by half of a percent this year, and one which will decrease the tax levy by half a percent next year — after state aid was $100,000 more than planned, the board had decided to split the money between the fund balance and the tax levy.

“To say we walked into a situation would be understated,” said Mundell, who began around the same time as Blood in 2015,“We have navigated very well in the business office...sincerely, Sarah, I appreciate the application you made to stabilize the operations in the district.”

With her first BKW budget, Blood said she wanted to involve administration and staff to “give them accountability.” She created forms for adding and reducing staff; for new program proposals; for for purchasing supplies and equipment — among others. Blood and Mundell presented the budget at various locations, which she called “our road show.”

BKW has suffered in recent years from rapid turnover in its top leadership posts. As board members renewed Mundell’s contract with the school Monday, he assured them he has no plans to leave, so long as the board wants him there.

Later, board member Lillian Sisson-Chrysler asked about why students and staff were not singing the district’s alma mater at most school events.

“I’m wondering how it got lost,” she said.

“Ten principals in 15 years?” responded Mundell.

At Monday’s meeting, Blood went over a two-part plan to use funds from the state’s Smart Schools Bond Act to implement better technology in the district. Phase I would involve rewiring the building to improve wireless internet. Phase II would involve providing new technology devices to teachers and students.

“Right now our infrastructure is extremely slow and extremely old,” she said, noting this has even been seen in issues at board meetings, such as when members struggle to access online resources all at once. The board has $888,000 to use in this program.

Blood will also be leaving as the school readies a referendum vote on a capital improvements project this fall; the project would involve about two summers of construction work to improve infrastructure and classroom design, said Mundell.


The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Smile for the camera: Berne-Knox-Westerlo secondary school Principal Mark Pitterson, standing left, and District Superintendent Timothy Mundell, standing center, bid farewell to district keyboard Sue May. She will be retiring this summer. District business manager Sarah Blood, who is leaving in August, applauds in the background, while Bill DeVoe, BOCES publicist for BKW, takes the picture.


Retirement ceremony

The district bid farewell to a variety of school employees who are retiring, including a bus driver, a teacher, and a board member.

Sue Conklin, a driver for the district for over 30 years, was introduced by the district’s transportation director, Amy Santandrea, who lauded her for her achievements — she had won AAA Hudson Valley’s Safe School Bus Driver Award twice — and her treatment of the students. Santandrea noted that Conklin, an out-of-district driver who often transported special education students, would buy Christmas presents for her riders. Conklin is also a “second-generation school bus driver,”  said Santandrea: her mother was the first school bus driver at BKW, and is why the bus garage put in a women’s bathroom.

Santandrea wished Conklin and her husband the best of luck in retirement and the trips they planned to go on.

“Chuck, you better let her drive,” she playfully warned Conklin’s husband.

Blood introduced Building Maintenance Supervisor Peter Shunney, who has been working for the district for 15 years, complimenting his work ethic. And secondary school Principal Mark Pitterson introduced retiring keyboard specialist Sue May, describing her initial duties of operating a switchboard, assisting the secretary, and sorting mail.

“Some things never change,” he said. “Except the switchboard, that is.”

Mundell introduced Robert Bentley, a secondary-school social studies teacher at the district for 27 years. Bentley is also the president of the district’s Teachers’ Association and chairs the social sciences department at the high school.

Bentley has spoken at the district’s commencement ceremony for the last four years, which included a speech delivered last year while dressed as the superhero Captain America. Mundell applauded Bentley for teaching students who receive high marks on exams and his ability to empathize with students’ problems outside of the classroom.

Mundell also noted his relationship with Bentley; as superintendent he has worked with Bentley, the Teachers’ Association president, to negotiate their contract, and they have been able to work around their differences, he said.

“We’ve been able to find ground together,” said Mundell.

Board of education President Matthew Tedeschi introduced board member Russell Chauvot, who participated in the meeting over a video feed on a smartphone. Addressing the phone, Tedeschi spoke of Chauvot’s ability to stabilize arguments.

“Russ is always one of those guys looking to be a voice of reason,” Tedeschi said.

Chauvot decided not to run for re-election this year, citing conflicts with work. Kim Lovell, who was appointed to fill out resigned board member Susan Schanz’s term, won more votes than Helen Lounsbury and instead received Chauvot’s seat, a full term. She will begin to serve on the board again in July. Lounsbury won Schanz’s seat.

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