nbsp ldquo A shift in thinking rdquo

School leaders look at setting priorities and matching resources to them

GUILDERLAND — The new superintendent is taking a new approach to building next year’s school budget.

Marie Wiles told the school board last week that administrators are using “the budget options impact analysis,” and are looking at three levels for each of their programs — what is mandated, what is an acceptable level, and what is an optimum level.

Wiles called this “a shift in thinking for staff,” to look differently at setting priorities and matching resources to them.

Wiles, who started work as Guilderland’s superintendent on Oct. 1, is facing a difficult budget year as federal stimulus funds end and increased state aid is unlikely. Last year, to keep the tax hike under 4 percent for the $87.4 million 2010-11 budget, the board ultimately cut 40 jobs.

Wiles said that teams would look at 25 to 30 areas, considering such things as class size, caseload, and impact on students.

Wiles described this as a way “to look differently at how to develop programming without a negative effect.”

Wiles also said that there was a “very good response” from community members who want to serve on task forces to evaluate the district’s current special education program, research best practices, and make recommendations on the future of the program.

An outside consultant had recommended some significant changes that would save money. (For more coverage on this, go online to www.altamontenterprise.com and look under Guilderland archives for June 17, 2010 and Aug. 26, 2010.)

Four different task forces will each be made up of nine to 10 people — a mix of parents, staff, and community members. They will meet between now and February to discuss these four topics: entry and exit criteria for students receiving special services, organizational structure, professional development or training for staff; and out-of-district placements for students with special needs.

Other business

 In other business at its Nov. 16 meeting, the board:

— Approved the bid award for uniform, mop, and mat service to Coyne Textile Services for a 60-month term, renewable each year for an estimated annual cost of $20,309. Coyne was the only one of the five solicited vendors to submit a complete bid for the rental and cleaning of maintenance staff uniforms, dry mops, and entrance mats for school buildings in the winter.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said Coyne’s price was “a little bit lower than what we’re currently paying” and that, on checking references, he found that Coyne was “a well-known, reputable company”;

— Accepted an anonymous donation of $1,000 to be used towards the purchase of a new grand piano for the high school. “In my tradition, an anonymous gift is the highest kind of gift you can make,” said board President Richard Weisz;

— Reviewed several policies, to be acted upon at a later meeting. A new policy on homeless children says they would be entitled to attend school tuition-free.

A revised policy on the admission of non-resident students says they must pay tuition and are admitted only if faculty and space are sufficient. And a revised policy on student transportation says that the board is committed to “a safe and economical transportation system for district students” and states, “Students are not entitled to ‘door to door’ transportation. It is the responsibility of the parent, guardian, or daycare provider to ensure safe travel of the student(s) to and/or from the bus stop”;

— Appointed Nancy Noonan as an interim supervisor of English language arts, reading, and social studies at Farnsworth Middle School, effective Nov. 8 through Jan. 31; she will be paid $395 per day.

— Accepted the 2010-11 delinquent tax rolls for Guilderland, Bethlehem, Knox, and New Scotland, totaling $1.637 million. The taxes collected totaled $55.987 million.

“Albany County will reimburse us by April 15 whether they collect it or not,” said Sanders of the delinquent $1.6 million, an amount he said was consistent with the last few years. “We got in about 97 percent of our tax collection,” he concluded;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that the Guilderland High School fall sports teams collectively earned the Overall Sportsmanship Award from the Suburban Council. First-place awards were given to the boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams, to the golf team, and to the girls’ volleyball team. Singleton said that Guilderland had won the overall championship in six out of the last eight years, and he congratulated Athletic Director Wayne Bertrand, the coaches, and the athletes;

— Heard that two Guilderland ensembles — the high school’s chamber choir, directed by Rae Jean Teeter, and Lynwood Elementary School’s fourth- and fifth-grade chorus, directed by Michelle Jantson — were selected by audition to be part of WMHT’s Music for The Holidays series, which will be broadcast on Dec. 19, 24, and 25;

—Learned that Superintendent Wiles had sent a letter to each bus driver, clerk, secretary, custodian, maintenance and building and grounds worker, food service worker, teaching assistant, aid, and monitor because Nov. 16 was the state’s School-Related Professionals’ Recognition Day.  “Our mission depends on teamwork,” Wiles wrote, and thanked them for their “hard work, knowledge, skill and commitment to the Guilderland Central School District”;

—Heard from Wiles that, on Nov. 15, Guilderland participated for the first time in America Recycles Day with events in each of the district’s seven schools. “The ideas are percolating and spreading,” she said.

Board member Gloria Towle-Hilt asked about developing a policy that would guide the district in conservation and stewardship. Board member Colleen O’Connell, a member of the policy committee, said that the philosophy espoused by the New York State School Boards Association was “not to have a policy for everything under the sun.” O’Connell said she would call Linda Bakst at NYSSBA for advice on the matter;

— Approved over $50,000 in change orders for the $27 million building project, which is drawing near its close. The remaining roofing work, delayed by recent rains, is expected to be finished by the end of the month. Site work at Lynnwood Elementary School and Farnsworth Middle School will remain to be completed next summer; and

— Met in executive session for a litigation update, and to discuss negotiations with the Guilderland Teachers’ Association and tenure recommendations.

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