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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 16, 2006

Mixed reviews
Public response to Crandall’s return

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Emotions among students and residents are mixed about Robert Crandall’s return to Clayton A. Bouton High.

The long-time coach and gym teacher will be returning at the end of January after a two-year absence and a 60-day suspension.

"He doesn’t belong here," Elaine Barone, the mother of a student hurt by Crandall, told the school board Monday.

"I look up to him," said a student at that same meeting, as other students also voiced support.

Crandall had numerous complaints against him between the years of 2001 and 2004, according to papers filed with the State Education Department.

The school board wanted to dismiss him and so followed procedures required by State Education Law, which dragged on for two years.

In October, Crandall was found guilty of four charges of "misconduct, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming a teacher" by a state-appointed hearing officer.

One of those charges states that in March of 2004, Crandall, while updating his records, asked a female ninth-grade student for her address. She questioned why he needed it, and he replied, "So I can follow you home and come to your house and murder you in your sleep."

Crandall saw it as sarcasm, while the school saw it as a threat to the student, according to hearing papers.

Elaine Barone is the mother of that student. She spoke out at Monday night’s school board meeting in opposition of Crandall’s return to the district.

No one has seen firsthand the aftermath of what Crandall has done, she said. "I have." She continued to say that her daughter’s biggest fear was that she would have to be in the same room with Crandall again.

Crandall has been given numerous chances, and yet he keeps harassing students, she said. He should not be allowed to have any contact with children, she said.

"We will do everything we can to make sure that no students are hurt," said board President David Gibson. "We are not happy," Gibson said of the suspension.

Barone said that she had a list of approximately 15 names of individuals with similar concerns that she would like to present to the board. She said she would type it up and submit it to the superintendent.

The board unanimously decided in June, 2004 to bring charges against Crandall. Until his unpaid suspension began on Oct. 21, Crandall was still paid his salary of $73,150 plus benefits. The district also paid $178,911 in salaries for substitutes to fill Crandall’s teaching and coaching positions, the benefits for these individuals, and legal fees.

The hearing officer, Ronald Kowalski, was agreed on by the district and Crandall himself. Kowalski deemed that Crandall’s actions were worthy of discipline, but that "his long and largely successful teaching career with the District and the nature of the misconduct do not make dismissal appropriate."

"I’m not pleased that he was found guilty of the charges and he is coming back to the district," board Vice President C. James Coffin told The Enterprise earlier in response to the ruling.

"He could never harm a child"

Barone’s statements in opposition to Crandall prompted a student, sitting just in front of her, to speak up in support of Crandall, saying he looked up to him. His support was met with agreement from other students present at the meeting.

Lynn Venditti’s son Dominic was present at Monday’s meeting. She later informed The Enterprise that he was upset by Barone’s comments regarding Crandall.

"He has the kids’ best interest at heart," Venditti said. "He was sarcastic, and he paid the price."

Greg Herzog, who graduated from Clayton A. Bouton High School in 2004, played soccer for Crandall for two years, and had gym class with him throughout high school, he told The Enterprise this week, in one of a series of unsolicited calls of support.

"He had a sense of humor, and anyone who knew him would understand that," Herzog said. "I have the most respect in the world for him.. I hope everything works out in his favor," he said.

Crandall has been working in the Voorheesville School District since 1978. Following his initial paid suspension, he took a coaching position at Mayfield High School, where he led the varsity boys soccer team to the state semi-finals.

Rick DiBlasi told The Enterprise that his three children all had Crandall as a teacher, and he found him to be a great teacher, and an even better coach.

"He always went above and beyond, and I have nothing but good things to say about him," DiBlasi said. Crandall called a college soccer coach on behalf of DiBlasi’s son to help him with his admissions process, he said.

In a letter to The Enterprise editor this week, Mary Ann Jones, the school nurse at the high school, said, "Bob always led his teams with honesty, fairness, competence, and taught the kids respect for each other, other coaches, and especially the referees."

Jones said that both her son and her daughter had Crandall as a teacher, and they "do not understand the hysteria and say he could never harm a child."

Frank Bode told The Enterprise that he has known Crandall for about eight years. He coached Bode’s son.

Bode said that, three years ago, his son was harassed over a two-week period by another student, assaulting him with snowballs. His son retaliated against the other student, and both students were reprimanded. Bode said that the administration was blind to what was going on and focused on the punishment, instead of the problem.

Crandall was the only one at the school who stuck up for his son, Bode said.

"I’m not defending his innocence or guilt," Bode said. "The man is paying his penalty. He deserves to go back to his job."

What’s next

School board Vice President, Coffin said yesterday that the board’s position on the matter has really not changed. "We’re not happy campers," he said.

Coffin said that the majority of the feedback the board has received has been from people who are angry, but the board is "bound by the decision of the process."

Matt Robinson was one of Crandall’s students. He graduated in 2004. Robinson said that most students were fond of Crandall, but there were some who didn’t like him. "There is no teacher at Voorheesville that 100 percent of the student body likes," he said.

"He loves the students," Robinson added.

Superintendent Linda Langevin told The Enterprise yesterday that the school board has made a decision as to what capacity Crandall will return, but, until a formal letter has been sent to him, she cannot disclose the decision.

"There is a plan," Langevin said. "We will keep the students safe."

On to small-claims court
Views differ on assessment

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – "Normanskill creek is not a babbling brook," said local property owner Sharon Boehlke to the town board at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Boehlke and her husband, Chester, own six acres on New Scotland South Road. The Normanskill runs through the back of their property, Boehlke said.

The Boehlkes were dissatisfied with the assessment of their property –part of the townwide revaluation – and took their complaints to the town first through an informal hearing, then a formal hearing, and finally to small claims court.

Julie Nooney, the town’s assessor, referred to the creek running through the Boehlkes’ property as a babbling brook that may be attractive to a perspective buyer, Boehlke said.

Boehlke argues that her property is beautiful, but the creek inhibits any further construction on the property because water or sewer lines cannot be installed within 100 feet of the creek.

There were 3,047 residential properties assessed in the town, 44 of which are being challenged in small claims court, Nooney told The Enterprise.

There are no commercial suits, she said. If there were commercial suits, though, those would be heard by the state’s Supreme Court, the lowest court in a three tiered system.

A property’s assessment is based upon comparisons to properties within a neighborhood.

Boehlke was concerned that Nooney compared her property to four homes that were not in her neighborhood. She also claims that six months after the assessment, the neighborhood she was being compared to "miraculously" changed.

Boehlke’s neighborhood is the same today as it was when the assessment was done, Nooney told The Enterprise.

The neighborhoods are determined based on factors such as style, size, and sale prices of the homes, Nooney said.

"A lot of people are confused by the term ‘neighborhood’," Nooney said. Many assessors have begun referring to neighborhoods as "market areas," she said.

"It’s not a science," Nooney said of the assessment process.

Boehlke told The Enterprise, "After the informal hearing, they reduced it, but no one told us."

She said that she received a letter stating that her assessment would not be reduced any further, but she had not received an original letter informing her of the reduction.

Nooney said that a clerical error was to blame for the Boehlkes’ not receiving the letter.

Boehlke was given copies of two letters from the town that were each dated May 1; both with reductions on her assessment, with figures differing by $8,600, Boehlke said.

The town of New Scotland web-site lists the property at 314 New Scotland South Rd, with a ranch-style home, at $258,600, which Boehlke confirmed as the original assessment.

That figure was $89,000 higher than the previous assessed value of her property, she said. Her assessed value was reduced by about $40,000 after the informal hearing, she told The Enterprise.

"I would like it reduced further," Boehlke said this week. "I’m willing to split the difference with them at this point," she said.

The Boehlkes appeared in small claims court with Nooney last Wednesday. The determination generally takes about two to three weeks, Boehlke said.

‘It’s a matter of a difference of opinion," Nooney said, regarding Boehlke’s assessment.

Other business

In other business, the town board at its November meeting,

– Authorized Supervisor Ed Clark to sign the 2007 renewal agreement with Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan for health-insurance coverage for town employees, and the 2006/2007 Service Award Program Service Fee Agreements for the New Salem and Onesquethaw fire protection districts. The contract is the same with the same estimated cost as last year;

– Adopted Local Law #8, allowing election costs to be listed on a separate line on the 2007 tax bills. There was no opposition at the public hearing held before the meeting;

– Scheduled public hearings for the December meeting regarding three new local laws and the Time Warner franchise agreement. At 6 p.m., a hearing will be held on Local Law #11, which would grant a partial tax exemption on property owned by senior citizens with limited incomes. At 6:05 p.m., a hearing will be held on Local Law #10, which would grant a partial tax exemption on property owned by people with limited incomes who are disabled. At 6:10 p.m., a hearing will be held on Local Law #9 regarding new building and fire codes. At 6:15 p.m., a hearing will be held on the Time Warner Franchise Agreement;

– Announced that Joseph Klink was hired as a mechanic for the highway department. He started work on Nov.13;

– Approved the membership of Joseph V. Dominski and Lawrence E. Fournier in the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company; and

– Approved the preparation and submission of a 2006 Quality Communities Grant application to the state with the provision that the board see the application before it is submitted. The board will decide later whether or not to accept the money, if it is awarded, and move forward with updating the town’s comprehensive land-use plan. The grant is one that is flexible, said Chuck Voss, who sits on the planning board, and is part of a committee of grant writers.

"This is a good opportunity to have money in our pockets," said Councilman Doug LaGrange, who chairs a committee that was to evaluate current zoning laws to see if a new comprehensive plan was needed.

Art, music in the air
Home-cookin’ on the table

By Rachel Dutil

CLARKSVILLE – June’s Place is no longer a diner, but an artist’s café, says owner Debra MacFarland.

June’s Place not only offers home-cooked meals, but a venue for local artists to display their artwork, and live music on Friday evenings. The artwork is also for sale, MacFarland said. Every month, a new artist is showcased.

"I think it’s very important that we get the talent that’s here exposed," she told The Enterprise.

This month, the walls of the small café are decorated with the photographs of Doug Michaels and textile art produced by Deb Zimmerman.

MacFarland does all the cooking for the restaurant herself, from scratch, using her grandmother’s recipes, she said.

"I do love to nurture and feed people," she said.

She cooks without salt, and uses fresh herbs that she grows herself. She is happy to cater to the dietary needs of her customers, she said.

"The stuffed manicotti is very good," said David Salzer, who happened to be ordering lunch at the time of The Enterprise’s visit on Monday.

MacFarland has lived in Clarksville since 1987. "I love this community," she said. She buys local products to cook with, and she uses only Meadowbrook Farm dairy products, she said. The farm is just up the road on Route 443 from June’s Place.

Salzer said that Meadowbrook chocolate milk is the best he’s had, and MacFarland agreed.

"Come gather at our table" is the new slogan for June’s Place, MacFarland said. Some customers even gather at the same table every time they come in, she said.

If they come in, and someone is sitting at their table, they aren’t sure where to sit, she added with a chuckle.

MacFarland said that cooking provides "endless creativity."

"I read every cookbook I can get my hands on," she said.

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