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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 15, 2007

Ink draws Dutch to Altamont as Fasulo shares her art

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — It took two motorbikes, a car, and a jukebox for Jos DeJong and Anita Schellekens to get here.

And, here they sit, perched on stools like a pair of turtledoves with matching feathers, in Lisa Fasulo’s little white cottage, warmed by a potbelly stove.

“It’s a very secret society, this,” said Schellekens, gesturing at the tattoo equipment.  “It’s very father to son.”  With their lilting Dutch accents, she and DeJong list the things that they sold so that she could come to Altamont to learn to be a tattoo artist.

Twenty-five years ago, when she met DeJong, he wanted to get a tattoo.  “He got that big of a rose,” she said, holding up her hand with her thumb and forefinger an inch apart.  “I hated it.”

Back then, she was different, she said.  “I was like a lady and walking on high heels,” she said smiling, eyes cast upward, mimicking the pinched walk of a woman wearing pumps.

“Prim and proper, we say,” Fasulo added.

Schellekens comes from an artistic family, she said.  Her brother was painting DeJong’s motorcycle with a scene from a Meatloaf album cover when the two met.

Driving 120 miles per hour, three feet from the next car’s bumper was DeJong’s job at the time; he was the chauffeur for Holland’s Queen Beatrice.  It was a stressful job, he said, and he had to stop when he developed sleep apnea.  Now he drives a truck for the Dutch army.

For 17 years, Schellekens also worked for the army; she was a phone operator.  “Then I was 49 and I decided I wanted a tattoo,” she said.  “And then I was sold.”

It was the same for Fasulo.  When she got her first tattoo, at the age of 36, she decided to make a living out of it.  With a couple of kids, four horses, and a clothing-design business, she got the tattoo when her life changed.

“I got a divorce,” she said.  “I just wanted to do something wild and crazy.” 

As she watched the tattoo artist draw a flowered band around her upper arm, a pattern that she designed, Fasulo was inspired.  “I’ve been painting longer than they’ve been living,” she said of the crowd working in the tattoo parlor.  “So I thought, I can do this.”

Fasulo opened up shop in her house just outside of Altamont in 2001 and started a tattoo school three years ago.  Tattoos By Lisa Tattoo School was born when Suzanne Stevens came to her and asked to learn how to tattoo; she obliged.  Teaching Stevens took six months and Fasulo liked it, she said.

“It just kind of found me,” she said of teaching.

Now, the program is two weeks long and has brought people from two countries and 12 states to Altamont, Fasulo said.  She draws a crowd because so few tattoo artists are willing to teach people the craft, she said. 

“Nobody wants to teach you because they are afraid you will open shop near them,” said DeJong.  All of Fasulo’s students have gone back to where they were from, she said.  Schellekens plans to go back to Holland, where she will open a tattoo parlor in the beauty shop that she has there.

Fasulo’s latest experiment is her Endangered Ink Project, which she hopes will raise $25,000 for charities that benefit endangered animals.  Since January, she’s been offering tattoos of any endangered animal a person wants for $150, all of which will be donated to a charity.  She’s done seven so far.

Since people always show off their tattoos, she figured it would be a good way to spread awareness about the extinction of species.  “It’s a neat idea to use tattoos as a platform for a cause,” she said.

Each Endangered Ink tattoo is marked with a small turtle, about the size of a ladybug, that was designed by Fasulo’s youngest child.  “I thought it was a cute way to identify that he’s part of a project,” she said, as she pointed to the turtle on Alan Barber’s leg, part of his tattoo of a rhinoceros.

She could see her youngest, who is 11, taking over the business sometime, too, said Fasulo.  She’s got a pretty big operation where she is and is thinking about opening another shop in the area, she said.

“It’s a man’s world,” said Schellekens of the tattoo culture, but Fasulo has made her mark.

Chief on leave, town stay mum

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Police Chief James Murley’s voice sounded tired last night as he confirmed he was placed on paid administrative leave last Thursday.

"I’m sorry, really. I’m not trying to make this hard for you," he told The Enterprise. "I just can’t comment on this right now."

Town officials say they can’t give an answer as to why he was placed on leave, even though the matter has garnered widespread media attention.

"We just have to wait and see," Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise yesterday. "Personnel matters have to be dealt with over some time."

Runion cited Murley’s privacy rights and the fact that it’s a "personnel issue" as the reasons why the town cannot legally comment on the situation.

Robert J. Freeman, director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, has repeatedly pointed out that the phrase "personnel issue" does not appear in the state’s Freedom of Information Law and is not applicable as a reason for withholding information.

The Enterprise has filed several FOIL requests, asking for, among other documents, the letter placing Murley on leave.

The silence has fueled rumors around town, which, Runion said, only hurts an investigation.

"I would really prefer to leave it as a personnel issue," he said.

Murley started as one of three or four officers with the police department in 1972, Murley said. As the suburban town grew — now with a population of nearly 35,000 — so did its police department — now with over 30 members.

Murley rose up the ranks, becoming chief. Usually a jovial man, he is known for his joking with staff members.

Pat House, a former town animal-control officer and long-time secretary to Murley at the police department, said she thinks Murley was a "great boss."

"He was my boss right from the word ‘go,’" House told The Enterprise. She retired in the late 1990’s after nearly a half-century with the town.

"I spent a good many years with him in that office"He was a really great guy," she said of Murley’s good-natured, and, at times, joking personality.

When asked if she heard about Murley’s administrative leave, she said, "Yeah, I’ve seen it all over the news."

Runion said the media coverage has been heavy and that he is surprised by the range of versions in the coverage. He says it started when the town sent out a press release announcing Murley was placed on paid administrative leave and that there would be no comment because it was a personnel matter.

Late Monday night, one local news crew even shone bright lights onto Runion’s Altamont home, he said, as they reported on the story and looked to the supervisor to comment on Murley’s leave. Runion said he saw it on the 11 o’clock news that night.

"We are trying to deal with this as quickly as possible," Runion told The Enterprise yesterday, "without stepping on anyone’s rights."

Lawlor’s in charge

Currently, the police department’s deputy chief assumes the duty of the chief when Murley is out for any reason, and this situation, says Deputy Chief Carol Lawlor, is no different.

"When he’s not here, I’m already in charge," Lawlor told The Enterprise this week. "Nothing is any different than if it is a sick day or whatever."

Runion said Lawlor has consistently stepped in for Murley when he is not available, saying, "She’s always been in charge" when he is not there.

Lawlor would not comment on Murley’s administrative leave this week, saying, legally, her hands are tied on the matter.

Lawlor has been the police department’s deputy chief for just over a year; she was appointed to the newly-created position in January of 2006. The position was created by the town board after Murley suggested to the board that a deputy chief was needed. He said at the time the position was needed to better manage the department, not to "hand over the reins."

Murley insisted that Lawlor was not being groomed for his position, and said, at the time, that he "was not going anywhere anytime soon."

Administrative leave

It is uncertain at this time how long Murley will be on administrative leave or why he was placed on leave in the first place. Town officials have all declined comment on the matter.

"Unfortunately it’s a personnel matter," Runion said. When asked about the procedure for putting a town employee on administrative leave, Runion said that the supervisor has the authority to do so without the consent of the town board.

"As the supervisor," he said, "I’ve done it previously."

Runion said, during his tenure as supervisor, since 2000, he has placed town workers on administrative leave "three or four times," but could not release the names or incidents because they, too, were "personnel matters." None of the leaves ended with an employee being fired, said Runion.

The Enterprise reported on one of those incidents in May of 2003 when the town’s chief fire inspector, Donald Albright, was arrested by Guilderland Police for giving alcohol to three teenagers at his house. Albright was also arrested for a similar incident 10 years before when he worked for the Guilderland School District. He resigned as the Guilderland school district’s health and safety coordinator shortly after being arrested in 1993.

In January of 2004, Albright pleaded guilty to three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and to unlawfully dealing with a child and was sentenced to serve 30 days in Albany County’s jail, pay a surcharge of $125, and serve three years’ probation.

Runion put Albright on paid administrative leave immediately after he was arrested.

Since then Albright has completed a counseling program, Runion said, and is still currently the town’s chief fire inspector.

Salary and absenteeism

Murley is currently paid a salary of $96,849, and will continue to be paid while on leave, according to Guilderland Town Clerk Rosemary Centi.

Those who hold positions of chief, deputy chief, and lieutenant are not part of the Police Benevolent Association and therefore not represented by the union, Runion told The Enterprise. The non-union positions are, however, covered by a Police Equity Bill, which states the positions get the same contractual pay raises as those of the highest-ranked union officers in the department, Runion said.

In Guilderland’s case, the highest union position in the department is that of sergeant, and the police department has been budgeted a 4-percent raise for 2007, according to the town’s budget.

Murley, Lawlor, and Lieutenant Curtis Cox will all get a 4-percent raise this year along with the rest of the department, said Runion.

Murley has experienced his share of absenteeism due to health problems in recent years.

In the fall of 2004, Murley missed 40 days of work due to Lyme disease, which he got from a deer tick bite. He was hospitalized several times before doctors were able to detect the Lyme disease, which had spread to his spinal cord.

During that time, Lawlor, then a lieutenant, also filled in for Murley.

The Enterprise has also observed on its frequent visits to the police barracks at Town Hall, that Murley is at times away from his office at intervals.

The Enterprise has filed a Freedom of Information Law request to learn the actual number of days Chief Murley has worked in the last five years.

Suda pleads guilty to fatal drunk-driving crash

By Jarrett Carroll

GUILDERLAND — Saslano S. Suda pleaded guilty last Thursday to felony second-degree manslaughter following a fatal two-car collision in front of Crossgates Mall last November. His friend, a passenger in his car, was killed.

The guilty plea is a part of a plea bargain agreement that has Suda facing three-and-a-half to seven years in state prison, according to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office.

Not being a United States citizen, Suda, who is 40, has accepted the possibility of deportation as part of the plea agreement, according to the district attorney’s office. Suda’s arrest report lists his place of birth as Micronesia, a group of islands in the western Pacific Ocean near Guam and Papua New Guinea.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont will sentence Suda on April 12.

Suda also pleaded guilty before Judge Lamont to driving while under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor. Police say three hours after the crash which killed his 24-year-old passenger, Suda was still intoxicated by nearly double the legal limit. Suda had a blood-alcohol content of .15 percent, according to his arrest report.

His original charges included felony counts of criminally negligent homicide, second-degree vehicular homicide, and first-degree reckless endangerment, as well as misdemeanor counts of driving while intoxicated and third-degree assault, say Guilderland Police who made the arrest.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Tanner-Ricter, who handled the case, said Suda was indicted on all of the original charges and that he did not have prior alcohol-related convictions.

Excessive speed and intoxication contributed to the accident, according to the Guilderland Police investigation. Tanner-Ricter said it is unclear where Suda was heading to or coming from at 8:37 a.m. on Nov. 17, the time of the accident.

Joseph K. Albert, of Albany, was sitting in the passenger seat of Suda’s 1998 Saturn when Suda crashed head-on into Michelle Burton’s Toyota 4-Runner in a "T-bone" fashion on Western Avenue, according to Guilderland Police. Burton was struck while making a left-hand turn from the eastbound lane into the mall, according witnesses at the accident, the arrest report says.

Burton was treated for minor injuries following the accident.

The Westmere Fire Department used the Jaws of Life to remove Suda and Albert from the crushed ’98 Saturn, Fire Chief William Swartz said at the time, and, while Suda was removed "quickly," it was 10 minutes before Albert was removed from the wreckage.

The damage to both cars was described by police and rescue workers as "substantial."

Rescue workers on the scene say Albert was unconscious but still alive when they transported him to Albany Medical Center Hospital, but was pronounced dead a short time after arriving at the hospital. Suda was treated only for minor injuries.

Suda, who lives at 14 Myrtle Ave. in Albany, is described by the district attorney’s office as a friend of Albert.

Guilderland Police picked up Suda from Albany Medical Center and processed him at the Guilderland Police station later that night. Initially Suda refused to submit to a chemical blood test for alcohol, but was later forced to take the test after Albany County Judge Thomas Breslin issued a compulsory order, according to the arrest report.

Suda was arraigned by Guilderland Town Judge Denise Randall and remanded to Albany County’s jail. Albany County Public Defender James Milstein represented Suda.

Milstein did not return a call for comment to The Enterprise this week.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said in a release last week he does not believe alcohol-related fatalities are "accidents," and that long prison sentences are an appropriate deterrent in such cases.

Board split on sending student to Tech Valley High now

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — School board members were divided last Tuesday about sending a Guilderland student to Tech Valley High School to be a freshman next fall in the innovative school’s first class.

A joint venture of two area BOCES, the school will open on a business campus — Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy — and will draw from 48 school districts in seven counties.

One student was to come from each district but so far several districts have balked at the cost.

Guiderland would pay $18,000 for a student to attend, about 60 percent of which would be reimbursed the next year.

Five Farnsworth eighth-graders, each screened in advance, had applied, said Nancy Andress, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction.

The project has a grant from New Technology Foundation, which wants to replicate the success of New Tech High School in Napa, Calif., opened a decade ago. That school has no textbooks and no library but offers a technology-rich environment.

"It’s inquiry-based learning where students pick a topic to study and work together as a team to solve a problem," Andress told The Enterprise earlier. She is on the new school’s advisory team, chairing a committee on content and outcomes.

"They have their finger on the employability and skills that are needed in the real world," said Andress. While learning at the school will meet state standards, she said, "This school is hoping to engage students in a different way than stand and deliver."

Projects will straddle different subject areas and the curriculum will be student-centered, Andress said.

"It’s not intended to be a school for the gifted," said Andress. "They want a diverse population, including students with disabilities."

Board divided

Last Tuesday, board member Peter Golden questioned spending so much money on one child.

"This is an entirely new way of delivering education to a student," countered board Vice President John Dornbush. "This is the first attempt in New York to do this."

He said it would become a model and he said it was one of the most exciting things he had seen since being on the school board.

"We should support this 100 percent...To me, it’s a no-brainer," said Dornbush.

"It sounds like a fabulous private school," said board member Denise Eisele, adding, "That’s a whole lot of money."

Superintendent Gregory Aidala described it as an "alternative-type high school" without sports teams where students might work until 5 p.m.

"It’s an exciting opportunity for kids," he said.

Board member Hy Dubowsky said he was more concerned about meeting the needs of children in the district who were struggling to read, a reference to three parents who had told the board earlier in the meeting about their sons’ difficulties reading.

Golden said he would feel better spending the money for students "at either wing" — meaning those with learning disabilities or those who are gifted.

Andress pointed out that the district pays $12,000 a year for students in the BOCES New Visions program who, for example, learn about the medical field by shadowing doctors in a hospital.

"We didn’t look at it any differently than that," she said.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo asked if Guilderland could "sit back and wait to see how successful" Tech Valley High School is, to see "if it gets off the ground" before sending a student.

Board member Colleen O’Connell said that a lot of special-education placements cost $18,000. She said that, if the district hadn’t planned to send a student, it shouldn’t have accepted applications.

Eisele said that a child with special needs is placed in another school because Guilderland can’t meet those needs.

"Public education is trying to become more relevant to the 21st Century," said board President Richard Weisz. Tech Valley High School will provide a way of exploring new methods, he said. "We can draw from the successes and change our curriculum," he said. "It’s not about a specific child."

The Guilderland School Board this year set technology education as one of its two priorities.

The board considered voting Tuesday on whether to send a student to Tech Valley High but fell short of the two-thirds required to vote on a proposal at the same meeting in which it was first raised.

"I don’t want to take a vote tonight if this is going to go down — honest," said Dornbush.

Unallocated funds

Guilderland has about a million extra dollars in its fund balance. The state requires that school districts have no more than 2 percent of their next-year budgets in unallocated funds.

Last Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders outlined a plan with four components to use the excess $1 million. This includes:

— $125,000 to reduce the tax levy;

— $100,000 for tax certiorari. "We still have some outstanding challenges," said Sanders;

— $175,000 to purchase a small parcel of land on Route 20 in front of Guilderland Elementary School; and

— $600,000 for a capital reserve fund. A facilities committee is being formed to look at spending $1.78 million in EXCEL (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning) aid, focusing on technology, the five elementary school buildings, and security.

"Why are we buying it"" asked Eisele of the land in front of Guilderland Elementary School.

The property is currently owned by the YMCA, which reconfigured the school’s driveway to line up with Winding Brook Drive, across Route 20, when it built a recreational facility there.

"It would give us protection so it could not be developed," said Superintendent Aidala.

"It’s more of a defensive move," said Nachod.

Board member Cathy Barber asked if Glass Works Village, a proposed $100 million residential and commercial development, proposed nearby off of Route 20, would have an impact.

"There will be some residential property across the way," said Aidala, noting Glass Works has projected about 120 students would be attending Guilderland public schools when its six-year build-out is complete.

Both the land purchase and the capital reserve fund would require voter approval on May 15 along with the district budget for next year.

"Until we see the budget and know what the taxes will be, it’s premature to take a million dollars and decide how to use it," said Weisz.

It was agreed the topic will be broached again in March, after the budget proposal has been presented.

Weisz concluded by thanking Sanders "for coming up with a way to spend a million dollars."

"My pleasure," returned Sanders.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Applauded for a model city built by Farnsworth Middle School students who won a regional Future City competition and will no go on to national competition in Washington, D.C.

"You’ve made us all very proud," said Weisz;

— Heard Tim Burke, a member of the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee, request that this year, there is a breakdown of students, distinguishing those who live in the district from those who don’t and attend Guilderland schools as the children of employees;

— Appointed, in addition to Burke, Donald Csaposs, Mark Grimm, and Mark Owen to the committee — all have served before.

So far, 11 volunteers have been appointed and the district is hoping for double that number. The first of six televised budget review sessions is scheduled for March 1.

"I will be your master of ceremonies...try[ing] to keep it moving along to provide plenty of opportunity for participants to ask questions," said Aidala;

— Authorized a proposition to purchase school buses for $790,000 (including five 65-passenger buses, three 30-passenger buses, and three 24-passenger buses that can also hold wheelchairs) and a pickup truck with a plow for $45,000. Voters will decide on the bond proposition at the same time they vote on the school budget — May 15.

Sanders said earlier the district expects to be reimbursed about 50 percent in state aid for the bus purchase.

School board members who had requested information on the need for spare buses said the data was convincing and suggested it be posted on the district’s website.

Weisz commented on the number of school buses that are regularly taken out of service for state-required inspections. "There’s got to be a better system," he said, suggesting, for example, that inspections could be done on weekends;

— Reviewed an 185-day school calendar presented by Aidala;

— Discussed questions for superintendent candidates. Aidala has announced he will retire next fall.

The board agreed the candidates should be asked how they had handled a crisis, how they see the role of a superintendent introducing change, and when they think oversight becomes micromanagement;

— Heard from Andress that Farnsworth Middle School Mask will present The Wizard of Oz on March 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 11 at 2 p.m. Eighty students are cast in the play and 20 are working behind the scenes.

The musical is directed by Terri Mewhorter and produced by Shannon Woodley, both music teachers;

— Heard from Barber, who chairs the board’s communications committee, that more coffee klatches have been tentatively scheduled so that the public can meet informally with board members.

One will be held April 18 at the Guilderland Public Library and another will be held April 21 at the Altamont Free Library, she said; and

— Met in executive session to discuss contractual issues, to plan for future negotiations, and to discuss architect and engineering services.

Writing center proposed for GHS

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Citing cost concerns, school board members were lukewarm about a proposal from a committee of high-school English and social-studies faculty to create a writing center and to phase in a modified course load.

Projected costs over the next three years would total about $650,000. The school board will make a decision on the proposal after a citizens’ committee has reviewed a proposed $70 million budget for next year.

The English and social-studies committee was formed after budget discussions last year. English teachers had traditionally taught four courses, instead of the five most high school faculty teach, in order to emphasize student writing. Administrators had recommended requiring they teach five courses and also combining the supervisor posts for the two departments.

English teachers strenuously objected to the added course load while social-studies teachers pointed out that they, too, need to teach writing skills. Faculty from both departments objected to having a combined supervisor.

The budget ultimately kept the course loads and the supervisor’s posts as they were, and the committee was formed, charged with "building greater collegial support between the two departments" and with developing a plan to enhance learning while maintaining "a strong commitment to the student writing program."

The committee proposed phasing in, over the next three years, a modified 4.5 class assignment model for English and social-studies faculty while training social-studies teachers to teach writing.

By 2009-10, the plan calls for faculty in both departments to be teaching four classes, which meet every other day, and to handle one writing-center assignment every four days.

The committee also recommended maintaining separate English and social-studies supervisors "to provide necessary support in this time of change."

Social studies teacher Matt Nelligan, in presenting the proposal to the board last Tuesday, said the committee was unanimous on this point, which he said may be the most important point.

The writing center would provide one-on-one assistance as well as specific group instruction.

"It would look similar to a computer lab", said English teacher Amy Salamone, with students cycling in and out. It would not be a service "just for struggling writers," she said, but would create better writers even among the most skilled students.

The cover of the committee’s lengthy report features this quotation from Benjamin DeMott, the late Amherst College professor who was both a literary critic and social commentator: "We do not write and read primarily in order to ensure that this nation’s employers can count on a competent, competitive work force. We write and read in order to know the human world, and to strengthen the habit of truth-telling in our midst."

The writing center would be staffed by both English and social-studies teachers.

The costs for next year are estimated at about $119,726 which includes 1.8 new social-studies teachers (at $60,000 annually for a full-time teacher), $4,326 for summer curriculum work, $6,000 for Bard College to train social-studies faculty to teach writing, $800 for furniture, and $600 for materials.

The following year, 2008-09, the new costs would total $159,852, which includes 2.48 new social-studies teachers, $4,452 for summer curriculum work, $6,000 for Bard College training, and $600 for materials.

New costs for the third year would be $8,678, which includes $4,578 for summer curriculum work, $3,500 for training by Bard College, and $600 for materials.

Board response

Board member Thomas Nachod asked what would happen if a student got different advice on revisions from different teachers at the writing center.

"A key piece is professional development...Everybody has strengths to offer," said Patricia Hansbury-Zuendt, the English Department Supervisor. She added that two different viewpoints "might be a good thing rather than a confusing thing."

Board member Hy Dubowsky suggested that the school "bring in a pro," a writing professor.

"That is something we certainly could do. But...the most powerful instruction is by students’ own teachers...They understand the students’ developmentally, which is really key," said Nancy Andress. Andress is the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction who chaired the committee along with Hansbury-Zuendt and the social-studies supervisor, Julia Fitzgerald.

Dubowsky went on to say the high school doesn’t have a computer lab, to which the committee members chorused, "We do!" He concluded that stand-alone labs were becoming passé and said, "The rolling cart is the way to go...Don’t put the cart before the horse."

"If you don’t have the money, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the idea is," said board member Colleen O’Connell.

She also pointed out that Fitzgerald will be retiring in June and said a large part of the proposal could be funded by sharing a supervisor.

"As you’re moving two departments together...isn’t there a certain amount of logic in having an English-certified teacher be your department head"" asked O’Connell.

Andress replied that support for separate supervisors was "overwhelming" in both departments.

The writing center, said Nelligan, will bring greater collegiality, not a merging of departments. Separate support in each discipline is needed, he said. Of a shared supervisor, Nelligan said, "I think it’s a bad model."

He concluded, "For us, it’s not a merger; it’s more of a connection."

Board member Peter Golden credited the teachers for meeting together as they were asked to do. "One of their jobs is they’re dreamers," he said, continuing, "I like the concept but, as Colleen said, it’s very expensive."

Golden asked if there would be more writing in social-studies under this plan, to which Andress replied there would be, as faculty will teach the writing of research papers.

"If we don’t feel we have the money to do everything, can there be a scaled-down version"" asked Golden.

"We don’t have a plan for that," replied Andress.

Board member Cathy Barber asked about "the equity issue."

With social studies and English faculty teaching fewer than five classes, she asked about the science and math faculty. "Do we expand the equity issue"" asked Barber.

"There’s nothing that precludes other departments looking at collaboration," replied Andress, noting that teachers at Farnsworth Middle School teach four classes.

There is "a big movement now" in restructuring high schools, Andress said, concluding, "For this year, this is the only one."

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo said she was "struggling with the idea of the center."

She opposed having the departments share a supervisor, stating, "Each discipline really needs a leader."

An alternative, she said, is for all faculty to teach five classes.

Fraterrigo also said she is "passionate" about the need to see public speaking taught and did not see it addressed in the plan.

Board member Denise Eisele asked if the writing center would be different than the elementary school model.

"It’s not a drop-in center like college," said Andress, explaining that teachers would "collaboratively plan" who would use it.

"This is really a teaching center," she said, which will reach students of all different levels, ranging from special-education students to students writing essays on college applications.

Board Vice President John Dornbush applauded the committee for "a lot of great work."

Noting that the board is already committed to beginning a foreign-language program at the elementary-school level, Dornbush said of the committee’s proposal, "In theory, I support the concept...The problem...is the cost."

Board President Richard Weisz said the learning-center proposal will be part of the citizens’ budget review.

Superintendent Gregory Aidala said administrators will present the budget draft to the citizens’ committee on March 1. He said of the proposal, "It may be recommended; it may not."

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