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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 22, 2007

Should school add a half-time teacher"

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Linda Langevin is "not one to make decisions in the dark," she said last week.

The superintendent of the Voorheesville School District is facing "unanticipated" increases in enrollment at the elementary school and may need to hire a new teacher to meet the needs of the students, she told The Enterprise.

The additional half-time teacher would mean adding $25,000 to a $21 million proposed budget with a tax levy increase of 6.87 percent. With additional cuts that Langevin will propose at the school board’s final budget session on March 26, the tax levy increase could end up at 5.79 percent.

Other districts in the area have tax levy increases for next year at around 4 or 5 percent, Langevin told The Enterprise.

The new teacher would teach literacy and math skills during the first half of the day to a fifth of fourth-grade students, Langevin said. Fourth-graders would be placed in classrooms with one of four other full-time teachers for science and social studies instruction, she explained.

"I have a lot of issues with that plan," said Kathy Fiero, president of the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association, and a teacher in the district for 16 years.

"It’s a good high-school model, but it’s not a good elementary-school plan," Fiero told The Enterprise. Elementary-school children get identity from the class they’re in, she said. "What is the identity for the kids in the half-time class"" Fiero rhetorically asked.

When fourth-grade teacher William Vincent died suddenly a few years ago, Fiero said, the teachers and counselors worked with the students to get them to understand their identities. They worked on tough questions like, "Who are we, and who do we belong to"" she said.

"I’m having trouble supporting this plan," Fiero concluded. "The discussion should have been broader before now," she said, adding that teachers at the elementary school were just informed of the plan, and are wondering how it will affect them.

The need for an additional teacher was listed on the agenda at the March 12 school board meeting, but the board opted to discuss the matter at the budget meeting, and review the information that was provided to them.

The budget "is very tight as it is," Langevin said. The board will vote on the budget proposal at its April 2 meeting; the public will have its say on May 15. "It is important that the budget process is transparent and that the community understands the financial impact of adding a half-time teacher to the faculty," she said.

Growing population

The enrollment at Voorheesville Elementary School has increased from 500 students in September of 2003 to 555 in March of 2007, Langevin said. The district anticipates 563 students in September, she added.

Families with children at the second-, third-, and fourth-grade levels are moving in faster than has been the trend in the past, Langevin said.

"Class sizes have been steadily increasing, so I think there is a need," Fiero said.

"If the growth continues, we will address the needs accordingly, Langevin told The Enterprise. "I expect a continual growth at the rate of 20 to 23 students at the elementary school each year."

The renovations at the elementary school, mostly involving updating ventilation systems, will begin this summer and will be completed by September of 2008, Langevin said. Once the construction is complete, two classrooms that will be used as swing classrooms during the project, will open up and be available for use as regular class space, she explained. "I see no need for additional space in the near future," she concluded.

Teachers have to provide certain levels of knowledge to equip their students with the information they need to be productive and successful in the 21st Century, said Langevin. In order to do that, she said, "we need to have a reasonable class size."

The district’s contract with its teachers states, "Whenever possible, regular classes in the elementary school and in the high school will not exceed 30 pupils, except in grades K-3 where 27 will be the number." Actual class sizes range from 20 to 24 at the elementary school, Langevin said.

Fiero teaches remedial math at the elementary school, and has taught various other levels in her years with the district, she said. It isn’t the teaching that becomes more difficult in a class with a high number of students, "It’s meeting the needs," Fiero said.

"The needs of students in public schools today are very different than 20 years ago, and the curriculum has changed," Fiero told The Enterprise.

"Let’s face it," Langevin said of the increasing enrollment. "We need to plan carefully," she added, "and be cognizant of the taxpayers along the way."

In Voorheesville
Cardona and Hotaling re-elected as trustees

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — All told, 53 voters turned out to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s election. Both open seats on the village board were uncontested and the incumbents kept their posts.

William Hotaling, who serves as deputy mayor, was elected to his third four-year term with 50 votes and Trustee David Cardona is starting his second term after garnering 48 votes.

Both Hotaling and Cardona said on Wednesday that, overall, they were pleased with the outcome and attributed the low voter turnout to the uncontested election and lack of controversial issues in the village.

"You’ve got to have an issue," said Hotaling of bringing more of the village’s 2,705 residents out to the polls.

Putting in new sidewalks, finishing the water inter-connect between the village and the town of Guilderland, and getting started on fixing a broken water main are on Hotaling’s list of things to work on in his new term. Since the water main goes under the railroad tracks, the village has to coordinate with CSX, the company that maintains the tracks.

Finishing the renovations on the firehouse and putting up a skateboard park are the things that Cardona is looking forward to doing. The village board took a proposal from some residents who have formed a committee to build a park for skateboarders.

"Their request is very realistic; it’s $40,000," said Cardona. He plans to meet with the committee and come up with some ways to help reduce the cost to the village, like fund-raising or sharing costs with the town of New Scotland.

Both candidates said that they were happy with the elections, pleased to serve another term, and each said that he was happy to serve with the other.

‘Heatrbreak on a daily basis,’ just like Rydell High

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – Grease is the word, and Molly Spooner and the Voorheesville Dionysians are excited about it.

The high school theater group, under the leadership of Spooner – its energetic first-time director – will stage the musical this weekend, with performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Spooner decided to do the well-known high-school drama, which became famous after a 1978 movie starring John Travolta because it gave students who had never participated before a chance to play characters they can relate to, she said. And she wanted to do something fun, she added.

Grease really works well with the talent Voorheesville has, Spooner said. "We lost a huge senior class from last year," she explained to The Enterprise as her cast was on stage with choreographer, Christine Marcelle.

"You guys rule," Marcelle encouraged the students. "I think you guys are doing an amazing job."

"The kids have worked together as a fabulous team," said Spooner of her cast. "They are a really tight-knit group despite the fact that some have extensive experience in theater and, for some, this is their first show."

The version of Grease that the Dionysians will perform is "100 percent family-friendly, PG rated," Spooner emphasized. "We chose to do the school version because we wanted to be able to invite elementary-school and middle-school kids without having to put a parental disclaimer on it."

The end result, which the Dionysians have been practicing, said Spooner, "is a truly classy production with a focus on great music and dancing, laughter, and fun."

"Real understanding"

"We’ve done a lot of work talking about how similar Rydell High is to our high school and how some things have never changed for teenagers," Spooner told The Enterprise. "There are still social cliques and exclusion " They deal with anxiety, love, happiness, and heartbreak on a daily basis, and they continually struggle to find their identities."

The play tells the story of a high –school romance between Danny, a popular guy, and Sandy, who is new to the school and very prim and proper. Adding to the story is the drama between the Pink Ladies, a clique of teenaged girls, and the Burger Palace boys, the rivaling group of boys.

Spooner – a second-year middle-school music teacher at Voorheesville – is "certainly" planning on directing again next year, she said. "It has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life," she said.

Since the very first rehearsal in January, Spooner said of the cast, "They dove into these roles with real understanding."

The students work together and "help each other learn and perfect the dances, give each other tips on vocal work, and work on playing scenes and remembering lines," said Spooner. "I just can’t stress enough how proud I am of them."

She believes that the students play their parts more accurately than adults could "because they are right in the thick of being teenagers in real life."

Her biggest challenge as a director, Spooner said, was working around the extra-curricular schedules of the players. "Voorheesville is unique in that, since it is small, the kids can participate in any and all activities they choose," she said.

"I am especially appreciative to the coaches and club advisors who have been so understanding of our commitments," Spooner said. "I truly can’t believe this has all run so smoothly."

From the actors’ perspective

The students are "really committed and really excited" about the show, said Spooner.

Cassie Muth and Allison McArdle are both seniors, they each play the part of a Pink Lady. Muth plays Frenchy, and McArdle plays Jan.

They both told The Enterprise how much fun they have participating in the school musical.

"It’s so much fun," McArdle said. "It’s such a play to go out on," she added, referring to it being both her and Muth’s last high-school musical.

"I think we could do it now if we had to," said Muth with certainty, two full weeks before opening night.

"These kids are really ready to go," Spooner agreed. "I feel like we’re going to be so ready that I have no need to be nervous."

Garrett Simpson has been involved in school theater since he was in ninth grade, he told The Enterprise. He is now a senior.
Simpson plays the part of Kenickie, one of Danny’s cronies. He said that he likes how plays develop. "It all comes together in the end," he said.

Simpson also enjoys the chance to make new friends by participating in school theater.

"The show’s really coming together," Simpson said of Grease. "It’s all good," he added.

Simpson’s goal for this weekend – "To not mess up any of the dances," he said.

Michelle Cillis is a senior in her fourth school musical, she said. Cillis is playing the role of Sandy and is excited to have the lead role.

"It’s a lot of fun," she said of the show, echoing the sentiments of other actors.

The dynamics of the group are one thing that Cillis really appreciates, she said. "Everyone in the cast gets along really well" Everyone has a great time."

Sandy must sing as well as act and dance. Cillis said that she has been involved in music since middle school, and she really enjoys it.

She plans to attend The College of Saint Rose next year. She is hoping to study music, and is contemplating becoming a teacher, she said.

"It’s very upbeat," Cillis concluded about the whole experience.

Behind the scenes

Working hard behind the scenes under the direction of Portia Hubert, are about 15 students who help with the set and the lights and sound, Spooner said.

Hubert is the drama-club advisor, or, "Drama Mama," she said.

"She is our producer – handling the budget, program, tickets, publicity, and general business. She also manages the set, props, costumes, lights, and sound with help from parents and students," Spooner said of Hubert.

Alexis Moore is one of the students working with Hubert behind the scenes. She works on the sound board, Moore said.

She likes it, but, Moore said, "It’s confusing, there’s so many buttons."

Dana Lenseth works on sets and props; Brian Farley works with the lights; and Vicky Polsinilli works as Spooner’s assistant director.

Wayne Manchester, a frequent substitute teacher in the district, helps with the sound board, and district parent Dave Adkins helps Chris Jantson, the chair of the music department, with programming the lights, Spooner added.

The show also features a live pit orchestra – made up of a piano, two saxophones, drums, two guitars, and a bass, Spooner said.

The musicians, she said, include faculty members, and spouses of faculty members, one student, and one former student.

Spooner said that the whole experience has been wonderful: "I am blown away by the commitment of the kids and staff involved. It’s been an absolute dream."


Opening night of the Voorheesville Dionysians production of
Grease will be Friday, March 23, at 7:15 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at the high school on route 85A. The Dionysians will also perform Saturday, March 24, at 7:15 p.m. and on Sunday, March 25, at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults with a $2 discount for students and senior citizens.

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