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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 18, 2007

Baron on court
Finally named new V’ville b-ball coach

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – After packed sessions and a petition where students and parents lobbied either for or against Robert Baron, he has been appointed to coach varsity girls’ basketball.

Baron, a former school-board president, is not a certified teacher. He runs Baron Construction Corporation.

The teachers’ union, which had threatened to sue if Baron were appointed, has decided not to, although it still claims the district violated the regulations of the state’s commissioner of education.

According to the commissioner’s regulations, "A person who does not hold a current New York State teaching certificate may be employed as a temporary coach only if there are no certified teachers available with experience and qualifications to coach the team."

In a letter to Superintendent Linda Langevin, Kathy Fiero, the president of the Voorheesville Teachers Association, wrote, "The District has violated the Commissioner of Education’s regulations in making this appointment. The appointed individual holds neither a teaching certificate, nor a professional coaching certificate. It is our understanding that he holds a temporary coaching license."

While participating in a community walk for ovarian cancer, Fiero said she learned from several residents that an individual with "appropriate coaching experience, who holds a valid and current teaching certificate" had applied, was interviewed, and was not offered the job.

Fiero e-mailed Superintendent Langevin about the applicant and his certification, she said. Langevin confirmed by e-mail that the individual had applied, but stated that there were problems with his certification, Fiero said.

"I looked into it with NYSUT’s help," said Fiero, referring to New York State United Teachers. "I determined his certifications were valid," she said. Because he is not an employee of Voorheesville and therefore not a member of its union, "I don’t have any legal responsibility for him," said Fiero, explaining why the union chose not to follow through with legal action against the district.

"Mr. Baron was the most qualified of all the candidates. We did a complete review of all the candidates, and he was the most qualified," Langevin told The Enterprise this week.

Regarding the applicant whom Fiero said is a certified teacher, Langevin said, "I know my review and my conversations with the board were done in a fair and objective manner, and Mr. Baron was the most qualified."

Baron could not be reached for comment this week.

Tom Dunn, of the State Education Department, said, "This seems to be a local matter."

Special meeting

Baron was appointed in a unanimous vote of the five school board members in attendance at a special meeting held on Sept. 17. Gary Hubert and Paige Pierce were not present to vote.

As of yesterday, there had been no official announcement from the district on the appointment.

The Sept. 17 meeting was posted on the district’s website on Sept. 14, Langevin said. It was also posted on bulletin boards around the school, as well as at the library and the post office, she said.

New York’s Open Meetings Law requires public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior be given to the news media and be conspicuously posted. Even in an emergency, public notice is to be given "to the extent practicable, to the news media" and to be conspicuously posted.

Typically a governing body, even when holding an emergency meeting, will call, fax, or e-mail the press about a meeting.

School board president David Gibson could not be reached for comment this week.

Hiring process

The search for a coach for the Lady Blackbirds first began in June after Coach John McClement resigned, following his approval to coach Albany High School’s varsity boys’ basketball team.

In the ensuing months, controversy emerged when rumors surfaced around the community that the board was going to appoint Baron over Dennis McCormick, an elementary school physical education teacher who coached the girls’ junior varsity basketball team for eight years.

McCormick resigned as JV coach after he was told he would not get the varsity job, Fiero said earlier.

Baron had been recommended for the post by the school’s athletic director, Joseph Sapienza. Langevin had considered recommending Baron for the school board’s approval but reversed herself after learning the teachers’ union would sue.

McCormick was appointed to the position at the Aug. 13 school board meeting; he declined the position for personal reasons. [See related stories on-line at www.altamontenterprise.com under archives for New Scotland for the following dates: Aug. 2, Aug. 16, Aug. 30, and Sept. 13 in 2007].

"The point is not even so much about basketball," Fiero said this week. "It’s about being confident, that when the district is hiring, it follows the commissioner’s regulations" and follows them honestly. I think we need to know that the interview process here is above board," she said.

Fiero said she is "very disappointed" in how events transpired.

"This is the second round of the same situation," said Fiero, who informed the board of her concerns regarding the commissioner’s regulations prior to the appointment of McCormick. ""I’m disappointed that, when information is presented, the board is not open to receiving it, or at least has not been. I don’t know if that will change," she said.

After McCormick declined the post and the search was re-opened, Langevin told The Enterprise that the process would "be more inclusive."

This week, Langevin said the district received seven applications for the job. Three candidates were interviewed, she said.

The interviewing committee — which before consisted of Sapienza, high-school Principal Mark Diefendorf, and associate Principal Michael Paolino — also included an elementary school teacher who has also been a coach, Langevin said this week. "It was done as clearly and as openly as we possibly could," she said.

The recommendation that Langevin received from the committee was that Baron be appointed, she said. She then made the recommendation to the board, she said. "The board is satisfied with my recommendation," she said.

"I’m very satisfied with the person appointed," Sapienza said this week. "I’m confident with that decision," he said.

"It’s really important the district uphold a high level of integrity," said Langevin. "We want to have the children involved in a quality program for athletics," she said.

The post

The girls’ varsity basketball team has been a point of pride within the community, with its history of winning.

As the varsity coach, Baron will work with the newly-appointed junior varsity coach, Elizabeth Ferency, as well as the freshman coach, said Sapienza.

The season begins on Nov. 5.

Sapienza said he is confident about both new coaches.

Baron has a passion for the game and is a student of the game, he said. He will have "clear-cut expectations and guidelines for the kids," he said. Baron will be able to provide continuity between the three levels, Sapienza said.

"He’ll really guide that program and manage all levels," he said. "He has a really sound basketball philosophy, and he’ll be able to articulate that to the kids and break the game down for them," he said.

Ferency currently works in the district as a student teacher in physical education, said Sapienza. She has previously coached as a volunteer at the junior-varsity level, and also played basketball in college, he said. "She’ll be a real nice fit," Sapienza said. "It’s a really positive thing to have a former college athlete who’ll be able to offer female athletes some guidance," he said.

"I’m excited everything is in place," Sapienza said. "We have new people in place that are dedicated and committed to the program," he said.

Langevin said that the board felt that Baron would provide an "excellent" basketball program for the girls in the upcoming season.

"We’re pleased he accepted the position," she said.

"We have done our due diligence and have not violated any regulations of the commissioner" We are in compliance," Langevin concluded. "We’ve chosen the very best coach for the basketball team, and we look forward to an exciting season."

Wins lifetime achievement award
Bob Shedd, a naturalist and a good neighbor

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Bob Shedd is a role model, says his daughter, Diane Wozniak. Deep down, though, she said, "He’s just my pop."

Last week, Shedd, a well-respected resident of New Scotland for more than 50 years, was recognized with a Capital District Senior Lifetime Achievement Award. It was presented to him and 49 other recipients at the 10th annual ceremony held in Albany by the Capital District Senior Issues Forum.

"It’s an honor, of course, to have somebody think of you and remember that you really did do something," said Shedd. "I didn’t do it for an award," he said.

Shedd is a "wonderful person," said Supervisor Ed Clark. The two know each other "very well," Clark said.

"He’s a great naturalist and supporter of protecting the environment and nature" He was, for many years, an avid Boy Scout enthusiast" He’s a regular commentator in The Enterprise," said Clark.

"He’s someone we value as a neighbor and a member of our community," he said. "He is an all-around great person," said Clark.

Shedd was recognized by Councilwoman Deborah Baron at last week’s town board meeting.

Shedd, 86, was born in Rutland, Vt. He grew up on a dairy farm and was the oldest of five children.

He enlisted, with his two brothers, in the United States Marines; he served for four years during World War II as an infantry corporal. He later became a carpenter. "None of us were interested in farming," said Shedd of himself and his brothers.

Shedd also tried his hand at selling real estate for a short time, he said. "It didn’t work out too well," he laughed.

He was involved with local Boy Scouts troops for 50 years — as a scoutmaster, assistant scoutmaster, district training chairman, and troop committeeman.

He volunteers at his church, First United Methodist Church in Voorheesville, and serves on numerous church committees. Shedd volunteered with the Voorheesville Area Ambulance for five years and helped to form the New Scotland Museum.

An avid outdoor enthusiast, Shedd has worked to maintain trails at Thacher Park, as well as parts of the Long Path Trail, which starts at the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey and meanders for 326 miles through the Catskill Mountains to Thacher Park. In 1996, Shedd finished hiking the Appalachian Trail.

He used some of his carpentry skills to help Habitat for Humanity. Shedd also frequently writes letters to the Enterprise editor, and edits a newsletter for the veterans of "A" Company, 5th Marines.

He also maintains his home and mows his lawn, he said.

For 61 years, Shedd has been married to Mary Lou Shedd. They have two children — Wozniak, who lives in Voorheesville, and Jerome Shedd, who lives in Ripton, Vt. They have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

About a month after being discharged from the military, while living on his father’s farm in Wallingford, Vt, Shedd met Mary Lou, he said.

The local Parent Teacher Association had held a Halloween square dance, he remembered. "I didn’t really want to go," he said, adding that his parents twisted his arm to attend.

"Mary Lou was a cadet nurse," he said. She had been working in Montreal, and had come home earlier that day. She also didn’t really want to go to the dance, he said.

Shedd’s father urged him to ask "the little cadet nurse" to dance, he recalled.

"That was 62 years ago this coming Halloween" and we’re still speaking to each other," said Shedd.

"My parents have been married for 61 years," said Wozniak. "They are such a good couple. They have given me and my brother an example of a good marriage," she said, adding it’s a wonderful gift.

"My mom is the woman behind the man," said Wozniak.

"My father has received so many awards over the years," she said. "A lot of it is because he’s a very good, honest, thoughtful person," she said.

"I just really lucked out when I was born in this family," Wozniak said. Even though he was busy with work, the church, and the Boy Scouts, she said, her father "always had time for me."

When she became interested in art, her father would drive her around to various places where she could draw different landscapes, Wozniak remembered.

"It meant so much to me that he’s always supported my interests," she said.

Shedd is "definitely deserving" of the lifetime achievement award, says his daughter, because "he’s given so much of himself to other people.

"I’m very proud of him, of course," Wozniak concluded. "I just love him a lot."

Other business

In other business at the Oct. 10 meeting, the town board:

– Heard from Councilman Douglas LaGrange, requesting support from the town for the New York State Property Taxpayer Protection Act. The act aims to limit the tax burden on homeowners and businesses in the state. It essentially shifts the tax burden, explained Michael Mackey, the attorney for the board. He added that, from a legal standpoint, he had no issues with supporting the legislation.

"It sounds like a great idea, but we should get feedback from the Association of Towns," said Councilman Richard Reilly.

Board member Peg Neri suggested that the town’s school districts also be contacted. She added that the idea is "interesting" and she is aware of a similar law being successful in Massachusetts.

The board will continue the discussion at its Nov. 14 meeting;

– Announced that a balloon test for a cell tower extension on Woods Hill Road will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3, either from 7 a.m. until noon, or from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.;

– Approved making Mountain Vista Lane, located off of Delaware Turnpike, a private road;

– Approved a three-year service agreement with County Waste for trash pickup at the Swift Road town park, at a cost of $105 per month;

– Approved the membership of Steven C. Dooley Sr. in the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company;

– Heard from Councilman Reilly that the town-sponsored trip to New York City to see the Broadway production of Grease was a success;

– Entered into a lease agreement with the New Scotland Historical Association for its use of the Wyman Osterhout Community Center in New Salem. The lease is for a period of 10 years with the option for renewal. The association will pay the town rent of $1 per year;

– Announced that senior citizen flu shots will be given on Oct. 22 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center, and on Oct. 20 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Feura Bush senior apartments.

The board also heard that the American Association of Retired Persons defensive-driving program will be held on Oct. 24 and 25 from 1 to 5 p.m.; and

– Heard that the blood drive held on Sept. 28 was "very successful." The goal was 40 donations, and 45 were collected, which helped 135 patients.

Deer hunter
First case of virus found in state

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — The death of deer here may be linked to global warming.

Twenty-eight deer in the last week have tested positive for Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in the Voorheesville area in the first confirmed instances of the virus in New York.

The disease primarily affects white-tailed deer and isn’t known to cause illness in humans, said Dr. Ward Stone, the state’s wildlife pathologist. EHD attacks the cells that make up the walls of blood vessels, he explained, and usually within a few days’ time, the affected deer will die from internal bleeding.

"You still can hunt, you still can eat deer meat," said Stone.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation included in a press release on Tuesday a list of precautions that people should take if they do intend to eat venison, regardless of whether the deer may have EHD, including wearing rubber gloves when handling the animal, processing it promptly, and not mixing it with other meat. Maureen Wren, DEC spokeswoman, said that this information was included because of other diseases, such as rabies, that deer may be carrying.

The first call to the DEC came from Emery Lemiuex, a resident of Grant Hill Road, who hunts with friends near his home.

"We were cutting wood and found a deer," he said. That was about a month ago. Lemiuex also noticed an unusually high number of turkey vultures circling around his property and has now discovered five dead deer on his land, which prompted him to call the DEC about a week ago. The department announced on Tuesday that tests for EHD had confirmed the disease.

First identified in New Jersey in the 1950’s, EHD is concentrated in the South, where many deer have developed immunity to it, according to Dr. Dave Stallknecht an associate professor at the University of Georgia who has conducted recent research on EHD.

"The disease is very different as it moves north," he said, and estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of deer in the South have developed antibodies to the virus. A graduate student of his once did a study using deer taken from Texas and Pennsylvania. Both groups were exposed to two strains of EHD and none of the deer from Texas were affected while all of the deer from Pennsylvania were.

"Deer down here have evolved with the virus," he said, adding that, with the antibodies they have developed, "They are basically naturally vaccinated."

The disease, which is carried by the midge fly, better known as a no-see-em, usually doesn’t get further than New Jersey, said Stone. The warmer weather this year might have contributed to its spread north, he said.

"This is the biggest outbreak in the eastern U.S. I’ve seen," Stallknecht said of EHD this year. "It’s also the biggest drought I’ve seen."

His theory is that, with the dry spell in the South, ponds and lakes have been receding and exposing more of their muddy beds, which is where the midge fly breeds. An increase in the availability of breeding grounds taken with the fact that deer have to get closer to the mud in order to drink water means that there is an increase in disease.

And, he said of the disease’s migration north with the midge fly, "They’re notorious for being moved with the wind."

Right now, the only confirmed cases have been in Voorheesville, but, Stone said, he is investigating elsewhere in Albany County. Anybody who has noticed unusual deer behavior should contact the DEC.

The disease will likely disappear when cold weather arrives, Stone said, since the flies will die. "Lots of times, the first frost is in September, after the 15th," he said. "Here we are a month later and our area hasn’t had a real frost."

"There’s a warning here, too," said Stone, "about global warming and its impact."

New Scotlanders talk about history, as views clash on cell tower

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – A cell tower proposal has gotten New Scotland residents talking about the town’s history.

If the tower is approved, it will be constructed on a piece of property owned by the New Scotland Cemetery Association, and located behind the town’s oldest church.

Neither the church nor the cemetery, within which are buried the bodies of 14 Revolutionary War soldiers, are listed on the state’s historic register. The oldest grave belongs to Jacob Moak, who served in the Albany County Militia; he died in 1795.

At last week’s town board meeting, resident Edie Abrams, who had served on the Residents’ Planning Advisory Committee, said that, in the report the committee submitted to the town in January of 2005, it was recommended that the town take an inventory of its historic buildings.

"It is a sad state of affairs that we haven’t done that," said Abrams.

The New Scotland Presbyterian Church, located on Route 85, was organized in 1787, and the first church building was constructed in 1791. The church that stands today was built in 1849.

A blue historic marker on the lawn in front of the church marks the town’s recognition of its historic significance, said Robert Parmenter, the town historian.

New Scotland has two historical groups — The New Scotland Historical Association and The Clarksville Historical Society. At last Wednesday’s meeting, Abrams suggested that the groups work with the town to identify locations potentially eligible for the state’s historic register.

Identifying historic sites in town is a priority of both the New Scotland and Clarksville groups. Part of the Clarksville Historical Society’s mission statement is to "encourage the suitable marking of places of historic interest, such as the limestone industry, unique to Clarksville."

The New Scotland Historical Association purchases one or two markers for historic sites each year, Parmenter said. The markers cost about $1,000 each, he said, adding that the price has more than doubled over the past several years.

It is up to the individual landowner to apply to be added to the state and federal registers of historic places, Parmenter said. The landowner may opt to consult with the local historical association or with the town’s historian, Parmenter said.

"It’s not necessary for the town to do it," he said. The New Scotland Historical Association has a lot of information regarding sites of historic importance around town, he said.

Anyone can nominate a property, said John Bonafide, the state’s historic preservation services coordinator, "but, we’ve learned that it is best to come from the owner.

"It tends to turn people off to historical preservation if an owner is forced into listing it," he said.

New Scotland does have one "historic district" that was established in the mid-1970s, Parmenter said. It is located near the hamlet of Feura Bush, in the southeastern corner of town where, he said, "There are a number of old stone houses."

A group of residents appealed to the state based on the architecture of the homes, and, said Parmenter, "They got it."

Historic Register criteria

Daniel Mackay, a resident of New Scotland South Road, has expressed concerns about the cell-tower proposal at several public meetings. Mackay works as the director of public policy with the Preservation League of New York State.

At a public hearing at the Sept. 25 zoning-board meeting, Mackay said, "The applicant has not adequately documented historic resources within a half-mile radius." The applicant has showed a "stunning lack of diligence," he said.

Several years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established a programmatic agreement, mandating cell-phone companies to undertake the review of State Historic Preservation Office files, Bonafide said.

The office currently holds information on 300,000 properties statewide, said Bonafide. About 100,000 properties are listed on the historical register, and there are about 5,000 nominations, he said.

New Scotland has four properties listed on the historical registers for the state and nation — the Bennett Hill Farm, the Teunis Houghtaling House, the LaGrange farmstead, and a portion of the Onesquethaw Valley historic district, said Bonafide.

The State Historic Preservation Office does not have much information on many of the rural communities in the state, such as New Scotland, said Bonafide.

Of the 208 inventory forms on file in his office for the town, there are none relating to the New Scotland Presbyterian Church or the New Scotland Cemetery properties, he said. "These have never been documented," he said.

Enterprise Consulting Solutions filed the appropriate forms, and received a response from SHPO within the required 30 days; it issued a declaration of "no effect" to historic or cultural resources with regard to the proposed cell tower.

Bonafide said that he is not familiar with the site, but has a "great respect for Mr. Mackay," whom, he said, believes the site is eligible for the historic register.

"Once it had been brought to our attention, we did write a letter to the cell company" though we had passed our timeframe, indicating that issues had been raised" and asking that the historic nature of the property be considered, Bonafide said.

The company, he said, wrote back to say it felt it had done due diligence and is progressing with the project. "That is not uncommon," said Bonafide.

To be eligible for the state and national registers, a property must have historical significance, and be associated with events that have had an impact to the broad pattern of history; be associated with an individual of considerable historic significance; have significance in architecture or design; or have an archeological impact, said Mark Peckham, also with the state’s historic preservation office.

Some sites meet several or all of the criteria, and some meet only one, he said.

The evaluation criteria also state: "Ordinarily cemeteries, birthplaces, or graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years shall not be considered eligible for the State and National Registers."

Being eligible for the historic register carries the same weight as being listed, said Bonafide. If a property is listed, he said, it carries a higher level of documentation and involvement on the part of the landowner.

Cemeteries hold a lot of history, said Joe Hogan, the president of the Clarksville Historical Society. "I can walk through our cemetery and see the names of people who made Clarksville what it is," he said.

"All the cemeteries in the town of New Scotland are struggling," said Hogan. If the tower is approved, the New Scotland Cemetery Association hopes the money brought in from leasing the land will allow it to sustain itself. [See related stories on-line at: www.altamontenterprise.com, under archives for New Scotland for the dates: Oct. 5, 2006; Sept. 6, 2007; and Oct. 4, 2007].

"Expenses outweigh the income. Eventually, they’re all going to fail," Hogan said. "Some are in better shape than others," he added.

The New Scotland Presbyterian Church is a "charming church," Hogan said. "It’s quite a sight to see that church," he said, adding that, in his opinion, it would be a shame to have a piece of modern technology erected behind it.

Parmenter, who is also a member of the town’s zoning board, which will vote on the proposal, feels differently. "As a historian, frankly, I don’t see how it’s a problem" There is a such thing as progress," he said. "I don’t see it as a monumental problem," said Parmenter.

History is an important part of our heritage, said Parmenter. It is recognition, on the part of the people who live here today, of the struggles of people who came before us, and how the culture has changed, he said.

"It is becoming more and more important to know, not only where wetlands are" because of its importance to the planning process, but also where historic resources are," Bonafide concluded.

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