[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 25, 2007

Voorheesville is down with the eSchoolData

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – A new student information system approved at last Monday’s school board meeting will help increase communication between parents and teachers, says the high school’s associate principal, Michael Paolino.

The system, eSchoolData, is web-based and will allow parents to access their children’s data on-line, using a designated password. The total annual cost for the system, server, and support is about $31,000; there are also one-time licensing and transfer costs totaling $21,000.

The meeting was Paolino’s last at Voorheesville; he has accepted a job as the principal of Guilderland High School.

Voorheesville currently uses a student information system called WinSchool. It has been in place since 1994, said Frank Faber, the chair of the high school’s business department, in a presentation he gave the board.

A student information system is "a digital database for school management," Faber said. It holds information such as attendance, student contact and health information, class lists, report cards, discipline records, state and national test scores, enrollment, and grade histories, he said.

WinSchool is an "in-house" system and can be accessed only by school staff, he said. It uses three separate databases for the different schools. "We export the data from the K to five database," he said of the elementary grades, kindergarten through fifth grade, "and import it to the six to eight database," Faber said of the middle school grades. "We do the same with students moving from eighth grade into ninth. We are hoping to have one database for K to 12 with eSchoolData," he told The Enterprise.

The WinSchool software is at the end of its life and will no longer be supported, Faber explained to the board last week.

The new eSchoolData system will be supported by Northeastern Regional Information Center (NERIC), and will have one database for the entire district.

The data is held on off-site servers, Faber said. A separate portal is used for access to the information as viewed from the web, and parents and teachers can access it from any web browser or operating system, said Faber.

With the new system, teachers will be able to establish a grade book that will be accessible on-line, allowing parents to view their child’s grades. The system will allow a teacher to enter a grading formula, with differing weights for homework versus tests and quizzes, Paolino explained.

"It is the most user-friendly for teachers at all levels," he said. "It is the best product at the best price," he said.

The annual costs for NERIC support for both systems is roughly the same— about $18,000. The new system has a yearly fee of $6,355 and an annual cost for the server of $6,700.

Faber told the board that the off-site server is less expensive than an on-site server. He estimated that implementing a server within the district would cost between $9,000 and $10,000.

In addition to the cost benefit, he said, "NERIC can serve and upgrade the server quickly." NERIC is responsible for backing up nightly, and maintaining the server around the clock, he said.

Licensing the new system and transferring data from one system to the other will cost about $21,000, Faber said, adding that it is a one-time cost.

"At this time, the new eSchoolData is a little more costly," Faber told The Enterprise. "The support cost is based on how many schools use a product. The more schools you can get using the same software, the support costs go down," he said. He anticipates more schools will soon be using eSchoolData as they drop WinSchool.

School board member Timothy Blow asked who would be administering the program.

"Frank would oversee everything," said Superintendent Linda Langevin of Faber. Within the district’s administration, though, she said, there will be different levels of privilege.

"ESchoolData is much more secure than WinSchool," Faber said, responding to Blow’s concern about the system’s security.

Faber plans to start transferring data out of WinSchool and into the new system in November and December, he said. He hopes that by July and August of 2008, the final rollover and training of staff will take place, and the WinSchool system can be archived, Faber told the board.

WinSchool is not being updated with any new features and is not producing reports required by the state in a timely fashion, Faber told The Enterprise. "The new system will help make life better at all levels — administration, teachers, and parents."

Other business

In other business at its Oct. 15 meeting, the school board:

– Accepted donations from the Voorheesville Community and School Foundation and the Voorheesville Parent Teacher Association totaling $14,000. Each group donated $5,000 to be used for the purchase of technology equipment for teacher and student use. The Parent Teacher Association also donated $4,000 to be used to purchase math manipulatives and classroom libraries;

– Heard from Richard Bingham, an auditor from Dorfman-Robbie Certified Public Accountants, who discussed the results of a recent state-required external audit for the 2006-07 financial year. The district’s internal controls had one deficiency, in regards to the preparation of full Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) financial statements, said Bingham. This essentially means that the district does not have its own certified public accountant on staff. Of the nine districts his firm audited, eight had the same deficiency, he said.

The district also needs to work to lower its school-lunch deficit, Bingham said. The district needs to "take steps to consider possible resolutions," he said.

The board accepted the audit report;

– Heard that the high-school student government had scheduled a blood drive on Oct. 23 open to the community, and those who donate will be entered into a drawing for an iPhone.

The amount of donations also impacts the monetary amount of a scholarship awarded to a graduating senior in June;

– Accepted the resignations of Mary Lynn Williams, a teaching assistant in the middle and high schools for more than 17 years; and James Hladun, the director of continuing education, who has 36 years with the district. Williams will retire on Feb. 25, 2008, and Hladun will retire on June 30, 2008.

The board also accepted Paolino’s resignation; his last day at Voorheesville was Oct. 22.

"We’re really going to miss you," said the board’s vice president, C. James Coffin, to Paolino.

"Mike, you have really proved yourself," said Superintendent Langevin.

The district has received 29 applications to fill the associate principal position, she said. The board should have the recommendation on two finalists by its Nov. 5 meeting, Langevin told The Enterprise.

The board will hold a special meeting on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8 a.m. for the purpose of interviewing two or three candidates for the position, Langevin said this week.

Ed Diegel, who was the principal of Voorheesville Elementary School for 15 years, came out of retirement to fill in as associate principal until the post is filled.

The data coordinator aspect of Paolino’s job has been broken off from the duties of associate principal. Brian Stumbaugh, a high-school English teacher, was appointed to be the data coordinator for the middle school and high school, with an annual stipend of $4,800. Donna Fitzgerald, an elementary school resource room teacher, was appointed as the elementary school data coordinator, with an annual stipend of $3,200;

– Approved substitute teacher appointments for the 2007-08 school year provided by the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) substitute registry;

– Approved the contract with Wildwood School, which teaches special-needs students, for the period between Sept. 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008, at a cost of $40,097;

– Waived all facilities fees to support the 2008 Relay for Life Campaign and allow representatives to conduct business related to the campaign in cooperation with the middle- and high-school principal, the superintendent, and the board of education. The Relay for Life, an annual event to raise money to fight cancer, will provide a list of all information about the event;

– Heard from Michael Goyer, the district’s superintendent of operations, maintenance, and transportation, that he is looking for substitute bus drivers.

Goyer also said that the construction project, upgrading the elementary school and bus garage, is going "very well";

– Approved the first reading of a district policy regarding disclosure of wrongful conduct. Board member Timothy Blow cast the only vote opposing the policy. "This is limiting for no apparent reason," Blow said of the policy, which references only wrongful conduct associated with the school.

"We are not the policemen of everything people do," said David Gibson, the board’s president.

"I think we can still investigate for the best interest of the kids," said Blow.

Kathy Fiero, the president of the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association, asked how the board planned to inform the district staff about the policy.

"Any policy that directly affects employees goes out to all employees," said Langevin.

"This is not just about protecting district assets" It’s about protecting the students," said Gibson. "We have to be sure people know," he added; and

– Was presented with small gifts and certificates by Superintendent Langevin, thanking them for their hard work as school-board members.

History with a view: Dan O’Connell’s camp for sale

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — The summer home of Dan O’Connell — the man who built Albany’s Democratic machine — hit the market this month, and the million-dollar view from the Helderberg escarpment is literally worth just that.

Real estate agent Deborah Corbari with Team Shillinglaw of Miranda Real Estate Group in New Scotland is helping the current owner sell the home that stands out on the shoulder of the Helderbergs in plain sight of those below. Rumors about its history are rampant.

Did Joe Kennedy drive up the mountain half-a-century ago to ask for O’Connell’s political help in supporting Kennedy’s son, John F. Kennedy"

Did Dan O’Connell build his summer home on a cliff so he could overlook Picards Grove, where Democrats used to meet" Did the Dems then congregate at O’Connell’s home after their meetings"

There is no doubt that O’Connell could see for miles; Corbari said that the views from the Beaver Dam Road property include three states. The current owner can see Jiminy Peak at night when the ski lifts are lit and running, Corbari said.

The house is "right on the cliff. It’s unbelievable," she said. "The views — you can see the Capitol, the [University at Albany] campus, and much farther beyond"the entire Hudson Valley."

O’Connell’s former home had been uninhabited until four years ago, when the owner bought it and began rehabilitating it. Acorns rained down from the squirrel habitat in the attic, Corbari said. Plaster was in disrepair throughout the house, too, she said.

When Corbari, the daughter of the late Albany County Democratic Chairman Michael L. Burns, met with the owner of the house to discuss the listing, she learned that nearly everything but a closet in the living room had been remodeled. Inside the closet, she said, she found phone numbers marked on the walls dating back to O’Connell’s time.

"That was his little phone book," she said. "I told him, ‘Don’t touch it!’ " Corbari probably knows what she is talking about.

"I grew up in a family of politicians," she said. Her mother, Connie Burns, is the current vice-chairwoman of the New Scotland Democratic party. Burns currently works for Senator Hillary Clinton, and fills in for Clinton when she is unable to speak at events, said Corbari.

The O’Connell home sits on 7 acres adjacent to Thacher Park. Corbari said that the home may look small from the outside, but that the 2,700-square-foot bungalo has large rooms and ceiling-to-floor windows in the living room.

"You can see the entire eastern skyline," she said. "Dan was kind of looking down on his domain."

The owner fixed the plumbing and installed a generator along with all the other remodeling he did. The concrete in-ground pool O’Connell had installed is still there.

"It was pretty revolutionary at the time. It’s between the house and the cliff," Corbari said. She learned this week that her father swam there once as a boy. A walkway across a pit used to lead to changing rooms, but the walkway isn’t usable now, she said.

"It’s definitely not camp-like," Corbari said about the house and property. The rehabilitated home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. "He did a fantastic job," Corbari said about the owner.

"It’s definitely a year-round house," she said. "It’s an absolutely gorgeous property."

Smiling Mary Norris wins lifetime achievement award

By Rachel Dutil

GUILDERLAND – Mary Norris is "a wonderful, wonderful woman" who is "always smiling," says Kathy Kavanaugh.

Norris was one of 50 recipients of a lifetime achievement award at a recent ceremony in Albany held by the Capital District Senior Issues Forum. It was the 10th annual event honoring people 85 and older for their achievements within their communities. Norris was nominated by Kavanaugh; the two have known each other for about 25 years.

"She has tremendous integrity," said Kavanaugh, adding that Norris has said that she’s never lied to anybody.

Kavanaugh is the coordinator for pastoral care at the Church of Christ the King in Guilderland, where Norris is an active member.

Norris is involved with several church committees and is a visitation minister, bringing communion to and visiting with parishioners at home and in nursing homes every week, Kavanaugh said. At 89, Norris is still making visits to people’s homes, she said.

"She has been a caregiver all her life," said Kavanaugh. Norris grew up in Niagara Falls. She had two brothers and two sisters, whom she helped to raise after her father died when she was 12.

She attended the New York State College for Teachers in Albany, now the University at Albany. She was the president of the Newman Hall Catholic Dormitory and was part of the college’s newspaper staff in her junior and senior years. She graduated in 1941.

She later cared for her mother-in-law, who lived with Norris and her husband, Benjamin Norris, and their five children. While her husband finished medical school, Norris worked, but she raised her children as a stay-at-home mother.

Norris, is "very sharp," said Kavanaugh. "She has more energy than people who are 50" She’s just amazing," she said.

"She loves to help people," said Kavanaugh. "I don’t know anyone who knows her who doesn’t think she’s wonderful."

Norris has lived in Guilderland for about 45 years, and has "been very involved in her community," said Norris’s son, Benjamin Norris III, adding with a laugh that she "raised some pretty terrific kids."

She has five children — Mary Gay Wood, Benjamin Norris III, Judy Polley, John Norris, and Lisa Gaglioti — 13 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Norris was involved in the Albany County Medical Auxiliary and the St. Peter’s Hospital Auxiliary. She began volunteering at St. Peter’s Hospital in 1963, and still volunteers at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, said Kavanaugh. She has helped with the Red Cross, the Blood Bank, Community Chest, Holy Names Academy, as well as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She also volunteered at the Albany Symphony Show Houses and helped with lunch duty at Christ the King School in Guilderland.

"She’s been a busy lady," said Benjamin Norris.

Norris is "not the kind of person to toot her own horn," said her son, "but I think she is pretty pleased to be recognized, though she would never say so.

"It’s special to us that someone outside the family felt enough about her to nominate her," said Benjamin Norris on behalf of his family. "We’re just very happy for her to be recognized and we’re pleased she’s our mother, and that she gave us the guidance she did over the years," he concluded.

Business Builders to help growth in New Scotland

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Janna Shillinglaw is hoping to build her community and get residents more engaged and involved, she said.

Shillinglaw is a real-estate agent; she opened a New Scotland office, Team Shillinglaw, in May.

She recently established, with the help of Voorheesville resident and financial consultant, Rick Decker, what she refers to as a "smaller hometown version" of a chamber of commerce for the town. It is called New Scotland Business Builders.

The group’s first meeting was held on Tuesday at her real-estate office in the Stonewell Plaza. Diane Cameron, the director of Community Caregivers, was the guest speaker.

"I have a deep respect for Diane Cameron" She just has a way with words," said Shillinglaw, who has written grants for Community Caregivers for several years.

"I’d like to get to know my business neighbors," Shillinglaw told The Enterprise. "Supporting local business is really important to me."

Through her website, www.newscotlandneighbors.com, Shillinglaw offers a community calendar, local real-estate listings, recipes, links to local news stories, and blurbs about businesses in town.

The advertising space is free for local business owners, Shillinglaw said.

"I’m looking to engage the community" to help shape New Scotland for years to come," she said. "It’d be great to have a unified business front," said Shillinglaw.

She hopes that New Scotland Business Builders might become an outlet for businesses to pool their resources for various projects. "I foresee meet and greets with guest speakers," she said, adding that at some point she would like to put out a quarterly newsletter, and potentially sponsor community events.

"I’ve lived in New Scotland for eight years. I plan on being here indefinitely," Shillinglaw said. "I’m really excited about getting to know people," she said.

Her project has led her to discover some treasures in New Scotland — from custom designed jewelry to home-baked rum cakes, said Shillinglaw.

"We live in a wonderful area, fresh with opportunities," Shillinglaw said, adding, New Scotland Business Builders "could be something meaningful in helping it grow."

Peruvian coffee growers visit Indian Ladder Farms

By Rachel Dutil

NEW SCOTLAND – Beltran Masias has lived his entire life in a coffee-growing community in San Fernando, Peru. Things have changed over the years, he said.

Last week, Masias visited Indian Ladder Farms in New Scotland, which sells the fair-trade coffee that he helps to grow and produce.

He was accompanied by Eulalia Valdez Palomino, who works with women’s groups within the COCLA cooperative (Agrarian Coffee Cooperative, Ltd.) to which Masias belongs, and Lynsey Miller, a food-service sales manager for the fair-trade company, Equal Exchange, based in West Bridgewater, Mass. Miller was their driver and interpreter. From Indian Ladder, the trio was headed to Ithaca and later to Philadelphia.

Ann Kelly, the coordinator for educational programming and a buyer for Indian Ladder Farms, greeted the group warmly and showed them around the farm. Indian Ladder sells not only fair-trade coffee, but also chocolate, tea, and bananas, she told The Enterprise, adding that the local foods that are sold there are "presumably fair trade."

Fair trade helps farmers and farm workers rise above poverty by investing in their farms and communities, and ensuring they receive a fair price for their goods.

"Everybody wins with it," Kelly said of fair trade. At Indian Ladder Farms, she said, "We believe it’s important to support farmers in other places."

The cooperative didn’t exist when Masias was growing up, he said. It formed on May 15, 1994 as a committee. It formally became a cooperative on Oct. 22, 2001, he said.

Being part of the cooperative, "We’re able to sell coffee at a higher price, and our children can go to school," he said through Miller. All of his children are in school, he said with a smile.

The cooperative has also enabled the growers to improve the quality of the coffee, he said.

When the Spanish came to Peru, Masias explained, it caused a shift where Spaniards became the owners of the farms and the Peruvians were laborers. At that time, he said, only Spanish children could go to school.

Between 1968 and 1972, there was a "rebellion" that began in Cusco, in southeastern Peru; Peruvians rose up to take ownership of the land, Masias said.

During the uprising, villagers were killed and women were raped, he said. Until a few months ago, people were still imprisoned from this time, he said. The movement affected not only villagers and farmers, but the entire community, said Masias.

To take over the land, syndicates, similar to unions, were formed, and cooperatives were born, he said.

"Coffee had existed for a long time, but not cooperatives," he said. The cooperatives allowed the growers to continue to cultivate coffee, he said. "The change was radical and excellent," said Masias.

Before the cooperative formed, the farmers were trading, but weren’t making money, he said. Now, the coffee farmers are the owners and members of the cooperative, he said.

From January through March, a general assembly meets to make decisions for the upcoming year, Masias explained. Through democratic elections, the assembly elects a group of administrators who carry out the decisions, he said. A committee is elected to ensure that everything runs properly, he said.

Masias’s cooperative has 426 members. There are 23 similar communities, representing 8,500 families that make up the COCLA association. Palomino works in a company that coordinates all of the communities.

Being part of the cooperative is a "whole family affair," said Palomino. "Both men and women participate in the whole process, as well as the children," she said.

Within a farming family, there are different roles, said Palomino.

Women are an integral part of the structure, she said. The women tend to work longer hours and participate in more labor-intensive jobs, she said. Men do the planting and harvesting. For example, she said, when the coffee is first planted, the men put the seeds in the ground. The women do the weeding and maintain the plants, she said.

The majority of the coffee grown through the COCLA cooperative is exported to the United States, said Palomino. It also exports to Canada, Germany, Japan, and England, she said.

Masias said he has been drinking coffee ever since he can remember. He drinks coffee every day from dawn until dusk, he said. In order to go out and harvest the coffee, he said, he brings a thermos of coffee to drink.

Water main being repaired

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — On a Sunday morning a year and a half ago, water began shooting up from the ground through the railroad tracks near the Voorheesville Diner.

William Smith, the village’s public works supervisor, got the call during church services, he said.

Since then, the village has been coordinating with CSX, the company that maintains the railroad tracks, to fix the water main, which is one of three that goes under railroad tracks in the village, Smith said.

"It’s a normal job; it just takes forever to do," he said of the nature of the work and the complications due to the placement of the break under the tracks.

While the work is being done, traffic in the village is being re-routed around the railroad tracks.

The burst pipe was likely buried in the early 1900’s, Smith said. It is being replaced with an eight-inch water pipe that is cased in a still larger pipe. Of putting it in, he said, "It’s like trying to push a blunt rod through a bunch of rock."

Pollard Excavating won the $85,500 contract with the village to do the job; it was the lowest bidder, Village Clerk Linda Pasquali said following the May decision. Workers have been there for about a week and a half and are expected to finish soon, Smith said at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.

At the village’s September meeting, the board voted unanimously to grant Pollard a 60-day extension on the project.

When the work is completed, Smith said, "It’ll put us back to our full complement."

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Heard from Trustee Richard Berger that the renovations to the firehouse are complete except for the work on the epoxy floor and the brickwork, both jobs were considered unsatisfactory by the fire department;

— Heard from Trustee Bill Hotaling that the sidewalk project, building walkways in part of the village, is almost complete; and

— Heard from Smith that the village has been conducting its leaf pick-up and will come around to village houses on Monday for curbside pickup.

[Return to Home Page]