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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 26, 2009

Petitions due April 20
Two incumbents run as school board
hears about Lead the Way, studies high school’s block schedule

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — When voters go to the polls May 19 to decide on a school budget, they will also be casting ballots for three seats on the nine-member school board.

Two incumbents — Denise Eisele and Richard Weisz — are running.

At the March 11 school-board meeting, Weisz, the board’s president, announced that he will be seeking a fourth three-year term. He had told The Enterprise in October that his decision would depend on the economy.

“It depends on if I feel I can help the district go forward,” Weisz said then.

Referring to the state’s fiscal crisis, he said, “If state aid is a struggle, I think I could help. That’s what I do for a living.” Wiesz, who is a lawyer, said, “I help people with limited resources.” He said he represented a lot of debtors and worked with commercial restructuring.

He had originally thought that three terms were enough, Weisz said. He bore the brunt of criticism for the school board during the packed meetings this summer as the board met in executive session to hear in private about two teachers who were fighting their transfer to another school, while the crowds in the meeting hall objected.

Weisz said the controversy was “not really” a factor in his decision whether or not to seek a fourth term.

Weisz concluded, “I really care for the district. I care for the community.”

He is a partner in the Albany office of Hodgson Russ, LLP. He has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a law degree from Albany Law School.

He is married to Diane Rosenbaum-Weisz; they have two children, both Guilderland graduates. They live on Mohawk Trail.

Eisele said in October that she planned to run for a second term.

The third incumbent, Hy Dubowsky, also said in October that he planned to run for a second three-year term. He died of cancer on March 8.

Dubowsky and Eisele, who were defeated in their first bid in 2005, campaigned as a team in 2006 and won.

“I have enjoyed my three years on the board,” Eisele told The Enterprise in October. “The people on the board are totally committed to…helping the students be the very best human beings they can be.”

Eisele, a registered nurse, is a graduate of Glens Falls High School and the Albany Medical Center School of Nursing. She lives on Stafford’s Crossing, in North Bethlehem, with her husband, George, who is a physician. The couple has six adopted children.

Weisz had opened last week’s meeting by extending condolences to Dubowsky’s family. “He had passion, he had energy, he had a sense of humor,” said Weisz.

Superintendent John McGuire announced a memorial service for Dubowsky will be held on Saturday, March 21, at 10 a.m. in the high school auditorium.

He said Dubowsky was committed to education. “We’ll do the best we can to honor his commitment,” said McGuire.

Later in the meeting, board member Colleen O’Connell suggested that the non-incumbent candidate who garners the most votes in the May 19 election should be appointed to replace Dubowsky.

“It’s nice to have a full complement,” she said.

School board candidates can get petitions from the district clerk. The petitions must be signed by at least 64 district residents — 2 percent of those voting in last May’s election — and returned to the district clerk before 5 p.m. on Monday, April 20.

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the school board:

— Heard an enthusiastic presentation on Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering program introduced at the high school this year. The not-for-profit group has about 3,000 programs in all 50 states.

The plan as presented to the school board last year is to add a four-year sequence of elective engineering courses at the high school, which would cost $152,300 over the first four years. (For the full story, go online to www.altamontenterprise.com under Guilderland archives for Feb. 7, 2008);

— Heard a lengthy presentation from the high school’s acting principal, Brian McCann, on the school’s evaluation of its block schedule, which allows for long periods of in-depth study but limits the number of electives students can take in courses such as art, music, or Project Lead the Way engineering.

Evaluating the schedule with the idea of tweaking it, McCann said, “has helped everyone in the building focus on the question, ‘Why do we do what we do?’”

The high school went to a block schedule in September of 1997 to extend instructional time and maximize student contact time, McCann said. The advisement period, he said, is “one of the strongest components of this program.”

Six different task forces are assessing various aspects of the schedule and the high school cabinet is slated to present its findings and recommendations to the superintendent next fall.

O’Connell said she was pleased the evaluation was not a “top-down decision” and stated, “The process is just as important as your ultimate recommendation.”

Vice President John Dornbush told McCann he was “very impressed with the comprehensive nature of what you’re undertaking”;

— Approved McGuire’s salary at $170,150 for the 2008-09 school year, a 3.75-percent raise, and extended his contract for one year, through June 30, 2012;

—  Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders that Guilderland received “a glowing review” in an on-site evaluation and audit by the State Education Department of its food services;

— Heard favorable reports from three foreign exchange students — Andrew Harland-Smith from New Zealand, Karoline Nyloey from Norway, and Chatchianna Leite from Brazil — who are studying at Guilderland High School this year, living with host families, as part of the American Field Service program.

“I’m really going to miss it when I leave,” said Harland-Smith;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that two high school seniors, Corrina Goutos and Xing Han, won prestigious Juror Awards for their artwork in the 2009 High School Regional Juried Art Exhibition;

— Heard congratulations for junior Michael Brenner, who won a merit citation for his entry in the annual Traffic Safety Poster/Communication Contest, for which he will receive a $50 gift check;

— Learned that the Farnsworth Middle School MathCounts team came in first out of 21 schools, and three of the four team members were ranked in the top 10 — Zubin Mukerjee ranked third, Matt Gu ranked fifth, Luxi Peng ranked eighth, and Julia Xiong ranked 24th. (Max Chao, Hannah Liu, Justina Liu, and Isaac Malsky were on the alternate team.)

The team, plus top-ranking alternate Hannah Liu, went on to the MathCounts Competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on March 14. Caley Vangelis and Deb Escobar advise the team;

— Heard congratulations for eighth-grader Joey Fazzone, who was accepted to present his project at the Rochester Institute of Technology National Science Competition of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, March 20 to 22. Enrichment teacher Carol Kelly advises him;

— Heard congratulations for all of the winter sports teams for qualifying for the Scholar-Athlete Award, meaning each team — boys’ and girls’ basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, cross-country skiing, boys’ swimming, bowling, and girls’ indoor track — has a 90 percent team average or higher.

“Our coaches stress scholarship and sportsmanship over winning,” said Superintendent John McGuire;

— Heard from Sanders that all occupied buildings had been tested for radon and that only one area — a basement room in the high school not occupied on a daily basis — had readings above the action level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Another measurement will be made, Sanders said, and the guidelines for action might include a change in the ventilation system; and

— Agreed to meet at 8:30 a.m. in the district office library to vote on the annual budget and board for the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

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