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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 20, 2009

Bus audit recommends full-day K, new garage, keeping staff

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — A web, centered on transportation, touches several areas of school district operations.

Dr. Richard Ahola reported to the board on his examination of transportation in the Voorheesville Central School District.  Depending on the size and budgetary impact of a department, it should be looked at by an independent auditor every five to 10 years, Superintendent Teresa Snyder said yesterday — this audit cost the district $6,750.  “This was transportation’s turn,” she said.

Overall, Ahola praised the district, but he made some suggestions, too.

Three of his points reached into other issues facing the board, the first of which is a full-day kindergarten program — the district currently offers half-day classes. 

Earlier this year, the board considered switching to the longer program, but ultimately decided against it for now.  Snyder stressed that the board may choose to change its kindergarten program down the road, but, she said, it’s off the table “for the foreseeable future” and cited cost and the importance of ensuring a rich curriculum as the primary factors.

“A district analysis indicated that the five-year impact on the district would be a savings of $1,370, based on the creation of four kindergarten sections,” Ahola wrote, referring to transportation.  “The creation of five sections would generate five-year total costs of $194,495 over the current half-day configuration.”

He recommended that the district implement full-day kindergarten.

Another of his points regards staffing — downsizing in many departments was entertained during budget discussions last winter when Governor David Paterson announced drastic cuts to school funding in the face of a bleak economic outlook for the state. (Funding was later restored through the federal stimulus program.)

Maintaining three mechanics to look after the roughly 25-bus fleet is important, Ahola said, illustrating his point by noting that the passage rate for Voorheesville’s school bus inspection was below 90 percent before 2008.  With three mechanics, the passage rate was about 94 percent in 2009 and 2008, according to his report.

“We will be at full force,” Snyder said when asked if the district plans to replace Thomas Smith, who left his position as a mechanic on July 24.  The district has already begun interviews for the position, she said.

Ahola’s third point that is related to larger issues in the district regards construction of a new bus garage; the current garage is at the elementary school.

“The present bus garage is adequate, except for its location,” his report says.  “The location of the bus garage at the elementary school requires pupils (with adult supervision) to cross from the parking lot for parent drop-off to the school directly in front of garage doors,” he wrote.

After some discussion at Monday night’s meeting, the board voted, 6 to 1, to set a public vote on Oct. 20 for creating a capital reserve to buy land for a new garage, and a repair reserve.  The board set the repair reserve at $200,000 and the capital reserve for land purchase at $250,000.  The money comes from the unappropriated fund balance, which is money from last year’s budget that wasn’t used — the district can legally retain only 4 percent of that money, Snyder said, but these are legal reserves for the remainder.

Before voting against the motion, board member Kevin Kroencke expressed concern over a lack of specific ideas on the bus garage project and disagreed with the notion that the district should first start putting away money before discussing logistics.

Sarita Winchell, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, stressed that that board can put a stated change in purpose for the money before the voters at any time.

Other business

In other business at its Aug. 17 meeting, the board:

— Heard from Thomas Mensching that he is concerned about some elderly citizens’ ability to pay their school taxes on time this year.  He has been before the board for the same reason repeatedly; to read the full story go to www.altamontenterprise.com under archives for July 23, 2009 in New Scotland. 

He was instructed by the board’s president, David Gibson, to “keep it brief.” Tension rose between Winchell, Gibson, and Mensching, reaching a crescendo when Mensching said, “You’re making six figures,” to Gibson, who promptly beat his gavel twice and expressed frustration that he wasn’t being heard. 

Mensching left the room and Gibson asked if any other member of the public would like to be heard.  When greeted with silence, he said he understood that “that feels a little intimidating or inhibiting.”  Nobody else spoke;

— Voted unanimously to accept the following resignations: Thomas L. Smith, a bus mechanic; Christine Doto, a teachers’ aide; Carla Fisk, the select-chorus advisor; Kelly Kniss, an elementary school teacher; and Anthony Thanopoulos, a science teacher;

— Voted unanimously to appoint the following people: Rebecca Zionts-Klamka as an elementary school teacher on step seven of the Voorheesville Teachers’ Association contract; Sandra Riggin as a part-time Spanish teacher on step 14 of the VTA contract; Lisa Maloney as a long-term substitute for English in the middle school on step one of the VTA contract; Matthew Robinson as a high school teaching assistant on step two of the United Employees of Voorheesville contract; Jessica Moehle as an elementary school teaching assistant on step four of the UEV contract; Andrea Burch as a technology assistant on step seven of the UEV contract; Carla Fisk as a long-term substitute for music on step one of the VTA contract; Alan Butler as a custodial worker and “night boss” at the middle and high schools on step nine of the UEV contract with an annual stipend of 12 percent for his duty as night supervisor; Paige Woodruff as a part-time teachers’ aid in the elementary school on step one of the UEV contract; Sheila Guiry as a part-time teachers’ aid in the elementary school on step one of the UEV contract; Cynthia Diamond as a food-service helper on step one of the UEV contract; Dorothy Frender as a substitute bus driver to be paid $17.45 per hour; Theodore Simons as the science department “teacher leader” on step one of the VTA contract; and April Levy as the foreign-language department “teacher leader” on step one of the VTA contract;

— Voted unanimously to increase Marie Triller’s hours to full time as an art teacher in the middle and high schools;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Lori-Ann Saba as payroll clerk and Jessica Tabakian as a senior keyboard specialist since the pair have fulfilled the county’s Civil Service requirements;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Kristen DeFontes-Wells to advise the elementary art club, Kyle Turski to be a co-advisor on the yearbook, and Mary Abba Gleason to advise the select chorus;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Joerg Siemann as the modified girls’ soccer coach, Willie Sanchez as the boys’ varsity soccer coach, and Kimberly Sullivan and Philip Carducci as assistants for varsity cross-country;

— Voted unanimously to pay Jeffrey Young $4,710 and William Van Alstyne $3,450 from Sept. 14, 2009 to Jan. 15, 2010 to teach a driver-education program;

— Voted unanimously to pay $26,250 to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services for a classroom rental and ancillary services agreements for the coming school year;

— Voted unanimously to award bid contracts to Wesley Staroba of S & S Electric and Crisafulli Brothers for plumbing;

— Voted unanimously to pay $20,610 to Technical Building Services, Inc. for various services from Aug. 17, 2009 to Aug. 16, 2010;

— Heard from the superintendent of buildings and grounds, Michael Goyer, that stone work has been completed at the elementary school; and

— Voted unanimously to accept a $19,200 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to retrofit school buses with diesel oxidation catalysts, which will help to cut down on pollution.  Goyer applied for the grant.

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