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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 28, 2011

Expert to help GCSD improve scheduling

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — This summer, Elliot Merenbloom, an expert on school schedules, will work with district administrators “to improve the way that we utilize time at all three levels of our schools,” Superintendent Marie Wiles told the school board at its April meeting.

When Wiles, who started as Guilderland’s superintendent in October, presented her $89 million budget proposal in March, she said she was committed to reviewing, before the next budget cycle, the district’s administrative structure, its use of time in scheduling, and building use.

“Will we always need five elementary schools?” she asked, noting that graduating classes number over 400 students while incoming classes are below 300.

“I am pledging to you a commitment to do some real study — soon,” Wiles told the crowd at the March budget presentation. After the meeting, she told The Enterprise she hoped to have the studies underway this spring. On scheduling, she said, “Our structure is very expensive; it requires us to be staff rich.”

 “Form follows function is the idea,” she said, using a phrase coined by American architect Louis Sullivan and popularized by his apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright. “We need to start with what we want to accomplish and design backwards,” said Wiles.

Merenbloom, an educational consultant, will be in Guilderland on July 13 and 14 to work with administrators and then return in the fall, Wiles said, to work with “stakeholders.”

The first focus will be on goals for students, and then on rethinking the time available, she said.

She referred to Merenbloom as “one of the best in the nation.”

He has co-authored with Barbara A. Kalina a book called Making Creative Schedules Work in Middle and High Schools, published in 2006. The workbook focuses on reorganizing around smaller schools or “houses” and structuring longer blocks of learning time.

Farnsworth Middle School currently uses a house system and Guilderland High School has a block schedule with long periods for classes.

In 1991, Merebloom’s book, The Team Process in the Middle School: A Handbook for Teachers, was published.

Other business

In other business at its April 12 meeting, the board:

— Heard from German students who are staying in Guilderland homes for several weeks as part of an exchange program started six years ago by high school teacher Hanna Hickey. “Coming to America was one of my biggest wishes,” said a 17-year-old girl from Germany;

— Heard congratulations from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton for Albert Cartegenes who won the Lori Tansky Award for his large three-dimensional sculpture called “Bird,” made from recycled soda cans;

— Learned that the Farnsworth Middle School team came in third in the state in the Math Counts contest. Bill Dong scored fourth in the state and will compete nationally in May. Out of 224 students, William Wang came in 19th, Alicia Chen came in 37th, and Jeremy Collison came in 94th. Team alternate Michelle Yu also did well;

— Learned that middle- and high-school students won awards at the Regional History Day with first- and second-place winners competing April 29 in the state finals at Cooperstown.

For Junior Individual Website, Sarah Jones (whose topic was the Yalta Conference) took first place; Jeremy Brislin, second (Civil War Diplomacy); Jeremy Collison, third (Treaty of Nanking).

For Junior Group Website, Abigail Bemis and Lindsay Garrant won first place (Home Rule in Ireland).

For Junior Individual Documentary, Sean Quinn won first (Candy Bomber); Ashley Visker, second (Child Labor); and Noah Douglas, third (War Refugee Board).

For Junior Group documentary, Shannon Gerety, Kerry Gerety, and Hayley Kmack won first place (Elvis and Opposition to Rock and Roll).

For Junior Paper, Bill Dong took first (Cuban Missile Crisis); Benjamin Goes, second (Civil War Diplomacy); and Michael Zhu, third (Nixon’s visit to China).

For Junior Individual Exhibit, Sindhu Mateti took first (Bayard Rustin/March on Washington); and Zoe Elwell, second (Presidential Order 9066).

For Senior Paper, Michelle Kang won first (Cuban Missile Crisis); and Zubin Mukerjee, second (Atlantic Charter).

For Senior Group Exhibit, Abigail Schnoor and Joy Jing won first (Chinese Exclusion Act).

For Senior Individual Performance, Cody Ingraham took first (Ben Franklin Diplomacy).

Also, Michael Zhu and Ashley Visker won the Best Use of Primary Sources Award for their research, donated by the New York State Archives Partnership Trust; each will receive a savings bond;

—         Heard from Wiles that Farnsworth was designated a “Rising School to Watch” by the State Education Department, which she said meant it was on the way to being a top-level school. After a March visit by a Schools to Watch team, recommendations were made “to be even better,” said Wiles;

— Received policies to review on board, school, and budget committees; on attendance; and on purchasing;

— Approved agreements for emergencies under which Guilderland would provide shelter for Schoharie, Voorheesville, and Mohonasen students as well as for residents of Fountain View in Guilderland. In turn, Voorheesville and Mohonasen would provide emergency shelter for Guilderland students;

—Approved Benetech, Inc. to act as the third party administrator for tax sheltered annuities for the 2011-12 school year for an estimated fee of $11,000. Assistant superintendent for business Neil Sanders said Benetech was “very responsive and up on regulations”; and

— Met in executive session to discuss negotiations with these units — Guilderland Employees’ Association, Non-Instructional Supervisors/Other Management Personnel, Guilderland District Office Confidential Personnel, Guilderland Teachers’ Association, and Guilderland Principals’ Association.

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