Budget cutbacks cause gripes

VOORHEESVILLE — Monday evening, the Voorheesville School Board had a full plate as it announced tenures and retirements, heard from parents concerned about elementary school class sizes, and listened to high school students who want to keep the foods course active.

The board and attending public also saw a demonstration of a class project created by students in Joseph Iannotti’s eighth-grade physical science class. The project was a downsized version of a Rube Goldberg machine — a contraption in which simple machines such as levers and pulleys are combined together in complicated ways to perform a simple task.

The task of this group of three students was to get a fan to whirr off the bottom of the cart on which they assembled their machine. As parents held up phones to record the project, and board members stood leaning forward to get a better view, energy was transferred through the various stages of the machine, and it was a success.

Budget repercussions

Two female students raised their concerns about the high-school foods elective being eliminated, and told the board their feelings about the importance of learning about healthy food, cooking, and portion sizes.

No matter what students go on to do for careers, they will need to learn how to cook for themselves, one of them said.

The board noted the class had low enrollment and suggested perhaps alternating years such electives are offered would be a good way to solve the problem.

Speaking with The Enterprise this week, Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said that this is a solution the board is actively looking into.

Regarding students speaking in front of the board, Thayer Snyder also said, “I wish it happened more often,” noting that it is rare, and especially so once the budget season has passed.

Five different community members and parents spoke to the board about class sizes in the elementary school, specifically the third grade.

Heidi Arnell asked what the plan for managing the classes is, noting the difficulty that comes with larger numbers of kids in one class. The third grade is set to be around 25 or 26 children per section, with a total of four sections.

Timothy Reardon, principal of Voorheesville Elementary School, replied, with his always-positive attitude, that the classes will not only have teachers, but teachers’ aids, teaching assistants, and special education teaching assistants to work with the students throughout the day.

“It’s a heavily staffed section,” Thayer Snyder said of the incoming third-grade class.

Reardon also noted that the incoming second-grade class had 24 students per section, which has gone well so far.

Thayer Snyder said on Tuesday that larger section sizes are not uncommon in Voorheesville’s history. Ten or 15 years ago, in what Thayer Snyder called the “good ol’ days,” there were 27 or 28 students in a section, and they were given the additional support of teachers’ aids and assistants as will next years’ larger classes.

Retirement and tenure

After two decades of working for Voorheesville, Dorothea Pfleiderer is retiring from her position as confidential secretary to the superintendent and clerk to the board of education.

Her retirement is effective Jan. 2, 2015, and she has no plans for retirement yet.

When asked her favorite part of her job, she replied, “I’m sure it’s the people I’m working with.”

Also, Grace Whatley, senior keyboard specialist at Voorheesville, is retiring on Nov. 24, after 27 years with the district.

Seven faculty and administration members in Voorheesville were granted tenure at Monday’s meeting:

- James Franchini as middle-school principal;

- Karen Cusato in mathematics;

- Jamie Gray in English;

- Andrew Karins in physical education;

- Anne Rappoccio as library media specialist;

- Emily Vachula in elementary education; and,

- Matthew MacArevey as teaching assistant.

Other business

In other business, the board:

- Approved the expenditure of the reserve fund to repair an exterior door and several interior fire doors in the middle and high school. The costs are not to exceed $99,800;

- Accepted donations and gifts, including a 2007 John Deere riding lawnmower donated by Thayer Snyder;

- Appointed summer bus drivers for programs including the Heldeberg Workshop, Camp Colonie, and Wildwood Camp;

- Voted on a measure to reduce or abolish positions as required by the budget for economic reasons, which include four full-time-equivalents and reducing a clerical position from 12 months to 11; and

- Accepted four resignations.

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