Here is what Altamont Elementary means to the people who live here

To the Editor:

Altamont has been my home for the past 30 years, and is now the place I plan on raising my son. Superintendent Marie Wiles recently felt it necessary to use her “power” to hire a generously paid consultant to make suggestions to address the fiscal concerns in the Guilderland School District.

What the consultant did was punch the numbers and recommended, for the most part, that the way to save some money was to close Altamont Elementary.  Clearly, a recommendation that did not take into account the community that the school serves, it only looked at a singular financial piece.

So Superintendent Wiles, here is what Altamont Elementary means to the people who live here. It is the center of the community. It is a place where many of the residents went to school, sent their children to school, and their grandchildren to school. It is a place where children created their lifelong friendships, where children walked to school, became part of community, felt safe and were able to truly learn.

Altamont Elementary was my school for six years. It was a place where I met my best friends who still remain my best friends today. It was a place where having a disability was embraced, and I was empowered to do something with it.

It is where I met my husband, and was the reason we were married in Altamont. We truly embraced our humble beginnings at Altamont Elementary.

Superintendent Wiles makes reference to Altamont Elementary holding lemonade stands in the park, and seemingly mockingly asserts that is no reason to keep a school open. It would seem as an educator and superintendent of the school district, she would have done her research and known that the lemonade stand she refers to was for the nationally recognized “Alex’s Lemonade Stand” to battle childhood cancer.

The lemonade stand was used to teach students some important life lessons and give back to a worthy cause; as an educator, you would think she would want to embrace those behaviors rather than ridicule them publicly in front of a district-wide meeting. It is clear she is not very involved in what her schools are doing for the communities in which they are located, or maybe just does not care. 

I would ask Superintendent Wiles if she is aware that the Altamont Elementary Parent-Teacher Association puts on a garage sale each year that brings together over a hundred homes, businesses, and families to raise money for the school. This is a successful village-wide garage sale that has gone on for over 20 years and continues to grow — an event that is well known through the area and counted on each year.  It is one of many events the very active Altamont PTA holds to raise a significant amount of funding for programs that better the students it serves.

What is interesting when looking at the numbers presented is that Lynnwood Elementary comes in a close second to Altamont in terms of cost vs. capacity. Lynnwood Elementary was not considered in most of the options.

Not surprisingly, reportedly, Superintendent Wiles’s child attends Lynnwood. It would be interesting to see what serious consideration is given to that option. In the end, it may be that closing any of the schools in the district is not really an appropriate option to address the district fiscal concerns as each school offers a number of intangibles to their students and community.

So I would encourage the school board members and Superintendent Wiles to reconsider your options. You could effectively destroy a community. I encourage you to take the drive to Altamont and spend some time getting to know the people who live there, and have supported the district over the years.

Come and see all that Altamont Elementary has brought to its community. Talk to the generations of people who have had their lives bettered by having Altamont Elementary in their community.  I know there are hundreds more like me who would not be where they are today without that school.

Abigail Mason


Editor’s note: Responding to the interpretation of the metaphor Marie Wiles used at the meeting with Paul Seversky, Wiles said, “Last year, my entire speech to the graduating class was about Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a fantastic example of hope for the future.” Wiles said her recent reference “represented all of the activity that happens in a small community.”

In response to the comment Abigail Mason made about her son, Wiles said, “I’m confident the board will do what’s in the best interest of the district, and my son will be served well wherever that may be.”

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