KINDERHOOK — The Ichabod Crane Central School District is planning to look closer at closing one or both of the elementary schools, with the school board approving a motion at last week’s board meeting that authorizes interim Superintendent Lee Bordick to commence a planning process for closing the schools.
The board is also composing a letter to state legislators about the governor’s proposed cuts to state aid for schools, unfunded mandates and other issues facing the district. Board members decided at their Thursday, February 3 meeting to address these matters in a formal letter, and Mr. Bordick said the letter will be posted on the district’s website, www.ichabodcrane.org.
The board normally meets on Tuesdays but due to snow they moved the meeting Thursday. The next two Tuesdays the board will conduct budget forums. The high school auditorium was packed for last two forums January 11 and January 25. The first session dealt with closing the elementary schools and the January 25 gathering concerned likely cuts to the arts, technology, physical education and foreign language programs.
A forum was scheduled February 8 to address extracurricular actives, including sports. On February 15 the board will discuss transportation. The March meetings will most likely be discussions on the whole budget, since the district officials will have to have an idea by then of what they will present to the voters at the budget vote in May. The board must adopt its proposed school district budget in April; districts statewide will hold their annual budget vote Tuesday, May 17. A full schedule of upcoming meetings is on the district website.
The district is also currently searching for a superintendent. A search committee of 15 people, including staff members, administrators, parents and community members recently received training from Questar III representatives. Questar III/BOCES has been given a contract by the district to conduct the search. The committee will interview candidates February 14, 16 and 17. Then it will propose the final candidates for the full board to interview.
Meanwhile the interim superintendent has had to deal with snow days. “We’re all pretty tired getting up at 4 a.m. to sort things out,” Mr. Bordick said last week. The district has used up its five allotted snow days and will now have to start talking days off of spring vacation. Mr. Bordick said the district may be able to convert some staff-only days to regular school days so as to not affect student vacation time.
On the question of state aid, the superintendent said the district has tried through its forums to be transparent about budget issues, particularly because, without the previously available federal economic stimulus funds and now, with proposed cuts in aid from the state, the district faces a $3 million deficit. Mr. Bordick said the news from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget was worse than district officials expected, with the district now looking at a $1.8-million cut in state aid on top of the $3 million.
“We still have a lot of work to do but that’s what it looks like on paper,” he told the board. Mr. Bordick said the cuts in aid will have a tremendous impact all education in the state.
He told the board he would present the latest numbers at the upcoming budget forums. The board also plans to discuss possible uses for the elementary school buildings that might produce revenue for the district. Now that board has approved the planning process, Mr. Bordick said he could have formal conversations with interested organizations. Board member John Phillips said the board has had informal talks with Questar III, the Villages of Valatie and Kinderhook, and the Town of Kinderhook about leasing the buildings.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in the middle school library. The budget forums are also held at 7 p.m. but in the high school auditorium.