Chatham’s math means 1 less school

CHATHAM – Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo told the school board this week that a letter has gone out to parents of elementary school students about a proposal to move the 5th grade out of the middle school on Woodbridge Avenue and into the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School on the main campus. No decision has been made yet on whether or not the district will do this but school officials are holding a meeting for parents this Thursday to get feedback and answer questions.

At the Tuesday, November 29 meeting the board also agreed with Ms. Nuciforo’s recommendation to replace the district’s one assistant principal from within for the remainder of this school year. Current Assistant Principal Karen Bechdol resigned earlier this month to take a position in the Albany School District. Ms. Bechdol was serving as assistant principal in both the middle and high schools.

Ms. Nuciforo said there was much regret expressed at the last board meeting over Ms. Bechdol’s resignation. She was hired in 2010 to serve in the high school until the retirement of the middle school assistant principal in 2011, when she became an administrator in both buildings, saving the district money for administrative salaries.

The board authorized Ms. Nuciforo to post the opening for high school assistant principal in the district and also to search for a dean of students for the middle school. She said after talking to the principals in both buildings and looking at lower enrollment numbers in one school compared to the other, she thought this arrangement would work.

She suggested the board not look for candidates outside the district, since the district may be looking again at changing administrative structures in the 2012-13 budget. “We may have a better way to do things administratively next year,” she told the board. Moving the 5th grade to the elementary school is one way administrative tasks might change in the district. Ms. Nuciforo said she has already met with 5th grade teachers and scheduled a forum for parents on December 1 at 6:30p.m. in the MED Elementary School cafeteria.

The superintendent said she is collecting data to present to the board in January about the move. She said so far the feedback she’s gotten from the community has been positive and will take information from the forum to help “inform that decision.”

Also this week the board also heard from students in two different unofficial clubs who hope the board will grant their groups official status. Cole Gleason talked about the Community Service Club he started to get students more involved in volunteering. He said he and follow students have volunteered at local food banks, blood drives, hurricane cleanup and other local charity events. “I think making the club official would just make the school better,” he told the board.

Cole’s club also organized a dance with the Anti-Bullying Club and the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) just before Thanksgiving, raising money for holiday dinners for local families.

The GSA was also represented at the meeting, with supporters asking the board to recognize the group as an official club. Students involved in the group talked about having a safe place for students to go who may feel different. Teacher advisor Patricia Songayllo said she started the club after a gay student talked about being bullied at Chatham High School. She said a theme of the club was that “difference can be celebrated not just tolerated.”

The board did not make any decisions on the clubs at this meeting, but Ms. Nuciforo commended all the students for getting involved with their school community. “I am impressed and proud,” she said.

The next board meeting Tuesday December 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school library.

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