TH board hears of pre-K students’ progress

CRARYVILLE–At last week’s monthly meeting, the Taconic Hills Central School District Board of Education was presented with a report on the progress made this year in the school’s pre-K, given updates regarding negotiations with the district’s Support Staff Association (TFSSA), and heard concerns from those opposed to the idea of rescheduling the senior class trip.

Elementary School Principal John Gulisane and pre-K teacher Judy Webb made the presentation on the Universal Pre-K program (UPK). Mr. Gulisane said more is expected of Kindergarten students than ever before, so what pre-K can offer children is of great importance.

“It’s not the Kindergarten class you may have attended years ago,” said Mr. Gulisane. “The bar has been raised, and continues to be raised.”

The Taconic Hills pre-K program, now in its 5th year, has up to four classes. This fall it will have 72 students.

Ms. Webb said the program looks at the common core expectations of Kindergarteners so teachers know what skills pre-K students should learn: the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, social skills and more to prepare them for Kindergarten. Ms. Webb said that of the 71 students in pre-K this year, 25 kids could not recite the first six letters of the alphabet in the beginning of the school year; now 69 students are able to sing the full alphabet. In the fall only 23 were able to identify the eight basic shapes; now 62 can. Forty children could identify the primary colors at the beginning of the program; now all 71 students are able to accomplish that task.

“It’s very clear that the indicators are that pre-K makes a difference in kids’ lives, not just through high school, but beyond,” said Mr. Gulisane.
Superintendent Dr. Neil Howard said it’s inspiring to observe the pre-K classes. “These children, which are our future, are going to be great,” said Dr. Howard.

Cliff Campbell, board member and chair of TFSSA negotiations committee, updated the board on negotiations with the support staff bargaining unit. While negotiations had previously looked promising, said Mr. Campbell, things seem to have taken a step back. “We had a disappointing meeting last week in our negotiations,” said Mr. Campbell. “I thought we were very close.”
Joe Argus, president of the TFSSA, echoed Mr. Campbell’s disappointment during public forum.

“As shocked as you guys were, so were we,” said Mr. Argus. “I personally felt things that were previously discussed and agreed upon were thrown in the recycling bin and we’re starting all over again.”

Board President Kevin Maisenbacher said the relationship between the two sides has improved over the course of the year and he hoped the setback was just “a bump in the road.”

Also at the June 19 board meeting the board:
•Heard from those opposed to changing the date of the annual senior class trip.
Mr. Maisenbacher assured them that the trip is not being cancelled. “We are simply looking into alternative days for it,” he said.
While the trip to Washington, D.C., is traditionally at the end of the school year in June, rescheduling the trip to the spring break is being discussed. A mother of one senior asked the board not to consider the change, saying that it’s not such a big deal if students miss a couple days in June of their senior year.
Mr. Campbell read a letter written to the board by his brother, who said that having the trip during the spring break mean traveling at a crowded time when access to some of the sites is limited. Also, spring athletes might have to miss the trip due to team commitments.
Alyssa Van Alphen, a 2010 graduate, said she believes the trip should remain as it is. “After all these years, this is a good way to say goodbye,” she said.
Others said that one of the reasons many seniors attend school late in the school year is to remain eligible for the trip.
“If you take the carrot out from in front of them,” said science teacher Matt Fuller, “you may see attendance drop.”
•Heard a presentation by physical education teacher Colleen Romero on the 3rd Annual Family Track Meet held June 6. Ms. Romero said the event was funded by a grant, and intended to bring focus to kids being physically active with their families.
“It was a beautiful day, lots of smiles,” she said. About 100 people, including 80 children, attended.
•Heard Al Wassenhove, chair of the “Save Pine Haven” Phase II Committee ask the board to support his efforts to turn the existing Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center into a new veterans’ care facility. The county Board of Supervisors recently approved spending up to $1.2 million for architect fees to design a new nursing facility near the current one. Mr. Wassenhove said that if a new Veterans Care and Wellness Center is established in the older building, it “will become the economic engine that will revive Philmont.”
He asked the board to “stand with us in the pursuit of this endeavor,” adding, “I know as individuals each of you feel as strongly as I do about helping our veterans of every generation.”
•Accepted the resignation of teaching assistant Carole Robbins due to retirement
•Appointed Erin Russo coordinator and part-time accountant clerk of the self-funded Taconic Hills Before and After School Activity Program
•Established the position of Online Distance Learning Content Coordinator
•Appointed Barbara Flouton special education transition coordinator effective July 1 2013 through June 30 2014.

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