One taxpayer doesn’t fancy GCSD capital project

GERMANTOWN—The Board of Education continued discussion of the proposed $11.3 million capital project at its February 11 meeting.

Speaking from the audience, Germantown Central School District resident John Myers said that he had attended the February 10 information meeting, hosted at the school by the Community Facilities Committee, the volunteer committee that studied the school’s building needs and advised the board.

Mr. Myers was disappointed that no handouts were available for attendees to study at home and that facts went up on a screen too quickly for him to take notes and formulate questions. He also complained of the short notice for the meeting. Nevertheless, he reported about 20 people in attendance (about twice as many as at the board meeting), at a time that conflicted with an important basketball game for the Lady Clippers.

Mr. Myers said he supported building upkeep and safety, “but the rest of it is just fanciness that we don’t need, and have no use for.” As “the rest of it” Mr. Myers specifically mentioned the $6.2-million auditorium that is part of the proposal, saying, “We don’t need an auditorium.” As further evidence of “fanciness” Mr. Myers mentioned the gift of laptop computers to all students, which, he said, was “a waste of money.”

With the bond from the previous capital project still being paid off, “you’re trying to beat it into the taxpayer,” said Mr. Myers. “The public I talk to doesn’t want” the capital project, he said, and he “encouraged” the board to change the proposal and put each of the 28 items in it before the voters individually, not as a package.

The next Community Facilities Committee information meeting is Tuesday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafetorium, 123 Main Street.

The board agreed with Mr. Myers that there should be handouts at that meeting. Further, said Superintendent Susan Brown, the school is putting together a mailer with information and responses to frequently asked questions that will go out to district residents for receipt prior to March 3.

In addition, said Ms. Brown, district residents can email questions to . Acknowledging that Mr. Myers does not use a computer, she said residents can call the school, at 518 537-2681.

The vote on the capital project is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10, from noon to 9 p.m. in the school lobby. District residents who are enrolled voters are eligible to vote on the project.

Board member Brittany DuFresne reminded Mr. Myers that the capital project was developed from a report that the Community Facilities Committee, consisting of a variety of school district stakeholders, made to the school board in October 2014. The Committee had been working together, without board input, since February 2014. The board winnowed down the committee’s wish list, said Ms. DuFresne.

“You didn’t remove enough,” said Mr. Myers.

“A majority of us came to this consensus,” said Ms. DuFresne, adding that the capital project proposal cannot be changed at this point, and individual items in it could not be presented piecemeal to the voters in any case. “We made the decision based on information from the community committee,” she said.

All board discussions took place and decisions made regarding the capital project were done in public meetings, said board vice-president Tammi Kallenbenz, who chaired the meeting the absence of board president Ronald Moore. “We are not holding or keeping secrets,” she said.

In other business at the February 11 meeting:

  • A Budget Process Overview PowerPoint presentation from Superintendent Brown began the 2015-16 budget process. No numbers were discussed. The presentation can be found on the school’s website, germantowncsd.org, under “District / Budget-Finance.” The first budget workshop is Wednesday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the school, 123 Main Street
  • Three Germantown students attend Tech Valley High School in Albany, and while transporting them there is expensive, this is “an outstanding opportunity” for the students, Ms. Brown said. This year the Taconic Hills, Hudson and Germantown school districts transport their Tech Valley High students together, sharing the cost, and talk continues among local school superintendents as to how to share this responsibility and cost
  • A supplemental memorandum of agreement regarding the district’s pre-kindergarten program with the Germantown Teachers Association was unanimously approved by the board. Ms. Brown explained that she had learned only in January from the state Education Department that the required number of pre-kindergarten days must be completed by June 30. Since Germantown did not get state approval to start its new pre-k until September, the district looks to be short seven days.

The state recommends that the program be run during vacations and holidays to make up the time, so Germantown’s program continues during the winter vacation, February 17 through 20, and for three days in April. This means two teachers, two teachers’ aides and cafeteria staff (with food) are at work while everyone else is on vacation. All of this is paid for by the state grant that funds the program. There are 33 children in the program, and all were expected to attend this week

  • The district has now used all of its official snow days but Ms. Brown said, “We have a couple of days we can play with.” Board member Donald Coons’ suggestion that students take their laptops home and do schoolwork on snow days, was greeted with rolled eyes from board members with school-aged children. In fact, only 7th- to 12th-graders are allowed to take the laptops home, said Ms Brown

Ms. Brown told the board that state policy requires all students to be vaccinated against measles; medical exceptions are “very rare” and must be updated annually

  • Contract negotiations have begun with the Germantown Teachers Association.

After a 22-minute executive session “to discuss the employment history of a particular individual,” the board returned to public session to authorize the superintendent to execute a Stipulation of Settlement between the district and Employee No. 21115.

All board members attended except Mr. Moore and Ralph DelPozzo. The next regular board meeting is Wednesday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.

 

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