CRARYVILLE–At the Taconic Hills Central School District Board of Education monthly meeting last week included several presentations regarding the academic and personal progress of students at the quarter mark of the school year.
School Resource Officer Ian Boehme, a county deputy sheriff and former Titan now in his second year at the school, described his job as multi-faceted and not limited to insuring the safety of students, faculty and staff. He said it also involves teaching (a middle school art class) and generally insuring that kids are going in a “positive direction.”
Deputy Boehme said that the students are warming up to him and seeking him out to discuss issues like sexting, alcohol and prescription drug abuse. He was also a “show and tell” in a pre-K class, which he thought was important to help younger children who have a fear of police.
He reported that he has dealt with 42 incidents so far and that 12 of them were criminal, a category that includes harassment, disorderly conduct and domestic disputes. The other 30 incidents were in-school disruptive behavior. Deputy Boehme stressed that he is not the initial contact in these situations but that administrators refer students to him.
He also noted an increase in the number of students with mental health issues. Director of Pupil Personnel Services Jack Costello echoed that fact in his presentation and added that younger students were increasingly beset by mental health problems and underscored that situation by noting a significant increase in the number of mandatory counseling hours for some students.
Deputy Boehme, Mr. Costello and schools Superintendent Dr. Neil Howard, Jr. mentioned several programs at the school designed to help these students and attributed the success of these programs in part to the campus having all grades from pre-K through high school. One such program is Titan Plus, a buddy type program, pairing older and younger “at risk” students in shared activities like reading.
There is also an Interactive Drug Prevention Program funded by the federal government and the Rip Van Winkle Foundation. The first phase of the program included “Shattering the Myth Game Show” and senior high students reading their own poems. WTEN, Channel 10 aired a segment of the program on a recent 6 p.m. news broadcast. The next phase of the program has just started, with seven selected students in grades 9-to-11 being trained as Youth Ambassadors to develop their own drug prevention event and presenting it to the student body.
Dr. Howard also noted that the Titan Plus program brings former senior high school students with learning disabilities, who had been in the Questar III program. Dr. Howard said that the district can better educate students and help them to progress toward earning credits for graduation. “It is a better investment of taxpayers’ dollars,” he added, “to educate those students here” rather than send them to Questar.
In other business at the November 18 meeting:
- Junior/Senior High School Principal James Buhrmaster reported that parents should receive their children’s report cards over the weekend. Mr. Buhrmaster said he sees “a lot of improvement” and that he is “pleased with where grades are now”
- Director of Instruction and Staff Development Sandra Gardner reported that 40 students have completed their college applications to at least one school. Eight of those students are on early admission track and two of them have already been accepted
- Student Liaison Carlyanne Cicero reported that 50 juniors and seniors will be inducted into the National Honor Society on December 2
- Business Manager Cybil Howard said told the board that 54% of students receive free or discounted school meals; 70% of students’ families receive some sort of federal assistance. The school district will explore shifting to the Community Eligibility Option, which allows all students to receive free or discounted meals. Superintendent Howard said that the Hudson School District participates in the Community Eligibility Option but has not experienced a noticeable increase in the numbers of students benefitting
- School board President Christine Perry did a second reading of new Student Wellness policy and said that the new guidelines were a product of several committee meetings. The new policy focuses on student fundraising activities and the role of food. The policy restricts students’ fundraising activities to times not used for instruction, does not allow parents to contribute food from home if it is to be shared with other students, bans energy drinks from campus and forbids students to take home leftover food from fundraising events on school buses. The board adopted the new policy by unanimous vote
- Ms. Perry closed the public portion of the meeting by reading a letter from a parent, who described herself as the grandmother and custodial parent of three students. She is on a fixed income but is ineligible for the STAR school tax exemption program because her grandchildren are enrolled at Taconic Hills. In the letter she asks that the board consider an exemption for folks like herself, who are charged with raising their grandchildren. In the letter she notes that the Ichabod Crane, Hudson and New Lebanon school districts offer such an exemption.
The board briefly discussed the matter, raising questions about criteria, verification, how many families would be eligible for such an exemption and how existing non-exempt taxpayers would be impacted. Business Manager Cybil Howard said that she would contact the other three school districts to get answers to board members’ questions.