KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education appointed Michael Vanyo superintendent of schools at this week’s board meeting. He begins work in July.
The board held a meet-and-greet with Mr. Vanyo before the meeting Tuesday, March 7 in the High School Library. He toured the school district buildings with Board President Anthony Welcome and Vice President Cheryl Trefzger earlier in the day.
After the official introduction Mr. Vanyo then remained for the board meeting, which included discussions of some major issues facing the district, including a recent facilities study, a 2017-18 school budget update and comments from the audience about how some Latino students and families are being treated since November’s presidential election.
“I’m thrilled to come to Ichabod Crane,” Mr. Vanyo told the board and the packed house at the meeting. He has been the superintendent at the Gloversville school district since 2012 and spent five years as the superintendent of the Liberty district in Sullivan County.
Board member Matthew Nelson called Mr. Vanyo a “stellar selection” and commented on the thorough search process the board went through to find a new top administrator after current Superintendent George Zini said he would be leaving the position at the end of the year. The board used BOCES/Questar III to help with the search.
Board member Michael Stead said that the group of residents, employees and teachers who also interviewed the final candidates was very helpful to the process. “Their feedback was taken really seriously,” he said.
The board then discussed the facilities study, requested by the board, that considers moving the 3rd grade from the Primary School to the Elementary/Middle School building and making space for a Pre-K classroom in the Primary School.
“We are not ready to take a vote,” Mr. Zini told the board. He said he just wanted board members to see the study. He told the board that moving forward with the suggestions in the study was a conversation that would mostly start again in the fall and would be something to discuss during the next school year.
To move one grade from the Primary School to the Middle School building would cost about a $6 million for upgrades, according to the study. Some of that cost would be eligible for state aid. Mr. Zini said there would also be recurring costs for more administration and a custodial worker if the board expands the school. But he said that the district is about the pay off a large portion of debt in 2020 and could move forward with the project without taking on higher debt payments.
“We have a plan that would work,” he said of the study.
“I am far from convinced,” said board member Regina Rose. Other board members had concerns about making such a large investment a building that already needs upgrades.
On the budget for the upcoming school year, Mr. Zini said that right now the district has surplus funds. But he told board that the incoming kindergarten class is larger than it has been for the last few years, at 144 students compared to about 116 this year, so he would recommend using the surplus to add another kindergarten class.
There will be more budget meetings and budget hearing in the coming months. The board votes on the proposed budget on May 2 and the annual vote is held May 16.
At the beginning of the meeting Linda Ziskind spoke during public comment, saying she was speaking for a district student who had been teased about her immigration status and had kids call out comments like “build a wall.”
Mr. Zini said that he had received an email about the issue from Ms. Ziskind in November and “did a thorough investigation.”
Elaine Khosrova also spoke at the meeting, reading from comments written by two students and a parent in the district about the teasing they have received from students since the election and their fears and concerns.
Mr. Zini and Ms. Ziskind also talked about a meeting the administrators hosted for the Spanish speaking parents in the district, organized by the district’s English Language Development chair. Ms. Ziskind praised the district for having the meeting but didn’t think it reached enough families. “The parents are terrified and they are not going to come in,” she said.
Ms. Zini said that at that meeting he and the other administrators reassured the parents, saying in reference to the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement police that “ICE is not coming here to our school.”
He also said that the teachers do take student complaints about intolerance seriously. To her concerns, Mr. Zini said to Ms. Ziskind, “We do teach tolerance…. Could we do a better job in our community and world? No doubt.”
Also at the meeting the board:
• Approved the retirements of Mary Frances Faso, Christianne Schertel and Charles Daniel Schoonover
• Appointed Doug Kelley interim high school assistant principal. Mr. Kelley is covering for current Assistant Principal Daniel Farley while he teaches Earth Science for rest of school year; the Earth Science teacher is on a leave of absence
• After a closed door session, appointed Head Bus Driver Dan Doyle to the probationary position of transportation supervisor.
The next board meeting is Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email