Chatham students will rebuild vandalized longhouse

CHATHAM – At this week’s Board of Education meeting at the Chatham schools Superintendent Salvatore DeAngelo told the board about a recent case of vandalism at the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School (MED). Over the weekend of October 14-15, vandals toppled and destroyed a longhouse behind the school. The longhouse was built by 4th grade students over the past three years.

The longhouse was constructed with materials collected from members of the community. In addition to the destruction of the longhouse, MED Principal Kristen Reno mentioned there had also been some writing on the MED building.

“We’re going to rebuild the longhouse, and bring the community together for it,” Ms. Reno told the board at the October 24 meeting.

The Chatham Education Foundation funded the Flying Deer Nature Center to guide the longhouse construction. Judy Staber, president of the foundation, called The Columbia Paper October 25 to say the non-profit group was “devastated” by the vandalism. She confirmed that the foundation plans to see that the longhouse is rebuilt.

In other school district news, the board approved the efforts of High School teachers Jake Luttinger and Elizabeth Conley to go forward with planned international trips for their respective French and Spanish students. Mr. Luttinger proposed a trip to Montreal over April break as a chance for his French students to practice the language, and Ms. Conley’s proposed trip will be in Costa Rica around the same time.

The cost of these trips will be paid for by the students and their families. Board member David O’Connor brought up the point that with many students eligible free and reduced-lunch participants, some may not be able to afford the costs of the trips.

Mr. Luttinger hoped that if that was the case, the students might be able to fundraise for their expenses.

In a report given by Barbara Murray, the Food Service supervisor for the school district, participation in the breakfast program has been on the rise this school year. In the middle and high schools, there are about 15-20 more students participating in the program, and the elementary school has 118 students participating, which is up from 85 last year. Ms. Murray added that there has been no increase in the number of students participating in free and reduced lunches.

And finally, last month, two local residents were sworn in as new school board members. Thomas Luzzi and Sarah Mellin were selected from candidates to fill the positions left vacant in July due to the resignations of Dawn-Marie Blasl and Melony Spock.

The new board members will serve 8-month terms that run until May 15, 2018, at which point both seats—as well as three other board seats—will be filled by the annual scholl district election.

The next School Board meeting will take place on November 14 in the High School Library at 6 p.m.

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