KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane School Board held its organizational meeting Tuesday, July 9. Matthew Nelson was again elected board president and John Antalek was elected vice-president. New board member Elizabeth Phillips was sworn in.
The board also heard good news about the capital improvement projects now getting started. For the most part the board officer appointments were routine with one exception – a concern raised about partisan activity in the non-partisan school election.
Also sworn in at the meeting was Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick. Mr. Bordick started in the district on July 1 after the board accepted the resignation of former Superintendent Michael Vanyo at a special meeting on June 28. Mr. Bordick served as interim superintendent in the district before from 2010 to 2012.
Mr. Vanyo had been out of the district since last April and the board appointed Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow acting superintendent. With Mr. Bordick’s appointment, Ms. Guntlow has returned to her position as assistant superintendent.
The board voted unanimously for Mr. Antalek to serve as board vice-president.
Jeffrey Ouellette was the only board member to vote against Mr. Nelson as president.
Both men were the only board members nominated for their positions.
Mr. Ouellette said that since Mr. Nelson serves as school board president and the chair of the Town of Kinderhook Democratic Committee he has “introduced politics” into the school board. Mr. Ouellette said that during the board elections in May, in which both Mr. Nelson and Mr. Ouellette ran for reelection, the Town of Kinderhook Democrats Facebook page reported misinformation about him and his family.
“I did graduate from the district,” Mr. Ouellette said refuting the information on the Facebook page (which has since been taken down) and he said that his daughter attended the school district until 8th grade and she did attend a private school for high school but that that is a “personal decision.”
Board member Regina Rose said she was also concerned about the Democrats re-posting information from the school district on their Facebook page and website.
Board member Tammy Crawford defended that action saying, “If we (the district) posted it on our website, on Facebook, it’s fair game.”
Mr. Nelson stressed that he does not having anything to do with the messaging on the Democratic Committee’s social media.
“That’s not a role I play,” he said. He said of information about district events on the website or Facebook page, the committee is just re-posting what the district has posted.
After the organizational meeting, the board held the regular July meeting, which included a discussion about the search for a new superintendent. Mr. Bordick’s contract with the district runs until December. A board subcommittee met with a community group chosen by the board and made up of residents, parents, teachers and administrators, to discuss what they should be looking for in a new district leader. The board also put out a request for proposal for a consultant to help with the search. The committee plans to interview consultants in the coming weeks before deciding whether they should go with an outside firm or use Questar III/BOCES for their search.
Ms. Rose stressed that the board members have not made up their minds yet about how to conduct the search. Mr. Bordick said a consultant would cost “ball park around” $10,000 to $15,000. Mr. Nelson said the board would get information on the website about the search.
The board is still hoping to appoint a new superintendent in January.
The board also heard a report from CSArch and Tuner Construction about work on the connector road between the middle school and primary school buildings and roof work on the high school. Construction bids for the work have come in and were reviewed. The district will spend about $200,000 less than they budgeted for what CSArch is calling phase 1 of a major capital improvement project approved by voters last year.
The road and roof work was pulled out of the larger $27-million project so that it could go to the state Education Department (SED) for review earlier than the rest of the project. Part of the savings came when they discovered that the roof over the high school auditorium was still under warranty and could be fixed separately from the capital project. Melissa Renkawitz, from CSArch, who attended the meeting, said that the leaks have been fixed.
The board approved spending $455,770 for the road plus $22,200 for striping the parking lot at the primary school, and the voted to approve spending $95,523 for the roof on the 100 and 200 wings of the high school.
Officials hope the work will be completed by late October or early November.
There will be an overview of the project at the board’s July 29 meeting. One thing Ms. Renkawitz also said is that wait times at the SED for approval on projects have dramatically changed. She said plans used to be submitted to the state and the districts would wait 40 weeks for approval. Now projects are being approved in as little as a few weeks.
Phase 2, which includes upgrades to the middle school gym, 4th and 5th grade classrooms, entry ways in all the buildings, and changes to the technology, math, science and art classrooms in the high school, is still in the design phase. Ms. Renkawitz said that board members should have received final schematic designs.
Larry Tune, from Turner Construction, talked about the construction fencing and temporary walls while work is going on. He used the term “phase occupied construction,” which may be starting sooner than the district planned with the new approval schedule from SED.
Of the construction and the project, Mr. Bordick said, “It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to difficult.”
The board plans to post updates on the project on the website.
The next board meeting will be on Monday, July 29 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email