ICC mulls what to do with vacant board seat

KINDERHOOK–Ichabod Crane school board member Dan Cohn announced at the August 20 meeting that he was resigning from the board at the conclusion of the meeting. His term will not end until June 2020, so the board discussed whether to appoint a new board member for the next 10 months or function with eight members.

The board could also decide to hold a special election to fill the seat.

Mr. Cohn said because of the demands of his job he could not find the time to attend all the extra meetings needed as the board searches for a new superintendent and starts a major capital improvement project in the district.

“Your departure will be a loss to us,” said Board President Matthew Nelson. Mr. Cohn was appointed to the board in 2016 to replace a board member who had resigned and was elected to a full term in 2017.

The board has appointed new members several times in the past, but board Vice President John Antalek pointed out that the board has also left a seat open before. The board left a seat open in 2012 after a board member resigned a year before the term was up.

“We can function with eight,” Mr. Antalek said. Other board members agreed that they would be comfortable working with only eight members.

Board member Susan Ramos suggested reaching out to a candidate who ran for the school board in May. There were eight candidates for three open seats in this year’s school board elections. Two incumbents won their seats and Elizabeth Phillips, as the third highest vote getter, won the seat held by then incumbent Anthony Welcome. Mr. Welcome came in fourth.

The board discussed reaching out to Mr. Welcome to see if he would return to the board to finish out Mr. Cohn’s term. Several board members felt that would be the best way to go since Mr. Welcome is familiar with both the capital project and the superintendent search. Mr. Welcome left the board in June. If appointed, he would serve until May 2020. Three board members were absent from the August 20 meeting–Ms. Phillips, Regina Rose and Jessica Berner.

As for the superintendent search, Mr. Nelson said the board had come to a consensus, after talking to Western NY Educational Services Council, the company the board hired for the search, that the district would conduct a closed search rather then an open one. Mr. Nelson said he sees the closed search more as a confidential search and that the public would still have input. But he said that input from “stakeholders” would come at the beginning of the process rather then throughout the process.

Ms. Ramos and board member Tammy Crawford both said they supported a closed search since it would bring candidates the consultants could reach out to confidentially. Ms. Crawford said this process would lead to “not only more candidates but better candidates.”

Board member Jeffrey Ouellette said that having a closed search process “has been the trend” in other district’s searches. He said it “opens up a higher level of candidates.”

Mr. Antalek also talked about the pool of candidates being bigger during a closed search. And he said that in the end, the board will make the decision on whom to hire. “We own it,” he said of the decision on a final choice.

Mr. Nelson said the consultants plan to met with administration and staff in September and there will be an open community forum September 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. There is also a survey residents and staff can take on the district’s website at www.ichabodcrane.org.

The board hopes to hire a new superintendent in December. Currently, Lee Bordick is serving as interim-superintendent.

The board is also getting ready for a major construction project to start in all three school buildings and on the campus. Work will start in early September on a road connecting the middle and primary school buildings. Mr. Bordick said administrators will be meeting with Turner Construction, the firm managing the work, about plans for the upcoming projects to upgrade several spaces in the high school and middle school buildings.

He said there will be “a lot of work ahead of us” to make sure the construction is the least disruptive to the staff and students. The work inside the buildings is not expected to start until the summer of 2020 and run through 2022.

The board plans to hold meetings in each building this fall and winter so they can tour the buildings and get an idea of the scope of work. Their October 8 board meeting will be in the middle school cafeteria with a tour of the building before the 7 p.m. meeting. The November meeting will be at the primary school.

Also at the meeting:

• The board hired Todd DiGrigoli as a media specialist for the district at a stipend of $4,000 a year. Mr. DiGrigoli is also the head of the district’s food services. Mr. Bordick said that the district will still use Questar III/BOCES services for the website and publicity but that the board decided while budgeting to cut one day of the Questar services so they could have a specialist in-house
The board approved school taxes be collected beginning September 3 and ending on November 1. The district approved raising $24,001,998 in school taxes for the 2019-20 school budget. At the meeting the board also fixed the delinquent tax penalties at a 2% penalty
The board heard an academic update from administrators. They talked about intervention programs for the incoming 8th graders, and in the high school they hope to reach the 95% graduation rate. Mr. Bordick praised the staff, saying they are responding to the issues with student achievement and “the results are excellent.”

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, September 10 in the high school library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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