KINDERHOOK–Ichabod Crane Business Manager Michael Brennan reported to the Board of Education that the district’s 2020-21 budget vote will take place on June 9 with ballots cast by mail.
The board met Tuesday, May 5, using the Zoom internet platform due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The district announced last week that its buildings and facilities will remain closed through the end of the school year following an executive order issued by Governor Cuomo. The buildings have been closed since March 17. ICC Superintendent Jason Thomson reported during the meeting that plans for summer school are still up in the air. Teachers have been using remote learning to continue classes but Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said there will not be final exams. Statewide Regents exams were canceled in March. Ms. Guntlow said the current plan is for the grades given during this last quarter of the year, when classes were all conducted online, would not “negatively impact the students.”
Mr. Thomson praised the teachers at the meeting, saying, “Our teachers have been… beyond amazing.” He did say he is working on when the last day of school will be. Currently school was scheduled to end in late June but the district held classes during what was going to be spring break so that might change the timeline.
There was also some discussion about graduation plans. Board of Education student representative Anna O’Shea said that the senior class would like to do an in-person ceremony but they also understand the issue of safety. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do that in a way that’s safe for everyone,” she said during the meeting.
High School Principal Craig Shull said he had met with Anna and other students and would be meeting with parents about a graduation plan. He said they had talked about a virtual graduation ceremony. Mr. Shull said he’d received emails about having the ceremony at a drive-in movie theater but he said there are a lot of unknowns about doing that.
Mr. Thomson mentioned the possibility of a ceremony over the winter break or next year. “We’re working on it,” he said.
The board also heard from Larry Tune from Tuner Construction and Dan Woodside from CSArch about bids for the $27-million capital improvement project affecting all the district’s buildings. Turner is managing the project that CSArch designed.
‘Our teachers have been… beyond amazing.’
Supt. Jason Thompson
Ichabod Crane School District
Mr. Tune said the bids on the construction project, which were opened April 23, came in about $1.8 million higher than expected but that they have managed to close that gap by having smaller amount for contingencies and by cutting out bleachers planned for the outdoor sports field. He said they are also waiting on an Energy Performance Contract audit that should be finished soon and will determine which projects fall under that work.
He told the board he was “comfortable” with changes in the contingency funding and that he was also happy with the company that was the only general contractor to bid on the project.
The board did not award any bids at the May 5 meeting but will meet again on May 19 for more review. The board does not need to award bids on the work until early June.
Mr. Woodside said the district is still waiting to hear back from the state Education Department on approval for the design plans, but he said that should happen soon.
The work includes major upgrades to the middle school and high school buildings. Mr. Thomson said he felt the project is “in good shape” and pointed out that Tuner Construction planned to close the $1.8 million gap “without us losing scope.”
As for the proposed 2020-21 school budget, the district is looking at a $42-million budget that is at the tax levy cap set by the state. Business Manager Brennan said that there have not been cuts to staff or programs in the proposed budget. The district could lose state aid as the state reviews revenues during the pandemic, but Mr. Brennan said in this budget the district should be able to close an aid gap with existing revenues.
“It’s the subsequent years that we’re worried about,” Mr. Thomson said.
Board member Regina Rose had concerns about moving forward with the construction plans since the district will be taking on debt to pay for the project, which was approved at a state aid level of over 70%. Voters approved the district spending $27-million on the capital project last December.
The board plans to continue to discuss the issue but Mr. Thomson told Ms. Rose that the district needs to “stay true to the building project.”
As for the budget vote, Mr. Brennan said the board should plan to approve the proposed budget in May so that it can be on the June 9 ballot. He also said there should be a public hearing on the budget on June 2 and the district will send out a mailing to district residents about the budget and the voting process. There is also information on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org
According to the website, every qualified voter within the district will receive an absentee ballot and a postage paid return envelope in the mail. A qualified voter is: a US citizen; 18 years of age by June 9; and resident of the district for at least 30 days prior to the vote.
“Anyone meeting the definition of a ‘qualified voter’ who has not registered to vote, must do so to receive an absentee ballot. A qualified voter may register with the county or with the School District,” the website says.
Also at the meeting:
• Board President Matthew Nelson said that though there was no public comment during the Zoom meetings, comments emailed to the board before the meeting were reviewed by all the board members. He said the board will respond to those comments.
Members of the public can download Zoom and attend the virtual meetings. Information is posted on the district website
• The board passed a Parents Bill of Rights for Date Privacy and Security policy in line with Education Law about date privacy. The new policy will be online for parents to review. District Director of Information Technology Paul Caputo said that the new education law on privacy was “a good law” and that Ichabod currently had a state of the art security system but that it takes “monitoring.” The board also appointed Mr. Thomson data protection and privacy officer
• The board approved the resignation of middle school music teacher Rukan Khondker
• The board accepted a $500 donation from CSArch for the school’s programs. Mr. Thomson said the school had received other generous donations.
The next board meeting will be a special meeting May 19. For more information, go to the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org .