KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent Jason Thomson at the May 19 board meeting.
In a statement on the district website, Mr. Thomson, who was hired in December and started in the district in February said, in part, “Please know I did not come to this decision lightly and I have made it for family health and personal reasons. My family is still living in Delhi, NY, and I need to be present for them right now during these uncertain and challenging times. I will, of course, continue my commitment to Ichabod Crane through the end of June.”
The board, which held the meeting on the Zoom online platform, discussed Mr. Thomson’s resignation after an executive session at the very end of the meeting Tuesday night.
“I know I’ll be leaving you in good hands with Ichabod’s strong administrative team that I’m proud to have had this opportunity to work with,” Mr. Thomson’s statement read. It was posted on the ICC website Wednesday evening.
Before Mr. Thomson took over, the district was led by Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick, who started in July of 2019. Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow also led the district for a few months in the spring of 2019 when then Superintendent Michael Vanyo was on leave due to a DWI arrest. Mr. Vanyo resigned in June.
During his superintendent’s report at the meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Thomson said that the district should know by May 26 when the last day of school will be for this year. All school buildings are currently closed and teachers are using remote learning during the pandemic.
He also said the administration is still looking at plans for high school graduation and other moving up ceremonies for students in the primary school and 8th graders.
The board also approved a $42-million proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year. The budget is at the state mandated tax levy cap of 2.57% and does not include any cuts in staff or programs. It is an increase of about $785,000, which is a 1.89%, increase over the current budget.
The ballot will also include a $444,388 bus purchase proposition that residents will be asked to approve.
District Business Manager Michael Brennan presented the new budget to the board at the meeting, on the day that would have been the annual budget vote. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state has moved the budget vote to June 9 and this year all qualified residents will be mailed a ballot on May 26. There will be no in-person voting. Instead, voters must mail their ballots to the district office in the postage-paid return envelope provided by the district.
Mr. Brennan pointed out that the ballots must be received by June 9 at 5 p.m. to be counted. Unlike other elections, postmark dates will not make a ballot on time. Ballots must be in the possession of the school district by 5 p.m. on June 9 to be counted.
Patrick Fitzgerald, an attorney for the school district, said that the change in voting is “not a rule the district is making up” but a state decision. He said the district can’t waive the rules.
There was talk of a box for the ballots at the district office where people can deliver their ballots by hand.
There will also be five people on the ballot running for three seats on the school board. Tammy Crawford and Susan Ramos are running for reelection. There is also an open seat created when a board member resigned last fall. It was being filled by Anthony Welcome.
Elaine Berlin, John Chandler, Kelly Firmbach, Ms. Crawford and Ms. Ramos will be on the ballots that are being mailed out next week.
As for the budget, Mr. Brennen said, “There is a potential for cuts” in state aid. He said there are “measurement periods” for the state to review the new state budget, looking at expenses and revenue. Those reviews may lead to cuts in state aid to school districts. He said the first measurement period has already passed but there is another one from May 1 to June 30, and there will be a third measurement period from July 1 to December 31. The state could decide to make cuts in aid after the measurement periods.
If there were any cuts to the $15 million in aid Ichabod is scheduled to receive from the state after the first period, Mr. Brennan said, “We’ve received no information.”
He said the district does have a plan if the aid is cut, saying the last resort would be to cut staff and programming. He said the district does have reserve funds that can be used and school district officials can look at reducing some equipment and supply costs.
Mr. Brennan also said that if voters do not approve the proposed $42-million budget, the board would have to go to a contingency budget, which would mean the same budget as the current year. If the budget fails, “We only have one choice this year,” he said.
The board will host a budget hearing June 2. Details will be on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org. Anyone not sure of their voter status should contact the district clerk at 518 758-7575 ext 3001 or email . The district also plans to send out a newsletter in early June.
The board also approved bids on construction for the major capital improvement project in the district. They awarded five different contracts for different services, including one for the general contractor, which went to Bast Hatfield Construction LLC for $12.7 million. The work includes upgrades at all the district’s buildings, with major work in the middle and high school buildings.