KINDERHOOK—The Ichabod Crane school board met this month in-person and on Zoom. Four board members, along with administrators and some audience members met in the primary school on December 1. Another four board members attended the meeting remotely on Zoom, along with, at times, over 40 other people. A ninth board member, Kelly Firmbach, did not attend the meeting.
The board approved moving the district’s banking from Community Bank to the Bank of Greene County. Board President Matthew Nelson reported that the audit committee reviewed the proposals from the banks, which were the only two proposals the district received after announcing a request for bids and reaching out to local banks. Currently the district uses Community Bank, but due to the criteria used by the audit committee when reviewing the proposals, Mr. Nelson said the committee was recommending Bank of Greene County.
The board voted to approve making the Bank of Greene County the district’s bank effective January 1, 2021. Board Vice President John Antalek abstained from the vote since he is employed by the Bank of Greene County.
The board also heard the results of surveys the district asked parents, students and staff to fill out about health and safety, academics, social/emotional well being and technology. District Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said the results from the health and safety surveys were “overwhelmingly” positive. “I was pleased,” she said of those results.
As for academics, most parents and students were positive about remote learning. Teachers still have concerns but Ms. Guntlow said over 80% of those who responded are comfortable teaching students remotely and a higher number said they are happy with the technology provided by the school. She said students were very positive about working remotely.
“They are comfortable and it is working well for them,” she said of the students.
Ms. Guntlow did report that there has been a 27% increase in course failures in the middle school and the high school for the first quarter of this year, compared to the first quarter in 2019. But she stressed that this school year is very different from last fall. She also said that the increase in failing grades was the topic of conversation at superintendent meetings with other districts.
Some students are disengaged during remote learning and some students struggling with organizational skills, she reported to the board. Ms. Guntlow said that last spring the district gave all students passing grades since they were new to remote learning and some students may have thought they were certain to pass this fall.
‘Innovation is key right now.’
Supt. Suzanne Guntlow
Ichabod Crane School District
ICC district teachers are working more on “synchronous” learning, where they live-stream classes while teaching in-person for the students at home. And the superintendent described other interventions the school is looking into, including bringing back extended day and special homerooms for the students that are struggling the most. She also said there would be increased parent contact.
All students in 6th through 12th grades are on a hybrid schedule with two days in the building and three days of remote learning. Half the students attend in-person Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays, with all of the students working from home on Wednesdays.
“Innovation is key right now,” Superintendent Guntlow.
She said the students have made “big gains” since the quarter ended in mid-November.
The board’s alternate student representative, Tismark Boham, commented on the issues with online learning, saying that there were problems that might not be solved. He pointed out that there are “a lot more distractions” at home for students and that it would be harder for anyone to pay attention under those conditions.
As for the social and emotional well being survey, Ms. Guntlow said the results were favorable there too. Middle School Principal Tim Farley and Director of Special Education Peg Warner reviewed these results and the programs the schools are offering at the meeting.
Construction of the high school guidance suite was recently finished as was work on the high school art rooms. Turner Construction, which is managing the major construction project in the district, told the board that the first pod in the middle school should be ready for students to move into after the holiday break. The next focus of construction will be in another middle school pod and the high school science wing. During that construction contractors will have no interaction with the students.
Also at the meeting:
• The board will give high school diplomas to two veterans who, due to their service, were unable to finish their secondary education. The diplomas are in accordance with the state Education Department’s Operation Recognition. Superintendent Guntlow said that Harold Willams, a 97-year old WWII veteran and life-long Valatie resident, and Roger Mazal, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969, would receive “long overdue diplomas”
• Business Manager Michael Brennan presented the 2021-22 budget calendar to the board, saying the annual vote is planned for May 18, 2021. Last June the vote for the 2020-21 budget was held by mail-in ballot due to the pandemic.
The next board meeting will be January 12 at 7 p.m. For more information go to www.ichabodcrane.org
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email