The North Collins School Board transferred over $1.5 million in restricted reserves, along with surplus from last year’s budget into reserve accounts believed to be more beneficial for the district and its taxpayers. The board took advantage of state permission to utilize restricted fund reserves as well as a state policy to allow districts to roll-over 4 percent of unassigned fund balances into reserves. Transfers made were: bus and vehicle reserve, $610,000; repair reserve, $400,000; and capital reserves $500,000. The board also released $200,000 from the bus and vehicle Reserve to pay for vehicles approved by voters last May.
The board also formally reduced or eliminated several teaching positions following the terms of the current budget. One .7 biology-general science and one .7 English position was reduced to .5. The change affects only one current employee, Robyn Turner, who was placed on the district’s preferred eligibility list. Also reduced were a special education and one biology-general science position to .5. Abolished was one .7 social studies position.
A number of hires were added to the staff as well. Heather A. Shean was appointed art instructor for kindergarten through grade 12, and Barbara G. Senus as school nurse.
The board also approved the request of Superintendent Benjamin Halsey to establish a part-time clerk typist position not to exceed 26 weeks. Halsey stated that the position would primarily be assigned to attendance at the high school. A trial program last year had the school nurse recording attendance and arranging early dismissals, but proved problematic as in several instances individuals were able to access the nurse’s office without main office knowledge. Halsey further explained that the computerized attendance program requires a great deal of time to input and was putting a strain on the nurse’s regular duties.
Halsey also requested the board to consider adding one teacher’s aide position back to the elementary staff. In review last year, elementary teachers cited the reduction in aides as a problem, pulling them away from general instruction while they administered individual testing and reporting requirements. Halsey reported that Title I funding to the district had increased to $14,000 and this could be used to fund the position. He also stated that benefits for the position would amount to an additional $5,500, but that there are sufficient funds in the district’s benefits reserve fund to cover the expense.
Board Member Martin Niefergold reported that a meeting of interested individuals towards creating an Athletic Hall of Fame is tentatively set for Oct. 6. Additional publicity will be used to notify the public.
Peggy and Paul Gabel shared their continued frustration at a lack of action that changes to bus transportation made to the schedule of their special needs daughter. Specifically, one bus that historically only picked up special needs students was repurposed last year to also include children from the furthest distance of the district and reduce their travel time, which was beyond one hour. The change has resulted in the Gabel’s daughter getting on the bus very early, being taken to school, but, since her classes begin later, she is kept on the bus for an additional run. Peggy Gabel also was concerned that children on the route were placed in seat belts with the assistance of the bus aide on the route. The additional students picked up are not under any requirement to strap in and she believes it sends a confusing message to the children who are belted in. Paul Gabel was supportive of the single bus run but cautioned the board that in making special arrangements for some families, they risk multiple families demanding the same options which could lead to higher costs.
Board Member David Gier took the lead in assuring the Gabels that the transportation issue continues to be “a work in progress” and that additional changes will probably be made this year and could result in the Gabels’ concerns being addressed. A meeting with the board and Transportation Supervisor Jim Hourihan is planned soon to review this year’s bus routes and changes in district student population.
Amy Spicola was named deputy treasurer and was also given the authority to sign checks in the absence of the Treasurer.
Elementary Principal John Cataldo reported that the recent sealing and striping of the parking lot allowed him to reconfigure problems in traffic flow. Parents who choose to transport their children to school will find a new drop-off lane just for that purpose. Cataldo said the plan should eliminate the need for cars to back up into the path of oncoming cars and reduce the bottleneck. Cataldo also reported that the Go Math series has been selected to meet the new Common Core State Standards. The committee reviewing programs found it closest to meeting the new standards and it offers an on-line component for additional instruction.
In other business the board:
• Approved the appointments of Katelyn M. Lesandro as a .5 special education teacher and Erica G. Hannon as a .5 biology-general science instructor
• Accepted a letter of resignation from Dawn M. Barratt as Varsity Club advisor.
• Designated Annie Metcalf, Jr.-Sr. High School Principal and John Cataldo, Elementary School Principal as Dignity Act Coordinators.