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North Collins students will head to the classroom on Valentine’s Day

NORTH COLLINS — After already using up one more than the budgeted amount of snow days for the year, the North Collins School Board has approved an amended calendar making Feb. 14 a day of instruction.

That date had originally been scheduled as a staff development day, with no classes planned. During a Jan. 21 meeting, the school board also selected March 21 and May 23 as other days that could be tapped, should the weather force any more school closings.

The district’s insurance carrier and the town of North Collins’ attorney recommended that the after-school program be closed when schools have closed, due to weather issues.

They said that they fear students could be stranded at the school, should weather worsen; compound this with the need for parents to drive, to pick up their children.

Interim Superintendent Joan Thomas said that she realizes closures could be problematic for parents, but added that school buses are considered the safest form of transportation, when bad weather strikes. She also said that the administration's goal would be to announce closures no later that 1 p.m. on a school day and work to ensure that the emergency phone system is fine-tuned.

Michelle Militello of Shirley Road presented a parents' petition urging the retention of a separate computer instruction position, rather than merging it into the elementary library.

Militello said she thought it would be stressful for children, especially the youngest at the prekindergarten level, in which she has a child.

In response, Board President Shannon Locking pulled an item from the agenda that would have abolished one position in the teaching assistant area and declare that to be vacant. Locking said that she wanted the board to have time to review the proposal and hold further discussions

Thomas proposed a date of Feb. 25 for presentation of a first draft of next year's budget to the board. She said that this date will allow staff members the time to fully study current needs, and have a clearer picture of levels of aid that the district should receive.

Interim Business Administrator Gregory Witman said that he has met with department heads, as they discuss funding levels for next year. He also told the board there will be a jump in funding to Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, as that body has established a capital charge to cover improvements to facilities.

He noted that North Collins has 42 students currently enrolled in BOCES programs. Projecting the additional cost at approximately $15,000, Witman said that most of the money is refundable and would leave the district with an out-of-pocket expense of $3,800.

Locking said reports that the district was in line for an a more than 8 percent increase in state aid was a mistake; she said that a 3 percent increase is expected, this year, “which will still leave a gap in our budget.”

An additional concern from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget was said to be an exemption from school taxes for veterans. How that might affect the district was not immediately clear; more research will be done.

Thomas requested the board to clarify or adopt various policies that she found to be lacking.

In one, the interim superintendent read off the district's current policy regarding out-of-district students, and reported that eight students meeting the definition are currently enrolled, but only four of them have a letter on file stating the reason for enrollment. She suggested the board review its policy, but asked that any changes take effect after the end of the school year.

Her review of district paperwork found three state-mandated policies that either need to be updated or have never been adopted. The three include the code of conduct, along with two that provide for dignity for all students and civility, character and citizenship.

Additional policy issues will be brought to the board, during its first monthly meeting each month, so action can be taken at the second meeting, according to Thomas.

In other board news:

– Elementary Principal John Cataldo reported that sixth grade teacher Donna Reiman has formed an after-school dramatic arts club for students. Twenty have joined and will welcome a visitor from Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo on Jan. 22.

– Junior-senior high school Principal Annie Metcalf highlighted upcoming dates in her building, the major one’s being this year's musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” scheduled for March 27 – 29. A free dress rehearsal for senior citizens will be held on March 25.

– The school’s cheerleaders will host their second chili cook-off on Feb. 7, with sampling and sales offered.

– The “Bald For Bucks” fundraiser for cancer research will be held Feb. 12. Last year, students raised more than $10,000 in that effort.

– The board approved Timothy Flanagan, Kathryn Hubbard, Scott Kaplan, Lindsay Koudounas and Jennifer Schmitt as members of the Junior National Honor Society, and Thomas Bittner, Lisa Brosnick, Joseph Steger, Elaine Verstraete and Grant Walters to the National Honor Society Committee.

– The contract naming Gregory Witman as interim school business administrator was ratified, and will end when a successor is named.

– The board accepted two donations from the elementary school parent-teacher association: $200 for the purchase of a digital camera for use by faculty and staff and $4,790 to purchase 10 iPads®.

– A contract with Erie 1 BOCES for computer services from the WNY Regional Information Center was approved for five years, at a cost to not exceed $16,731.

The school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 in the high school library.

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