Districts get set for new year

By Brian Sweeney
Summer unofficially ends this week as area schools open for the 2012-13 year.
Following are overviews of changes at local school districts for the upcoming year.

The first day of classes at Andes Central School will be on Thursday, Sept. 6 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Superintendent Robert Chakar said that all staff positions at ACS remain unchanged.
He said that enrollment for pre-K-grade 12 will be just under 130.

“We have kids moving in and others selecting to come to the district. We’ve seen a slow, steady trend of kids coming into the district over the last three years,” the ACS superintendent explained.

Computer program
He noted that ACS will be rolling out its one-on-one computer initiative for students in grades 9-12. The program will allow students in (with parental permission) to utilize laptops for performing school work at home. Superintendent Chakar said this program will be extended to grades seven and eight if enough laptops are available.

The ACS superintendent said the district has also established a concussion management policy to educate athletes and teachers regarding concussion awareness. The school is also sending out letters in response to the federally mandated Dignity Act to help reduce bullying incidents.
Superintendent Chakar said there has been a considerable amount of improvements around the campus during the summer. He said that aging fuel tanks were replaced in the school building and in the bus garage.

The garage building, which also houses the district’s pre-K building and a fitness center, was outfitted with double-paned, high-efficiency windows. In addition, the fitness center was revamped.
Work was also done to upgrade the walkway to the school. The superintendent said the district is working with a structural engineer and looking for funds to help repair and replace the original walkway railings.

Margaretville Central School opens for a full day of classes on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Superintendent Tony Albanese said the district expects to have between 390-400 students at the new year opens.

There will be a number of new faces at MCS this year. Retirees include Bob Dwyer, head mechanic; Carol Johnson, library aide; Kathy Curley, family and consumer sciences instructor; and Gary Robson, school counselor.

New staff will include:
Karley Morgans, family and consumer sciences teacher. She previously taught through the DCMO BOCES at Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton and Sidney School districts.

Cassie Pezzello, middle school and high school science instructor. She was a science teacher at Rook Hook Middle School.

Ryan McGraw, school counselor (grades 8-12). He held a school counselor position at Laurens CSD and ONC BOCES.

Courtney Fairbairn returns to her position as CPSE/CSE/school psychologist.

Carolyn Cassels enters into a new position at MCS, student/family support services coordinator.  Her major responsibilities with be to implement the Dignity for All Students Law, the Comprehensive Education Plan to address students considered “at-risk,” the response to intervention service, Title IX and the McKinney-Vento Act (Homeless Youth).

Brian Grocholl, head mechanic. He previously held a mechanic’s position at position at Belleayre Mountain.

Donna Ramos returns as a part-time cafeteria worker.

Superintendent Albanese said that one key this year will be implementing the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) for Teachers and Principal.  

“A great deal of time and effort has been placed on writing this document last year and this summer by the APPR Committee.  The APPR Committee is comprised of Claudia McMurray, Sue Hinkley, Diane Oles, Christina Stickle, Pat Moore, Linda Taylor and Tony Albanese,” the superintendent explained.

He added that another area of focus will be on implementing the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA).  This act (which is now) law requires boards of education to establish policy that promotes a school climate where bullying and harassment are prevented.  The new law also takes into account incidents whereby bullying occurs via the Internet.  

Superintendent Albanese pointed out that schools are also now mandated to initiate a Concussion Team to promote information regarding how to best deal with students involved with a concussion.  The district has a Concussion Team in place and each fall sports coach has received training on the issue of student/athletes and concussions.  The entire faculty and staff will be provided with similar training during the course of the school year.

The superintendent said that the board of education will continue to strengthen the communication between home, school and the faculty by supporting forums in the areas of facility, innovations, communication, policy and finance.

“The most important focus will be on our MCS students and supporting them through a successful school year,” Superintendent Albanese added.

By Jay Braman Jr.

In the Onteora School District, classes started Wednesday, and officials hope that all the students taking busses are out at the bus stops bright and early.

Not because they hope kids are excited. They are really hoping that students are out there early because they don’t know yet how transportation system is going to work.

Earlier this year the school board adopted a new configuration for the district that removes grades four, five and six from the Phoenicia Elementary School and sends them to the Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville. The same goes for the Woodstock Elementary School, where grades four, five and six will now report to Bennett for classes.

The measure was taken as way to avoid closing the Phoenicia School altogether due to declining enrollment.

Ironically, enrollment is up considerable from where it was expected to be, with a total of 121 students entering kindergarten. It was predicted that only 88 would enroll.

To find out the exact time and place your child gets the bus, one must either go to the school and get the information or apply for a “Parent Portal” account on the district’s website.

Officials expect that the transportation routes will need to be tweaked during the first few days of school, and say that it would be helpful if students are out for their respective busses a few minutes early to give drivers the time needed to get used to the new runs.

Officials also want to know about any problems, such as long delays or too early of a bus arrival. Earlier this year, during the discussions about making the changes, officials said they did not expect bus rides to be much longer than usual, even if students from the Highmount area were now traveling to Boiceville instead of Phoenicia.

When the kids get to school, at least there will be plenty of electrical power. The district has solved the problem caused last month when lightening struck the transformers at the Boiceville campus and short-circuited the entire electrical system.

Until last week the school was running on generator power.

“Thanks to Jared Mance, our director of facilities, his staff and the electrical companies working diligently, the Middle School/High School is restored to full power, “ said Superintendent of Schools Phyllis McGill in a prepared statement.

“There are still other portions of the building to transition over to the new service,” she added. “That work will be on-going in the month of September with planned shutdowns of portions of the building for a few hours.  All of the planned shut downs will take place during the evening hours.  We will coordinate this effort with after school activities and sports events.”