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Niskayuna board must keep focus on helping students

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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Niskayuna board must keep focus on helping students

Regarding the April 9 article, “Frosh Sports back in plan,” which will restore funding of freshmen sports after the state returns $530,000 to Niskayuna schools, I am very happy for our community, including parents and school board members who did the right thing to benefit Niskayuna children.

Now some harder questions:

How do we restore the hemorrhaging of teachers and counselors throughout the district, particularly felt here at Van Antwerp Middle School? Following these cuts, students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 have no effective common time in their day to meet with teachers and/or support staff in order to do their best work. The present model is essentially taken from the junior high school model — students go 43 minutes from one class to the next with little interaction to best meet their academic, social or emotional needs, let alone feel a true part of the community by being able to participate in effective community-service events.

Shouldn’t we stop and reconsider our rush to hire a new interim/acting superintendent this year, especially, as your article notes, Niskayuna is under contract to pay for this position already? After all, it’s been a rough three years of cuts to all district schools. Shouldn’t we reassess what those losses have meant to these fantastic schools?

Niskayuna’s administration held multiple and multifaceted discussions concerning the district’s painful cuts. What about a discussion on how these still “fresh cuts “have affected students and their schools? What might be other ways to effectively manage our schools now that there is “a little” money coming to them?

Could we investigate hiring interim teachers or counselors if the community believed that these losses were intolerable and negatively affecting students? The immediate rush to hire a new leader (who cannot immediately have the answers) depletes resources at a high price. Why not have plenty of facts about what Niskayuna has gone through and learn the best practices that the staff has done to keep Niskayuna’s educational reputation intact?

This planned and difficult approach would bring back painful memories, but would, as Mrs. [Priti] Irani notes, reduce “festering” in hopes of offering pertinent, timely and relevant questions about the effectiveness of their cuts. It would take time without costing a dime.

Kevin McFerran

Niskayuna

The writer is a Van Antwerp middle school New York state-certified school counselor.

Nisky board needs to be more responsible

I have to completely agree with Matt Cutler’s April 9 letter regarding the irresponsibility of the Niskayuna school board. This latest brouhaha regarding the departing board supervisor and her hefty buy-out is typical of this board squandering hard-earned taxpayer’s dollars while refusing to offer any explanation or input from said taxpayers.

Every year when it is time for the budget vote, they trot out the signs that say, “For The Kids." But actually, a huge part of the budget goes for pensions and benefits for staff. Niskayuna has one of the highest per-student expenditures in the country (over $18,000 per year per student). The district has state-of-the-art everything, from the weight room to the electronic sign out front to the thousands of feet of fencing around the fields. It also has the tax rate to support it all. But that never seems to be enough.

My salary certainly doesn’t go up at the rate they raise my taxes, so it is extremely frustrating and infuriating to see them behaving as though they have no accountability or owe an explanation to those of us who foot the bill. If the board can’t do its job, then it needs to be replaced with those who do have some sense of fiscal responsibility and accountability to us taxpayers and those who would eliminate the golden parachutes that they seem to be so willing to give each other.

Am I the only one who finds it strange that they have no money for programs to benefit the students, but manage to come up with $139,000 to benefit just one person?

Jill Hogan

Niskayuna

Thankful to Gibson for wind power effort

Thank you Rep. Chris Gibson for supporting wind power!

Growing wind power in New York has been an economic boon for the state. Supporting policy encouraging its growth should be a priority and it’s for that reason that I want to thank Rep. Gibson calling on his colleagues in the House to do just that.

Homegrown wind power relies on eight New York-based wind-power manufacturing facilities to help create wind power’s parts and supplies. Wind supports up to 2,000 well-paying, full-time jobs in New York and many more construction jobs whenever a wind farm is developed.

Clean, affordable wind power in the Empire State has attracted over $3.2 billion in capital investment here at home and up to $25 billion a year in private investment into our national economy.

By integrating wind power’s reliable, free fuel source into New York’s energy mix, wind protects New York consumers from price shocks and helps keep the lights on when other power plants break down. For example, the New York ISO recently highlighted wind power’s performance in helping to meet record demand during the recent historic polar vortex.

By signing the bipartisan letter calling for the tax credit for wind power to continue, Rep. Gibson is standing up for an American-made product, creating jobs and saving us all money. Thank you, Rep. Gibson.

Chad Hall

Oneonta

The writer is the co-founder and vice president of Marketing & Production Management, Ioxus, Inc.

Elementary library a vital tool for students

How disappointing it was to read of the changes the [Schenectady] school board is proposing concerning elementary school libraries [March 3 Gazette].

Since many elementary students are not able to make trips to our wonderful county library, the school library is their primary resource center. The school librarian is the person with the depth of knowledge and understanding to encourage both students and teachers to select reading, which will help them grow in their interests and skills.

Let us hope and work for a school budget which will support school libraries and librarians.

Lois M. Dodge

Schenectady

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comments

April 16, 2014
12:25 a.m.
+0 votes
jjhehir says...

Jill,
In this year's 2013/2014 budget, for every dollar paid in salary fifty-one cents went for employee benefits.
Joe Hehir

 

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