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If school must be closed to save $$ in Nisky, which one?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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If school must be closed to save $$ Nisky, which one?

The Niskayuna Board of Education is poised to vote on closure of Birchwood Elementary School at its meeting today [Jan. 28] [Jan. 22 Gazette]. However, our administration has not provided the board with adequate information to make an informed decision.

We have been told by our administration that closing a school is the only way to create a passable budget this year. If this is true, we will displace many young learners to unfamiliar settings and add an unexpected transition to their academic career. If this is truly about closing the budget gap, shouldn’t we be choosing the option that saves us the most money?

We have been told by the district that closing Van Antwerp [Middle School], one of our two middle schools, will save Niskayuna taxpayers $558,000 annually. This figure has decreased from the $967,950 presented at the March 2013 budget meetings. No explanation has been offered to the public to account for the difference, other than “those savings have already been realized.” It is estimated that closing an elementary school would save the district $415,000.

There are annual studies required by the state to estimate the maintenance costs to our district’s buildings over the next five years. However, there is no mention that future maintenance costs have been considered in discussions regarding building closure. Van Antwerp Middle School is one of the oldest buildings in our district. In 2006, our taxpayers voted for a multimillion-dollar bond that allowed for renovations and additions to our schools — $28.8 million was spent on renovations and additions to our elementary schools that were completed in 2010. Shouldn’t we continue to utilize this capital investment that residents are still paying for?

The district also paid for a middle school visioning study that was completed December 2011. This study recommended bringing the middle schools together on one unified campus. The benefit associated with closure of Van Antwerp is that our middle school children would be brought together as one unified group in sixth grade. This sheltered sixth grade would be located on Iroquois Middle School campus. As a parent, I like the idea of our children being in a protected environment during a year of such great academic change.

Despite the non-disputed greater savings associated with closing a middle school, despite the expected future savings in maintenance that would be expected with closure of an older building, and despite the recommendation of our middle school visioning study that saw academic benefit to a unified middle school campus, our administration recommends closing an elementary school.

The school “selected” is Birchwood Elementary School because it currently has the fewest number of students and would be the “easiest” to close. District officials stated that a “benefit” to closing an elementary school would be having three classes per grade level, allowing for separation of students based on academic ability level in math. The other purported benefit was that students who have difficulty getting along would have more opportunities to be separated. Are either of these truly benefits? The school board, not our administrators, will make the final decision. I trust that they will take this obligation seriously and look into all possibilities to close our budget gap and not just choose the option that is “easiest” in the short term. I am hopeful that our administration will provide our board with more information so that they can make an informed decision that is sustainable and does not just defer costs to our taxpayers in the future.

With great hope for our children and our district,

Lynn Boler

Niskayuna

Cuomo shows his ‘extreme’ intolerance

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared on public radio’s The Capitol Pressroom on Jan. 17, he stated unequivocally that persons such as those who are pro-life, who oppose gay marriage, and who oppose the New York SAFE Act for gun control are far-right extremists who are not welcome in the state of New York. The governor’s aides later claimed that he didn’t say what he said, that his remarks were taken out of context. Listeners to the radio program are well aware that the governor’s astonishing remarks were fully in context with the questions and topics of the interview.

For the governor of our state to so characterize such people because their beliefs are not shared by him or the majority of New Yorkers displays a level of intolerance unacceptable in anyone who postures as a leader. Many citizens of New York state are opposed to abortions. Many others oppose gay couples participating in the institution of marriage. They are entitled to express their feelings even if any of us, including the governor, disagrees with them.

As for opposition to the SAFE Act, which the governor rammed through the Legislature overnight without public input or comment, 52 of the 62 counties in the state have since passed resolutions opposing the act, as have more than 250 cities, towns and villages, as well as the New York State Sheriffs Association. It is a challenge to view these people as right-wing extremists when they constitute a majority of the state’s population, including the law officers tasked with implementing and enforcing the law.

It would appear that the governor does not welcome most New Yorkers in our state.

All of which emphasizes Gov. Cuomo’s arrogance, intolerance and vindictiveness toward anyone who disagrees with his position on any topic. The governor welcomes us in the state of New York only if we fall in line and march to his drumbeat. His disregard for us and our convictions should cause Gov. Cuomo to find himself unwelcome in the future when he runs for state or national public office.

Ronald Winters

Clifton Park

Writer did nothing to support claims

In the Jan. 26 Opinion section, Robert Scott [of McClatchy Newspapers] writes about currency manipulation. As a reader, I am not an experienced economist but I believe Mr. Scott owes me more specificity if he wants me to take his column seriously.

Long ago, an English professor in the New York State University system told his students (myself included) that it was the writer’s obligation to provide clarity in his work rather than to simply offer sentences that could be misunderstood by those who read his material. The professor cautioned us to do the necessary work that produces clarity rather than to pass on the obligation to the readers.

I offer a few points of criticism regarding Mr. Scott’s article.

If there are 20 Asian nations manipulating their currencies for national gain, name several. (Exclude China. We know about that country.) Three or four will give us a starting point for confirmation. If the U.S. unemployment rate is really 10.2 percent because of “missing” workers, what constitutes the use of that adjective? Tell us briefly who these missing workers are and why they affect the unemployment rate.

How does the purchase of U.S. sovereign debt reduce the value of the lender’s currency? (Does China reduce its currency value when it lends the United States money?) What multinational companies have used foreign currency manipulation for their benefit? Explain the process.

As Mr. Scott closes his column, he has pointedly overlooked the particular advantage currency manipulation has been to the United states in its need to support its own trade and GDP (gross domestic product) growth, especially with regard to Japan in the early 1970s.

I suggest the inclusion of this poorly written column offers little to inform your readers. Instead it seems to be more of a political effort to superficially explain some of the nation’s economic and financial problems without regard for the clarity of the information.

Edward Bernier

Broadalbin

Hillary defender didn’t deliver details

Re Jan. 25 letter, “Hillary’s critic must have amnesia over her many accomplishments”: I am writing this letter because Mr. Jeff Jones failed to note even one piece of legislation that former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote that would cause us to think that she was so able a legislator.

He cites that she was “anointed” by Sen. Patrick Moynihan. What is that supposed to mean? I was around for those years too and there were times during Sen. Moynihan’s “reign” that I thought that he had lost his marbles supporting [President] Carter’s inept policies.

Back to Hillary. Mr. Jones also failed to list a single treaty or agreement that Hillary secured for America during her time as secretary of state. She was even less effective than [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell (another person with a big reputation but no substance). John Kerry had to come in and try to clean up her mess.

Benghazi, the debacle that has yet to be truly investigated, is the only thing that Hillary Rodham Clinton did of note and it is something to be ashamed of.

Terry K. Hurlburt

Schenectady

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