Catching up with the Haldane School Board

Highlights from Dec. 20 and earlier meetings

By Lily Gordon

As of two weeks ago, a plaque with the word inclusive hangs on the door of a two-stall restroom at Haldane High School.

“Our Identity Club recently implemented an all-inclusive bathroom, which is a huge step within the LGBT community,” said Miranda Musso, student body vice president. “It’s a really great, positive step for us.”

While the restroom has been unofficially open since before Peter Carucci became principal this year, he agreed to order the sign after the Identity Club requested it at the end of September.

The new inclusive restroom at Haldane High School

The Garrison School also has an all-gender restroom. James I. O’Neill High School, which many Garrison students attend, does not have designated gender-neutral restrooms; students are welcome to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify, as well as the nurse’s private washroom, according to Superintendent Frank Sheboy.

The Beacon City School District did not return a message asking about its policies.

In other business…

  • After a maintenance employee noticed smoke rising from the roof of Haldane Elementary/Middle School earlier this month, staff identified a DC connector between solar panels as the source. Ironically, the device is intended to ensure the safety of the Monolith Solar Project, said Superintendent Diana Bowers. After putting out the small fire and disconnecting the piece, the district hired forensic engineers to investigate the problem. A mechanical issue was identified and the system was shut down. The board will continue to discuss what to do next.
  • Community member Aaron Wolfe told the board of his concern about lead levels in the water from four faucets at Haldane Elementary/Middle School and one at the high school, as shown in recent state-mandated water testing. All of these sources contain between 10 and 15 parts per billion of lead, and while the state’s legal limit is 15 ppb, Wolfe asked that Haldane “reach for a slightly higher standard…the United States is the only developed country that uses 15ppb, the rest all use 10,” he said. According to Bowers, none of these water sources are used for cooking or drinking. She showed meeting attendees the paper signs marking the water sources as non-potable. “We should ensure that [the signage] will last until the next test in five years,” said Wolfe. “Even though you might not think of the water in a science classroom work station as being potable, the state does consider that a potential source for drinking because it is accessible to students…These are kids; they will put their mouths on any water source.”
  • The majority of the meeting was spent discussing technology. Haldane is testing an information sharing system called Echo that differs from Google Classroom, which is now used in Haldane classrooms. Echo allows high school students to go deeper on assignments, a “Google Classroom on steroids,” said Leah Horn, the school district’s technology innovation and integration specialist. Haldane also began using GoGuardian management software in November to track students’ “digital footprints”; all online searches and activities are archived while students use school devices via school accounts. According to Horn, Haldane does not closely monitor this information unless a teacher is concerned with a student’s time management or Horn receives an alert that a student has been searching for content that warrants concern. Previously, the district used a different system for monitoring students’ online activities.
  • The Haldane High School volleyball, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, boys’ cross country, girls’ cross country and tennis teams were nominated as New York State scholar-athlete teams, meaning 75 percent of each team’s members had a GPA of 90 or above.
  • The Haldane chorus, the Blue Notes, will perform the national anthem at the New York Mets game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta at 7:10 p.m. on April 22.
  • The Jan. 3 board meeting was cancelled; the next meeting will be on Jan. 17 in the Haldane Elementary/Middle School music room.

Previous meetings (staff reports)

Dec. 6

  • The board discussed capital projects proposed for the 2016-17 school year, including repair of windows in the elementary school, replacing or repairing the 26-year-old bleachers in the gymnasium (estimated to be about $30,000 for repair and $67,000 to replace) and updating the elementary-school bathrooms, which date to 1980 (costing about $150,000 each for a total gut renovation, although other options could be considered).
  • The board appointed Jennifer Rabe as a part-time teacher in the library to succeed Jessica Perrone, who became a part-time special education teacher. Rabe will be paid $24,967 annually.
  • The board discussed ideas for its second annual joint meeting with the Garrison School Board, scheduled for Feb. 28.

Nov. 15

  • The board thanked Damian McDonald for the donation of ETC ColorSource LED Cyclorama fixtures, valued at about $11,000, for the projection booth in the school auditorium.
  • Tom Powers, a former longtime head basketball coach at Beacon High School, was appointed the boys’ junior varsity basketball coach for stipend of $3,545.
  • The board adopted a new policy regarding head lice, which states that “when a student is identified with live head lice, he or she shall be referred to the nurse’s office and the parents will be notified and will be provided with instructions regarding the treatment of head lice. The student will be readmitted to school the following day, provided that appropriate treatment has been given and no evidence of live lice is found upon examination by the school nurse. In recognition of the fact that the management of head lice should not substantially disrupt the education process, the school district does not have a ‘no-nit’ policy” that bars students with nits (lice eggshells that can be time-consuming to remove) from returning to school.
  • Seventh-grade students participated in a service day organized by Danielle Pack McCarthy and chaperoned by a number of school staff. Each student chose to volunteer at the senior center, for Main Street beautification, for a campus cleanup, to work on the Nelsonville trail or at the Philipstown Food Pantry.
  • Haldane High School held its first College Week, which focused on choosing a university and a major and the application process. Three colleges participated in “instant-decision” events on campus, and 18 students accepted offers to enroll and received more than $51,000 in scholarships.
  • Students at the Haldane Academy have completed their first project-based unit about the novel A Long Way Gone, about a child soldier in Africa.
  • The board approved the appointment of Meghan Crowe as full-time athletic trainer.
  • Bus mechanic Murray Prescott was recognized for passing 27 of his last 27 Department of Transportation inspections.

Nov. 1

  • The board held a public hearing on whether to spend $18,000 from the reserve fund to repair emergency-access windows in the elementary school.
  • Bowers noted that the state now requires public schools to hold eight fire and four lockdown drills each school year.

Oct. 18

  • The board observed a moment of silence for former Garrison resident and Haldane student Robert Schartner, who died Oct. 9 at age 21 after being struck by a drunk driver in White Plains. He was attending Manhattanville College, where he played lacrosse.
  • Athletic Director Chris Salumn made a presentation on concussion management to the board, noting that changes to the district’s concussion policy would include baseline testing of all athletes in grades 7 to 12. If an athlete sustains a concussion, this baseline, updated every two years, will be used to determine when he or she is ready to return to play. In a letter later shared with the board, former school nurse Candy Zgolinski noted that she and former athletic director Tom Cunningham had developed a concussion protocol for the district six years earlier, including baseline testing, and she was surprised to learn that the previous program was no longer in place. She suggested that the baseline testing be given to all students at Haldane, noting that concussions can occur outside of sports.
  • To mark School Board Recognition Week (Oct. 24-28), the district had each board member select a book and then purchased it in his or her name to add to the Haldane School libraries. The titles were The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett (Peggy Clements); The Giver, by Lois Lowry (Laura Hammond); Built to Last, by Jim Collins (Evan Schwartz); The Giant Zucchini, by Catherine Siracusa (Margaret Parr) and Martha Graham’s autobiography, Blood Memory (Jen Daly).
  • The following students were elected to the Middle School Student Council: Doug Donaghy (president), Carlo Cofini (vice president), Jack O’Hara (secretary) and Kate Bolte (treasurer). Students representatives are Darrin Santos (eighth grade), Liliana Westerhuis (seventh grade) and Charlie Keegan (sixth grade).
  • Speed limit signs (5 mph) were installed in the high school lot.
  • Pavers were installed to level out the concession stand area, a project done in-house by Gary Van Asselt and Tony Stronconi. The turf field was also groomed and in-fill added.

Sept. 20

  • High School Principal Brent Harrington reported that ninth and tenth graders have been provided with Google Chromebooks while eleventh and twelfth graders continue to use iPads.
  • Nine students are currently enrolled in the Haldane Academy, which has added courses in landscaping, BOCES tech programs, Regents preparation, and online course sections.
  • Salumn thanked Rob McCollum for his work as president of the Athletic Booster Club over the past two years, and welcomed Dawn Scanga, who succeeds him.
  • The fence on the western side of the turf field from the concession stand area to the southernmost area of the field was moved back 15 feet to allow more space.
  • The elementary school bus drop-off area was paved and the sidewalk area extended to address mud and ice in spring and winter. In addition, the carpeting in the middle/high school library was replaced and many classrooms and the hallway on the second floor of the elementary school were painted.