Catching Up With the Haldane School Board

Highlights from March 7 and earlier meetings

By Lily Gordon

Haldane school board members fielded questions from their colleagues on the Garrison school board about drug use and the political climate at a joint meeting Feb. 28.

“It’s very hard to have a conversation about Haldane without someone saying, ‘Yeah, but they have a drug problem over there,’ ” said Garrison trustee David Gelber. “How much of a problem is it?”

Not such a big one, said Haldane Superintendent Diana Bowers.

“I’ve heard that since I came to the district in 2014, but I’m also not finding evidence of it here,” she said. “Do we have kids who take part in drinking and drugging? Yes, just as all high schools do. We have unfortunately lost graduates [to drugs], but that existence is not part of the high school.”

Both Haldane and GUFS board members agreed that the perception is a problem.

“When people say that, and that’s the mantra, it’s infuriating,” said Peggy Clements, whose son graduated from Haldane in 2016. “It’s so offensive—and you hear it all the time from people in Garrison. That’s a misguided perception of the school district.”

In addition to asking about drug use, Gelber wondered how the high school has adapted to the political climate after the contentious presidential election.

“We are living through a particularly turbulent period in American political life, in which adults and children are emotionally engaged in what’s happening,” he said. “I wonder how, or if in any way, you’ve adjusted your school day or curriculum to deal with some of the questions that are front and center in our political life in this country right now.”

In response, Peter Carucci, who is principal of the high school, highlighted what he said were the respect and sensitivity that members of the high school community have shown each other. “Sometimes that meant being there, helping each other out, and sometimes that meant respecting differences,” he said.

In other business…

  • Haldane presented its strategic plan, now in its second of five years, to the Garrison board members. The aim is to develop learners who are reflective and passionate thinkers; critical and creative problem solvers; and mindful global citizens. Teacher Sarah Grom discussed the tools she uses with fourth-, seventh- and ninth-graders to help them better understand how they learn. Students have been keeping journals, watching videos and discussing their strengths and weaknesses in class discussions and one-on-one sessions with Grom.
  • The average SAT scores for the Haldane Class of 2016 and New York State were 500 (495) in critical reading, 513 (511) in math and 503 (484) in writing. Carucci noted that the 2016 test underwent major changes from the previous year.
  • Haldane is about $2,300 short of the $8,800 quote the board received for conducting a transportation efficiency audit. While state aid would cover 19 cents per dollar spent, and the study could lead to savings for the district, Haldane may delay it in order to use funds from the 2017-18 budget.
  • At its March 21 meeting, the Haldane board will discuss a proposal to create an athletic hall of fame.

March 7

  • Haldane’s 2017-18 budget proposal includes the addition of summer school and a three-week program to prepare incoming kindergarteners, hiring staff members to replace those who are retiring, and increasing the number of students who receive school-issued laptops. At just over $23 million, the increase from last year’s budget is below the tax cap but there remains a $166,000 shortage of revenue. The calculations don’t include projected kindergarten enrollment (the district expects 39 students), tuition from students who live in Garrison and possibly additional state aid.
  • The Haldane School Foundation voiced its frustration in finding affordable, available venues for fundraisers. Pointing to the trendiness of Hudson Valley weddings for city-dwellers, the committee is finding it difficult to secure a venue without raising prices beyond $155 per person. The board accepted the suggestion of potentially hosting an event on campus, so long as it’s alcohol-free.
  • The board will likely present a bond referendum in May to pay for new gymnasium bleachers.
  • The board discussed plans to replace the school’s heating system, which was installed in the 1930s, as well as adding a multipurpose space at the high school because of the difficulty of feeding all Haldane students from kindergarten to high school in one lunchroom.
  • The district published a schedule for 2017-18 but received a complaint about the proposed spring break falling on the same week as Good Friday, Easter and Passover. The scheduling committee will offer a second option before a vote.

Feb. 7

  • After several months of investigation following a solar-panel malfunction that led to a small fire on the roof, the board heard from Mark Fobare, chief executive officer at Monolith Solar. He explained that rain water had seeped into what as supposed to be a sealed container and caused a mechanical failure. Haldane does not own the panels, and it leases the roof space in exchange for discounted electricity.
  • Haldane’s maximum allowable tax levy increase under the state tax-cap will be 2.23 percent, or $413,538. The priority expenditure for the 2017-18 year is replacing the bleachers, which have been deemed unsafe by the school’s insurance company. The district also hopes to replace windows in the elementary school.
  • There will be one open seat, now held by Peggy Clements, on the five-member board at the May election. Clements has said she plans to run for re-election. Those interested in running for the seat can email District Clerk Julia Famularo at [email protected]