by Kathleen Duff
The Grand Island Board of Education began its meeting rotation through various district buildings last Monday at Eco Island nature center on Staley Road.
Trustees and administrators toured the facility with Eco Island's coordinator and program originator, Diane Tiede. Tiede retired from her position as a Grand Island elementary school teacher, but remains the driving force behind the facility's use as an offsite classroom.
At the meeting, Tiede told board members that 1,756 students used Eco Island in 2011-12, and she also spoke about the proposed move of exhibits and equipment from their current Staley Road location to the larger adjacent maintenance building.
"(Superintendent Robert) Christmann and I met a month ago," Tiede told the board, "and the other building is going to be a clean slate. ... The spaces are going to have to be different than they are right now." After the meeting, Tiede said that moving materials was not so much of a concern but that the many items hand-painted on the walls of the current facility will be difficult to replace. The Board of Education has decided to place the "white option" for the new bus garage for public vote on Dec. 18. That plan includes moving building and grounds from Eco Island to the existing bus garage behind Charlotte Sidway School. Tiede would then use the building and maintenance facility at Eco Island for classroom and exhibit space.
Regarding that "white option," Director of Business and Finance Joe Giarrizzo said that the district will have to draw $230,000 more than the original $850,000 from capital reserve to keep the transportation center project "tax neutral," and that it is important to "put together the information that we are going to share with the community" regarding costs and construction timelines.
He explained that the $52 million-plus capital project will involve major construction and renovations in all five district buildings. Administrators, architects and project managers are back into "focus groups" at Grand Island High School to get input from guidance, science and technology staff. Their biggest change to that school will be the new technology wing.
"This is a massive project that we will be doing. ... It will affect just about every square foot of that building, "Giarizzo said. "We are looking at what is going to happen with the electrical redo ... wiring, lights, sensors, data drops, SMART Boards. ... Dust collectors will be very important." Giarizzo said the auditorium renovation will involve seating, flooring, stage reconstruction, new lighting, storage, acoustics and the Viking statue.
He elaborated that major timelines will made available. Work on steel framing will be done sequentially, school by school, starting with the high school wing and then the addition at Kaegebein. He indicated that there is "not a lot of swing space" or places to put materials, students, etc., when work begins.
In other news, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller spoke about the Board of Education "going green," i.e. using iPads for their paperwork and communications. She said that Wi-Fi access in the Middle School Little Theater is "intermittent" and that using 3G may be preferable with a cost of $160 per month for 10 users. She also talked about Edoctrina software for teachers, which will help them prioritize state standards, use bubble sheets for scoring and assist with teacher observations.
In his Superintendent's Report, Christmann told trustees that the district contribution to the Teacher Retirement System will increase from its current 11.7 percent to 15 or 15.5 percent "a couple of years down the road." He said that increase would take over $1 million from the local budget. District contribution to the Employee Retirement System is now 21 percent. Christmann said that many districts "are on the edge" financially and that soon 15 to 20 percent of them will be insolvent, with cash reserves used up. "The worst area is the north country," Christmann said.
Christmann also asked Sandra Anzalone, principal of Grand Island High School, to speak about the school's dress code. At the last school board meeting, Trustee Paul Krull had indicated that many of the calls he receives from the public are complaints about how high schoolers dress.
Anzalone reviewed the school's current dress code (which may be viewed on line at www.k12.ginet.org), indicating that enforcement can be a problem. Young male staff members seem reluctant to report problems. Many reports do not come in until lunch hours. Students are not allowed to return to class until they change into more appropriate attire. She also said that Homecoming and Halloween always present problems.
In other items, the board unanimously approved use of the Warner Center at the University of Rochester to assist in the search for a new superintendent. Trustees also agreed to revisit how the Distinguished Alumnae luncheon is funded each year. Currently, it is paid out of the district budget.