by Kathleen Duff
On Monday evening, the Grand Island Board of Education held its annual organizational meeting in the Grand Island High School Professional Development Room. As part of the board's regular monthly meeting, organizational meeting business included swearing in of trustees Susan Marston and Karen Carroll prior to the meeting.
Lisa Pyc was voted in as the new school board president in a 4-2 vote, replacing Tak Nobumoto, who lost his board seat in the May election. Susan Marston was elected as vice president in a 5-1 vote. Trustee Paul Krull was absent from the meeting. District Clerk Janet Schuster administered the oath of office to the new officers.
Other items in the organizational part of the agenda included the designation of the Island Dispatch as the official newspaper of the school district. In addition, Director of Pupil Personnel Services Cheryl Cardone was appointed for another year as the sexual harassment complaint officer. Again, school district auditor is accounting firm Lumsden & McCormick. The board entertained and passed the extension of participation in intramural sports programs to Grand Island home-schooled students through June 30, 2015. Trustees had set precedence for this provision four years ago and have since extended the permission annually.
In regular business, Assistant Superintendent for School Business Services Joe Giarrizzo updated the board and administrators on the district's multimillion-dollar capital improvement project. Giarrizzo related that he and a district contingent, which included Superintendent Dr. Teresa Lawrence and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller, travelled to Albany to "pitch" complete funding for the STEM addition to the State Education Department.
Emphasizing that state aid for building additions is always in a state of flux, Giarrizzo said the group went to Albany to secure dollars in the amount of $354,000 for the Fusion Studio space in the STEM wing. New York state typically funds only new classroom space, and the Fusion Studio technically does not fit into that category. As such, the state at this time is refusing to fund it. However, as a result of the district's presentation to the state, all seven "perimeter classrooms" are fully funded. These are the teaching spaces surrounding the hands-on, lab-like Fusion Studio.
Back when Cannon Design had initially discussed the STEM plans and funding with SED, the state project planner had approved the funding for the entire STEM addition. However, Giarrizzo said, since then that SED project manager has passed away and another manager assigned to the project has retired. A project that appeared to be fully funded is not.
Giarrizzo elaborated, "The state does not have to tell you what they will aid until the project is done." He added that the state re-evaluates projects even after the resolution has gone to public vote and construction has commenced.
"The district presents a capital project referendum to the public with the best information possible," he said.
Overall, the capital project is progressing on time and within budget.
In addition, Giarrizzo outlined what is happening in other phases of the capital project. The Gene Masters Athletic Complex behind Grand Island High School is "basically done," he reported, with "the rug" having been rolled out this past week. The press box and vertical bleachers are in place. The parking lot in front of the high school (pictured below) has been torn up for the new sidewalk, parking and drop-off paths, and blacktop. The ceiling in the high school music suite has been lowered to eliminate the loud noise on the roof during rainstorms. Also, the auditorium is currently being drywalled. The science area in Veronica E. Connor Middle School has been demolished, but should "come back online for September," Giarrizzo said.
In the elementary schools, work is underway on the new secure front offices at Kaegebein and Sidway schools. The front office areas will provide more security for buildings as a whole because visitors will have to enter the school through the front office. "This will keep the bad guys out, " Giarrizzo said. At both Huth Road School and Kaegebein, workers are building the schools' new computer labs and libraries.
Giarrizzo said he remains hopeful that SED approval for the new Transportation Center (bus garage) behind Sidway School will be a reality in September so that construction contracts can go out for bid. Currently, the State Education Department is reviewing the mechanical and electrical portions of those plans.
In other business, Lawrence reported that the One Island One Team One Dream group heard the results on the Prevention Needs Assessment survey that had been administered to 1,223 out of 1,800 Grand Island students in grades 6 through 12. Lawrence stated, "The data is extremely valuable" because it measures four things students say about their usage of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drugs, namely:
•Usage within the past 30 days
•Perception of risk
•Effect of parent disapproval
•Effect of peer disapproval
Lawrence said that over the coming weeks the One Island coalition will delve into how best to use the survey data. Funding for administration of the survey came from a grant from Communities for a Drug Free America.
On another topic, Lawrence said that the annual Grand Island School and Business Alliance/Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Golf Outing is set for Tuesday, July 22, at River Oaks Golf Club. John Howlett of Anchor Marine has donated a boat to the prize pile that will be awarded if a golfer scores a hole-in-one on a designated hole. For more details, visit the GISBA or chamber website. Proceeds from the outing benefits college scholarships for Grand Island seniors.
The board also discussed the viability and usefulness of its Facebook page. Trustee Matt Green will head a subcommittee, along with Karen Carroll and Glenn Bobeck, to explore the topic further.
Lastly, in Good News, the district honored retiring Huth Road School crossing guard Jeanne Anstett for her 35 years of service to elementary school students. Anstett began the job when her youngest child entered first grade. She is the mother of trustee Marston.