by Kathleen Duff
The Grand Island Board of Education met Monday evening at Grand Island High School and covered a wide range of topics.
Trustees heard a report from Campus Construction Management regarding the district's capital improvement project. While major portions of the project are finished and have been "turned over to the district," many are still in progress, including the high school auditorium. Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Support Services Joe Giarrizzo stated that seats, flooring, tile and stage refinishing are done and that the stage curtain will be hung soon. The long-awaited library-media center at Kaegebein Elementary School will be finished by the end of November, and the occupational/physical therapy suite at Charlotte Sidway Elementary School will be done by Dec. 5.
On another topic, Giarrizzo talked about a possible veterans tax exemption for Grand Islanders. The exemptions could be categorized by veteran status: war, combat or disabled. Throughout the state, school boards can decide whether or not to extend the exemption to vets and at what rate. The school board took no action at this time.
Giarrizzo also gave the board a projection of the 2015-16 budget at the request of Dr. Teresa Lawrence, superintendent of schools. Giarrizzo stated that any projection at this point in the year is full of "uncertainties," but that he could foresee a possible $500,000 to $1 million budget gap. State aid is always "concerning," he said. He did, however, confidently project a reduction in the district's contribution to the Teacher Retirement System or TRS. The current contribution stands at 17.53 percent of eligible teacher salaries, but next budget year's figure could drop as low as 13 to 131/2 percent, saving Grand Island schools approximately $600,000. Giarrizzo emphasized that his budget presentation amounted to "guessing." Giarrizzo leaves the district this month to begin serving as administrator for school business services with the City of Niagara Falls school district.
In news regarding curriculum, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller spoke to the board about New Pathways, a program recently approved by the New York State Board of Regents. It will give high school students different, but still rigorous, ways to meet high school graduation requirements and aims to make students more college and career ready. Students currently take five Regents exams in order to graduate: English, science, mathematics, U.S. history, and global studies. New Pathways would replace one exam with a career and technical education (CTE); science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); arts, bilingual studies, or humanities test if students have been pursuing such a path throughout their high school careers. The Board of Regents should adopt the new testing in January of 2015.
Lastly, varsity and junior varsity cheerleading are now approved as official sports in the Grand Island schools. Kristina Briggs and Sara Silvestri currently coach the teams. This local approval follows after the New York State Board of Regents officially recognized competitive cheerleading as an interscholastic sport across the state in April of this year.