by Kathleen Duff
Monday evening, the Grand Island Board of Education worked through a varied agenda, including information on Grand Island's 2014-15 budget and a report on the three-year capital improvement project. All board members were present, including Donna Tomkins and Paul Krull via Skype.
Regarding the New York state budget, the board unanimously approved a resolution to get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, GEA. Each year since 2009-10, foundation aid to school districts has been frozen at 2008-09 levels. In addition, aid may be taken from school districts and applied to the New York state budget to close deficits.
The board resolution calls on Albany to eliminate the GEA. Trustees and administrators expressed concern over the impact reduced aid might have on educational program, i.e., classes and activities.
The resolution comes amid the district's budget development season. Assistant Superintendent for School Business Services Joe Giarrizzo told the board that there is "nothing from Albany" about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget and how it may impact education statewide and locally. For the benefit of local residents, Giarrizzo will hold the second of a series of budget development forums on Monday, Feb. 24, at the high school.
Giarrizzo also reported on the capital project, saying that, monetarily, "We are still tracking where we should be." Project planners will soon meet with Principal Mary Haggerty about Kaegebein Elementary School, where work will soon begin. It includes a new entrance and connecting addition. The "kick-off" for high school auditorium renovations is March 17, and work should continue through December of this year. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) wing will be completed by August. While all the big pieces of the capital project are happening, less obvious, but important, infrastructure improvements to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; electrical and information technology systems, plumbing and many other areas are ongoing.
Again, Giarrizzo commended the workers at the high school addition for progress during the harsh winter conditions. Exterior masonry is complete, and interior work has begun. Giarrizzo remarked that the wind was so severe last week that the STEM structure was blown 2 inches out of plumb. That has since been corrected. He added that the district is awaiting State Education Department approval of plans for the new transportation center behind Charlotte Sidway School.
The public may view the executive summary, which administrators and board members receive each month from Cannon Design and Campus Construction Management. It is available on the board's page on the district website (www.k12.ginet.org) under "meeting information." The report details progress, construction change orders, and money spent.
In other business, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller said a draft of the 2014-15 school calendar is available for board review. Trustees will approve the final version at their March meeting. In addition, she said that Huth Road Elementary School will participate in a pilot program for the third, fourth and fifth grade assessments this year. Instead of the usual paper and pencil format, students will use computers to take their tests. Cuddy-Miller said that it is "an exciting opportunity" to learn something about how future tests will go and will help the school work through the parts teacher, exam proctors and computers play in the process.
Regarding winter weather and its impact on school closings and student safety, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence restated that despite recent weather-related closings, the upcoming winter recess (Feb. 14 to 21) will not be impacted to recoup missed days. Should recouping days become necessary, they would be taken in April beginning with the 14th.
Also, Krull said that it is a town ordinance that residents must keep sidewalks clear of snow, and that it is important for student safety. He told board members that the annual Grand Island School Business Alliance golf outing will be on July 8. The event raises monies for Corporate Bowl scholarships, as does the annual Sabres Alumni basketball game, which will take place later in this year.
Finally, the New York State Association of School Nurses has again recognized Cynthia Sharpe, nurse team leader for the district, for her volunteer work on the board of directors of the association and for her work as webmaster. Sharpe is also the registered nurse at Grand Island High School.