by Kathleen Duff
At its Monday evening meeting, the Grand Island Board of Education approved a new business official in the district. Robert McDow replaces Joe Giarrizzo as assistant superintendent of school business and finance. McDow has served as director of finance for the Sweet Home Central School District since October of 2007 and brings another five years of experience as the director of the Joint Schools Construction Board for the Buffalo Public Schools.
Until McDow is seated in his new position Jan. 5, 2015, Thomas Bagley will serve as interim assistant superintendent. In the past, Bagley has been the director of administrative services for the Hamburg School District and was assistant superintendent for the Holland Central School District. During his service to Grand Island schools, Bagley will work three days per week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
In other business, trustees heard a report from Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller. Cuddy-Miller said that the district must submit a spending plan to the Smart Schools Review Board in Albany for the funds allocated to Grand Island schools through the Smart Schools Bond Act. The act was passed in referendum by voters on the Nov. 4 ballot. Through the act, Grand Island will receive $1,629,396 from a larger pie of $2 billion set aside for schools across the state. Districts may spend their shares of the money on high-tech educational equipment and on space for pre-kindergarten programs.
Trustee Matt Green raised the question of how "sustainable" technology equipment is given that tablets and laptops have a relatively short lifespan before they are considered obsolete. Cuddy-Miller agreed that care needs to be taken in arriving at a sensible plan and that that should be forthcoming soon.
Also regarding curriculum, the board listened to a presentation on new course proposals for Grand Island High School. Principal Dan Quartley and assistant principals Michael Carter and Corey Gray said that all subject areas must be explored and updated to focus on college and career readiness, Project Lead the Way leadership goals and Common Core standards. The academic restructuring will not have a budgetary impact or increase staffing, Quartley stated.
Emphasis will be placed on rigorous math and science courses on critical thinking skills in Foundations of Knowledge, on the causes and major events in U.S. conflicts across the globe in America's wars and on hands-on greenhouse and field experience in horticulture and field ecology. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence commented that students following the curriculum pathways will present as rigorously prepared when they apply for college admission.
In capital project action, the board approved a $2.5 million contract for site work to begin on the district's new transportation facility behind Charlotte Sidway School on Baseline Road. The 16,000-square-foot bus garage will have the latest and safest in hydraulic lift systems for bus repair. The old garage on the site will be used to house the district's buildings and grounds staff. Project Manager Vaughn Maracle of Campus Construction Management said he anticipates that access road and building costs may increase over the original $6.377 million from 2012.
Also related to the capital project, Maracle said that, after several delays through the fall, Kaegebein Elementary School's Library and Media Center should be completed by Dec. 19. Work on the Veronica E. Connor Middle School Library will start in the summer of 2015. Middle school parents have raised concerns regarding the safety of electrical cords and outlets in the library, and those will be addressed soon.
Finally, the board welcomed the addition of two social workers to the school staff. They are Heather Maras at Charlotte Sidway, Huth Road and Kaegebein schools and Heather LaPier at Veronica E. Connor Middle School and Grand Island High School. They will coordinate Family Support Services, which include referrals regarding behavioral issues, substance abuse, parenting needs and other services for students and their families.