By Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
One of the unique things about Grand Island is the regular meetings that the Grand Island Town Board and the Board of Education hold to discuss collaborative efforts, as well for each governing body to share updates, said Sue Marston, vice president of the Board of Education at a Jan. 29 joint meeting of the two groups.
“No other town does this, to my recollection,” Marston said. “We have had other towns come in and sit in on our meetings. It’s nice that we can take the time and sit together and use our resources and our community to collaborate. We are one island, one district, one town. Really, our school district is a center of our community. A lot of people come to our sporting events, our plays, our concerts, etc.”
Grand Island Central School District Superintendent Brian Graham added, “I really appreciate the opportunity to work and collaborate with the town. Additionally, besides being a superintendent, I’m a resident here, and I understand the great amount of care and passion that the town has toward its citizens. With that said, we’re really promoting the concept that we’re all partners in the positive development of our young people.”
Town Supervisor Peter Marston said, “I was at a housing summit in Albany this past weekend and this came up: how school boards and town boards and local governments don’t communicate. I raised my hand and told them about what we do in our town. I told them that we share services, like diesel purchases. We have emergency response plans that are commingled. They couldn’t believe it. A lot of them left there thinking, ‘We’ve got some work to do.’ I was actually rather proud that we’re that far ahead of them.
“I couldn’t be happier that, living in a small town, we are working together for the greater good. You know the term ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ is true.”
Topics discussed by the Town Board and the Board of Education included:
Supervisor Marston said a meeting was held recently to discuss preparation for potential emergencies, including snowstorms, flooding, and massive power outages. Representatives from the fire company, the highway department, and the parks department were at the meeting. In addition, he said, the Town of Grand Island has Greg Butcher, emergency coordinator for Erie County, to assist.
“He’s an Island resident, so we have him involved,” Marston said. “He can really get the inside scoop and tell us it’s going to quit snowing, or it’s going to snow some more, or the wind’s going to blow harder.”
Graham said, “Greg is really amazing. He sends superintendents a weather brief that is maybe eight to 10 pages long. It’s very helpful, as we’re looking ahead to storms and things of that nature. He also brings institutional knowledge that goes back a long time.”
“He’s very in tune with the FEMA regulations and things like that,” Marston said. “If there is an epic event and there are monies to be asked for, he certainly knows the path of how to get it, which is important to all of us. The schools are a big part of this because the schools have facilities all around the Island. Between the schools and the town, we pretty much cover all four corners of the Island.”
Stop Arm School Bus Cameras
Graham said the town and the school district have been working to make it possible to equip school buses with stop arm cameras. These cameras, which can record the license plate of vehicles passing stopped school buses, are currently being used by the Niagara Falls School District, which started the program in September 2021.
According to Grand Island Central School District Transportation Director Theresa Alizadeh, vehicles pass by stopped school buses an average of 10-12 times a day.
“One time is too many,” Graham said. “The town has been very active with the school district, supporting the concept of school buses having stop arm cameras attached to the exterior of a school bus. There are vendors that will pay for all the cameras and all the installation. What it does is it pays attention to cars going past a stopped school bus, it takes a picture of the license plate, and then works with the town to issue a citation for running the red stop sign and the stopped school bus.”
Although passing a stopped school bus is a violation of the state’s traffic laws, enforcement has been an issue.
“Right now, it’s pretty unenforceable, unless there’s a police officer right by the bus,” Sue Marston said. “This is an issue we hear about quite often, and it’s all over Facebook.”
Thomas Franz, Grand Island Police Officer in Charge, added, “The way the law is written, the police officer has to observe it. So, if a report comes to a police officer, the officer goes to track that person down and has a conversation with that person, if the person wants to have a conversation.”
To create an enforcement provision, “We would need to adopt a town ordinance to support it,” Supervisor Marston explained. “Just for clarification, it’s not a moving violation, and it’s not a DMV violation. It’s a citation, which means it’s not going on your license. There are no points. It’s a strong parking ticket.”
Forthcoming Rescue Drills
“Kerry Lanthier of the Grand Island Fire Co. reached out to conduct some rescue drills at Sidway Elementary School in the summer,” Graham said. “We will be working with him. He is going to be bringing in other agencies. It’s not an active-shooter drill, but it is a drill of an intense nature, where we would probably need to move just kids for a day or make some changes for our summer child care that occurs, and we would have to work around Mr. Antonelli’s schedule for kindergarten screening and all those things. We don’t have a date yet. We did do an active-shooter training, not that this is one, but it requires a tremendous amount of communication with everyone so that no one is unnecessarily calling 911 when they’re driving by Sidway. We’re excited to work with him and look forward to continued planning in that area.”
Opportunities for High School Students In Town Hall
Supervisor Marston talked about the potential of getting students to come to town hall to do “internships and community service hours.” He said one need his office has is help with the town’s website. “We would love to potentially bring in an intern to help us out. One young gentleman reached out to me and sent me a letter and said he was very interested.”
Graham said the school district offers internships for students through the Academy of Finance and there could be the possibility of other opportunities.
Marston added, “We’re not close-minded to more than one (intern). This one young gentleman seemed like he very much fit the bill to help us in the supervisor’s office to facilitate things.”
He noted there could be other opportunities within town hall for interns.
Marston also mentioned a meeting he had with a group of students, who act as an advisory board to advise Graham and High School Principal Hilary Kretz-Harvey.
“They had me impressed with how in tune they were to issues,” he said. “I’m not sure how they figured all that out, but they did. It was impressive. So, I know that you have set your curriculum for the next year. If people in your classes would like to put together something joint with the town, we’re more than open to that. I wanted you to know that that is an option, and you could reach out to us. We’re happy to do that.”
Graham said, “It’s really great that you came and sat with Hilary and me to talk to young people to hear what they had to say.”
√ Meat raffle at 6 p.m., March 9, at the Cristoforo Colombo Society Hall, 2223 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls. All proceeds will go to Growing Readers, “an initiative to put books in the hands of babies and toddlers through their pediatrician’s office.”
√ Car show: scheduled for June 26. This is the first car show being organized by the Grand Island School and Business Alliance (GISBA).
“We’re just putting the final details together,” Sue Marston said. “We’re excited to raise more money for our students and our scholarship programs. Look for that, all you guys who have antique cars parked in your garage. It should be a good event. School will be out, so we’ll be in the front parking lot. Basket raffle, 50/50, music. Mark your calendar. It should be a fun event for a great cause.”
√ Golf tournament: Scheduled for July 15; this is a fundraiser for GISBA.
The next joint meeting of the Grand Island Town Board and the Board of Education is set for Tuesday, May 28, at town hall.