Board registers opposition to special education bill
by Michael Mell
At its July 5 annual reorganization meeting, the Garrison Union Free School (GUFS) Board of Education elected Raymond O’Rourke as president and Diana Swinburne as vice president. O’Rouke has served as vice president for the past two years, and Swinburne is a long-time board member. Theresa Orlandi, the board’s newest member, was sworn in to begin her first term on the board.
O’Rourke was named the GUFS representative to the Westchester – Putnam School Boards Association. He will also serve as legislative liaison to the association and to the New York State School Boards Association. Trustee Charlotte Rowe was named the GUFS delegate to the annual meeting of the state association.
In the business meeting that followed, the board held a first reading of a policy change to extend the GUFS kindergarten admissions date to Dec. 31 from the current Dec. 1 cutoff. Under the revised policy, children who turn 5 years of age on or before Dec. 31 will be admitted to the current year’s kindergarten class. The policy change aligns the GUFS admissions date with Haldane’s. The policy change is subject to a second reading and final vote at the Aug. 29 board meeting.
The board also registered its opposition to a bill awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature that would expose financially strapped districts to unlimited liability for the private-school tuition of certain special education students. The board authorized Superintendent Gloria Colucci to urge the governor to veto A10722A, colloquially known as the “Cultural Special Education” bill.
The bill, which passed both the Assembly and the Senate without discussion on the last day of their recently concluded sessions, would require school district committees on special education to include home, family and other cultural considerations in the placement of special-education students. It would impose an unlimited obligation to pay for private schools, including religious institutions, for certain of its special-education students. The New York State School Boards Association, the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association and the Rural Schools Association of New York State (all three of which GUFS is a member), along with hundreds of school boards around the state, strongly oppose the bill.
In other business, the board approved a proposal to retain an educational technology consultant to assess and make recommendations on how GUFS may best deploy its current technology resources and its future investments to achieve the best possible educational outcomes, as well as to improve overall operating efficiecies.