Thorpe and Henderson sworn in as board president and vice president, respectively
By Alison Rooney
In a briskly run meeting reflecting an end-of-a-summer’s-day motivation to move things along, Trustees Gillian Thorpe and Peter Henderson were nominated and unanimously approved as the Haldane Board of Education’s new president and vice president. Both are incumbents, and Thorpe had previously served as vice president.
Haldane District Superintendent Mark Villanti noted that Thorpe was part of a father/daughter “team” of board officers, referring to her father, Thomas Robertson, who served as vice president for five years. Villanti called this distinction “an accomplishment.” Also taking the oath at the July 2 meeting were Anne Dinio, business manager, and Villanti, being sworn in, as it turned out, for what will likely be the last time. Later in the meeting he submitted his resignation, due to retirement, effective this December.
First, however, there was a presentation of a check from Dan Hughes, president of the Haldane Blue Devil Booster Club/PLAY Haldane, for $90,000, raised in support of upgrades to athletic ﬁelds, locker rooms and the auditorium. Hughes noted this was the “culmination of a lot of volunteer effort on behalf of hundreds of families. … This along with $12,000 that the Haldane School Foundation allowed us to raise puts us over the goal.”
Villanti said later that “things are moving quickly in the progress of the fields.” The next BOE meeting, on Aug. 13, will begin with a walk through the fields, showing the progress of the work. Although no bids were received in a timely fashion for the locker room restoration (four packets were picked up) Villanti expressed confidence that reposting would result in bidding, one firm having replied past the deadline.
Haldane High School President Brian Alm introduced social studies department chair Jackie McGrath, explaining that she would be speaking about a restructuring of the social studies elective offerings. The criminal justice elective would retain its name but now incorporate what used to be the forensics club into its curricula, including elements such as mock trials and debates to make it more interactive and stimulating, with a goal of having social studies become “more authentic, with a global focus.
The “History’s Mysteries” elective will be replaced with Model U.N., a course that prepares students for various social studies’ simulations: “It could be Model U.N., then Model Congress, with preparations for a local or regional or even national competitions.” McGrath then expanded on this new class, saying she had taught it elsewhere, for a year. “You have the audience and the issue, moving it all in a 21st-century skill base. Academic simulations are cross-curriculum,” she explained, for example incorporating elements relating to the environment, statistics (hunger, crime, drugs) “utilizing other faculty to build momentum — plus of course current events.”
The class would culminate in a spring 2014 visit to the National High School Model U.N. Conference, which takes place in the actual General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City and attracts about 3,000 participants from around 20 different countries. McGrath called it “a good stepping stone for college.” Commenting favorably upon it, Villanti said, “Kids who might not normally speak up in class might find a topic.” The class will be offered to all students who have already signed up for History’s Mysteries and to any other interested students from 10th to 12th grades.
Discussion continued with the presentation of a new Spanish text book for AP Spanish students. The AP class designation is new for Haldane this year, and the AP program in Spanish has also changed in the past year, with three competing textbooks tailored to the new curricula. Spanish teacher Nina Ortiz attended an AP workshop and researched all three texts before choosing one called Temas, which also includes online access to materials. The text was unanimously approved later in the meeting.
Alm then brought up three small changes made to this year’s Code of Conduct, distributed and signed by all students. In the elementary school edition, changes were made to the definitions of prohibited electronic devices, with e-book readers now allowed with the permission of the classroom teacher. Amendments were also made to a listing of other prohibited items, with the wording now reading as “toys of any kind, trading cards and dangling items from backpacks.”
In the high school edition, a “subtle but pretty big adjustment was made,” according to Alm, adding “interfering with school security protocols including propping a locked door” to the list of conduct that was not permissible. Thorpe called all of these measures “good changes.”
After a discussion of a proposed trip to New Orleans by the 2014 senior class, the board agreed with Villanti that they would need more information in order to make any approval. The trip would include a service-learning component, with the students working with Habitat for Humanity as well as more traditional sightseeing elements. It was agreed that the board needed to be thoughtful and should take the time to digest all the information before making a decision.
After a brief discussion about the hiring status of the teacher, Jennifer Quick, who will be teaching next year’s “bubble class” and an assignment of board members to a host of committees, Villanti, calling it “the hardest letter I’ve ever written,” read his letter of resignation, effective Dec. 31, 2013, “for the purpose of retirement.”
Although Thorpe said, “We would love to twist his arm to try to get him to stay longer,” Villanti said, “The district’s in a really good place, and the time to retire is when things are going well. I promised them five years and it’s been seven. … I love Haldane and it’s been an honor; this is a great place to be a part of. … I’m proud and thankful for your support.”
The meeting concluded with all motions approved unanimously.