Energy performance contract producing big cost savings
By Michael Turton
During the past year, meetings of the Haldane School Board have often been tense, with an ominous sense of foreboding, as trustees grappled with tough budget decisions in the face of reduced funding and the nagging awareness of the need to hold the line on local taxes. There was no such tension, no doom and gloom at the board’s meeting Sept. 17 (Tuesday), as trustees breezed through an agenda that could only be described as “brimming” with positive reinforcement and good news. Naysayers were nowhere to be found.
In giving their traditional monthly reports, all six administrators referred to the palpable, positive atmosphere in the hallways in the early days of the new school year, driven in part by the recent completion of the new sports field and improvements to the auditorium and lockers. “I was overwhelmed by the positive tone … it was really, truly incredible,” high school Principal Brian Alm said, adding that the positive mood is proof that quality facilities, athletics and academics, “go hand in hand.”
Perfect graduation rate
The good news went beyond perceptions. Haldane High School was recently named a “Reward School,” a designation given by the New York State Department of Education to the highest achieving schools in the state. Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti explained one factor that undoubtedly contributed to the award. “Normally, we have in the upper 90s (percent) graduate. This year we had a 100 percent graduation rate. That’s a great accomplishment.” Statewide, the graduation rate in 2013 was 74 percent.
Alm also had praise for 15 high school seniors named “AP Scholars” for having completed three or more Advanced Placement courses. The students are Kieran Austin, Mary Callaghan, Noah Campbell, Luke Cleary, Matthew Drotar, Mina Elwell, Hannah Frith, David Hamel, Samantha Heanue, John Hughes, John McCann, Michele McEwan, Shauna Ricketts, Caroline Schweikhart and Clayton Smith. Two students, Kieran Austin and Kaeta (Rocky) Shiga, qualified as National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists.
Lower test scores, but good performance statewide
Elementary and middle school Principal Brent Harrington also delivered a somewhat positive message on a topic of considerable concern to parents of late – test results under the new Common Core curriculum. He said that he is still waiting to receive individual student test scores from the state, but acknowledged that overall, scores are lower than in the past. There is a bit of a silver lining however. Harrington said that in the past, Haldane students had outperformed 83 percent of students in statewide testing. The overall results of the first set of tests under the new system show that figure as having increased to 91 percent. Individual test scores will be sent to parents as soon as they are received.
Energy contract meeting expectations
Michael Smith, Senior Manager of Construction with ConEdison Solutions, updated trustees on the ongoing Energy Performance Contract (EPC). The EPC included $2.2 million in energy-saving improvements, guaranteed to save the school district enough in energy costs to pay for the improvements over time. Should savings not be as great as predicted by ConEdison Solutions, it is required to pay the difference. Smith said that in all, 21 measures were implemented in five buildings – including replacement of two boilers and extensive upgrades to lighting. Savings are expected to total more than $140,000 annually. The switch to more energy efficient lighting alone will result in annual savings of more than $21,500.
Trustee Peter Henderson commented on the effectiveness of the EPC and its implementation by ConEdison Solutions. “When we see a job well done we like to thank people for it publicly,” Henderson said. Henderson said that the project dates back to 2007 when “we went through every option under the sun,” in looking for energy savings measures, which at the time focused in part on the potential use of a geothermal heating and cooling system, a concept that was rejected due to its high cost. “It sounds super sophisticated,” Henderson said of the EPC, “ (but in essence) it means there is no cost to taxpayers – everything is paid for through energy savings.”
Car show rescheduled, kudos to supportive organizations
The Blue Devil Booster Club Car Show, which was rained out in May, will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Haldane campus. Business Manager Anne Dinio has been one of the primary organizers with help from the Hopewell Junction-based Embalmers Car Club. Referring to the club’s mission, Dinio said, “They preserve classic cars – and eventually the guys who own them.”
Part way through the meeting, trustees, administrators and the audience took a refreshment break as part of a tribute in recognition of the efforts of a number of organizations including the Haldane School Foundation, PTA, Blue Devil Booster Club, and the Arts Booster Club. Even the district’s newsletter earned kudos, Villanti pointing out that the special referendum edition published in September 2012, recently received an award from the New York State Public Relations Association.
Superintendent search continues
With Villanti retiring at the end of the year, School Board President Gillian Thorpe said that the status of the search for his replacement will be an agenda item at each meeting in the months ahead. The firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates has been hired to conduct the search. Thorpe said it is unlikely that a new superintendent will be hired and ready to start by Jan. 1, 2014. “There will likely be an interim period.”