GUFS Board Looks to Improve Library, Other Features

The Garrison School decked out to welcome students for the first day of school. Photo by J. Tao

Haldane honors retiring faculty, receives contract update

By Pamela Doan

As the 2013-14 academic year wound down this month for the Garrison Union Free School and Haldane Central School Districts, their respective boards looked toward what lies ahead — though Haldane also took time to honor those who contributed to what has been.

GUFS: Better education, library    

At two meetings, the GUFS Board of Education heard reports and had lengthy discussions about improving the quality of education and quality of life for students and teachers alike in the coming year.

The June 4 meeting featured a presentation by the librarian, Mary Reed; Melissa Harris, teacher aide; and Joseph Mannozzi, librarian from BOCES (Putnam-Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services), who assisted them with information about best practices from other districts. Principal Stephanie Impellittiere described the effort as “improving the overall experience of students in the library with the goal of making it the center and the hub of the school.”

The recommendations for the library focused on two main areas that would make the library more accessible and useful to students. Reed was impressed with the system at the Croton school district that used bins with images to display books for younger students instead of the Dewey Decimal System, which she said children don’t understand until fourth grade. Reed used a bin with the image of a princess on it as an example. When a student asked for a book about princesses, instead of looking it up, she could point the student to a shelf with the bin of the image with the princess and inside the child could search through all books in that category.

They pointed out that about 10 percent of the library shelf space is taken up by books that are out of use, old, and should probably be discarded. Mannozzi shared guidelines from the National Library Association on how to weed books from the library. The guidelines address how long to keep a book and when to replace it and diversify the collection. On a regular basis, Reed wants to scrutinize the collection and use the guidelines to determine when to replace or remove a book.

The board had many questions about the process of choosing which books to discard and concerns about maintaining a diverse selection that would appeal to readers of all levels. All agreed that books in good condition that are relevant to the curriculum should be maintained and that keeping multiple copies of a classic wasn’t necessary if it wasn’t being checked out. Overall, the recommendations will streamline and expand the library’s collection while making it more accessible to younger readers.

At their meeting on June 18, the board heard from the Education Task Force, a group of teachers and parents who have spent the past year visiting three other school districts and evaluating GUFS for their best practices. The two parents, four teachers and principal visited Croton, Chappaqua, and Pocantico Hills to observe their programs. They shared their findings with the board and recommended long- and short-term goals based on their experiences.

“I’m so proud of them. They have been open-minded, creative and honest about our work here at Garrison. I love that teachers become leaders,” said GUFS Superintendent Laura Mitchell.

The recommendations include 11 short-term goals addressing areas like scheduling, community partnerships, professional development and facilities. Mitchell said, “We want to create an environment that is engaging, dynamic and purposeful in encouraging learning.”

Haldane recognitions and contract negotiation

Meeting June 17, the Haldane school board recognized seven faculty and staff members who are retiring at the end of the school year or retired during the past year — former Superintendent Mark Villanti, Ginny Pidala, Michael Klubnick, Christine Donovan, Judy Hammond, Candy Zgolinski, and Shirley Maloney — who were all thanked for their service.

Michelle Grasso, a high school teacher; Ryan McConville, an elementary / middle-school teacher; and Brent Harrington, elementary / middle school principal, received tenure and were congratulated and thanked by the board. This is an annual special presentation that the board does to show appreciation for the staff and their years of service.

The middle-school Destination Imagination Team was also recognized and celebrated by the board for placement at the global finals last month. The team won at the level of regional and state finals before advancing to the global competition where it competed in Tennessee with teams from across the United States and other countries. The students — Olivia Olsen, Michael Scicluna, Abigail Platt, Noah Bingham, Andy Scicluna, Daniel Bajsicki, and Laura Cosma — placed 17th.

Board President Gillian Thorpe gave an update on the status of the Haldane Faculty Association contract negotiations. HFA members voted to reject a tentative agreement on June 3 after both sides had expressed positive sentiments about the settlement and the hope that it would restore staff and program cuts for the 2014-15 school year.

“Although this setback was disappointing for everyone involved, both teams still hope to find a win/win agreement,” Thorpe said. “Given the nature of negotiations, I cannot say more at the moment, but we will share information as it becomes available.”


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One thought on “GUFS Board Looks to Improve Library, Other Features

  1. I find myself asking why no visit by this group to our nearby Haldane Central School district for the possibilities of shared, cost effective and collaborative solutions? GUFS already participates in Haldane’s sports programs with students on various middle school teams? The Croton, Chappaqua and Potantico Hills districts have 4,100; 1,400 and 467 students, respectively. Only the PH district is a bit like GUFS — one PreK-8 school and partnering with Sleepy
    Hollow, Briarcliff and Pleasantville high Schools. Consideration and decisions should include “need versus want,” “necessity or nicety.”