Catching Up with the Garrison School Board

Highlights from recent meetings

■ Appointed Maura Shanks as a middle-school English teacher at an annual salary of $72,687. (April 7)

■ Voted to approve the nominations of Cathy Lilburne of Garrison and Michael Simpkins of Peekskill to serve new three-year terms beginning July 1 on the board of Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Putnam/Northern Westchester County (BOCES). The Haldane board also approved the nominations. (April 20)

■ Approved a memorandum of understanding with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference to have its volunteers “plan, develop, maintain and protect trails” in the School Forest. (April 20)

■ Directed the superintendent and business administrator to continue their research into installing electric vehicle charging stations. (May 5)

■ Approved a revised policy for equity, diversity and inclusion that begins: “The Board of Education is committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive learning environment where all students, especially those currently and historically marginalized, feel safe, included, welcomed and accepted, and experience a sense of belonging and academic success.” Further: “In order to realize this goal, it is imperative that the board, its officers and employees be fully conversant in the historical injustices and inequalities that have shaped our society and to recognize and eliminate the institutional barriers, including racism and biases, that contribute to the pervasive, disparate educational outcomes within our schools.” (May 19)

■ Issued a statement about the special education process (June 2):

The board recognizes there may be some confusion in the community regarding special education and the staffing changes in the 2021-22 budget, which voters approved last month [May]. The Committee on Special Education (CSE) is a multidisciplinary team that makes recommendations in regard to special education programs, as well as related services and aides for students based on their needs, in accordance with federal and state guidance. The CSE team meets at least annually to review students’ IEPs [individual educational plans] and to make recommendations for programs from that point forward. All IEP recommendations are forwarded to the Board of Education for approval, and the district’s administration is responsible for the implementation of students’ IEP programs.

Other than approving the CSE’s recommendations, the board has no direct role in the CSE decision-making process. The district determines its special education staffing levels based on the CSE’s approved recommendations. It is important to understand that this is not a top-down decision-making process. Therefore, appealing to the board for additional special education staffing is unproductive. As a public school district, we must always respect the integrity of the CSE process.

If the CSE appropriately recommends a special education program that requires additional staffing, the district is certainly prepared to increase staffing as needed. The district will respond to the CSE’s recommendations once they have completed their annual review process and made their recommendations. The district cannot set a quota for IEPs or hours spent in various programs or aides in order to increase or decrease staffing levels.

■ Approved the retirement of Nancy Galletto, educational technology specialist. She had been with the district for 17 years. (June 2)

■ Approved one-year extensions of the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union increasing salaries by 1 percent and employee contributions for health insurance premiums from 13.50 percent to 13.75 percent, and with the school-related personnel union increasing salaries by 2 percent and health contributions from 10 percent to 10.25 percent. (June 2)

time-capsule

SEE YOU IN 2031 — Coulter Young, the art teacher at the Garrison School, holds aloft a time capsule on June 25 donated by Ned Rauch, president of the PTA, before it was buried on campus. The canister was filled with notes and drawings from students in every grade expressing what it was like to attend school during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with two facial masks, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a daily health form. It will be retrieved in 10 years. (Photo provided)

■ Accepted bids for a capital project approved by voters in May for general construction from Meyer Contracting Corp. for $3.23 million; plumbing by Total Construction Corp. for $222,400; mechanical (HVAC) by Bertussi Contracting for $1.57 million; electrical by Hudson Valley Electrical Construction Management for $1.07 million; and mechanical equipment from Trane for $857,100. (June 2)

■ Robin Waters, the president of the Garrison Teachers’ Association, noted the union had sent letters of support to the board for two teachers and three aides whose positions were cut in the 2021-22 budget. “We hear we are valued but it rings false,” she said. “New programs and administration have been added while staff positions are being eliminated. Where is the equity in that and how does this help the kids? Seeing our long-term members so easily dismissed after giving so much has been demoralizing. In my 32 years I have never seen morale so low and staff so anxious. I implore you to reconsider the programs you are adding and the positions you are eliminating and the criteria you are using to make these decisions.” The 2021-22 budget included two new positions: an environmental education science teacher and a director of technology. (June 2)

■ Awarded tenure to second grade teacher Marjorie Guigliano. (June 16)

■ The board’s next meeting is scheduled for July 13. James Hoch will leave the board and be succeeded by Madeline Julian, who was elected in May.

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