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Hail and farewell

June 12th, 2013

Last Tuesday evening the Highland Board of Education met and celebrated the success of eight retirees and six teachers who have gained tenure with the district.

The list of retirees includes: Darrell Christman, Frances Scriber, Mary Darcy, Regina Heffernan, Maria DeCourto, Lynn Felton, Christina Parker, and Ed Pol. The eight retirees have devoted a cumulative total of 145 years of service to the district. The tenure candidates were individually praised by the principals of the elementary, middle, and high schools for their initiative, leadership skills, and service to their students. The teachers who received tenure were Lisa Neer, Krista Petrosoff, Rebecca Piazza, Thomas Schlappich, Stefanie Whiston, and Joshua Tatum.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a number of parents, led by Sally Bellachico, approached the Board to ask for the creation of a modified wrestling team. Two Highland High School graduates also joined the parents. Tom Palazzo is now the coach of the Wallkill modified wrestling team, and Justin Signorelli wrestled for the high school before going on to wrestle for SUNY Cortland where he led his team to a number of wins. All of the supporters spoke about the character building qualities of the sport, attested to the interest of local students in a modified team, and validated previous comments about the viability of such a sport for the district.

The board expressed interest and requested that more information concerning the funds is needed to start the team be sent to them in writing. They will be discussing the team privately before making their decision. Board President Alan Barone also made it known that they have already closed out their budget for the upcoming school year, and he was not sure if they would be able to work it into the current plan.

Another concerned Highland parent approached with questions regarding the funding for recent technology updates and the amount budgeted for teacher contract negotiations. The board later clarified that the technology modification is a limited update. The expenses incurred from these specific updates are being funded over a period of four to five years by adding the expenses as a line item into the budget. This should also prevent any spikes in the budget. Her question concerning contract negotiations was answered later.

Superintendent of Schools, Deborah Haab also took time to discuss her recent trip to Albany. There, she spoke with State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Assemblyman Frank Skartados. She said they were “asking pertinent questions” calling them “inquisitive” as she spoke with them concerning school financing and “the need for change.”

Haab gave them several suggestions including a concept for a centralized business office which she believes will help cut costs and “generate revenue by sharing back office resources.” The senator also expressed interest in visiting the district and attending a board meeting. Tkaczyk offered Highland students the opportunity to make the Senate floor in Albany. The Superintendent said she is working with both Tkaczyk and Skartados to access $200,000 in aid owed to the district. During her comments, the superintendent answered questions about the amount of money budgeted for teacher contract negotiations.

Haab believes that enough money has been written into the budget for the teachers, and she does not anticipate an issue stating,

“We should be able to weather the financial crisis if all avenues for funding are explored,” she said. 
In summary of the other agenda items, several other matters of business where settled unanimously by the Board members. They approved the creation of four positions including two security attendants, a senior security guard civil service position, and one part-time reading position for K-12. They approved of the 2012-2013 budget transfer of $19,945, the disposal of a list of outdated textbooks, the transfer of the payroll function of the district to Ulster BOCES, and of the results of two votes from May 21, 2013. The first vote resulted in the approval of a school district budget of $38,524,337 and the second resulted in the approval of three members of the Board of Education trustees. The members are as follows: Tom Miller (incumbent), Sue Gilmore (incumbent), and Vincent Rizzi, Jr. (new).

The board has planned the reorganizational meeting to take place on July 2 at 6 p.m.

By Kaitlyn Bennett

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