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Swearing-in returns Chatham board to full strength


CHATHAM–The Board of Education appointed Edward Knight as its newest member last week and heard two proposals, one for a $3.5-million part of the 2014-15 budget and another the other for a new high school advanced placement biology course.

Mr. Knight was administered the Oath of Office by District Clerk Deborah Pottenburgh after being appointed at the February 11 board meeting. He will hold the seat until the next annual election on May 30. He was chosen from among the eight applicants interviewed by the board. President Melony Spock thanked the other candidates and called it a “tough decision.”

School Business Administrator Michael Chudy presented the 2014-15 budget draft estimates for administrative support and operations/maintenance portions. He plans to present the estimates for the rest of the draft budget at the February 25 board meeting.

The portion presented last week totals $3,516,986, a proposed increase of less than $7,000 from the previous year. Included in that number are increases in the legal fees budget, insurance, school administrative costs, and BOCES administration costs. He estimated insurance costs would increase 7%. BOCES administration costs are being raised 3%. The acronym BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The BOCES for the three-county region that covers all of Columbia County is called Questar III.

The district is planning for a decrease of more than $20,000 for the Central Data Processing budget, which Mr. Chudy says has to do with computer systems through BOCES.

“There was some support money we could pull out and do in-house,” he said. “That’s why there was [a] savings there for next year.”

He also anticipates savings from the operations and maintenance parts of the budget, which would see a decrease of $6,474. Mr. Chudy credited Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Steve Nieto with having negotiated savings in various contracts. For example, Mr. Nieto told the board he negotiated a new contract for elevator service that will save $2,100 a year. He said installation of solar panels at the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School has also saved about $5,000 a year in energy costs. Additionally, the district is still benefiting from a lower electricity rate negotiated in previous years.

Also at the board February 11 meeting:

High school Principal John Thorsen and science teacher Justin Forrest proposed a new AP Biology course for high school. Mr. Forrest said that while the school does offer an advanced biology course among several other science classes, none of those courses help students meet certain college requirements. The AP Biology course, which would replace Advanced Biology, would help students earn certain college credits while still in high school.

Jean Scheriff, director of data assessment and special programs, presented the results from body mass index data collected last year from students kindergarten, 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 10th grades last year. The data showed that 61% of the students were in the “healthy weight” range; 17% were considered over-weight, and 13% were obese. She said there were very few students in the “under-weight” range.

The body mass index (BMI) use height, weight, gender and age to chart body mass. She said BMI index is just one indicator of obesity but should not to be used by itself to diagnose obesity. Staff from the physical education, family and consumer science, health, and cafeteria departments were present to explain how they teach students to maintain a healthy weight.

Brooke Dittmar, interim director of the Chatham Public Library, presented the library’s annual report to the board. Last year, there were 42,588 library visits. Adult programs increased dramatically to 86 during last year. She said the library also had access to 5,628 electronic books last year, an increase of over 2,400 from the previous year. Program attendance was up for children and adults. The school district operates the library, which is attached to the Middle School on Woodbridge Avenue.

Ms. Spock said the board plans to discuss the policy on board committee meetings and superintendent committee meetings at the February 25 board meeting. During public comment at the January board meeting, district resident David Levow complained that he was turned away when attempting to attend a facilities committee meeting. During public comment of last week’s meeting, resident Wayne Coe said he and other community members were “held behind two closed doors” during these meetings, and said the district was violating the state Open Meetings Law.

Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo said that there are two types of committees–board committees and superintendent committees. Board committees, which are chaired by board members and attended by staff in advisory roles, are subject to the Open Meetings Law. But superintendent’s committees, she said, are not subject to the law.

The board will discuss the district’s policy regarding this issue at its February 25 meeting.





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