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Springville-Griffith Institute school board votes to list former bus garage, rejects New York state testing

SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute Board of Education voted during its Oct. 8 meeting to list its vacant bus garage, located on Vaughn Street, on the market as a commercial property. The move effectively rejects – for now, at least – a bid by a local organization to buy the property for $1.

All board members – save Joan Kelly, who abstained – voted to list the property at $250,000 for six months.

Earlier, during the public presentation portion of the meeting, Pete Andrews, representing the Christian Youth Corps of Delevan, made his case to buy the property for $1.

Andrews said he wanted to put “extra emphasis” on the CYC bid, made earlier this year, since the board had not responded in some time.

“I wanted to come today and put a plea to [the board] to be able to move this along. We’ve been working on it for about six months,” said Andrews. He explained that the CYC is “ready and able” to perform repairs on the building and “ready to go ahead and start doing the planning and work with the [Department of Environmental Conservation] on the cleanup and management.”

Andrews estimated that the CYC’s plan would save the district “a quarter of a million dollars in cleanup,” compared the value of the property, which he pegged at $220,000. He also noted concerns about putting the building back on local tax rolls, which he estimated would add $7,500 to district coffers, “less than half of what we spend for one student’s education a year.

“So, if [the CYC would be] sending 65 kids through a program that’s going to give them a career at the end of it with accredited coursing, and give them an opportunity and a direct path to a career, [these are] the options that we have – right now, we have a lot of them.”

Superintendent Paul Connelly explained the district’s reluctance to enter into the deal presented by the CYC.

“If you want to talk about site work,” said Connelly, referring to the CYC’s proposed cleanup and repair efforts, “there’s a whole lot more that goes into that, and I don’t think that you presented information that was qualifiable to a [professional engineer] to say, ‘yeah, this would be a clean transaction.’” Connelly said that the district was “also exploring opportunities through commercial real estate.”

Connelly qualified his assessment with praise for the CYC. “What you guys do is great. It’s fantastic. It’s wonderful – there’s no question about that. It would be great if we could just do this, but we’re strapped. Everybody’s strapped. You’re strapped, we’re strapped, and we’re trying to get [the property] back on the tax rolls, and do the very best that we can for the taxpayers of this school district.”

Later in the meeting, after Andrews had left, the board voted to list the building as a commercial property.

For more information on the CYC, including Pete Andrews’ reaction to the board’s decision, see Page 9.

During the meeting, the board also voted to approve a resolution on high-stakes testing, brought forward by board member Alison Duwe. The resolution calls for the “NYS Commissioner of Education and the NYS Board of Regents to stop the overreliance on standardized tests as a measure of student performance and principal/teacher effectiveness.”

After lengthy discussion, the resolution passed in a 3-2 vote. Board President Delia Bonenberger took issue with language in the resolution rejecting NYS Common Core standards.

“I’m not completely convinced that the standardized testing are what’s blocking the [classroom] time needed at all, and I’m not sure that throwing this all out the door does create student-centered schools and future-ready students, which Common Core is, in fact, supposed to do. So, we’ve thrown out Common Core from this ... and we’ve said everything was perfect before, and I don’t agree with either one of [those statements].”

Board member John Einarsson voiced doubts about the amount of the testing teachers and students actually face.

“I’ve heard such a varying account of what classroom time is used [for testing],” said Einarsson. We had [Chris Cerrone] speak tonight, who spends 25 percent of [classroom] time on testing. I find that extremely hard to believe, that you’re going to take a day and a half out of every week full of testing – that, I can’t believe. Another one I saw said that children are subjected to 3,200 minutes of testing a year,” which Einarsson figured was “less than 5 percent of the total time spent in school on testing. Is that more than we did 10 years ago? OK, well, I’ll go with that – maybe it is, I don’t know. I was a kid in school 10 years ago. But maybe we weren’t doing a very good job 10 years ago.”

Despite the opposition, Duwe, Kara Kane and Joan Kelly were able to pass the resolution in a majority vote.

For more on that resolution, see a story on Page 13.

In other news:

– The New York State School Board Association released a number of proposed resolutions in advance of its Oct. 26 meeting. The S-GI board discussed a number of those, including a resolution to increase aid to districts with longer school days or school years. Duwe said she worried the measure would put state aid out of whack.

“Let’s just get state aid back to where it’s supposed to be,” she said, “rather than putting out solutions that are one-size-fit-all. I also don’t think our kids need to be in school all day long.”

Connelly explained that a longer school year would put some capital projects in jeopardy. “You can’t work on the roof when kids are in the building,” he noted.

Other resolutions discussed included school security and college alignment standards.

– School Business Administrator Ted Welch gave an update on the district’s capital project needs assessment, which was completed on Oct. 8. Welch said the list of projects outlined by the assessment, is “very, very extensive, which means it’s very, very expensive, and I believe that everybody will concur that it needs some weeding down.” Welch noted that the most significant items on the list were a pair of design proposals involving the middle school and the high school gymnasium.

During Welch’s report, the board heard concerns about an inundation of weeds on school grounds, particularly on some of the school’s sports fields. Larry Straus, maintenance mechanic crew chief for the district, said, “It’s not just a cosmetic thing; it’s a safety issue on some fields,” explaining that some weeds attract an inordinate amount of bees, which poses a risk for students allergic to them.

– S-GI business teacher Eric Holler and Future Business Leaders of America and S-GI students Adam Wolfley and Brandon Sullivan addressed the board about a proposed student-run cafe and lounge.

The Griffin’s Lair, as it is known, would operate in the high school, be staffed by students and sell drinks, S-GI merchandise, apparel and school supplies.

Holler said the Griffin’s Lair would give students “practical, hands-on experience,” and that it “fits with the district’s plan of being college- and career-ready ... [since] every kid [would] walk out of here with some kind of experience.”

Kelly said she wanted to be sure the project would not run afoul of child labor laws, which Connelly said he would be “happy to look into.”

– Colden Elementary Principal Katherine Townsend, who oversees academic intervention for the district, outlined a few changes in the district’s intervention plans.

Townsend said updates to the district plan were “just a few quick, easy changes,” including an increase in intervention group sizes and added flexibility to time spent on intervention.

– The board voted to add a second community member to its audit committee, which it would announce officially at a later date.

– During the public address portion of the meeting, Steve Conklin expressed concern over a “rude gesture” made by an S-GI football coach during the school’s homecoming game. Mike Hannon also addressed the board regarding f conduct during school football games.

The board will hold its next public meeting on Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., in the S-GI high school library and media center.

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