Onteora, teacher’s negotiators reach tentative settlement

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

A contract settlement has apparently been reached between the Onteora Central School District and negotiators for the Onteora Teachers Association (OTA). The teacher’s contract expired in June, 2012. Details of the agreement will be released if the OTA rank and file ratifies it through a vote, scheduled sometime in the next week.

The pact includes a mapping on the new State teacher evaluation plan known as the Annual Professional Performance Review or APPR. “We have an anticipated final APPR meeting on Thursday late afternoon and will be submitting our plan on the State Education Website by the weekend,” McGill said. The document will be public information and, if passed, will meet the state’s January 17 deadline.

“The contract is [for] three years, including this year,” McGill said, “and it’s allowing us to move the CSE/CPSE (committee on special education and preschool special education) position into an Administrative level.”


Thus, the agreement will allow a new administrative position of CSE/CPSE chair — including a district wide assistant principal overseeing APPR, to be created for the 2013/2014 school-year. “It will go from an OTA position to an Administrative position assisting the entire district,” said McGill. “It was important to us and the Teachers Association that whoever does the observation not be [on the] outside, but someone who works for the district, someone who has an ongoing commitment and involvement in the district.” This person will also oversee the State mandated Response To Intervention (RTI) program. “We need to be able to follow through on RTI and that it was better to make someone responsible and accountable for those.”

The board approved a temporary CSE/CPSE until June 30 at $400 a day. This will address annual meetings that tend to pile up toward the end of the school year. School psychologists often took on the task as an extra stipend at a cost of $20 thousand. McGill said, “Due to all the cuts and no Assistant Superintendent we needed to make sure we had more administrative capacity, to make sure those evaluations were happening on time.” She said CSE/CPSE is only a full time responsibility towards the end of the school year. The director of Pupil Personnel Cindy Bishop will continue to chair meetings.


Police presence in the schools discussed

Having armed police officers in every school of the Onteora district, “round the clock,” is financially impossible and may not be welcome by everyone, said New York State Police Captain Robert Nuzzo. Instead, Law Enforcement will visit schools from time to time on an informal basis, he told the Onteora Central School District board of education at it January 8 meeting. “The idea [is to have] a presence — to be a friendly familiar face and have some familiarity with the school and more importantly — randomly, where not at 8:15 every day there is a police officer at the school but maybe at 9:30 one day and ten o’clock another day.”

Nuzzo and Ulster County Undersheriff Frank Faluotico told trustees that local and State police have been reaching out to school officials to review safety and emergency procedures. Law enforcement already works with the district daily, helping with school bus safety but, Nuzzo said, “I think we need to do a little bit more.”

In the wake of the Newtown Connecticut School shooting, Nuzzo said, a committee is being organized to look at all areas of safety including prevention, through the Sheriffs department.

Detecting mental health problems early on where “often there are red flags,” Nuzzo said, will be a part of the conversation. “…we can get together and get the services and help to these people before it becomes a law enforcement or worse a criminal matter.”

The Boiceville campus (with the high school, middle school and Bennett elementary) recently participated in a lock down practice with Ulster County law enforcement and Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill said Phoenicia and Woodstock schools would have a drill by next week. Lock down-drills are not required by the State, but McGill said the district usually has two per year.

To address safety concerns, all Ulster county superintendents will attend a meeting with law enforcement at the end of January. Schools already have in place safety and crisis teams who’ve been meeting with officials and making recommendations. “The Onteora School district has and always will be committed to the safety and welfare of all of its children,” McGill said, “and the tragedy in Newtown just furthers our need to stay vigilant and make sure our buildings are safe for all of our students as well as our faculty and staff.”

Onteora at one time had a School Resource Officer (SRO — an armed police officer) on site fully paid for through a state grant. State budget cuts brought the position to an end in 2010 and board trustees at the time attempted to find funds in the budget or through BOCES. The SRO position would need to be a locked in contract of three-to-five years at a cost approximately $85 thousand per year. Funds were never found. Faluotico encouraged people to contact their state representatives if they would like to see funding for an SRO restored.

Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum and District Attorney Holley Carnright are seeking public input and concerns. Faluotico said, “Any ideas that you have, a committee will be looking at these letters as we sit down and start going through what we can improve upon.” Letters can be sent to Sheriff@co.ulster.ny.us or mailed to Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, Attention: School Safety Concerns, 380 Boulevard, Kingston, NY 12401.


Phoenicia garden

The board approved the use of land on Phoenicia Elementary School property for Shandaken Community Gardens with the aide of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Phoenicia Principal Linda Sella said there would be 20 beds in a fenced in area in front of the school at no cost to the district. The school keeps a large garden in back of the school. Sella said, “The security part of that is something we consider, it will be on the grounds in front of the school as opposed to the back of the school and the idea is to bring the community together. So, in light of the most recent tragedy, we should still continue to open our doors, especially to community.”