School Board agenda prep process clarified
I am writing this as president of the Saugerties CSD Board of Education in order to clarify its position regarding recent public scrutiny and debate over some new board members’ claim that they don’t have enough back-up material in order to cast votes.
Agenda packets, which are hand-delivered to each board member’s residence five to six days in advance of each board meeting, give the members ample time to research and/or request additional needed information from the administration prior to such meeting.
District Policy 1510 states that for each meeting, it is the responsibility of the Superintendent to prepare the agenda during the week prior to each board meeting and review the same with the board president. The agenda shall be distributed to Board members no later than the Friday before such regular meeting and contain all back-up material.
While the administration makes every effort to complete and distribute copies of the agenda to all board members as early as possible (usually by Thursday), that is not always feasible since all necessary or supporting documentation may not be available. In such case, there is a one-day delay — but it remains timely nevertheless.
It has been a long-standing and successful practice that when board members receive their packets on either Thursday or Friday and find that they need additional information or have questions regarding an item, they contact the administration or board president to answer their questions or provide them (and other board members) with additional documentation (if available and if the member is entitled to it). Members are always provided with adequate and proper information prior to a meeting in order to make informed decisions whether or not to approve superintendent recommendations. It should be noted that backup information to the agenda is provided by the administration, not by board leadership as had been indicated in the article. I stress that here since that contention was the result of a gratuitous editorial comment inserted into Ms. Green’s article. Notwithstanding the above, there are times when agenda items may be tabled for further investigation, clarification or additional information
Being a school board member is a multi-faceted responsibility and so it is understandable that all new board members will have many questions. That is why the district conducts a six-hour orientation meeting prior to new board members taking office in order to help them understand board policies and procedures. The orientation includes the newly elected board members as well as the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business manager and president and vice-president of the board. The procedure for the appointment of personnel is addressed during the orientation, which process is that the superintendent selects an applicant based upon committee recommendations, after which it is presented to the board for approval.
The entire board has complete confidence in the administration and its ability to adequately perform its requisite functions. In fact, the board recently evaluated Seth Turner’s performance as “exceeding standards,” a grade which earned him a merit raise (new members excepted, of course, as they did not participate in the evaluation). We trust him to make the decisions called for in his position as superintendent, based on committee recommendations and the criteria that he sets as his guide. Even so, there are times when we feel it necessary to table certain motions for further investigation or for additional information. Over the last several years, there have only been a few abstentions from board members, mostly due to conflict of interest.
Since board members receive agendas well in advance of meetings and in an effort to keep meetings flowing, it has been a long-standing practice that the board votes in “blocks.” Consequently, if a member has a question or expresses a concern with respect to any motion, it is addressed during the discussion.
Before closing, I would like to address Saugerties Times political columnist Hugh Reynolds’ comments from his first-ever appearance at a board meeting. His remarks paint a picture of “an eternal conflict, the new challenging the old.” I disagree. Every board member has the right to be an informed voter—and they are. However, in this instance, a member can obtain that information prior to any board meeting.
The undersigned agree with this letter and hope that we can now put this issue behind us and move on. Thank you.
George Heidcamp, BoE President
Thomas Ham, Richard Petramale, Charles Schirmer, Angie Minew,
Donald G. Tucker, Florence Hyatt
Editor Will Dendis responds: Apologies to the board for our article’s statement that agenda information is provided by the board leadership. But we were taken aback by the description of that statement as “gratuitous” — that is, if by gratuitous, the board president and undersigned mean “uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.” After observing the strident defense of the heretofore unquestioned agenda information dissemination schedule by the board president and vice president, was our inference that they had some part in the distribution of the information really lacking in good reason? Such critical appraisals of our mental faculties — by the board of education no less — are not taken lightly here at Saugerties Times. However, if by gratuitous, the board president and undersigned mean “given or done free of charge,” well, think nothing of it!
A sign and your time
NYC DEP claims they control 2,000 square miles upstate to keep “their” water pure. What they want others to do does not apply to themselves or they would not use poisons to kill off roadside vegetation. So what makes anyone think they care about the effects of water releases on the upstate communities?
The whining and whimpering about the cost of a filtration plant for NY City (estimate: $10 billion) does not explain why the city has $25 billion for a water tunnel.
With Saugerties spending hundreds of millions of dollars on education, what have we learned? Is it that people now need a “workshop” to write a letter? That they cannot put together more than a bumper-sticker thought of today’s “social media”? That should shave off the cost of the education budget.
The letter-writing workshop, and attendant membership fees to join a group concerned about damaging Ashokan water releases, and the search for grant money (tax money) to pay costs to try to stop the releases, is just having someone else do your work.
All those who are affected by the releases, or are concerned about the effects, should go to the Kingston Grand St. offices of NYC DEP and peacefully demonstrate. All that costs is a sign and your time. Let those with an active concern over Ashokan releases put themselves and not everyone else’s tax dollars to work.
Open letter to Congresman Gibson on energy needs
Dear Congressman Gibson: Thank you for your thoughtful and moderate position on many issues. I would, however, like to encourage you to think more positively about embracing the benefits of solar energy. Back in the 1950s President Eisenhower suggested the US become more energy independent by going solar. Just imagine how many wars could have been averted, how much of the country’s wealth could have gone into education, disease prevention, elimination of poverty, a better quality of life for all Americans, and a reduction of climate change with fewer tragic weather related catastrophes. Instead, we are continuously in debt to the fossil fuel industries due to generous subsidies, plus the ongoing cost to clean up major toxic disasters and ongoing pollution of air, water, soil and food.
Germany produced 50.6 percent of its energy this June with solar. Germany encouraged its citizens to install solar panels on rooftops rather than build large scale solar farms (sciencealert.com.au 6/24/14). The UK, concerned about its aging electric grid system, is pushing for increased solar output (Smithsonian Magazine). The UK should have 10 million homes with solar panels by 2020. Imperial College claims Britain could get as much as 40 percent of its electricity from solar power on sunny days by the decade’s end (theguardian.com 1/29/14).
U.S. production six years ago was a pitiful 0.02%. Our solar production is now up to 0.2% of our electric supply. We still have a long way to go. There is no acceptable reason to further delay our country’s transition to increased energy independence with solar and other renewable energy sources.
Every solar installation provides local jobs and income. Solar is renewable, non-polluting and available everywhere. It eliminates expensive and hazardous transportation. It requires no drilling, digging, blasting, refining, or burial of hazardous waste. Solar eliminates the risk of dangerous fires, cave-ins, and toxic spills on land and water. The yearly four billion taxpayer dollars granted to the fossil fuel industries to augment their enormous profits could be better spent to get our country up and running toward increased energy independence now, not five or ten years from now.
The science does indeed support the practical benefits of solar energy. I installed solar panels on my home one year ago and produced more energy than I consumed. It was exhilarating!
Congressman Gibson, I urge you to rethink your position on renewable energy. This is truly one of the greatest issues facing our country. We need strong representation in Congress to do to the right thing. Won’t you please do the right thing? Would you kindly keep me aware of your position on this issue? Thank you.
Rose Marie Williams
Riccardi has experience and qualifications
On Sept. 9 the Independence, Working Families and Democratic parties will hold primaries for Family Court judge. Gilda Riccardi, a resident of Saugerties, not only has years of hands-on experience in Family Court and impeccable qualifications, but she also has the judgment, integrity and work ethic so crucial to this position. Please join me in voting for Gilda Riccardi on Sept. 9.