Two resolutions that would approve the sale of West Hurley Elementary School for $700,000 were taken off the agenda at the October 13 Onteora District Board of Education meeting after it was published. According to school officials the contract was not ready for all parties involved to sign.
The proposed resolutions came with recommended actions for the Board to discuss and possibly approve. The first would have declared the sale and future improvements made to the property as not having an environmental impact that would require further study, based upon standards through the State Environmental Quality Review Act or SEQRA. Once the sale is complete, the Board will have no further environmental review.
The second resolution would have approved the sale of the property to Phillip LaPorta for $700,000. Interim Superintendent Victoria McLaren had no comment at this time as to who LaPorta might be or for what purpose the property would be purchased.
The district entered into a nine-month contract with Win Morrison Realty in November 2014, with an asking price of $1 million, at a five percent commission for the realtor. Board Trustees have been meeting in executive session for several months regarding the sale of the property, but would not comment on negotiations or give out any information on the interested buyer. West Hurley School was closed in 2004.
Finances good, but lunch has losses
Mike Rossi, an external auditor, reported on the district’s finances, giving it the highest ranking on how books are kept and in line with New York State laws. Exhibiting a rather lengthy book, Rossi said, “At the bottom of page one, we say in our opinion the financial statements referred to the law are presented ‘fairly,’ which is an unqualified opinion, or the highest opinion we have, so it’s an excellent opinion and you have received it in the past.” He noted that there is a lunch deficit and it’s a problem every school district must grapple with.
“We currently supported the program with $364,000 worth of money from the general fund, so…there is still a $6500 loss for the school lunch fund this year,” said Rossi
Trustee Ann McGillicuddy was concerned that the accumulated lunch deficit over the years is $84,220. “I know every year you make comment on the school lunch program and how we need to work towards changing the way we fund it,” she said.
Rossi explained with the tax cap limiting revenue, eventually the lunch funds would cut into education expenditures. “The school lunch fund is going to have to try to be self supporting,” he said. “It’s very costly to have an employee, because you’re paying 16-17 percent in retirement costs, you’re paying health insurance, you’re paying workers comp insurance, all of those costs are also going into the school lunch fund and they’re basically fixed costs.” He said some school districts have subcontracted other companies to run the school lunch programs, so school districts do not have expensive overhead costs.
Cindy Bishop the Director of Pupil Personnel presented a report on the Summer Skills Academy — better known as Summer School. Over 200 recommendations for the program were made from teachers in grades pre-Kindergarten-through-eight. Daily attendance ranged from 57 to 84 students with the highest enrollment in grades Kindergarten-through-three. Summer school is not mandatory and parents have the option to act upon the recommendation.
Students had lessons in reading, writing and math, including Academic Intervention Services, English as a new language, intensive Multi-sensory reading instruction, and special education. Transportation, healthy snacks, and daily physical activity were provided. There were also guests including scientist Matthew Savatgy, Native American teacher Dennis Yerry, story telling and puppet making with Nissa Gustafson, and Leanna Nieves presenting local and cultural foods. On Fridays parents were welcome to observe and most reported that their child enjoyed the program and grew academically.
The program overall cost was $64,636.20, with a $3000 grant for the guests.
“Coats for Kids” Drive
The Onteora chapter of DECA (an association of high school business and marketing students) is collecting winter coats to be distributed to students in the District. If your child is in need of a winter coat, you may come to the Middle School/High School cafeteria 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, November 18, or Monday, November 23. Parents and guardians will be able to look through all donations and take any needed coats. (DECA will not be taking specific size requests this year.)
Anyone wishing to contribute may give a winter coat or make a monetary donation by check (payable to OCS DECA). Bring donations to your school’s health office by November 10. Coats, which should be in new or like-new condition, must be clean and free of holes, tears, stains, or broken zippers. DECA is only accepting warm winter coats and snow pants — no other clothing please.