A letter over there, might be the first one, is from a parent upset that Onteora has seemingly not been very interested in moving the start time for classes for high school students to a later hour, after some discussion last year. Much literature has been disseminated on the circadian rhythms of teens, and how they seem naturally to stay up later at night, and how sleeping later in the morning might improve their school performance. Without going too deeply into the polarizing images of freezing teens with wet hair and thin jackets waiting for the bus at 6:15 a.m. in sub zero temperatures, let’s just say that this paper has editorialized in the past in favor of a later start time for Onteora Middle/High School.
The letter writer pointed out that Rhinebeck Schools had done such a deed. To check it out, I called Rhinebeck Superintendent Joseph Phelan, who told me that Wednesday, September 7, the first day back, the new schedule went into place. Here’s how they did it.
The first period class begins now at 8 a.m., instead of last year’s 7:30 a.m. Dismissal was moved up to 2:35 p.m. from 2:16 p.m.
“We used to have four minutes between classes, but we reduced that to three minutes, and picked up minutes that way,” he said. “One of the reasons we decided to try to trim some of the time back, so dismissal was only 19 minutes later, was so the impact on athletics and after school schedule was not a problem. We don’t think 19 minutes will be a big deal. We still get to where we need to get for away game. That’s why 2:35 p.m. [dismissal] is better than 3 p.m. We took great pains to set up the schedule to not compromise any of our activities.”
And how is it going?
“So far so good,” said Phelan. “It seems to be working well. But it’s too short a time for proper assessment. That’s one of our projects for this year, to assess how it’s working. This year it’s a pilot process. The board will revisit it in the spring and determine how its going. They need some time to make an informed decision. We’ll know in a few months. We’re cautiously optimistic…”
Onteora trustees should also keep an eye on the process at Rhinebeck.
Planning and ZBA appointments
Shandaken town board members seem to be confused as to how planning and zoning board appointments are conducted (see Page 9). A citizen in the audience at a town board meeting wanted the town law to be changed. “Right now they [the town board] can only receive recommendations [from the planning board and zoning board of appeals], but if the town board has more responsibility, more people may come forward.” After an argument between former supervisor, now town board member Peter DiSclafani and supervisor Rob Stanley, no action was taken.
Now it may be customary for the town board to accept the recommendations of the planning and zoning boards for new members, after they have done what’s mandated by the town’s own ordinance or law (but not state law) and conducted interviews, let’s be clear that those recommendations are only that. The town board is solely responsible.
State law, which supersedes a town’s, states in the very first paragraph of Section 271 of NY State Town Law, on planning boards, “The town board of each town is hereby authorized and empowered to appoint a planning board of five members or seven members in the discretion of the board, and shall have the authority to remove any member of such planning board for cause and after a public hearing.”
Basically the same goes for the ZBA.
Try as they might, it is a thorny road to try to avoid political influence in these appointments. It’s right there, and something even Howard Harris knows, the town board appoints who it wants. That’s what they are elected to do.