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2015-09-01 / News

Tempers Flare at Walton BOE Meeting

Ron Galley

* Editor's note - This story has been updated to correct information that was previously erroneously reported. Superintendent Roger Clough stated at the meeting that he did NOT use the word "poor," as was previously reported. Likewise, "superintendent days" WILL be held this school year, prior to student arrival, and a Shared Decision Making Team has been formed and did meet in 2014. The Reporter apologizes for the errors.

WALTON - During the public comment period at the Walton Central School District Board of Education meeting on Aug. 25, a local resident challenged board members as to the legality of an agenda item. Marilyn Lewis read a letter to the board requesting that a consent agenda item to approve the biennial review for the Shared Decision Making Team be removed. “The description is misleading, incorrect, and in addition is not a routine, non-controversial change that would meet the criteria for a consent agenda item,” Lewis alleged.

She further asserted that the documents provided to the public for the meeting contained a revised Shared Decision Making Plan, not a biennial review, as indicated in the meeting agenda items. She challenged the board further, stating she had requested a list of the team’s members, as well as any minutes from their meetings, and neither had been provided.

Likewise, she said, the information is not posted on the website as required.

The change that is being proposed to the Shared Decision Making Plan is to eliminate the requirement that there be a minimum of three meetings per year. Lewis objected to the change.

Lewis also asked that the board members table a vote on the issue, until the issue has been thoroughly investigated.

Board President Judith Breese responded to Lewis’ request by telling her that a member of the public cannot remove an item from the agenda, that it has to be done by a board member.

Lewis took the opportunity to ask for the identities of the Shared Decision Making Team members.

Another resident, Joyce Bishop, who was also at the meeting, echoed Lewis’ request saying, “It is public information.” Breese retorted, “Joyce, I appreciate your passion. I do not appreciate your accusatory tone and attitude.” Breese did address the issue briefly, and said, “When we create a shared decision making team, people will be invited.”

Superintendent Roger Clough clarified after the meeting that though there is a team in place and it had met in 2014, the Shared Decision Making Plan still required board of education approval. More team members, Clough said, are likely to be added.

The team will serve in an advisory capacity to administration, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), student council, teachers’ association, board of education, Educational Policy Committee and others, if necessary, he said.

Bishop took umbrage at some of the language used by Clough to describe the challenges faced by the district. “If you want to alienate the community, call us poor. We do not believe poverty is the cause of poor education,” she said. She then asked the board members how they define “at risk students.” Clough responded that the word "poor" was never used by him, a board of education member or any other administrator, and said there are many variables when describing “at risk.”

Board member Harold “Butch” Neale chimed in saying, “Several kids have gotten through this school and done fine. Don’t knock the school. All of the teachers are doing the best they can. You are not listening to what we are saying.”

In other business, Clough and Curriculum Coordinator Michelle Reed co-delivered a presentation about upcoming changes at the school. The board members and the public were reminded of ranking of the district, placing Walton Central School District at 39 out of 40 districts, ranked regionally, based upon test scores and other factors.

The poverty level, Clough said, is based on many things including the numbers of students receiving free and reduced lunch, economic disadvantage, Title I grants and state aid.

Following the presentation of that information the focus was directed on positive changes for the 2015-16 school year including the offering of new programs:

• TC3 program which will offer an Associate college degree.

• STEM programs which offering science, technology and math classes.

• YMCA program which offers after school activities. Forty-six students are already signed up.

• College courses including literature classes.

• AP programs which offer biology and earth science classes.

• New electives which include computer animation.

Other changes include improvements to professional development opportunities for teachers at the conclusion of the school day.

It was also announced that “superintendent days” will be held prior to student arrival, giving staff additional opportunities at professional development and less interruption of classes during the school year.

Business Manager Greg Dale announced that Kraft has filed a Supreme Court action requesting a reduction in taxes. Normally, Dale said, the school does not take a position in those types of matters. However, he continued, the school is getting involved because of the effect it could have on taxpayers in the district, if the taxes are reduced.

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