Sick Building continued
In a voice quavering close to tears, Scanlan said
at Monday's Onteora Board of Ed meeting, "She can’t complete
her biology course because she can't attend labs. We have to
hire tutors to come to our home. She’s distraught that she’s
missing out on her social life. I don't know what to do. Something
is wrong in the school, you've got to check it out. I don't
know where to go. I'd appreciate it if someone would get back
She also said she had heard of two new cases,
in the past week, of students suffering from school-related
health problems. Rowe replied that a new round of test results
have just been received but have not yet been deciphered. He
is in close contact with school nurse Colleen McDaniel, while
business administrator Chuck Snyder has been designated the
contact person for complaints and information. Snyder can be
reached at the district office at 657-8499.
Scanlan was invited to attend Friday's Facilities
Committee meeting for further discussion of the issue. Frank
Gorleski, Interim Director of Secondary Education, outlined
the proposed 2003-2004 technology budget, which entails $211,567
for maintenance of current technology levels with minimal equipment
upgrades. This figure is down 0.9 percent from last year, based
on a slight decrease in enrollment. Gorleski also presented
a supplemental request of $30,000 for computer lab upgrades,
bringing the total to $251,567, an increase of 11.6 percent.
He said that there are presently at least one
or two computers in each classroom, and all rooms are wired
for computer use. However, students are using many machines
that are over seven years old and are "barely more than
word processors," and upgrades are needed. However, he
cautioned, "More and more powerful machines are not always
the answer." Other options being explored are palm pilots
connected to keyboards, connection of PC’s to existing televisions
instead of purchase of projectors for whole-class instruction,
and laptop labs. Also needed is training to help staff use hardware
and software more effectively, but money for this purpose is
included in the instructional budget.
Gorleski mentioned the importance of quickly replacing
network technician Jeff Bell, who recently resigned. Of the
supplemental proposal, $15,000 is earmarked for the middle school,
where principal Gayle Kavanaugh hopes to create a wireless laptop
lab on wheels, enabling teachers to bring computers into their
classrooms on shorter notice than is required for reserving
the two heavily used and rarely available high school labs.
She is exploring possibilities for grants to help with the expenditure.
The other $15,000 would go to upgrades in the high school labs.
Trustee Neil Eisenberg asked Gorleski about the
Internet filtering system at the high school, the subject of
complaints by students at the last meeting, who said they could
not access their home email accounts or websites containing
keywords such as "AIDS", "breast", or references
to other diseases or body parts, although such sites contained
information needed for reports and schoolwork. Gorleski said
the filter had been temporarily loosened to enable teachers
to set up access to home email, which would allow them to give
individual students monitored Internet access for specific purposes.
However, the filter, which was set up with the help of BOCES,
is designed to meet federal requirements for Internet security
systems at public schools. D’Orazio asked Rowe to provide a
copy of the Federal regulation regarding Internet security,
and Rowe offered to invite someone from BOCES to explain the
With plans afoot to combine classes at Woodstock
and West Hurley Elementary Schools, grades K-3 at one school
and 4-6 at the other, a group of parents attended Monday night's
school board meeting to demand that they be consulted before
changes are made.
Superintendent Hal Rowe justified the contemplated
reorganization as a money-saving measure to prevent program
cuts in a tight budget year. West Hurley parents Bill Cobey
and Dave Gutierrez addressed the board, requesting that parents
be given input into the decision. Rowe said that no plan had
been formulated yet and that the process was in the early stages.
Principals have been talking with faculty and PTA’s to inform
them of the proposed changes, which are meant to address diminishing
class sizes at the elementary level. "We are looking for
ways to compress them into sizes that are functional but won't
require as many teachers," he said. Board president Marino
D’Orazio added, "The board hasn't been presented with plans.
Once that happens, there will be a lot of discussion."
About twenty people in the audience promptly
rose and left, although he invited them to stay for budget presentations.
Later in the meeting, Rowe linked the reorganization to the
challenge of devising a workable budget for next year, in view
of the expected decrease in state aid and lowering of the contingency
budget cap, which would require the cutting of programs and
services if the voters fail to pass the board’s budget in May.
Business administrator Chuck Snyder explained that the current
decline in the economy has lowered the cap to an increase of
only 1.92 percent over this year’s budget. Taking into account
unavoidable increases in health care costs and contractual obligations,
the result would be a $1.7 million shortfall in funds if the
district has to go to a contingency budget. In crafting a budget
that will be acceptable to voters, the board has to cope with
an anticipated $350,000 reduction in state aid, which alone
would cause a five-and-a-half percent rise in the tax levy.
"Last year taxes went up nine percent," said Rowe.
"Nine percent this year will be far more difficult for
the board to get approved and for taxpayers to bear in a downturned
economy. How do we protect the integrity of programs in the
school district and at the same time keep an eye out for the
taxpayers? We're presently receiving, in sections and pieces,
a budget that represents planning to maintain ourselves. My
recommended budget will not include everything you've been hearing
from people. [Parents] here have heard plans we’re thinking
about to consolidate classes. We have elementary school classes
of twelve to fifteen kids. We want to have classes of about
twenty, to be more effective in staffing."
One of only two Odd Fellow halls remaining in
Ulster County, the building, located on Route 213 in Olivebridge,
was built in 1912 on property purchased from the Davis family.
As the only public building in Olive at the time, it was used
not only for lodge meetings, but for Saturday night square dances,
church suppers, traveling minstrel shows, and town and fire
department meetings. "We are basically seeking to preserve the
building and rejuvenate interest in it as a center for community
events," said Gilles Malkine, the lodge's Noble Grand, speaking
Saturday at the Olive Historical Society's annual meeting.
"We have applied for grants and are busy planning
and brainstorming about things that can happen there." Reviving
the square dances and organizing a film series are some of the
ideas being discussed, however, lodge members, Malkine said,
are open to whatever the public wants to suggest. "As the fastest
growing Odd Fellow lodge in North America," added lodge member
Henry Sapoznik, "we are on the cusp of something wonderful.
It is up to members of the community to boost this."
The hall, which Sapoznik describes as a "community
jewel" reflecting the neoclassic era of architecture, is slated
for landmark status but requires restoration and repair. "It's
not falling apart yet," Malkine said, "but it needs the help.
We can't wait any longer because deterioration has set in."
This spring the hall will receive a fresh coat of paint - it
was last done sixty years ago with government surplus paint
from World War II - and light carpentry repairs.
Next in the queue is a plan to retrieve the original
lighting fixtures from the building's attic and re-install them,
removing the strips of fluorescent lighting that were added
in the sixties. This initial phase of renovation is being made
possible by a $5,000 state grant that was awarded to the Actors
and Writers of Ulster County and matching funds donated by the
their audience and benefactors. The performance group has rented
the Odd Fellows hall for the past twelve years, staging readings
of plays and prose that are performed for the public free of
charge (voluntary donations accepted) in the spring and fall.
"They have been maintaining an important part
of our community and providing cultural continuity," said Sapoznik.
"We are so lucky to have proactive members of our community
who are critical in maintaining our mission." Malkine agreed.
"The Actors and Writers, people working with one another because
they want to, have been a catalyst to this all," he said, referring
to the renewed interest in preserving the hall. Sapoznik said
he hopes to help finance the next tier of renovation with preservation
This work includes projects such as replacing
the building's roof, creating a four-season space and all the
jobs necessary to restore the building to its original condition.
"Since we lie well within 1000 feet of Catskill Park, we should
be eligible for watershed and other grants," he said. The Odd
Fellows organization, whose motto is "friendship, love and truth",
was founded in seventeenth century England for the purpose of
giving aid to those in need and participating in activities
that benefited the community as a whole.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was established
in North America in 1819 with Washington Lodge No.1 receiving
its charter from the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.
Shokan Lodge No. 491, which was founded in 1881, operates under
the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New York State.
Anyone interested in becoming an Odd Fellows
member, can obtain an application by calling Gilles Malkine
at 657-2210 on weekdays during the hours of 9am to 5pm.
cold is it? continued
"Oh my goodness
sake," she said late Tuesday after a day of attempted calls
to local plumbers, electricians and heating specialists had
kept ending up with her voice. "Over the weekend we got an
outrageous number of calls. And with tonight going below zero
yet again, I'm expecting it all over again. People's pipes
are bursting, their pumps are burning out, they're running
out of oil. Many are calling me in tears, actual tears." Yes,
folks, it has been cold. According to Accuweather reports
online, temperatures have dropped below zero degrees at least
three times in the last week (more, for higher elevations
The average low
for this time of year, they say, is between 10 and 12 degrees
Fahrenheit. That's based on averages of the last five years,
according to their charts. But Paul Huth of the Daniel Smiley
Research Center at the Mohonk Preserve, who's been charting
local weather patterns for the last 30 years of the weather
station's 107 years of consistent checking, says that what
we're seeing - and feeling - this January is actually normal.
As of Tuesday, he had recorded only two readings below zero
this year. And he noted that the snowfall amount has not been
excessive. It's just stuck around longer than usual. "This
is the time of year when we record most of our below zero
readings. We're where we should be," Huth said, noting that
he can't give exact tallies until he gets a full month's records
at month's end.
may be coming from the fact that we've had two years in a
row where it didn't get below zero at all, and we actually
had shirt sleeve weather in January on several occasions."
Huth explained how his weather station worked as one of the
leading lights in the National Weather Service's countrywide
system, largely because it had been maintaining consistency
throughout its history. Huth takes his readings every morning,
just as similar readings have been taken every morning since
1896. "Because we're at a higher elevation, our readings are
often not as cold as what people are getting in the hollows
and valleys around here," Huth added. "If you talk to the
old-timers, things aren't really that far off normal. I'd
say we should be expecting more of the same up until the second
half of February."
a leading weather historian who authored the 1996 Purple Mountain
Press book, Catskill Weather, and is currently working on
a similar book charting the Adirondacks climate over the last
150 years, countered Huth's opinions by noting that the current
winter WAS colder than usual. Especially when one took into
account the changing nature of "usual." "October, November,
December and now January have given us four consecutive months
of below normal temperature. But that's in comparison with
the 1990s, which were much warmer than usual," Thaler said
from his offices in northern Westchester County this week.
"I always look
to the lakes and reservoirs as a sign of relativity, and none
froze over for the past five years. It may be that we've all
gotten spoiled." Thaler, whose book on the Catskills charted
the region's weather history since the mid-1800s, said his
most reliable weather expert in the area was Huth, whose station
also provided the best overall sample for both the Woodstock
area and the general five county region average.
He pointed out
that while the average annual temperature for Mohonk Lake
for the 1961-1990 30-year period was 47.9 degrees Fahrenheit,
with an average January temperature of 23.5 (26.1 for February),
the annual average for the 1990s came out to 49.4 degrees,
with the 1996 to 2000 period averaging 49.9 degrees. (Thaler
had not pulled together his monthly averages for the period,
as of this article.)
The coldest months
recorded at Mohonk Lake from 1891 through 1994 included 11.8
degrees, average, in 1918, 14.2 degrees in 1912, 14.9 degrees
in 1982 and 15 degrees in 1893. The hottest months recorded
at Mohonk in the same period included average temperatures
of 34.8 degrees in 1932, 32.9 degrees in 1913, 32.6 degrees
in 1933 and 32.4 degrees in 1990. A record low of -24 degrees
was recorded at the weather station in 1917, while a second
lowest temperature of -19 was reached in 1997. A high of 65
was recorded in January of 1950. Average weekly minimum temperatures
at Mohonk, culled by Thaler for the 1961-1990 period, were
18.1 degrees for the week of January 1, 14.5 degrees for the
week of January 8, 14.7 degrees for the week of January 15,
18.2 degrees for the week of January 22, 15.4 degrees for
the week of January 29, 14.2 degrees for the week of February
5, 17.3 degrees for the week of February 12, and then averages
of 21.8 and higher for the remainder of the winter.
temperatures for the same period were 31.4 degrees for the
week of January 1, 28.8 degrees for the week of January 8,
29.8 degrees for the week of January 15, 33 degrees for the
week of January 22, 30.9 degrees for the week of January 29,
30.3 degrees for the week of February 5, 33.8 degrees for
the week of February 12, and routine temperatures above 37
degrees from then on. The snowiest January of recent years,
according to both Thaler and Huth, was 1987. Thaler, in his
book, writes of a legendary "January Thaw" taking place in
the last week of the month.
From his research,
he also notes February as the traditional month for the region's
heaviest snowfalls. "Whatever the records end up showing,"
the weather historian said from his home, "It certainly feels
cold outside. A lot of what we experience is the result of
what we remember, and what we're now remembering is something
warmer than what we've now got." "For all our charts and histories,
weather still doesn't work well when put into statistical
form," noted Huth. "It's winter." Added Doniella from UCTC,
about to field yet another new call for help, "I feel it all
in the work I do. If any of the guys you wanted get a free
moment we'll have them get back to you."
Stay warm, and
keep those pipes from freezing!