The least thrifty strategy, which would save $600,000, entails keeping
students in their current schools but reducing staff through creation
of several multi-age classrooms. The fourth plan is a hybrid, which
entails using the Princeton Plan at West Hurley and Woodstock andmulti-age
classrooms at Phoenicia, with no change at Bennett and a savings of
Rowe's presentation was preceded by business administrator Chuck Snyder's
outline of the budget crisis which precipitated the proposals. Snyder
cited unavoidable cost increases such as the 12 percent increase in
health care premiums, the rise in required donations to the teaching
and non-teaching employee retirement funds, and the scheduled debt
payment for the construction at Bennett. These increases would cause
a rollover budget-without any increases in programming-to go up $4.3
million or 11.18 percent, from this year's total of $38 million to
$42.6 million, raising the tax levy by 16.67 percent. A contingency
budget, which would result if the board's budget were defeatedtwice
at the polls, would limit the rise to approximately three percent,
or $1.1 million, with a tax increase of 5.37 percent. The administration,
therefore, is attempting to reduce spending by $3.1 million, down
to the contingency budget level, under the assumption that higher
taxes could not be borne by the voters.
Adding to the crisis is Governor Pataki's threatened state aid cut
of $1,150,000, which may be restored in the final state budget, but
the government has failed, year after year, to finalize its budget
until after the school budget vote in May, leaving school districts
uncertain about how much revenue they can expect. Another problem,
said Snyder, is
the state's new policy to delay paying out building aid until eighteen
to twenty-four months after new construction is completed in order
to solve the state's cash flow problem. This year's state aid may
also be delayed into the next school year. Snyer urged concerned parents
to write to Pataki in opposition to such tactics, including the proposed
aid cuts. "The politicians don't want to raise [state] taxes,
but it's getting passed on to us at the local level."
Trustee Marty Millman said that when he sat on the board ten years
ago, the budget was $19 million. "Now it has doubled. Will it
double again in the next ten years? When will we stop the bleeding?"
Snyder again pointed to the state government, which has passed more
and more laws mandating programs in schools but has not funded forty
percent of the cost of its mandates, as promised. "They've never
given us more than fifteen percent," said Snyder.
Another factor is the decreasing enrollment in the elementary schools,
where class sizes have dwindled, in many cases, to fifteen or less.
Rowe's proposals all aim at increasing class sizes in order to reduce
staffing, the biggest expense in the budget. "One of the things
done in the district is to acknowledge that the desire people have
for neighborhood schools is so powerful," he said. "We have
been willing to maintain that and lose a lot of our efficiency in
the use of space in the schools. But now it is not possible to maintain
low taxes and low class sizes. We will need to shake the patterns
people have fallen into that make them comfortable."
Trustee Greg Walters asked what would happen if the West Hurley school
were closed, and then enrollments went back up. Rowe said demographic
data collected four years ago indicate that the elementary-age population
will continue to diminish for at least three years, and the recent
enrollments confirm the accuracy of the projections, although he admitted
it may be time to update the data. Parent Jim Sofranko had pointed
out earlier that post-9/11 migrations from New York City may skew
the figures upward, but Rowe said he was confident the district would
be able to operate comfortably for at least five years with only three
elementary schools. Meanwhile, BOCES may want to lease the West Hurley
school, which would keep it in operation as an educational facility,
enabling the district to re-open it as an elementary school in the
future if necessary.
BOCES has indicated that its willingness to lease the building would
depend on its needs for next year, but Rowe said, "Ever since
I've been here, BOCES has been looking for space. They may consider
us to be in the hinterlands, but I think they'd take it."
Rowe briefly discussed the Princeton Plan. "Some experts argue
that the benefits of K-6 schools are continuity and a sense of community.
Advantages of the Princeton Plan are that it clusters together more
teachers and students with the same goals and grade levels. It would
also reduce the disadvantages of having kids coming from four different
elementary schools. It would be two different schools and would resolve
some of the problems of the transition to middle school." While
there would be some increase in transportation costs because of the
duplication of bus routes, Rowe did not feel this expense would be
a deciding factor. "We have two hundred kids now on variances,"
attending schools outside their designated school area, he observed.
Board member Meg Carey asked whether variances would still be available.
"There's a good chance we could continue to have variances,"
Rowe answered. "It depends on the balance" of students in
each school and whether there is room in target classes. Board president
Marino D'Orazio asked that parents bring their questions to the two
special meetings scheduled to discuss the reorganization options.
The first meeting was to take place on Wednesday, March 12, at the
West Hurley Elementary School at 7:00 p.m. The second will be on Tuesday,
March 18, at Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville, also at 7:00
p.m. D'Orazio suggested that parents form groups of like-minded individuals
and designate a spokesperson for each group to speak at the meetings,
in order to encourage "an exchange of information instead of
people shouting at each other."
Based on the feedback from the community at these forums, Rowe plans
to recommend to the board which of the four options to pursue, along
with his budget proposal, at the March 24 board meeting. D'Orazio
praised Rowe and Snyder for giving thorough background information
on the plans, saying they had "diffused a lot of problems I was
Barbara Boyce said the staffing portion of her Pupil Personnel Services
budget could not be determined until the board settles on which of
the reorganization options to choose. She has trimmed non-staffing
expenses down to the minimum, with the expectation that students requiring
special education and related services (academic intervention, homework
programs, remedial reading, etc.) will remain approximately the same.
If staffing is not reduced, her budget total will go from $7,097,000
to $7,274,000, a rise of 2.49 percent.
Interim director of secondary education Frank Gorleski presented the
instructional budget, which will also be dependent upon the reorganization
decision. The operational portion of his budget is cut from $171,603
this year to $131,000, a 25 percent reduction. His proposal would
enable summer school programs to continue but would reduce such expenses
as conference attendance, journal subscriptions, reference books,
in service training for some areas, and school evaluation services.
And variety isn't just evident in Claridge's work, but in her life
as well. Born in Clearwater, Florida, she's lived in Germany, Washington,
D.C., New York City and has now settled in Chichester. In high school
Claridge at first thought she'd be a singer, playing Luisa in the
Fantasticks, later switched to English in college, then joined the
army—though she considered herself a pacifist-- taught English
at a naval academy, and has now made a name for herself as an historian
of art and culture. The adjectives gutsy and trailblazing come to
Yet she likes solitude. "I work long hours everyday," says
Claridge, "researching and writing. Random House [her publisher]
signs book deals and expects them to be done on time." Up early
each morning, she first takes care of Zoe, the young dog she and husband
Dennis Oppenheimer adopted from a shelter in Delhi in August. "She
takes a lot of energy."
After her canine duties, Claridge spends about two hours a day answering
and writing emails in connection with her work, another hour doing
research on Google, looking up such obscure facts as what the laws
on divorce were when Emily Post and her husband Edwin Main Post divorced.
Claridge also makes sure she reads something that doesn't deal directly
with whatever subject she's researching because she wants to keep
her mind open and sharp. "I feel as if research is in many ways
sense of spontaneous insights that occur as you're adding pieces to
the mosaic in a fairly random way."
Claridge and Oppenheimer married in 1993, and between the two of them
have four children, ages 18 through 29 with whom she keeps in close
touch. And what about exercise? A stationary bike sits idle in the
kitchen. "I'm trying to put it into my routine."
But Claridge does get out every now and then. "I love walking
to the post office. I like that when I'm in there somebody I know
usually walks in. I really love Charlie and Sita," she adds referring
to Chichester's postmasters. Claridge also loves sitting at the bar
at Ricciardella's, eating the pasta with shrimp and chatting with
Will, the bartender. And one activity that gets her out and in touch
with fellow writers is the bi-weekly book group that meets at Brio's.
"They let us hang out there from 2:30 to 5:00, just critiquing
each other's writing. We're all working on books. It's a wonderful
source of strength."
At the moment, Claridge is writing a book review for the Boston Globe
that she's finding particularly difficult. She's extended her deadline
until after she's met with the group to get its feedback on the review.
Okay, the military: Claridge married at 19, and her highly independent
mother was disappointed in her decision. Claridge was disowned and
faced with how she and her new husband would make ends meet. "I
was teaching in a high school for troubled girls and one day an army
recruiter came to recruit the girls. I went home and said: I've got
the solution. We told the recruiter we were pacifists and got to choose
where we wanted to go and what to teach," says Claridge, with
some disbelief over her moxie.
Claridge entered the Army with one child, and while there became pregnant
with another. "I was considered fairly insubordinate," says
Claridge. "I got very angry at the silly dress codes and I'd
deliberately flout them." While in the Army, she wrote to a four
star general about the lack of daycare. Claridge says she doesn't
know if it was because of her, but in a convention that took placeshortly
after in Munich, daycare was a major subject.
Later she taught English at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Claridge brought style to the academy, wearing lavish and flamboyant
outfits to her classes each day. She realized that the students were
making bets on what she'd wear—long skirt, mini-skirt, casual
or Chanel. "The women felt empowered by me. They were so sick
of wearing the same drab uniform." But the students took her
classes seriously, and enrollment grew while she taught though liberal
arts were discouraged by the administration.
After teaching for 11 years, Claridge realized she wanted to write.
She chose the subject of the flamboyant and decadent 1920s painter
de Lempicka because she found that no one had written about her yet.
From there, she moved onto Rockwell and is currently working on Post.
Jordan flips aside hangers of various Metallica and West Coast
Chopper shirts to reveal Che Guevara portraits, Anti-Flag and American
Head Change emblems, the latter with President Bush's face on it.
There are also lots of the seemingly requisite "I'm With Stupid"
brand shirts. And leather pants. And shoes with band and brand insignias.
It's your usual mall-oriented over-supply of product.
"I wouldn't do anything if someone wore a peace T-shirt,"
Jordan says, when asked how the Mall handled enforcement of its
little-known policy to keep "offensive" statements off
people's shirts. "I don't know who would do anything, except
maybe the security guys."
TSX owner Arthur Fine of Shokan, who also keeps a store at Crossgates,
said he'd always thought of America as a free country… but
added that he'd run into similar trouble back when he owned a T-shirt
store in Danbury, CT, where a customer wearing a t-shirt with obscenities
on it took his case to court.
"I urge people to be careful about what they wear in the mall,"
The Crossgates story started Monday evening, March 3, when Stephen
Downs, a 60-year old attorney with the state Commission on Judicial
Conduct, was arrested for trespass after he refused to either take
off a T-shirt sporting the most benign of anti-war messages, or
leave the premises. Downs had bought the offending shirt, and had
the statements put on it, at a mall store much like TSX. On the
back of his shirt was the statement, "Peace on Earth."
Downs' son, Roger, 31 of New Baltimore, also bought a custom shirt
that read "No War With Iraq" and "Let Inspections
Work." Subsequent news coverage of the arrest, which went international
by Tuesday evening, noted how mall security guards were called by
an employee of another mall store when they saw the two men emerge
from the store wearing their new t-shirts.
Security Guard Robert Williams responded to the call, and confronted
the Downs in the Crossgates Mall food court, where he asked that
they take off their T-shirts, leave, or be arrested. Roger did so
but his father, stating his legal occupation, said he didn't think
he had to. Williams returned with a Guilderland police officer who
arrested and handcuffed
the 60-year old attorney, then spoke with him for an hour asking
Downs "to drop the whole thing and take the shirt off"
according to reports. He was repeatedly told the mall was private
property and what he was wearing was unacceptable, the same as if
he went to someone's home wearing something unacceptable.
"I said it's not the same thing, it's not a good analogy,"
said Steve Downs, who later insisted he wasn't protesting or demonstrating
by wearing the shirt. Guilderland Town Justice Kenneth Riddett released
Downs on his own recognizance and set a return date of March 17.
Two days later, The Pyramid Companies, a Syracuse-based company
that owns 17 malls, countless senior citizen and student housing
complexes, and office buildings throughout Upstate New York, dropped
all charges. But then on Friday, they fired Williams, the security
guard who was originally called in to confront the Downs.
Protests of between 100 and 250 people have occurred at the Crossgates
Mall in defense of both Wiliams and the Downs, on three occasions
since March 3. "Mall management determined the customers in
question were violating mall policy," added Earl Wells of E3,
speaking from a car phone in the Rochester area Monday morning.
"Courts have affirmed that shopping malls have the right to
restrict actions and behaviors deemed inconsistent with a shopping
environment.""I've ordered new t-shirts," Fine said
about TSX. "People are asking for the Give Peace A Chance shirts.
I'm also making Peace Is Not A Crime ones. We won't display them,
but it'll be there," he said. "I'm pro peace, always have
been. But I don't want to upset people."
Aren't you glad we don't have malls here in free-speaking Shandaken?
Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton's chief executive
officer from 1995 to 2000. The company has since come under heavy
pressure because of concerns about its liabilities and a probe by
the Securities and Exchange Commission into its accounting for cost
overruns on construction projects.
At the time Cheney retired as CEO of Halliburton, to run along side
George W. Bush for control of the White House, the company awarded
him a $20 million dollar retirement package, saying it was their
legal prerogative to increase the size of that package at any time
to any amount they desired.
KBR is the exclusive logistics supplier for both the Navy and the
Army, providing services like cooking, construction, power generation
and fuel transportation. The contract recently won from the Army
is for 10 years and has no lid on costs, the only logistical arrangement
by the Army without an estimated cost. The New York Times noted
recently that the government business has been well timed for Halliburton,
whose stock price had tumbled almost two-thirds in the last year
because of concerns about its asbestos liabilities, sagging profits
in itsenergy business and an investigation by the Securities and
Exchange Commission into its accounting practices back when Vice
President Dick Cheney ran the company.
Halliburton has declined any comment and referred all questions
Defense Department. Meanwhile, Halliburton Co. the world's No. 2
oil field services firm, did announce last week that it has started
a probe involving U.S. and Nigerian government officials over theft
of a radioactive device used at its Nigerian operations.Halliburton
said that it is concerned that the device's radioactive material
could be used to create a "dirty bomb," an explosive device
designed to scatter radioactivity in a densely populated area.
The device was in a locked storage box that weighs about 200 pounds
(90 kg) and is the size of a small car engine block. The device,
oil detection, was stolen in early December. Halliburton is saying
that its investigation also involves officials from the International
Atomic Energy Agency, which has been involved in recent UN searches
in Iraq. Cheney is still receiving deferred compensation from Halliburton,
but neither the company nor the White House would specify how large
his payment will be this year or how long the payments will continue.
This is cash that he's already earned. Yet it's also cash that Halliburton
is accruing in part from its activities in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan.