Follow Up on the News
“The elephant in the room is if we go five-through-eight, Phoenicia will close, due to fiscal responsibility — we all know that and you all know that,” said Robert Warren, known for his stage persona as Uncle Rock.
The school board has not decided what school would close, but many speculate Bennett, the other school in the western part of the district, would not change since it was recently renovated, leaving Phoenicia as the target.
Phoenicia Elementary also has the lowest enrollment in the district, although some argue that Woodstock is still overcrowded since the merger with West Hurley and re-districting would help level the populations between the three schools.
At the meeting, many parents said that they specifically moved to this area, some as recently as two years ago, from New York City. Once they had kids the migration north occurred. They became attracted because of the small community schools, the district’s favorable reputation, support for the arts and music, mixed with friendly people and the beauty of the Catskills. Not all of the families live in Phoenicia, but instead travel from Olive or Woodstock for the small classrooms in Phoenicia elementary and connections with the bucolic hamlet’s main street. They believe that by closing an additional school lower enrollment will accelerate faster than already predicted because a community school will not be available.
Abbe Aronson said, “In grades K-2, we’ve added a class every year and we’ll have two third grades this fall.” She said the incoming kindergarten is around 40 students so far. And the Phoenicia PTA currently holds 120 parents as members and test scores are better than the two other schools.
Warren read a statement from the Phoenicia Library stating that the school works in conjunction with the library, with after school help and a safe haven for kids, computer access and it delivers books to teachers.
Ralph Legnini, a 25 year resident said, “Since I moved here, I haven’t seen much harmony in our school district, I have seen the mascot issue, I’ve seen this (West Hurley) school close, I’ve seen the large parcel issue and it has been division after division.”
He asked the school board not to make a decision that will divide the community again.
Several parents handed out many statistics that questioned quality education as the driving force behind creating a five-through-eight middle school, especially at the cost of closing a community school. Parents also voiced concern that younger kids will be mixed with high school students and lengthy transportation rides, noting that maybe the Onteora district is too large scale, land-wise, compared to other districts.
Tony Fletcher of Phoenicia said, “Nothing that I have seen personally on paper or practice convinces me that putting ten your olds in with fourteen years olds is beneficial for these younger kids, or there is anything to be gained by removing these ten your olds from their elementary schools who are mentors to the lower grade children”
Fletcher recommended that the public read Superintendent Leslie Ford’s report posted on the district’s website on the capital project. He said, “She notes that eight percent of elementary schools in America graduate children after fourth grade.”
Ann McGillicuddy said, “In New York State, legislation recently passed that stipulates that a decision by the Board of Ed to close a school in one community and consolidate enrollment in another community must undergo a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA); the community that looses a school must be mitigated for that loss.”
Middle School principal Gayle Kavanagh, now retired, spoke to the school board in favor of a five-through-eight middle school. “With lots of studies and lots of research that you’ve heard over the last couple of years and I think it is in the best interest of our kids and their kids,” she said, asking the school board to consider all the people in attendance at the night’s meeting, but also adding that she does not support closing Phoenicia.
“The discussion will be that a five-eight concept will kill a school and I don’t think that has to be,” Kavanagh added.
The Offer Holds... For Now
The project, a $17.2 million one, would be paid for by the City and the City would pay the lions share of the annual operating costs once it’s built.
But opponents say that’s not enough. The City should pay to build it and own it and take care of it and the community should not pay anything. The fear is that, under the current proposal, the community could get socked with crippling upgrade costs to the system not to mention the thousands of dollars per year that some businesses would be forced to pay. And there is no guarantee that there would be any money to pay to hook properties up to the system, meaning owners might need to cough up thousands to tie in.
These concerns caused a defeat of the plan in a referendum vote last winter.
But, due to the location of Phoenicia, which sits on both banks of the Esopus (The main artery for the City’s Ashokan reservoir) and on both banks of the Stony Clove creek (One of the largest tributaries of the Esopus), the City decided to give Phoenicia a chance to reconsider.
All the town of Shandaken needed to do was authorize Shandaken Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. to sign a statement agreeing to the current terms of the deal.
But this month Cross followed the lead of the project opponents and sent a statement to the City that Phoenicia wants more time to consider the deal, but also insists on negotiating a better deal.
Jeff Graf, the Acting Chief of Watershed Lands and Community Planning for the City’s Department of Environmental Protection, said no dice.
“As I previously indicated to you, the City will not re-negotiate the terms of the operation and maintenance costs…..nor is the City willing to increase the block grant for the project beyond the $17.2 million already approved,” Graf wrote in a letter to Cross on June 6th.
Graf did however say that the door remains open for Phoenicians, at least until next June.
“ We will treat your letter as an expression of the town’s interest in exercising a limited opportunity…” Graf added.
On Monday Cross, who is not seeking a third term in office, said he was glad that the City agreed to keep the proposal available.
As for the final word that negotiations are over Cross said, “I’m fine with that.”
Phoenicia’s troubles remain in stark contrast to virtually every other community earmarked to get a system. None of the others, which welcomed the projects with open arms, even held a vote on their respective projects, instead implementing them almost blindly with no real details on actual costs to businesses.
Boiceville is the one exception. After witnessing the horrors in Phoenicia the Olive Town Board put the matter up for a referendum vote.
Supporters of the $10.7 million waste treatment system overwhelmed the projects opposition. Out of 148 possible votes from within this small hamlet on the banks of the Esopus Creek which feeds the City of New York’s Ashokan reservoir, 96 were cast at the firehouse, which sits next door to the site slated to hold the new treatment plant.
Of those who voted, 80 supported the New York City funded project and only 16 opposed.
There were only a handful of onlookers at the firehouse when the votes were tallied, but all were in celebration mode.
Lloyd Humphrey, a vote inspector and Boiceville resident, was asked if he was pleased with the outcome.
“Yes I am,” he replied with a large grin.
Henry Rank, a Town of Olive Councilman who owns land in the Boiceville Hamlet, was a bit more forthcoming with his opinion about what the project means to the community.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “Now the town won’t fold up.”
Following a study which concluded that a wastewater treatment plant would be the most efficient and effective means of treating sewage in Boiceville, the Olive Town Board agreed to proceed to the design phase, in which a system was designed to handle an estimated 62,240 gallons of wastewater per day from the customers within the Boiceville district. The issue of forming the district was the subject of a public hearing in March.
The cost of construction of the collection system will be paid from a block grant from the Catskill Watershed Corporation. Operation and maintenance fees for residences will be capped at $100 per year. Businesses will be charged according to usage, with a $250 minimum fee per year.
Councilman Bruce LaMonda was on hand for the vote count. Although not a landowner in the district, LaMonda, a frequent critic of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said he was glad the project was approved.
“It’s an opportunity,” he said. “We would have been remiss if we didn’t help make it happen.”
For the Bash, the entire senior class (or at last 96% of them) will head up to Belleayre Ski Center for a fabulous night… alcohol and drug-free and put together by students with an eye to their own safety… and fun. It all runs, with a building lock-down to prevent any mishaps, until 7:00 Am the next morning with each graduating senior allowed one guest to bring to the event as long as they arrive by midnight and don’t come back if leaving the building.
What’s the fun? A DJ, dancing, karaoke, laser tag, air volleyball, sumo wrestling, jousting, and “Velcro Olympics.” Prizes including various cameras, 5 mini refrigerators, 8 DVD/VCR players, gift certificates to great places, cold hard cash, and dorm room survival kits for those headed off to college. Each of the 150 seniors will walk home with something… Food all night, including pizza, chicken wings, subs, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream sundaes, Chinese take out. A grand prize trip of a vacation to the Dominican Republic for 4 days and 3 nights at an all-inclusive resort will be awarded to someone who makes it all night…
It’s all come together with over 17,000$ in donations secured by SADD members and their parents.And hey, it’s all free and open to all graduates.
“In light of the recent tragic auto accident it reminds everyone about the importance of being safe especially in the midst of graduation,” noted Patrick Burkhardt, one of the Onteora staff advisors for SADD. “This is the time of year when we all worry about the safety and welfare of all students as they celebrate this milestone. At Onteora, with the Bash, we are confident that our seniors are “partying” the right way- the responsible way.”
Congratulations to the 175 students graduating in the class of 2007. Of that number 25 students are graduating with high honors having achieved a grade point average of 95 or above. The Valedictorian is David Frost who will be attending Cornell University. The Salutatorian is Jonah Bernhard who will be attending Swarthmore College. Guest speakers at the graduation ceremony on the evening of June 6, include educators of over 30 years, Jeff Fisher and Dr. Bill Birns.
While everyone at the well-attended
town board meeting supported the cellular service, many had trouble
with the microwave dish, a technology that is widely believed to generate
harmful rays into the air.
Cross, now at the end of his second two year term, has since January consistently
refused to announce his plans for reelection. Cross made no mention of
stepping down at the June 4th town board meeting, but on June 7th the
story broke of Todd’s decision to run in the Ulster County Townsman.