Story by Shelley R. Clapper
The Florida Union Free School District Board of Education met on Thurs., Mar. 15. The meeting is usually held in the Memorial Building but that day it was held in the gymnasium to accommodate the many people expected during public comment.
Increased School Security
Superintendent Jan Jehring opened the meeting with a statement that the schools are dedicated to increased security. In light of the recent school shooting in the state of Florida, she said, “We are planning to have more of a police presence. That will be put into the budget.”
The Superintendent stated that $100,000 will be dedicated to increased security in the schools. Other measures the District will take to improve security include more security cameras, I.D. badges and a possible security vestibule.
Outpouring of Support for Mrs. Conte
Many students and parents waited patiently on the bleachers for an opportunity to speak during public comment in support of former reading teacher, Mrs. Conte, and their desire for her to return. The reason for Mrs. Conte leaving the school a few months earlier was not clear. Superintendent Jehring said that she was not able to comment on personnel matters.
During public comment, parent Julie Harty said that if kids don’t feel comfortable they could always go to Mrs. Conte.
“She is one of the best teachers in the District. We need more teachers like her, not less,” said Julie Harty.
Many students related how they felt that Mrs. Conte was a mother-like figure to them as she would help them with emotional matters as well as academic. A former student spoke of Mrs. Conte’s help when she transferred into the Florida District. Another student said Mrs. Conte always understood her and helped her during a time of family grief.
A student named Valerie said, “She doesn’t just prepare students for tests. She prepares us for life.”
Valerie’s mother spoke after her saying, “Valerie came to the District with severe anxiety issues. It turned out to be a blessing her being with Mrs. Conte in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. She is her cheerleader not just in school but in life. I can’t thank Mrs. Conte enough for all she has done for my family.”
A heartfelt moment came when a student whose father is suffering from Stage IV prostate cancer said he had no-one to talk to now that Mrs. Conte was not there.
One mother summed it up saying, “She helps our most vulnerable students. Once you are a Conte kid, you are always a Conte kid.”
School Business Administrator Lorine Lamerand gave a brief budget presentation. She said that the budget for 2018-19 would be approximately $21,000,000, which will include the purchase of one bus. The maximum tax levy would be 2.67 percent if additional State aid is received.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on Thurs., May 3 at 7 p.m. in the S.S. Seward Memorial Building, located at 51 N. Main St. in Florida.
The budget vote and election of members of the Board of Education will be held on Tues., May 15 from 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. at the S.S. Seward Institute, located at 53 N. Main St. in Florida.
Contract for Health & Welfare Services
A contract with the Warwick Valley Central School District for health and welfare services for the 2017-18 school year was approved. The cost per student will be $824.09. The contract covers 14 students who are Florida residents and attend a non-public school within the Warwick Valley Central School District. The total cost of the contract is $11,537.26.
New Transportation Service
School Board member Meg Sgombick announced that the Board of Education has awarded transportation contract services for the District to Quality Bus Service LLC from the 2018-19 year through the 2022-23 school years. This is subject to the approval of the Districts voters at the annual vote on Tues., May 15. Quality Bus Service LLC is a new company that the District has not used before.
Capital Reserve Fund Proposition
A proposition to establish a capital reserve fund for the costs of renovation, reconstruction and improvement of District buildings and facilities will be presented for approval by voters at the public vote. The maximum amount of that fund will be $5,000,000 for a maximum term of 10 years. This will be funded with remaining funds from the 2004 capital reserve fund and surplus fund balances at the end of each fiscal year.
Sixth Grade Ashokan Trip Approved
The Board gave their approval for the sixth grade class trip to the Ashokan Center which is scheduled for Thurs., May 10 and Fri., May 11.
Superintendent Jehring reported that the school has used all seven of the allotted snow days. In the event of another snow closing, the District will schedule a make-up day on Mon., Apr. 2. Other possible make-up days will be Mon., Mar. 26 and Fri., May 25.
The next regular Board meeting will be held on Thurs., Apr. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the S.S. Seward Memorial Building, located at 51 N. Main St. in Florida.