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Regional high school to be discussed Friday in Heuvelton

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HEUVELTON - The president of the Heuvelton Teacher’s Association questioned the transparency of the district’s board of education Wednesday, addressing the board about a meeting Friday that will include New York State Department of Education Regent James C. Dawson and a discussion about the possibility of a regional high school that would involve at least three local school districts.

Debra J. Hale, HTA president and a high school math teacher in the district, said she was forced to do some “legwork” in tracking down the details of the meeting, which is slated for Friday at HCS at 4 p.m. and will reportedly include Mr. Dawson, as well as representatives from Heuvelton, Hermon-DeKalb, and Morristown central schools.

“If the idea is important enough and far enough along to hold a meeting, why aren’t all the stakeholders aware of it?” Mrs. Hale asked.

Board President Andrew L. Martin told Mrs. Hale the board is exploring any shared services options available.

Trustee John P. “Jack” Zeh said that “education is unsustainable the way we are doing it,” and that the concept of a regional high school “is so preliminary that there is not much to comment on.”

Mrs. Hale said she respected the board’s professionalism and ability to lead, but stressed the negative impacts of not keeping the Heuvelton staff and community fully informed.

She left the board with three questions.

“Because it is being called impossible due to a lack of legislation permitting it, what is different about your proposal that makes such a concept possible?” she asked. “In the spirit of transparency, would you outline the proposal and include the effects on students and faculty at HCS? And, at Friday’s meeting, will the plan be presented for the first time, or are you seeking approval?”

Trustees continued to say that they had already shared the extent of their communications and that all of the discussions were board-approved in open session at regular monthly meetings.

“As a board member, all I see going on is brainstorming,” said Thomas A. Nichols. “That’s all we’ve voted on to do - have discussions with Morristown and Hermon-DeKalb. We could go through all the school districts in the county. These discussions are going on everywhere.”

Mr. Zeh said providing too much information to the public too soon - “putting the cart before the horse” - can be counter-productive.

“I think maybe we’ll get some answers Friday,” he said, to which Mrs. Hale responded, “Maybe you’ll share them.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved the district’s $12,045,147 budget for the 2012-13 school year with a tax levy increase of 3.71 percent, which is the maximum levy increase allowed under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s tax cap legislation. The district will allocate just over $1 million of its fund balance to ensure that no staffing or programming will be eliminated. A budget hearing is scheduled for May 2 at 7:30 p.m. and district voters go to the polls on May 15 to decide on the budget.

Erin LaBella, teacher’s assistant, Melissa Fennessey, elementary teacher, Denise Curry, physical education, and Ginger Coller, high school English, were all granted tenure appointment.

The board also approved May 11, May 25, and June 22 as give-back days for unused snow days. June 21 was also slated for a half-day for students.

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