Thursday, August 22, 2013

PUBLIC: Special BOE Meeting Friday, 08/23/13, 7:30 am.

There is a Special BOE Meeting at 7:30 in the morning. Below is the agenda. Please attend if you are able.

August 23, 2013 @ 7:30 AM
1.0 Call to Order and Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag 
             1.1 Recording of Attendance
             1.2 Review of Agenda/Additions to Agenda                        
2.0 Appointments and Authorizations 
            2.1   Approve Dan DiSotto probationary FT Elementary Education Teacher effective Sept. 3, 2013 @ step 5
            2.2   Approve Kaelyn Kinley leave of absence Third Grade Teacher effective Sept. 3, 2013 @ step 1
            2.3   Approve Amy Murphy as Guidance Counselor (.6) beginning 09/03/13-06/30/14 @ Step 12
            2.4   Approve Lori Audi as Food Service Cook Manager 
            2.5   Approve Tina Albert Food Service Worker
            2.6   Approve Jessica Hubbard Food Service Worker   
3.0 Informational 
6.1 Regular BOE Meeting September 19, 2013 at 7:00pm
         6.2 Public Comment  
9.0 Adjournment

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BOE Announcement: Experienced Educator Lee Bordick Named Interim Superintendent/Principal

Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick

 Lee Bordick

The Wynantskill UFSD Board of Education appointed experienced superintendent Lee Bordick as the district’s interim superintendent/principal at their August 15 meeting.

Mr. Bordick will start Wednesday, August 21. He replaces Dr. Lisa Henkel, who resigned from her position at a special Board of Education meeting on August 14.

Mr. Bordick served 22 years as the superintendent of Lansingburgh Central School District before retiring in 2007. Since retiring, Mr. Bordick has served as an interim superintendent for Ichabod Crane CSD and Chatham CSD. He also served as an interim principal at Catskill CSD.

 “As a Board of Education, we are pleased to have someone of Mr. Bordick’s reputation and experience agree to serve as our superintendent/principal,” said Board President Andrea Paone. “His most immediate priority will be to ensure Wynantskill Union Free School District is fully prepared to open its doors to our students on September 4. We are confident he will successfully meet that short term goal, as well as embrace this board’s mission to provide our students with the richest educational opportunities our community can support.”

The Board approved compensation of $600 per day with plans to negotiate a longer term agreement in the immediate future. Posted 08/19/13.

*copied from 

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Open Letter to the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District

An Open Letter to the Board of Education of the Wynantskill Union Free School District

I did not sign up to speak at last night’s Board meeting, because I didn’t think that I had anything important to say. I have been relatively satisfied with the way that things have been unfolding, and I was optimistic that we had all decided to work together to move forward, and to repair the damage that has been done to our small community.

However, after listening to some of the comments at last night’s meeting, I realized that I did have some thoughts that I wanted to share, and I realized that those thoughts could not wait until the next Board meeting.

First let me begin by saying Thank You. Thank you to the members of the Board who opened their minds, and their ears, and their hearts, and who created a safe place for teachers and parents and community members to share our concerns. I appreciate the sacrifices that the Board members have made, and the time that they have all taken away from their families in order to meet the needs of our community. These sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, and they are much appreciated.

Second, I would like to address an issue that was raised at last night’s Board meeting, an issue which has been raised at previous meetings, and also in statements that have been made to the public. The issue pertains to the allegations that the teachers did not come forward with their concerns until they decided to “go public,” and that they brought their concerns to the media rather than bringing them to the members of the Board.

As I sat last night and listened to Board members talking about the conversations that they are now having with parents and teachers and community members, and as I listened to talk of the teachers not raising those concerns in the past, I asked myself when this change had taken place. When did people start feeling comfortable sharing their concerns with the Board members? To me, the answer seems clear: it happened when the teachers banded together, and after they went public with their concerns.

Several people have criticized this move by the teachers, saying that they have caused embarrassment to our school, that they should have gone through different channels, that they should have come forward sooner, and that they are guilty of trying to sway public opinion so that they can settle their teacher contracts. To those who would criticize the actions of the teachers, I would ask you to take a moment, think, and ask yourself this: why would these teachers feel the need to come together in this way, and why would they do so in such a public fashion?

One possible explanation is that our teachers are strong, and that they are optimistic. Maybe they believed that they had suffered through situations that were as bad, if not worse, than this one, and they had survived, so they would survive this as well. Maybe they believed that things would change, if only they waited long enough. Maybe they decided to focus on the needs of their students, while ignoring their own needs. Given my experiences with these teachers, I would say that any of those scenarios would be entirely possible.

However, let’s also consider a darker possibility, one that includes threats, intimidation, and the fear of retaliation. Is it not possible that our teachers were not unwilling, but rather unable to come forward, because they feared what would happen to them if they did? Is it not possible that the teachers only felt comfortable coming forward when they knew that they would be doing so as a united front? Is it not possible that the reason they went to the media with their concerns, rather than coming to individual Board members, was that they did not know what would happen to them if they only shared their concerns privately?

As a mandated reporter, I am afforded the protection of anonymity when I make a report of alleged abuse or neglect. This anonymity is designed, in part, to preserve the healthy working relationship between mandated reporters and their clients. However, it is also designed to protect the reporters from potential retaliation by an angry parent. Although not all mandated reporters choose to exercise their right to remain anonymous, the option exists, for the protection of the reporter, and also to allow the reporter and the accused to continue to work together without hostility and awkwardness.

As embarrassing as these past few months of media attention have been for our school district, the public airing of these grievances and concerns has provided a veil of protection for our teachers, and also for parents and community members who had concerns about how they and their children were being treated under the most recent administration. Teachers are now able to engage in an open and honest dialogue with Board members, and change has occurred.

It is unfortunate that it had to come to this. However, in a sense, I’m glad that it did. This situation has created an opportunity for our school district to come together, and it has created an opportunity for us to examine our practices, our policies, and our procedures, to insure that we are providing our children with the best possible education in the best possible environment.

I am looking forward to working with respected educators Michael Marcelle and Lee Bordick. I hope that, through our work with these individuals, we can examine whether or not our District has had an “open door policy,” and whether or not there are protections that can be put into place to allow our teachers, parents, and community members to come forward with any concerns that they might have, without fear of retaliation, and without fear that the concerns will be dismissed without a thorough investigation.

I would like to thank the teachers and the parents who paved the way, and who created the opportunity for this open dialogue and change of environment to occur. Your courage, your tenacity, and your unwavering commitment to the children in our school district is both admirable and unforgettable.

I would like to thank the Board members who have been open to having these conversations, and who have expressed their willingness to continue to listen and to share information. I’m glad that you chose to do what you are doing, I recognize that it was a choice, and I thank you for making that choice.

Finally, I would like to thank the media, both social and commercial, without whom none of this would have been possible. Thank you for maintaining a forum that allows for freedom of speech, and that allows for the sharing of information and for the building of a community. Thank you for maintaining a largely unbiased position throughout these proceedings, and thank you for not judging our school district based on the actions of a few of its members.

And thank you to everyone else for allowing me to share these thoughts. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you, as our community moves forward toward healing together.

Michelle Marte

Recent Media Coverage


Thursday, August 15, 2013

...And a Rainbow Appeared

A New Beginning
On the night that the resignation of Superintendent Lisa Henkel is announced a rainbow appears over Gardner Dickinson school. This photo was taken by a community member at 7:42 pm

There has been a dark cloud lingering over the small Wynantskill School District for the past several months. Last night, August 14th, that all changed. The Board of Education held a Special Meeting where the following members were present: Board President, Andrea Paone, Board Vice President, Ann Marsh, Board member, Andrew Lanesey, Board member, Matt Hug, Business Consultant, Gail Lathrop; missing from the meeting was Board member Christina Curran and Superintendent/Principal, Lisa Henkel. 
This Special Meeting, held just one night before the regularly scheduled monthly Board meeting, was set to start at 7:30 pm and was called to order at 7:35 pm. There was a singular agenda line item to be discussed, “2.1 Resolution Regarding the Superintendent/Principal”, which had not been included on the agenda previously posted on the District’s website since August 9. 
The news that was delivered was what the community had been waiting to hear for weeks; Dr. Lisa Henkel resigned as Superintendent/Principal of the Wynantskill Union Free School District.
As the beginning of the school year rapidly approaches, the community is looking forward to learning what next steps will be taken. Tonight’s regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting begins at 7 pm.
It is believed the media will also be attending tonight's meeting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dr. Lisa Henkel has resigned.

It is official Dr. Lisa Henkel has resigned from the Wynantskill Union Free School District. 

Reminder: Special BOE Meeting Tonight, 08/14/13, 7:30 pm.

Please attend. This is open to the public.
There is a Special BOE Meeting being held just one night before the standard monthly meeting.

Tonight, August 14, the Wynantskill Board of Education is holding another Special Meeting at 7:30 pm. This meeting is taking place just one day before the regular Board meeting on August 15. Perhaps this will be news the District parents, teachers and community members have been waiting for. Again, please attend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What the H. E. double L. is going on?

 Another Wynantskill BOE Meeting, Another Wynantskill Letdown. 

The agenda distributed to the attendees of the July 8th BOE Special Meeting was not the same as what was originally posted on the District's website the day before.

Last night, July 8, the Wynantskill Board of Education held another Special Meeting. It was one of many that have been held since June 2013, according to the District’s website. The Board of Education members present included Board President, Andrea Paone, Board Vice President, Ann Marsh, Board member, Andrew Lanesey, and Business Consultant, Gail Lathrop; missing from the meeting were Board members Christina Curran and Matt Hug, and Superintendent/Principal, Lisa Henkel.

The crowd consisted mostly of anxiously awaiting parents and teachers along with several concerned community members, all of whom were hoping the Board was going to deliver the news that Dr. Lisa Henkel would be placed on leave. Speculation among the crowd was buzzing that an announcement of the leave was the reason behind the meeting being called; However, no one could say for sure based on the very vague agenda posted on the district website the day prior.

The Board meeting was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm, but Board members did not enter the Gardner Dickinson Library to open the public session until 7:20 pm. The agenda that was distributed among the crowd did not match the online agenda and did not include the 2.1 Employment item, as bulleted on the original agenda, nor a section for public comment. What it did include was the following 2.1 item; “As requested by the Futures Education Independent Consultant, the Board rescinds the resolution from July 29, 2013 appointing the Consultant to perform Special Education and RtI study and therefore instruct the District Treasurer to not increase the budget appropriations to cover the $5,000 cost.” The official statement from the Board was that a contractual agreement could not be reached between the two parties consequently leaving the Board to look at hiring choice #2 or #3, or possibly reopening the search altogether.

Approximately 10 minutes after the explanation for rescinding the Special Education and Rtl consultant was delivered, at 7:30 pm, the Board made a motion to enter into Executive Session. This was the kickoff to the long waiting game that ensued for the meeting attendees. The crowd of parents, teachers, and community members were in disbelief at what they had just witnessed. The frustrated crowd of attendees continued to wait for another hour and 20 minutes until 8:50 pm, when the district clerk was given the directive from the Board to make the announcement that the “Board would not be making any public motions upon return from Executive Session to the public forum.” This was when the majority of the crowd called it a night and decided to leave. Some lingered for a while longer before they also decided the waiting was becoming a bit much. The Board officially returned from Executive Session at 10:01 pm, at which time, the public meeting was also immediately adjourned. Not a word was said to the four remaining individuals waiting in the Library about the discussion that had just taken place for the past two and a half hours. 

The Wynantskill community has been on edge and on high alert for the past several weeks due to major concerns over school district leader, Dr. Lisa Henkel. The community wants answers and wants action. Many are worried for the start of the new school year since the first day back is right around the corner. Another Special Meeting was just posted and is scheduled for Wednesday, August 14, 7:30pm, one day before the regularly scheduled monthly Board meeting.

~~Comments are welcomed and encouraged~~