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BOE assesses latest district budgets, bus driver requirements

PINE PLAINS — Following its annual tour of the Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School building, the Pine Plains Board of Education (BOE) set its sights on three new budget presentations as well as a presentation by Pine Plains Transportation Director Lauren Ross at its meeting on Wednesday, March 4.

Prior to the regular meeting at 7 p.m., the BOE embarked on a tour of the junior/senior high school building at 6:30 p.m., paying special attention to the newly revamped auditorium as well as the deterioration of the junior high school gym floor. The BOE estimated that the cost of fixing the gym floor would be $300,000, though no decision was made that evening.

Moving on to the evening’s budget workshop, the BOE gave Director of Pupil Personnel Services Janine Babcock its full attention as she presented an estimated special education budget for the 2020-21 school year. With individualized education program meetings and placements underway in the district, Babcock reported that the budget for special education services is projected to increase by $17,000, totaling $3,771,786 overall. BOE President Chip Couse reported the following day that this portion of the overall district budget is “highly likely to change before final adoption.”

In his overview of the technology budget for next year, Director of Technology Richard Harlin said the budget is expected to drop by $68,100, totaling $755,900 overall. He also advised the BOE it look into new confidentiality requirements for students, which he intends to include in his annual report to the school board on a later date.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Michael Goldbeck delivered a brief overview of the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) instructional budget and its anticipated decrease of $68,100, totaling $755,900 overall.

Sharing the requirements for becoming a bus driver or a bus monitor, Ross talked about how the interview process for the two positions has reduced the number of candidates from seven applicants to two applicants, which will progress to the next step in the hiring process. She informed the BOE that the road test the applicants need to take to become a bus driver takes two hours to complete and requires physical tests that, in addition to driving skills, focus on getting students off the bus in the event of an emergency. One of the physical tests requires that bus drivers be able to remove a 125-pound dummy from the bus in less than 30 seconds in order to demonstrate how they would react in an emergency. Along with talking about ways bus drivers can get re-certified for their positions, Ross mentioned that bus drivers are subject to random drug testing.

Given the requirement for a designated backup principal in the elementary school buildings in case the regular principal is absent from school, the BOE designated Julie Roberts, the current principal of Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center, as the backup principal for Cold Spring Early Learning Center in the event of Cold Spring Principal Gian Starr’s absence from school. In the event of Roberts’ absence from Seymour Smith, Starr will act as her backup.

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