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BOE prepares for 2020-21 school year

PINE PLAINS — Looking to move forward to the best of their ability, members of the Pine Plains Central School District Board of Education (BOE) prepared for the 2020-21 school year at the board’s annual organizational meeting on Wednesday, July 1.

Starting at 7 p.m., the board met via video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The re-org portion of the meeting began with District Clerk Julia Tomaine administering the Oath of Office to returning BOE members Heidi Johnson and James Griffin. They will both serve three-year terms starting Wednesday, July 1, through June 30, 2023. Tomaine also administered the Oath of Office to Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler for another year.

BOE President Chip Couse and BOE Vice President Anne Arent were both re-elected to their respective roles on the BOE by their collegaues and administered the oath by Tomaine. Couse later administered the oath to Tomaine for her position as district clerk.

Among the extensive list of appointments, the BOE appointed Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center Principal Julie Roberts as the acting principal of Cold Spring Early Learning Center for 2020-21 in the event that Cold Spring Principal Gian Starr isn’t physically present at the school on one or more days. Likewise, Starr was appointed acting principal of Seymour Smith in the event that Roberts isn’t physically present at the school on one or more days. For the junior/senior high school building, the BOE appointed Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School Assistant Principal Christopher Boyd as the acting principal in the event that Principal Tara Grieb isn’t at school.

After taking care of the necessary appointments, designations, authorizations and other business featured the organizational meeting, the BOE was ready to move forward with its regular business meeting.

Highlighting the work being done by the committee planning re-entry to the school district, Handler reported that the committee is working on three potential re-entry options, including a full-distance learning option, a modified schedule and a full back-to-school option. Couse noted on a later date that issues related to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, bus routing, testing needs, etc., are being considered.

Handler shared a recommendation from the committee that outside groups be prohibited from using school buildings until the state lifts restrictions, given the cleaning needs of its custodial staff. Couse later explained it would be difficult to meet state standards otherwise. Agreeing, the BOE referred the matter to the Policy Committee to include this limitation in the current policy. Similar restrictions pertaining to transportation issues are expected to be discussed at the BOE’s next meeting on Wednesday, July 15.

Later that evening, the BOE  considered a request from the administration pertaining to fiscal year-end purchases using a small portion of its fund balance. Totaling just under $90,000, the request included purchasing copiers, an irrigation system for its athletic fields and a number of smaller items. 

Given its concerns about “being able to fully track any purchases required around the COVID-19 requirements,” Couse said the BOE debated the request, though he reported that the board didn’t want to have requests coming over the next three meetings leading up to the district’s reopening “without a full picture of total expenditures.” With Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Michael Goldbeck tasked with providing an overview of the total expenditures, the BOE agreed to the requested purchases.

The BOE addressed a list of unused vacation days for managerial and confidential employees who were unable to use their full vacation allotment as a result of the pandemic. Couse explained that these employees have a limit as to the amount of unused vacation days they can carry over. For five employees, that limit for vacation days was exceeded. Totaling $2,100, the BOE decided to buy back the excess days by paying the employees at their daily rate.

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