‘We have no choice’
That was the comment from Athens School Board President Karen Brennan Tuesday before casting her vote on the restructuring of the school district beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.
The board Tuesday unanimously approved the measure, which was unveiled by School Superintendent Doug Ulkins last month.
Severe budget restraints and a need to better prepare the district’s students for the 21st century as the reasons as to why this proposed restructuring has been developed, Ulkins said at the time.
Through this restructuring, the district would save a total of $956,300 annually.
Only one resident in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting spoke on the restructuring proposal.
Ulster resident Dustin Bishop asked the board to look into converting
Harlan Rowe Junior High School into an elementary school serving kindergarten through fifth grades, and utilizing SRU Middle School to house students in grades six through eight.
Following Bishop’s comment, board member Jim Priester made the motion to accept Ulkins’ restructuring proposal in its current format. That measure was seconded by board member Lonnie Stethers.
The proposed restructuring of the Athens Area School District:
• Audrielle-Lynch Elementary School — no changes. The building
would continue to house students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
• The temporary closure of Sheshequin-Ulster Elementary School.
• The temporary closure of Gladys Burnham Elementary School.
• The temporary closure of Harriet Child Elementary School.
• The SRU Middle School would be redesignated as SRU Elementary School. The Harriet Child Elementary would be used for kindergarten through first grade and would be renamed as the Harriet Child
Primary Wing, while SRU would house grades two through five. Students from Harriet Child, Gladys Burnham and Sheshequin-Ulster would
go to SRU Elementary School.
• Harlan Rowe Junior High School would be redesignated as Harlan Rowe Middle School and would house students in grades six through
eight. The sixth-grade classes will be housed in their own individual wing
at Harlan Rowe.
• Athens Area High School would house students in grades nine
“I wanted to vote ‘no,’ but I have to vote ‘yes,’ because I feel that we have no choice,” said Brennan.
Afterwards, Priester made a motion to have the district’s transportation committee — which is chaired by District Business Manager Kevin Rimmey — along the district’s bus contractors prepare a new bus transportation program based on the impending restructuring.
This new program will be aimed at minimizing the amount of time that students are on a bus traveling to and from school, said Priester.
That program is to be presented to the board at its first meeting in May, said Priester. That session will be held on May 8.
Priester’s motion was seconded by Board Vice President Karen Whyte and was approved by a unanimous vote by the board.
In other business that was conducted at Tuesday’s meeting, school board members:
• Accepted the retirement of Gregory Heskell, who is a custodian at Harlan Rowe Junior High School. Heskell has been employed by the district for 25 years. His retirement is effective on Jan. 21, 2013.
• Accepted the retirement of Paul M. Ballentine, who serves as the district’s master mechanic in its maintenance department. Ballentine has been employed by the district for 10 years. His retirement is effective on March 5, 2012.
• Approved the hiring of Melissa Stopper as a three-hour cafeteria employee at Harlan Rowe Junior High School, effective Jan. 23, 2012.
• Approved the hiring of Lori Argenio as a threehour cafeteria employee at Harlan Rowe Junior High School, effective Jan. 23, 2012.
• Approved the hiring of Janette Greenwood as a two-hour cafeteria employee at Audrielle Lynch- Ellen Bustin Elementary School, effective Jan. 23, 2012.
• Welcomed Diane Place to her first meeting as the district’s new assistant superintendent. Place began her tenure in Athens on Monday. “I would like to thank everyone for welcoming me (during) my first two days on the job,” she said. “Everyone has been very friendly. I look forward to serving this school district.”
The next meeting of the Athens School Board will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Audrielle Lynch-Ellen Bustin Elementary School. The public is invited to attend.