By Dan Hust
CALLICOON January 10, 2003 Board members completed a tour on Tuesday of the Delaware Valley campus of Sullivan West feeling disgusted not with the contractors renovating the school, not with the faculty or staff, not with the students, but with tiny bits of mold.
I cant even imagine we have children in those rooms, said board member Carol Nearing, saying she noticed mold on window moldings and ceiling beams in the 50-year-old building.
According to Superintendent Michael Johndrow, the mold is only visible in four second-floor rooms and is caused by a leaking roof that has long plagued Delaware Valley. The ongoing renovations, which include replacing the roof, are supposed to take care of the problem by this summer.
The mold, which could cause respiratory difficulties, was recently noted by the state Department of Health, but Johndrow said staff noticed more of it after the Christmas break. He attributed that to the amount of snow on the roof and the closed windows.
The staff really feels it is worse than before, he told the board, adding that he does not know if the mold might be elsewhere in the building, as well.
Board members were considering cleaning the school thoroughly in the near future, since the roof replacement wont happen for some time, but construction officials told them a specialized, professional cleanup could cost $100,000.
For now, said Johndrow, custodial staff are regularly cleaning the visible mold, and dehumidifiers are in the affected rooms but since no extra classroom space is yet available, classes continue to be held in those rooms.
If it were me, I wouldnt show up [for class] tomorrow, said board member Arthur Norden. Its intolerable. My nose still hurts, and I was in there for just five minutes.
Possible Legal Battles?
Other difficulties confronted the board at their regular meeting that evening in Callicoon, including the threat of a lawsuit from a neighbor of the high school construction site in Lake Huntington.
According to Johndrow, a Mr. Diminiani is upset over erosion runoff on his property allegedly due to the high school construction although his property, said Johndrow, is not directly adjacent to the site.
However, Johndrow said the schools engineering firm is working with erosion expert Don Lake to fix the various problems as soon as possible especially considering the threat of Department of Environmental Conservation fines should the situation go unresolved for too long.
Also, Jeffersonville resident and Sullivan West parent Liz Bucar politely warned the board that she would join the New York Civil Liberties Union in a class-action lawsuit against the federal and state governments if board members decided that she and other parents had adequately been given the opportunity to opt out of the automatic disclosure of students personal information to the military.
Although Johndrow included notice of the No Child Left Behind Act and the opt-out procedure in the most recent school newsletter, Bucar said she never received the required letter from the district and thus could not choose to opt out as soon as she would have liked.
But rather than take the board to task, she asked members to join her in the lawsuit to ensure that childrens privacy rights were not violated.
Its so much bigger than just the school issue, she said. From what Im hearing, there will be test cases about it.
Johndrow informed the board that school attorney David Shaw advised that the district has done all it needs to on the matter, although it did seem the board agreed that an opt-in, rather than an opt-out, procedure would have made more sense.
Appeal a No-Go
Mention was made of the news that a commissioners appeal filed by board members Rick Lander, Rich Sandler, K.C. Garn and former member Donna Sauer-Jones had been rejected by State Ed. Commissioner Richard Mills.
Last year, the four appealed to the commissioner to render null and void board members Carol Nearing, Jeff Nober, Jerry Triolo, Bill Erdman and Tim Laneses decision to go with Jeffersonville Principal Margie Tenbus as the new high school principal, despite the recommendation of Narrowsburg Principal Rod McLaughlin by Johndrow and former Assistant Superintendent Dave Rowley.
The commissioner, on December 18, rejected the appeal, saying the board has the authority to overrule the superintendent on the transfer of a principal.
After a battle with Board President Jeff Nober to be heard, outspoken SW critic and Long Eddy resident Noel van Swol asked how much the appeal had cost district taxpayers.
He was not answered, but Lander told the Democrat afterwards that his group was represented pro bono by Albany attorney Kristine Lanchantin. Lander offered no further comment on the decision, and Lanchantin could not be reached for comment.
During the meeting, Johndrow congratulated Tenbus and said she would continue as high school principal, but he declined to comment when asked after the meeting.
Nearing, who was board president when the Tenbus decision was made, said, Im happy its over. I had no doubts we did the right thing. I hope we can move on.
The decision speaks for itself, said Nober. We did the correct thing. We felt we picked the right person for the job.
In Other Business
Business Manager Keith Menges said a transportation expert is working with Transportation Coordinator Les Krum to determine the routes when the new high school opens this September. He said about 40 buses will be needed, and 8-10 routes will be double-tripped. Menges expects to have more information at the next meeting.
Also, Lander expressed concern over the lack of a replacement for Rowley, who oversaw curricula and other issues.
I dont think we have enough administration to do all the jobs, he said. And if theres any fault coming, it rests at this table.
Rowley was doing a hell of a job, and poof! Hes gone, and we dont need the position?
Nearing and Erdman expressed an interest in having an assistant high school principal instead, but Lander said he didnt care what the position was called.
We just cant afford to wait much longer, he said. We need additional staff at this time.