Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Democrat File Photo

The Sullivan West High School, under construction in 2003.

Sullivan West High School construction:
Last settlement of lawsuits near

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — July 30, 2010 — The last piece of the litigation over the building of Sullivan West’s high school in Lake Huntington was settled by the SW board in a special meeting Monday night.
The vote was a unanimous 8-0, as the ninth board seat is currently vacant.
The opposing party, school architect The Hillier Group, has yet to sign, but board members indicated that’s simply a formality now.
“I think this brings closure to the district,” observed Angela Daley, who served on the board when the high school was first built seven years ago. “Maybe now everyone can get on with more educating than negotiating and arbitrating.”
“This settlement was a long time in coming, and I think everyone’s breathing a sigh of relief,” added Noel van Swol, who thanked the district’s administrative and legal team for their years of work.
The terms of the settlement were not released, and a FOIL request by the Democrat was denied this week by district officials on the grounds that “it might negatively impact an ‘imminent contract award’.”
Various sources confirmed, however, that the settlement awards a payment to SW from Hillier, and district officials anticipated releasing the exact amount when the check is cashed.
“I hope this settlement will bring peace to the neighboring communities in the district,” remarked board member Rose Joyce-Turner, “and we can move forward instead of looking back.”
Replacement sought
Also at Monday’s meeting, board members accepted the resignation of former board member Anna Niemann, thanking her for her five years of service.
“I think it goes without saying that Anna’s contribution to this board, this district, has been enormous,” remarked board member John Reggero.
“She added so much to us,” agreed Daley. “... I think we’re all going to miss her.”
Van Swol and fellow board member Ken Cohen also lamented the loss of Niemann’s expertise in school finance. Both have tried to coax former board member and financial expert Shaun Sensiba to return, so far without success.
So the board agreed with Supt. Ken Hilton’s recommendation to seek interested candidates to be appointed by the rest of the board, rather than holding a more expensive special election later this year.
Letters of interest can be sent to District Clerk Peg Luty at SW’s central office: POB 308, 33 Schoolhouse Road, Jeffersonville, NY 12748. They’re due by September 10, with interviews to be conducted at the September 16 meeting of the board (7 p.m. at the high school in Lake Huntington).
A decision may be made at that meeting or another one, and whomever is appointed will only serve until May 17, 2011 before having to run for the position.
Literacy coach approved in split vote
A variety of people were appointed to faculty and staff positions Monday night, including some from the now-closed Duggan School in White Lake.
In fact, Duggan’s former literacy coach, Dara Kaplan, was named to the same position in SW’s elementary school – a job just created by the district to enhance students’ communication skills.
The board voted 6-2 to hire Kaplan on a probationary basis for two years, with annual pay at $58,394. Cohen and van Swol were the two dissenters.
“It has nothing to do with the person – it has to do with the position,” noted Cohen, explaining he didn’t think the expenditure was prudent at this point.
“I also have questions on it,” agreed van Swol. “... It’s a wonderful idea, but given the financial situation of the state and district, I think this is an expense we could put off a year or two.”
Supt. Hilton disagreed, noting that the school’s ELA (English Language Arts) scores had just come in for the past school year.
“And they are significantly down from last year,” he remarked, without giving numbers.
The superintendent added that Kaplan came highly recommended by her former supervisor and colleagues at Duggan, though after questioning from Cohen, he did admit he had not personally checked the documents showing whether or not her efforts resulted in increased scores at Duggan.
Hilton explained, however, that six people interviewed for the position.
“They were all remarkable, but I went with experience,” he said.
The rest of the board had mixed feelings on the position but ultimately agreed to hire Kaplan to fill it.
“I truly don’t believe in the position myself, but I am supporting you in that endeavor,” remarked Rose Crotty, referencing Hilton.
“I’m still disappointed we’re giving up on elementary Spanish,” observed Reggero.
“I’m hoping we can bring it back,” replied Joyce-Turner, who then criticized the title of “literacy coach,” believing the position is far more encompassing.
Indeed, elementary teacher Wendy Kraack – the only member of the general public in the audience – said she and her colleagues are excited about the possibilities and have many requests and expectations lined up for Kaplan.
“Our laundry list is rather long,” she remarked. “I hope this literacy coach just knocks us off our feet and we wonder in a year or two how we lived without this.”
Hilton was confident Kaplan will exceed all expectations, but he acknowledged the administration and the board will be scrutinizing her performance as the new school year progresses.
“This is a job,” he said, “that has to justify itself.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives