Feb 19 -- Feb 22 2001 archives

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Feb 19 -- Feb 22 2001 archives

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2002


Response to Feb 19 -- Feb 28 2001 archives

SOS archives Feb 20 - 28 2001 Hey great job on the web site ,eric.Thanks. I do hope this can become a site that can be advertised, making useful info available to a wider audience. In response to Eric's ? re: last years budget failure, I doubt there are too many commu7nities that have three or more board members actively working against the budget. It was payback time for the mascot.I feel quite differently than Terry's comments at SOS mtg.,when she felt failure to make budget smaller resulted in defeat the second time around.Payback,payback,payback. Plus ,I believe a heavily scrutinized budget is exactly what Doan was looking for in order to better take his axe to the expenditures. I have a document from last years process that was requested by JD. A line by line itemizing of the budget 98-99 , that indicates what part of that budget allocation went unspent that year.I expect JD's budget attacks this year to aim primarily at that target. Quite alot of money in some cases and indeed I think it is generally done in order to keep $ available to the school, that is not in the unexpended fund balance. Likely not very kosher, but also likely very helpful.you watch. If he goes after that he may even avoid some of the huge tax increases we are imagining.Budget education simplified should be job 1.

-- mmillar (mmillar00@hotmail.com), February 20, 2001.

I am working on getting the candidate interviews scheduled for the nexty SOS meeting on March 3rd. I have lined up 3 of the possible 5 but Kathy Hochman is not available that weekend or the weekend after. I am thinking of an early weeknight meeting for her or Sunday the 5th in the early afternoon. She is unavailable on the 1, 2, and 3rd of March as well as the 8, 9 and 10th. Any suggestions as to what might may be best for everyone??

-- Jim (me@ulster.net), February 20, 2001.

Maureen and I have been gathering info on the 4 transportable modulars at Bennett and Phoenicia which we feel is important info to share for the upcoming BOE meeting on buliding projects on Friday. Here are the stats on just the 2 transportable modulars at Bennett. Maureen will be providing the data on the 2 modulars Phoenicia.

At Bennett, the modulars house the Special Ed classroom which is Ms. Misler's regular class with 13 students in the room at least 60 percent of the time. Some students use the class all day, some are in inclusion.

The other class is the Music Room shared by Mrs. Leonard and Mr. Schubert. This is where children learn vocal music, chorus and band. The room houses all the instruments for the program as well. The room is too small to house all the students in band or chorus at the same time so that the Bennett chorus has 2 seperate classes with 45 children in each. The same with the band. My impression is that they neve get to practice together until they meet on the stage to rehearse for a performance.

Here's the timeline and some, as of yet, unsubstantiated facts regarding the current lease agreement of these modulars which we are currently trying to substantiate via a FOIL request at the BOE office.

The owner of the transportable modulars is a man in New Jersey named Erat. He has rented these modulars to the district for 8 years and when the contract renewal was due last year, he offered to lease them to the district for the sum of $31,000 per year for three years. This negotiation began in August before the start of the 2000-2001 school year.

Mr. Doan objected to the continued cost of these modulars and felt we could get a better lease deal from him if we negotiated. So the BOE rejected the lease offer from Erat by not acting upon the initial 3 year proposal. Erat, in apparent good faith, responded with a further proposal of a 1 year lease at $40,000/year or a 5 year lease at $31,000/year. Deadlines for the proposal were not met. The BOE decided to place $33,000 in an escrow account of which to eventually pay Erat for the 2000-2001 year even though Erat proposed $40K. Doan pressed for a 1 year lease at $31,000 which, with all the stalling, enraged Erat so that he is planning to remove the modulars in June, 2001.

At present there is no lease agreement with Erat and there has been no payment for the use of these modulars this year.

The cost of the lease at $40K/year to the district amounts to each classroom costing $10K apiece for the year or $3,333/month/4 units or $833/month/unit.

Rumors have circulated as to possible plans to help eliminate the forecoming crisis at Bennett. One is to redistrict and integrate all the 6th graders into the high school and, although many educators feel this is appropriate, the public sentiment is that this is an unwise move.

Another rumor is that the Bennett kindergarten will be redistiricted into Woodstock and West Hurley.

The BOE has requested that the school prinicipals draw up a plan to solve the upcoming problem but this has not yet been made public.

-- Jim (me@ulster.net), February 20, 2001.

More research has revealed that the owner of the transportable modulars is named Erat and he had a company called Associated Construction Concepts, PO Box 266, Campbell Hall, NY 10916. Although everyone says he is from NJ. ACC was dissolved in 9/92 so even the first lease contract with Onteora did not have a legitimate name on it because ACC was not a registered company in NYS. This is what caused Doan not to pay them after Meg and the board voted to renew the contract in 11/99. He found this out and began to question the whole arrangement. Hal Rowe claims that this first contact was something that had been arranged and was waiting for him when he first came to Onteora in 1994. The first lease ran three years from 7/94 until 6/97 and cost the district $258,000 or $86,000/year.

The second lease ran from 9/97 until 8/00 and was for $132,000 or $44,000/year.

The latest lease agreements were in the stages of negotiation when the talks broke down. The first rate of $31,104 was for 5 years and was built into the previous lease. It was voted upon and approved on 11/15/99 and to be effective 9/00 but at Doan's insistance a disclaimer was added to the motion to assure the board that ACC is capable of doing business with the district. This is where the discrepancy was discovered that Erat had no longer had ACC registered to do business in NYS. So with that caveat, Doan then decided not to renew the lease by the board not responding in a timely manner. Negotiations went back and forth with threats of suits and removal until 9/27/00 when Erat responded through his attorney that his final offer would be as follows:

Remove the units within 60 days


Pay $40K for the remainder of the school year and remove them in June, 2001


Renew the lease for 3 years at $31,000 per year.

A check was made out by OCS to ACC in 12/00 for $31,000 and is being held in escrow with the attorneys because of the name of the coorporation mishap. It is the clear understanding of Hal Rowe that the modulars will be removed in June 2001 by Mr. Erat.

Throughout all of the history of the leases, the Onteora School district had the option of purchasing the modulars.

The estimated cost of moving the Bennett kindergarten alone and busing those students to West Hurley and Woodstock will require two bus runs estimated conservatively at a cost to the district of $60,000 per year.

-- Jim (me@ulster.net), February 20, 2001.

Wow! I'm always amazed at what else could happen. So, I'm learning not to be amazed anymore. The numbers and facts have to make an impression. I'm talking to shandaken neighbors...I'm experiencing cautious friends who agree the boe is out of control...this may push it over the edge. I can't wait to see the papers this week. See ya at fridays boe meeting. Melissa

-- melissa rebock (mrebock@yahoo.com), February 20, 2001.

Is this true: if the modulars are removed and students are bussed, then there will be cost at least $29,000/year more, to be in a way worse situation than we're already in...... unbelievable! But, we can get back to where we are now by signing a new lease for the next 3 years at $31,000/year, save that money, and have time to hopefully come up with an acceptable, long term solution, yes?

-- zorro (crinzler@netstep.net), February 21, 2001.

I talked with Jim last night about letting you know I am here and occasionally visiting this bulletin board, since I'm one of the STAND members who actually set up the board. While I am still very busy with STAND matters (I'm in the midst of putting together a fairly substantial website about the Indian mascot issue, which won't be released until after the election), and thus won't be able to make it to SOS meetings, I figured I'd give SOS any input I could on the bbs, at least. Fantastic job you are doing on researching the modular figures. Erik, that NYS School Board link you just gave is a very important one. I was looking at it a bit yesterday. There is a lot in it about the school board member being a state education official. In last year's elections it seemed accepted by the winning board members (and by the public) that their duty and obligation was to the taxpayers who elected them. However, the school board association website seems to state very clearly that as education officials they are responsible to the students. I think that it should be made clear in this election that the only special interest group who counts is the students.

-- Carol Maltby (carolmaltby@compuserve.com), February 21, 2001.

Hi Carol, nice to have you on this bbs, also. You're the godmother of the site, no? Where on the NYSSBA site did you find that language about serving students, not taxpayers? Thanks, Curry

-- (crinzler@netstep.net), February 21, 2001.

Please check out the article in the Catskill Mountain News by Jay Braman. It is an article on the Onteora School district and it's focus is on the modulars and busing the kindergartners. It seems that Jay called up Doan to ask him about it and he suggested that the plan was to bus the kindergarten students from both Phoenicia and Bennett to Woodstock and West Hurley in September. Doan is quoted as saying, "Move the kindergartners, that's the easiest way," he said, "it wouldn't be a big deal."

Doan had no figures on the cost of the transportation. Some students will be bused 30 miles one-way.

Asked if the busing plan would be unpopular with parents in the Phoenicia area, Doan said no.

I have looked at figures for transportation, which were substantiated by Mike Grehl, and found that the busing cost will run over $100,000 a year to implement this plan. Compare this to the $31,000 to $40,000 per year to rent the modulars. That seems to me to be a net lose of $60-69,000 per year.

There may be other costs associated with the modulars but they seem minor compared to the busing. There are rumors of mold problems but I have yet to confirm that this exists in these modulars.

-- Jim (me@ulster.net), February 21, 2001.

No time to chat, but wanted to post a response to Tobe's earlier comments re: Kathy Hochmann's possible run. I'm afraid I too have become concerned that if we cross endorse with a CARE candidate , we'll be looking at a Hochmann/ Perry win. Hey Melissa Rebock are you out there? What about a bb low down on modular use at Phoenicia and impacts as you see them ?

-- mmillar (mmillar00@hotmail.com), February 21, 2001.

The students' questions are in. At today's Student Affairs Council meeting the following questions were agreed upon as the ones to which students' would most like to hear responses from potential candidates. There are certainly more questions here than we will want to ask, and I am sure others have concerns not addressed by this set, but I hope as many as possible will be included. I will be away for the next four days, but please tweak them amongst yourselves; feel free to combine, flesh out, or edit any of them for improvement. To ensure fairness, it is imperative that these questions are not divulged to any of the interviewees.

As a Trustee of the Board of Education, how would you seek communications between the board and students, staff, and all elements of the community?

How much discussion would be enough for you to make a policy decision for the district? Would you wait to hear public input, results from other schools, statements from an expert, legal advice?

If the students held an opposing view from the majority of the community, which body would be more influential in affecting your final decision?

How do you feel about a student sitting as a non-voting member of the Board of Education?

Many students are apathetic and disengaged, as a Trustee of the Board of Education, what would you do to captivate students in learning?

As a Trustee of the Board of Education, what would you do to involve parents in their students' education?

As a Trustee of the Board of Education, how would you balance students' rights with enforcement of policies?

As a Trustee of the Board of Education, how would you ensure a complete budget passes?

As a Trustee of the Board of Education, how would you make sure good teacher stay at Onteora and bad teachers go?

What is your vision for Onteora and how would you achieve it?

-- Erik (erik@memo.cx), February 21, 2001.

Jim, when you give a false name but a real ISP, it generates an email that tells us the message has bounced. You'll need to give an undeniably fake ISP address on those. Due to the frames on the "a href=" http://www.nyssba.org/index.html">NYSSBA site, I'll talk you through. On the left-hand menu, click on "About NYSSBA," then "Introduction to NYSSBA." Click the "School board members" link within the text, and then read the sections available.

Some relevant points:

"School Board Member's Role" says: "A member of a board of education in New York State takes on one of the most important responsibilities that can be assigned to any citizen: helping to plan the education of the state's youth.

A school board member in New York State serves as a state official."

"What makes a good school board member?" says: " A board member must be able to provide today's kind of education for today's children. He or she must understand the forces of change in society and foresee their potential effects on the district.

Tolerant and free of prejudice, a board member must be responsive to the human needs of individuals and groups. He or she must bear in mind that, as a state official, his or her responsibility is to all the state's children."

They give quite a good bibliography of books that should be on school board members' shelves in that section. Would be fun to ask each candidate what books on education each candidate had read in the past year. Okay, in the past three years if that's too hard. No? Well, how about asking if they had _ever_ read a book about education?

I keep wishing for a school full of little children chanting:"Mommy, where's my modular? Gone back to New Jersey, HAR HAR HAR"

-- Carol (carolmaltby@compuserve.com), February 21, 2001.

Thanks Carol. Reader beware but here is a timeline chronology of the actual modular transcripts which I have tried to abridge. Please read and let me know if you think that it is appropriate as a handout at the BOE meetings on Friday. Thanks. Jim

Modulars and Transportation at the Bennett and Phoenicia Schools


The modulars at Bennett and Phoenicia were owned by a corporation named Associated Construction Concepts (ACC) and have reportedly been transferred to an individual named Mr. Eratt who was the principal owner of that corporation.

A history of the leases and arrangements and board correspondence is revealing:

The first lease ran three years from 7/94 until 6/97 and cost the district $258,000 or $86,000/year.

The second lease ran from 9/97 until 8/00 and was for $132,000 or $44,000/year.

The latest lease agreements were in the following stages of negotiation when the talks broke down. The first lease offer, at this stage, was for 5 years at the rate of $31,104/year. This was built into the previous lease agreement and had to be exercised 9 months before that lease expired.

It was voted upon and unanimously approved by the Onteora Board of Education on 11/15/99 and to be effective on 9/01/00. But at Mr. Doan's urging, a disclaimer was added to the motion in order to assure the board that ACC is legally capable of doing business with the district. The disclaimer stated that approval of the lease was "subject to proof of legality that the lessor (ACC) is capable of doing business with the school district".

Discrepancies that called into question ACC's ownership of the modulars and ACC's ability to do business in NYS were the reasons for this disclaimer.

Meanwhile, on 11/19/99, the Onteora board requested and received from Eratt a 2-month extension for the District to exercise its option to renew the lease. On 2/29/00 Onteora sent a letter to Eratt stating it's intention to renew the lease on the condition that NYS tax leins were to be met by ACC.

In subsequent correspondence, Mr. Eratt, through his lawyer, claimed that ownership of the modulars would be transferred to him, from ACC. An 8/23/00 letter from the law firm of Donaghue, Thomas, Auslander and Drohan, representing the Onteora Central School District, stated that the lawyer for Mr. Eratt has proposed entering the lease agreement with Mr. Eratt who will be acquiring title to the modular units from ACC. Mr. Eratt also offered to indemnify the District for any claims or tax leins against the modulars. The District law firm researched this issue andwrote that the NYS Tax Department stated that while the tax leins would not be lifted as a result of the transfer of ACC to Mr. Eratt, the party who would bear the burden of satisfying the lein would be Mr. Eratt, the prospective owner, and not the District, as Tenant. The Onteora BOE had a Workshop Meeting on 9/11/00 and Mr. Doan submitted a document entitled exhibit "A" that states, "I do not think that we should not review the lease for another 5 years (sic). The overcrowding condition at Bennett lends a sense of urgency to address this problem within the very near future. Whatever our conclusion is, it will probably not include the use of these units as a way of reducing overcrowding."

The Onteora Board responded to Mr Eratt on September 22, 2000 by requesting that:

· Mr. Eratt provides the district with a corporate resolution showing that Eratt has acquired title to the modulars from ACC.

· Mr. Eratt provide the District with a performance bond or escrow account in an amount sufficient to restore the property on which the modulars have been installed in to it's original condition should the parties not renew the lease.

· The District is provided with Mr. Eratt's residence address and SS number so the District can send him a 1099 form.

· Mr. Eratt provides the District with proof that Mr. Eratt has clear and marketable title to the modulars. And to notify Mr. Eratt that the District will be conducting a title search to verify title on the modulars.

Mr. Eratt's lawyer responded on 9/27/00 by claiming that Mr. Eratt has "no problem providing indemnification for any claims regarding ownership..." and that Onteora's objection regarding Mr. Eratt's ownership of the buildings is "without standing". "The fact that ownership of the building has transferred from Mr. Eratt's corporation to him personally is of no consequence to your client" (Onteora). The letter from Eratt's lawyer further stated that Mr. Eratt did not object to Onteora's "request for a reasonable extension of the lease deadline and that this deadline and a more than a reasonable extension is long past". "Your client's delay has prevented my client from removing the units to another customer as now school has begun". And "Mr. Eratt has authorized me to take whatever action is necessary to effectuate return of the units".

Mr. Eratt further proposed the "only three viable alternatives" as follows:

Remove the units within 60 days or Pay $40K for the remainder of the school year and Eratt will remove them in June, 2001 or Renew the lease for 3 years at $31,000 per year.

Throughout all of the history of the leases, the Onteora School district had the option of purchasing the modulars. It was available, and stipulated in the lease, in 1999, for $120,000 but subject to voter approval.

Transportation Costs

The estimated cost of moving the Bennett kindergarten alone and busing those students to West Hurley and Woodstock will require two bus runs estimated, conservatively, at a cost to the district of $50,000 - $60,000. The cost of transporting the kindergarten students from the Phoenicia School to Woodstock and West Hurley would be conservatively estimated to be $50,000 - $60,000 per year. (A single bus run is approximately $25,000- $30,000 per year at Onteora)

If the decision is made to transport all the kindergarten students from Phoenicia and Bennett to Woodstock and West Hurley in 2001, the transportation cost alone is estimated to be over $100,000 per year. Mr. Grehl, head of the Onteora transportation department, has provided and supported these approximate figures.

The cost, in 2001, of the Bennett and Phoenicia modulars for a three- year lease is $31,000 per year as offered in the last lease negotiation with Eratt. The plan to bus the kindergarten students from Bennett and Phoenicia will cost the Onteora taxpayers an additional $69,000 per year.

As suggested at the last meeting on buildings, the shortest time frame to get NYSBOE approval and to build an addition on any of the schools is, at a minimum, 1½ years after voter approval. The election is mid-May, 2001. Any addition to either Bennett or Phoenicia would not be complete until mid-November 2002. The transportation costs for this period of time would amount to approximately $130,000 whereas the cost of renting the modulars at $31,000 per year would be $93,000 for a 3-year lease but minus the cost we have already incurred for this year would bring the actual cost to $62,000 for 2 years. This would still save the district $68,000 in transportation costs during the time of construction if the modulars were kept.

Construction also requires voter approval. By keeping the modulars, if the voters do not approve a capital improvement bond, at least the classrooms would be available for the students which by the above analysis proves to be less expensive than busing to Woodstock and West Hurley.

-- Jim (me@ulster.duh), February 21, 2001.

Anyone know of Dan Schnieider of Woodstock. He has picked up a nominating petition for the board.

-- Jim (me@ulster.doy), February 21, 2001.

Jim: I know Dan Schnieder, I'll call him to find out what's comin down and report back more fully.... Regarding release of the modular report at tomorrow's meeting: Yes, definitely release it in its entirety, it's a great report and the timing is perfect, but I'd like to see it in this context: •A short journalistic summary at the top: the report gets kind of dense in the middle •Take a position: renew the stupid lease already so that we don't have to 1)bus students endlessly 2)spend lots more money. It's obvious, no? And let's take the high road and not shove it JD's face, at least not yet! •Credit to the author, Jim, but also to SOS: our public splash!!

Need help, Jim? Let me know....

-- yrruc (testing@nonsense.com), February 22, 2001.

To everyone - Please sign your real name to the posts to keep things understandable!! I would like to release the document and I have already made some slight grammatical corrections. I'm not so sure how much of a point of view I want to tag onto it. SOS needs to maintain our credibility and, perhaps, let the facts speak for themselves. Also Tom R. has mentioned some probelms he feels are associated with the modulars such as mold. We don't have too much data on this as of yet. So we must be cautious. I'm also not sure how it will be able to be distributed on school grounds if I editorialize too much. We should hand them out outside the building or place them with the agenda. We can credit SOS with the gathering of the material. Anyone have an address or phone number we can attach to SOS??

-- Jim (me@ulster.Oy), February 22, 2001.

If anyone wants to take a stab at writing an objective analysis of the document, please, do give it a try. My feeling is that people sit at these meetings for long periods of time and maybe would read all this info.

-- Jim (me@signyournames.org), February 22, 2001.

hey Jim quite a document . I think it's valuable at the mtg. as a handout, but I think brevity helps. Are you quite sure that all the history is 100% accurate? Better not to say, than to be wrong, or whole document will be dissed.Number of modulars and use has not been mentioned, I believe these have value. Also, that the district's commitment to the modulars predates Hal, is good info if true.

-- mmillar (mmillar00@hotmail.com), February 22, 2001.

Jim, I see your point about the editorializing. How about just releasing the whole document and crediting the authors and SOS? Everyone will certainly get the point, whether they read every word or not.... Dan Schneider picked up a BOE petition just to check it out, and has no intention of running. He's been in discussion with PJ Lorenz about an organization called Parents for the Public Schools, with 50 chapters nationwide, non-profit, therefore cannot endorse candidates, but maybe can endorse the budget, he's not sure. There's a chapter in Kingston and he's thinking about forming one in Onteora. Dan sez he doesn't want to get involved endorsing candidates, doesn't think this election is that important, want to establish an organization for the future (!!???) Sounds a little like Michael "in the middle" Goodman. He would like to run a candidate's forum, like the League of Women Voters already does:are they still gonna?

Dan and PJ are both real good folks, so they may join us yet: is anyone in touch with PJ, to let her know about SOS?

-- curry rinzler (crinzler@netstep.net), February 22, 2001.

IGOTTAGO department: Today's editorial in the Ulster County Townsman decries the busing of kindergartners from Pine Hill to West Hurley, and makes the point that not only would monitors be needed, but there would need to be toilets on the buses. I imagine Grehl would have factored in monitors, but did he?

And what about toilets on the buses? Marian's fevered brain? Or genuine public health concern? What are legal requirements for how far (mileage, or elapsed time?) one can bus kindergartners?

-- Carol Maltby (carolmaltby@compuserve.com), February 22, 2001.

hi. toilets are an unlikely addition to the budget. Boy, the papers were pretty hard on JD if you ask me.The front man goes down. Friday noght will be telling. Both newspapers toutd Millman's "we'll listen to the public in it's infinite wisdom "rhetoric.The infinitely wise public will no doubt provide it's usual surprises.I'm curious to know who of us plans to speak at pbh ? So Franko what's with the document? You got the next version?BIGLOVEmm

-- mmillar (mmillar00@hotmail.com), February 22, 2001.

The document is a version of the one printed above on this thread. I would like to give anyone and everyone a copy of it prior to the meeting. Earlier the better, so the folks of our group can have some time to familiarize ourselves with the info. It's dry but it will give us a basis of which to reply to misinformation or with which to focus their comments. I will also distribute it at the meeting without any permission and intend to put the SOS name on it. I am keeping to the long version and have taken into considerationa all the comments the group has made. Any shorter versions seemed to start to editorialize. Just the fact's ma'am. The spin comes in the PBH and the subsequent letters to the editor.

I feel this method of extensive research by using the official district records and publishing a report of the facts may be the best way for SOS to approach most subjects. Keep the editorializing to the PBH (public-be-heard) and letters to the editor but substantiate our spin with these facts. This educates us on the issues and helps lend credibility to our spin.

I hope we can use this document to speak out tomorrow night. Thanks.

-- Jim (me@me.org), February 22, 2001.

-- Anonymous, January 17, 2002

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