The North Rockland School board meeting began with the North Rockland High School Marching Band performing in honor of the hard work done by district employees to get Thiells Elementary up and running after it was flooded by Hurricane Irene. It ended with residents having questions about what the district was really using certain funds for.
BY LAUREN KATE ROSENBLUM
Superintendent Ileana Eckert told the attendees of the board meeting that given the district’s past with major storms, such as the tropical storm Floyd, which damaged buildings in the district, they were able to better prepare.
“This time there was less damage in that building because of the quick thinking custodial staff and what they did as preventative measures to avoid some of the losses we would have experienced in that building,” said Eckert.
Custodians, staff, teachers and their families came together to help repair the flooded school. The library was especially damaged and had to have the carpet removed. All the librarians and their families came together to help move furniture and books out of the space so work could be done to ensure there was no mold growth or further water damage.
“We couldn’t be more proud of how this community comes together,” said Eckert.
On the district website, Board President Deborah Gatti called the actions take by the custodial, maintenance and grounds staff “herculean.”
Then, many meeting attendees were pleasantly surprised when they were treated to a performance by the North Rockland Marching Band on Tuesday night. The band, led by North Rockland High School Teacher, Scott Powers, lined up around the auditorium playing a song to thank everyone who helped bring the school back from its damaged state. Color guarders marched on stage entertaining the audience with intricate routines set to the music.
The amazing number about saying thank you was from their show this year, which is based on musical selections from the band My Chemical Romance.
“The board asked the music department to honor the guys who had done all of the work,” Powers said. It only seemed natural that the marching band would perform as they have been working hard since this summer on their show. The band is made up of around 40 students.
The group is also led by two talented drum majors, Pam Sangen and Emily Pierson.
Sangen told the Rockland County Times that the evening was more than just a performance for them. “It was really important because they spent the whole summer cleaning and for it all to get destroyed,” must have been tough.
Pierson also feels that this was a great opportunity for the band. “We like doing stuff for the district because then they recognize and appreciate us,” and the band is also concerned “about cuts being made in the district,” and hope that this will remind people what a great program the matching band is.
After the band had left following a standing ovation by the crowd, the board read off the names of everyone who had helped with the clean up and gave out free stadium seat cushions. Many were not in attendance though and there was buzz that it was a small boycott by the union CSEA, who do not have an official contract yet.
Amidst mass layoffs, frivolous spending on unnecessary equipment, and threats of privatization, the district has been less than expedient in negotiating a contract with union, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of workers.
“They’re not happy, but they love the district,” said Union President Jeanne Hughes.
The other major event of the evening was that people noticed a huge amount of money being transferred out of a pre-k transportation fund as marked in the agenda. The interesting thing is that there is no school funded pre-k transportation. This left many audience members scratching their heads as to why there was at least $48,000 in an account named “Pre K Transportation.”
“There really hasn’t been any pre-k transportation so why do we have all that money in there?” Maria Foils asked, addressing the board.
In response to the question, the assistant superintendent of business, James Johnston, quietly said he didn’t know what the account was for and would get back to the public.
“How do you not know something that’s a fund that we have money in? Just to say that you’re not really sure left an uneasy feeling,” Donna Priest of the PTA said.
People at the meeting surmised that the money has been used for other things under the guise of pre-k transportation.