Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA)
Wednesday, October 7, 1998
The Albany City School District is planning for necessary improvements to school facilities. A committee of parents, staff and residents initiated a demographic study and hired an architectural firm, Cannon, to review all of the facilities. The architect has developed a long-rang master plan for the districts facilities. A separate firm, Open System Technology, was hired to provide advice on improving technology in the district. The initial review of all of the existing buildings has been completed and there are proposals for how to proceed.
The average age of the school buildings is 81 years. Many schools are on small lots with inade-quate play areas. Many exhibit difficult safety issues inside and outside the buildings. Many classrooms are too small to accommodate educational programs. Enrollment in grades 9-12 is expected to grow from 2,300 to over 3,000 in the next 10 years. Rising enrollments have forced us to use modular classroom at two of the elementary schools. Few buildings offer access for the disabled. Many buildings lack the wiring, ventilation, heating and other support systems required to function effectively. Many do not have gymnasiums, cafeterias, or auditoriums.
The information that has been compiled is a draft recommendation and the district is looking for input from the community to develop a comprehensive and long-term plan for the facilities.
The cost of this project depends on two factors: state aid and what work is actually completed. Albany City School District receives an extremely low state aid ratio and will be asking the legislature to reexamine the Citys need and special situation (75% property not taxable) to increase the amount of state aid to Albany schools. The district will also be soliciting information from the community about the project, reorganizing some of the schools and implementing the project in phases to address immediate needs and reassess before moving onto larger projects.
A concern was raised about the school districts past performance of not maintaining buildings, deserting neighborhoods, increasing taxes yet no significant improvement in the product of students going through the system. Better buildings are not going to solve the problems of education.
There are 23 buildings in the school system and they are looking at alternative use for many of the buildings because rehabilitating space is more costly then new building and the state requires lots larger then the space that many of the buildings currently occupy.
Comment: Supt. Palmer is dedicated to finding out our needs, wants and abilities to overhaul the entire system citywide.
Q: Custodial services leave a lot to be desired. Are they being looked at?
A: There is an entire reorganization of supervision and cleaning schedules currently underway.
Q: Have the schools looked into authority for bonds?
A: Need to get local legislators to walk through the buildings, as they did with the State Education Department, so that they understand the immediacy of the need
Q: Concern about once its in place, how will the plan be implemented and how will they deal with emergency maintenance (roof repair, furnaces, etc.)
A: SED had the same questions architects are putting together a list of emergency erred maintenance and safety needs that will be addressed immediately.
Q: State consultancy service available free of charge to and walk-thru buildings identify problems.
A: Have used the service. May need to utilize again for buildings that will be vacated.
Q: Why is the school district unable to explain why those not vested in school system (i.e. no kids) should bear burden of additional tax dollars.
A: It has been shown that good quality school system improves property value.
Q: How is the truancy problem being addressed?
A: Police are patrolling and picking up kids not in school. They also follow up with the parents in the evening. Police and school are working with parents. If people see kids where they shouldnt be during school hours, please call the school.
A retired teacher recommended pre-k-4th grade schools near home and high school would fall into place. Smaller schools provide a better community than larger schools. People will go along with a plan if you give them something to be proud of from the start. Public needs education about associated costs.
Hackett and Philip Livingston are buildings important to the architecture of the city. Work with individual neighborhoods to deal with buildings in their areas so they are not abandoned.
A description of the proposed changes in the charter for the City of Albany was prepared by Henry M. Madej, Harold Rubin and Todd Swanstrom and distributed to CANA members.
The members of CANA must decided whether to support, reject or take no position on the proposed changes.
Members of the CANA Charter Revision Committee: Cynthia Galivan, Harold Rubin, Donald Dugan, Clare Yates, Keith St. John, Christopher Lindsay, Marggie Skinner, Craig Waltz, Dominic Calsolaro, Henry M. Madej.
Educating the public on the proposed changes is now the priority. Dr. Stephen Schechter distributed a draft of the proposed print materials that will be distributed to voters. There will be media designed to alert voters and audiotape available at the library.
Q: If vote yes, are we stuck with the Charter for another 20 years? What happens if proposed changes are voted down?
A: Any change to the Charter must go before the public in the form of a referendum. Municipal home rule law authorizes charter revision by
a: local law adopted by the legislative body,
b: charter commission established by
1. common council directly
2. common council via referendum;
4. petition (registered voters = 15% of total votes for gov. in most recent election)
c: citizen petition (registered voters = 10% of total votes for gov. in most recent election.)
The Mayors charter commission preempts any other commission.
Q: Is proposal an improvement over what we have now or are there deficiencies?
A: Individual sections were voted on and the entire document was voted on for transmission.
Keith St. John commented that there are four questions to ask. Do the proposed changes:
After significant discussion, a motion was put to the floor.
Dominic Calsolaro moved that CANA members reject the proposed charter as is. Keith St John Seconded. 14 yea, 1 nay 9 abstain.
Clare Yates moved and it was seconded that CANA support the proposed charter. 15 no, 9 abstain.
Since we take positions when there is a "consensus" (defined as 2/3), neither motion carried sufficient support for CANA action.
Henry M. Madej moved that CANA encourage every neighborhood association to sponsor community forums on the pros and cons of charter and encourage everyone to get out and vote. Seconded by Elfrieda Textores. All in favor. Motion approved.
Submitted by Sandra Thomas
NOTE: After adjournment, Rick Wassher of Ten Broeck Triangle asked for support with petition drive regarding saving St. Josephs Church. A copy of his petition is enclosed. Please feel free to sign it and ask friends and neighbors to sign if you can. This is an important Albany landmark that deserves our support. (MS)
Attendance for 10/7/98
Christopher Lindsay, Beverwyck NA
Cynthia Galivan, Manning Blvd. NA
Bettie Riddish, Buckingham Pond NA
Anne Nolen McGuirk, Buckingham Pond NA
Mary Connair, Delaware Area NA
Richard Carroll, Delaware Area NA
Craig R. Waltz, Jr., Helderberg NA
Donald Dugan, Helderberg NA
Betsy Shearer, Park South NA
Andrew Harvey, Park South NA
Rick Wassher, Ten Broeck Triangle Pres. League
Maria Parisella, Mansion NA
Howard Stoller, Melrose NA
G. Mowbray, Hudson Park NA
Elfrieda Textores, South End Concerned Citizens
Clare Yates, Center Square NA
Harold Rubin, Center Square NA
Elizabeth Benjamin, Times Union
Eileen Purcell, Union at Albany Public Library
Emily L. Grisom, Sheridan Hollow NA
Stephen L. Schechter, Albany Charter Commission
Henry M. Madej, Pine Hills NA
Keith St. John, Historic Pastures HOA
Teresa Novellino, Daily Gazette
Thomas L. Gebhardt, University at Albany
Dominic Calsolaro, Second Ave. NA
Richard Propp, Marion Ave. Assn.
Donald Wardle, United Tenants of Albany
JP Sullivan, Buckingham Pond/Crestwood NA
Gene Solan, Pine Hills NA
Shawn Morris, Delaware Area NA
Tricia Coates, Delaware Area NA
Mimi & John Mounteer, Manning Blvd. NA