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Observer Notes Chappaqua Central School District Board Meetings 2007



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The League of Women Voters of New Castle is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages citizens to play an informed and active role in government. Basic to all our activities is observing how government at all levels is working. League observers attend local public meetings and provide the following reports. Reports follow on meetings of the Chappaqua Central School District Board during 2007. Earlier notes are on the page School Board (2005-2006).

Click here for notes on the New Castle Town Board and click here for the Chappaqua Library Board notes.

More observers will be needed, especially when the School Board will be meeting more frequently to prepare next year's budget. To volunteer, email lwvnewcastle@optonline.net.

Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Dec. 18,  2007

Summary:   Eric Byrne, James Skoog and Dr. Michael Kirsch, Principals of the three elementary schools, presented their response to the strategic question of how to enhance and deepen instruction and learning.  The school calendar for ’08-'09 was briefly discussed.  Mr. Gursha reported on the tour of Roaring Brook Elementary School and Seven Bridges Middle School.

Board Members Present: Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester    Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

In the absence of Janet Benton, Jay Shapiro presided as Board President and Susan Habermann presided as Vice-President.

Presentation: Strategic Question – Elementary Schools.  Presenters: Dr. Michael Kirsch , Principal, Douglas Grafflin; Eric Byrne, Principal, Roaring Brook; James Skoog,  Principal, West Orchard.  The principals addressed the strategic question:

 “How can the District ensure that all students, in addition to acquiring necessary content knowledge, learn to think deeply, support their thinking, apply problem-solving skills, and actively participate in their learning?"

Dr. Kirsch explained that 26% of the teaching staff at Grafflin is new this year.  A number of steps are taken to ensure that they are teaching at a high level. Staff developers work with them in Language Arts, Math and Technology, they have Science workshops at BOCES, they are mentored by experienced teachers who have received special training, and the administrators spend a lot of time in their classrooms.  There are also many teacher meetings and in-service courses.

Mr. Byrne and Mr. Skoog spoke about the entry process for new administrators.  They try to get to know the school culture, strengths and needs by having meetings with teachers and stakeholders in the school as well as meeting with other administrators in the district.

The elementary schools are continuing to work on literacy and especially to explore the independent reading component. There will be joint faculty meetings 4 times a year as well as monthly meetings and grade-level meetings. The faculty will use the DRA to assess children in grades 1-4.  Reading strategies will be identified as well as independent and instructional levels.  In 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade a computer test, the SRI, will be used to assess reading comprehension. The staff will work on how to use this information to guide classroom instruction.  In order to help students take ownership of their own learning, children will have more choice of what they select to read independently.

There is a new staff developer who is focusing on modeling conversations around math topics. The focus is on understanding the concepts behind math procedures.  New math materials will be piloted.

Superintendent’s Report

The calendar for the ’08-’09 school year is in development.  The outstanding problem is that Christmas Day is Thurs., so school would ordinarily be closed Wed. as well.  If the district chooses to close for the entire 2 weeks (including Mon and Tues.), there may be problems if there were many snow days.  Dr. Fleishman invited comments from the community on the calendar.  Ms. Habermann pointed out that BOCES will be open Mon. and Tues. and that a small number of students attend those classes. Dr. Fleishman will make a recommendation at the next Board meeting.

Facilities Tours

Mr. Gursha reported that Roaring Brook is in great shape.  However, additional window repairs are needed and there are safety issues with the black top. At Seven Bridges the committee especially looked at the drainage and sprinkler issues at the upper field. The library has had leakage problems in the past, but that seems to be fixed. Work on the back parking lot will be done through money from FEMA although the Board will have to approve an addition to the budget.

Chappaqua Central School District Board Meeting December 4, 2007

Summary: Mr. Selesnick, Principal of Greeley High School, discussed how the High School is addressing the district’s strategic question about helping students develop deeper thinking while acquiring content.  Mr. Chow, Assistant Superintendent for Business addressed the strategic question dealing with moderating budget increases while maintaining a quality program. Addressing the same strategic question, Dr. Fleishman reviewed the 4 factors to be considered in preparing a budget. The Facilities Committee reported on school tours and fees for building and field usage.

Board Members Present: President Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester    Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay. Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Strategic Question
High School  Presenter: Andrew Selesnick, Principal, Horace Greeley High School

Mr. Selesnick addressed the High School’s response to Strategic Question 2:      “How can the District ensure that all students, in addition to acquiring necessary content knowledge, learn to think deeply, support their thinking, apply problem-solving skills, and actively participate in their learning?"

He reviewed the extensive work that has been done on the new High School schedule, which was developed to deepen student learning and move the school into the 21st century. The staff believes that the longer classes in the new schedule will allow teachers to use other methods and go into more depth while students will have more time to grapple with complex problems.  The new schedule will allow the continuation of courses that are currently offered.  The Board asked many questions, including one about sustaining concentration during longer periods, and one about covering content. Mr. Selesnick pointed out that concentration has more to do with engagement than time, and the hope is that students will be more engaged because of the emphasis on active learning.  In terms of covering content, Mr. Selesnick pointed out that the important thing is to teach concepts; to allow enough time for students to process information and understand it more deeply.

The focus this year is on professional development. Teacher feedback has guided the workshops and courses offered to teachers.  The work is becoming more specific and concrete, and some departments are meeting to address the particular needs of their department.  Mr. Selesnick believes that this transition process will continue for several years. Work is also continuing on developing the curriculum for the new Chinese culture and language course.

Presentation: Strategic Question
Budget/Operations  Presenters: Mr. Chow, Dr. Fleishman

The presenters discussed approaches to Strategic Question 1 – operations and infrastructure.      “How can the District ensure continuing excellence in academic and extracurricular programs while moderating year-to-year budget increases?”

Mr. Chow addressed 3 areas:

  • Infrastructure – The Excel application procedures for repair projects at Greeley and Bell are proceeding on schedule.  It is anticipated that work will start in June. Work continues on other aspects of the 5 year plan and assessments of future needs.
  • Financial accountability – Mr. Chow explained that the district has 4 different types of audits: internal, external, claims and the state comptroller’s audit.  Several different types of financial reports are also presented to the Board.
  • Budget – Mr. Chow presented a summary of budget to budget increase for several comparable districts.  He explained that state aid and large construction projects affect the increases.

Dr. Fleishman reviewed the 4 pillars of a budget: class size, programs, infrastructure and contractual obligations. Class size affects staffing which is the number 1 driver of the budget,  There was a brief Board discussion about the components. There seemed to be general agreement that programs should be scrutinized to see if some things are past their time and that the Board was open to looking at all of the pillars.  At this time, Dr. Fleishman does not see any unexpected outside problems to impact the budget.  He reminded the Board that the district doesn’t control pension contributions or health costs.

Facilities Tours

Mr. Gursha reported that the Facilities Committee visited Greeley and reviewed work that has been done, will be done and might need to be done.  The Greeley lockers need to be refurbished and there are problems with the PA system. At Bell school the Committee was glad to see the new gym wall mats and the improved floor. Future items might include better ventilation for the nurses’ suite, and improvements to bathrooms and showers in the locker rooms. The PA system is an issue and the Committee needs to check to see if this is a district-wide problem.

Mr. Shapiro reported that building usage fees have not kept up with the actual cost of personnel rates.  The Board agreed that the district should not profit from fees but should cover actual costs.  The Policy Committee will look into changing the policy so that increases can be automatic.

Mr. Shapiro reported that town usage of the fields has increased greatly, resulting in more wear and tear to the fields. The District is paying much more than the town. The Board agreed on the need to talk to the town.  Since the town budget is done for this year, the Board will work toward next year.

Other Business

The Board examined financial reports and bids and asked Mr. Chow some questions.  The District will contract with an electrical company and a plumbing company so that they do not need to ask for bids every time services are needed

The Board approved the draft policy on purchasing authority but raised questions about who oversees the purchasing agent.

Board of Education Meeting Oct. 23, 2007

Summary: The Board was presented with an update on the foreign language program. A combined Chinese literature and culture course will be available for 11th and 12th graders in 2008-2009. The Board agreed to discontinue the summer school program. The Board accepted the annual Special Education census.

Board Members Present: President Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay. Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Foreign Language Presentation: Presenters: Dr. Lyn McKay; Susie Novak, Teacher Trainer. This presentation was an update of a previous presentation to the Board on Feb. 6th.

High School:

In 2008-09 a new course in Chinese area studies will be introduced entitled Contemporary China: Language & Society. It will be a 1 year course for 11th and 12th graders. The course will have a strong language component as well as a strong social studies component. It will be co-taught by a teacher who speaks Chinese and a Greeley social studies teacher. Because of the scarcity of New York state accredited Chinese language teachers, the course will offer social studies credit rather than a language credit. The course aims to introduce students to the Chinese language and to develop an understanding of contemporary Chinese society. If this course is successful, the district may apply the model to other languages, such as Arabic, the following year. Mr. Selesnick, Greeley principal, said that if there is a large demand for the China course, two sections, rather than one, might be offered.

Middle School:

The question of changing 5th grade foreign language classes from every other day to every day will be studied beginning in Oct. The impact on the overall time schedule and other programs will be examined.

Changing languages during the course of middle school is not a general practice, although there may be some rare exceptions. The problem is that a child who switches to a different language after 5th grade has to start that language at the same level as other students in that grade who have had a year or more of the language. Board members agreed that it is important that parents and children get good information when making language choices at the end of 4th grade.

Elementary School:

Although it is generally acknowledged that language study should begin as early as possible, there are many problems with introducing language in elementary school. The difficulties include finding language teachers for elementary immersion programs, the mixed evidence for non-immersion programs, time constraints and having to chop the day up to insert the language program. Immersion is defined as having at least one subject taught in the foreign language. Other ways of introducing language such as technology and language labs as well as after-school programs can be considered.

President’s Report: Summer School

Continuing the discussion from the Oct. 9th meeting, Dr. Fleishman again recommended discontinuing the summer school program because of declining enrollments, an unclear mission, and operational difficulties. Ms. Benton reported on meeting with representatives of the Chappaqua Summer Scholarship Program. She offered them district resources and facilities if they look for other educational programs. Continuing Education programs might be a possibility. The Board voted to discontinue the summer school program. They will make an effort to see that the community knows this information so people can make alternative plans.


Jay Shapiro reported that the work funded by EXCEL is on schedule. Playing fields at the schools, with the exception of Bell School, will be fenced to prevent damage over the winter. In the past there have been incidents of people driving on the fields or playing on them. The facilities committee met with Pepe Leston, Building Maintenance Foreman, John Chow and Brian Hill to discuss the district’s building needs. The Board will need to look at buildings and grounds fees soon to inform the groups involved. The Board discussed the most effective schedule for facilities tours in order to focus on work that’s been done and future work.

Special Education Census: Presenter – Dr. Jerry Wishner, Director of Special Education and Related Services

Approximately 13% of Chappaqua school district students have been identified as disabled by the Committee on Special Education (CSE). The recent state average was about 12.4 percent. Services for children range from minimal services such as related services only (speech and language, occupational therapy, etc.) to more comprehensive programs such as the Pathways program at the High School. On the advice of our lawyers, the Learning Center at the High School is now only for designated CSE students. As a result, a number of students who previously received 504 accommodations are now CSE designated students. These students had previously been attending the Learning Center as 504 students. Twenty students have been declassified and are receiving transitional services. The new TSP program at the high school is serving seventeen students, including 2 who receive class instruction throughout the day and others who receive clinical support.
The Board voted to accept the census report.

Other Actions

The Board voted to approve a number of personnel appointments, contracts and financial reports.

The observer left before the Board discussion of policies on financial reporting, purchasing and bidding, communication devices and budget transfers.


Board of Education Meeting October 9, 2007

Summary –The external auditors presented their audit report and suggestions for changes. Sue Fisher, Principal of the Summer School, reported on this year’s program. The Board was concerned about the steady decline in enrollment and will discuss the future of the summer school program at a future Board meeting.

Board Members Present: President Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay. Asst. Superintendent John Chow


The Board approved a resolution to authorize the long term substitute pay rate for retired teachers to begin after 20 consecutive day in the same assignment, rather than 30 days. Mr. Mester was opposed.

Auditors’ Report: Presenters - Alan Kassay and Catherine Rapfogel of BKSD

The presenters reported that there were no significant deficiencies in the audit and no material weaknesses were discovered. The district is in good financial shape with a surplus remaining after last year. Their Management Letter suggested several changes in district procedures. The necessity of depositing money within 72 hours came up in several areas. John Chow, Asst. Superintendent for Business, responded to each suggestion, agreeing to try to implement changes. Prompt deposit of money is somewhat problematic, because, for example, teachers may be waiting for all the money for a class trip before depositing money. In response to Ms. Benton’s question, the presenters said that many school districts have difficulty making timely deposits. The Board members, and especially the Audit Committee, had studied the report prior to the meeting and voted to accept the report. The detailed financial statements are available in Mr. Chow’s office.

Summer School Report: Presenter – Sue Fisher, Summer School Principal

Ms. Fisher presented a detailed report on the summer school program. Although there were a number of enrichment courses such as “1980’s Through Film” there were also math and English S.A.T. prep courses. The majority of students enrolled took Drivers’ Ed (42 students) or acceleration courses (80 students). Of the 157 students attending, 27% were special education students and 20% were Chappaqua Summer Scholarship Students (CSSP). The program cost the district $38,383. Numbers of students have declined significantly from years ago, and has continued to decline for the past 3 years. Ms. Fisher explained a number of program issues. The decline of student enrollment may be due to the number of available competing programs. This may also partially account for the fact that 32 students dropped classes. Finding qualified teachers has been a problem and the program is increasingly complicated to administer. Mr. Gursha pointed out that fewer than 10% of Greeley students use the program. There was a discussion about whether to continue the program. Although most of the Board members agreed that serving CSSP students was of great value, Ms. Benton noted that the Board’s primary responsibility is to Chappaqua students. Dr. Wishner, Special Education director, said that Special Ed students who are required to have an extended year program are served in other programs. Drivers’ Ed is now a Continuing Ed program and could continue apart from the summer school. It is possible that other courses could also be offered by Continuing Ed. Ms. Fisher believes that some of the courses, such as Health, which are taken to permit acceleration during the school year, could be taken elsewhere. Dr. Fleishman said that most districts like ours don’t run summer school programs. His recommendation was to not continue summer school; not because of the money, but because there doesn’t seem to be a clear rationale or need. Ms. Benton suggested that the topic be revisited at a future Board meeting and that renewed efforts be made to inform the community and get input.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Fleishman suggested that the Board classroom visits focus on the middle schools’ math and science programs. The Board was agreeable.


The Board accepted the August 2007 Treasurer’s Report. There were questions about the Message Lodge (Campusalerts) contract and the motion to accept it was tabled until the terms can be discussed with the district lawyers.

Questions and Comments

In response to an audience question, it was explained that credit card information must be submitted in order to get lunch information about a child because the parent must become a client of the data company by establishing an account.



Board of Education Meeting Sept. 25, 2007

Summary: The Board had a brief meeting after the joint meeting with the Town Board. They approved a number of reports, appointments, resignations, etc. including a one year contract with the Chappaqua Conference of Teachers. Several Board committees reported on their activities and future plans. The schedule of Board meetings and presentations for the year was approved.

Board Members Present: President Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester
Faculty Present: Asst. Superintendent John Chow, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay

After the meeting with the Town Board, the Board of Education held a brief meeting. Minutes of previous meetings, a number of appointments, resignations and resolutions were approved.

A one year Memorandum of Agreement between the Board and the Chappaqua Conference of Teachers was approved. Ms. Benton explained that contracts are usually more than one year. However some important issues remained to be resolved and both parties were interested in having a contract in place for the current year. There will be a 3.25% increase in salary, but no change to the 5% contribution to health care.

President’s Report
Several committees reported on their activities and future plans.

The Wellness Committee has set its first meeting. A major task this year will be to re-bid the food service contract.
The Policies Committee will begin by updating fiscal policies.

The Audit Committee has hired an internal auditing firm which has done a risk assessment report. The committee will be reviewing the internal auditors’ report.

The Communications Committee will be trying to make the web site more dynamic, to include more of the general public in e-mail news blasts and to try to use more electronic methods to deliver the News and Views newsletter.

The Facilities Committee will be visiting schools. Mr. Chow described progress on the Excel application.

Superintendent’s Report
The Board approved the revised schedule of Board of Education meetings. The schedule will be posted on the district web site.


Board of Education Meeting July 11, 2007

Summary - Board of Education Meeting - July 11, 2007
Janet Benton was elected Board president for the coming year. Jay Shapiro will be vice-president.  The Board discussed the possibility of providing parents with on-line information about students' food purchases. Type A lunches will cost $1.90 next year. Dr. Fleishman announced that the high school scheduling committee has decided on a mixed schedule of 60 and 80-minute classes.

Board Members Present: President Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester    Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay


The Board elected Janet Benton as President for the coming year.  Jay Shapiro will be vice-president. Committee assignments are listed on the district web site.

President's Report

Ms. Benton reported that 82% of the parents responding to the recent wellness committee survey wanted to be able to view their children's food purchase data on line.  This data is tracked when students use their food debit cards for purchases.  Up to now, parents could obtain this information by calling Cathy Ashe.  However there is a vendor who could provide this information on line to parents.  The Board discussed the matter, raising a number of questions about confidentiality, the nature of the web site, the information provided and other concerns.  There was agreement to move forward by asking Ms. Ashe to investigate further and possibly involve Darlene Nicolosi (technology) and the business office.

Ms. Benton reported on the Board's retreat with Dr. Fleishman, district administrators and teachers.  She was enthusiastic about the classroom tapes showing the active learning environment in the classrooms.  Mr. Shapiro emphasized the wish to get parents to see the kind of tapes the Board had viewed.

Superintendent's Report

Dr. Fleishman also lauded the retreat.  He noted that it was great to see the administrators' teamwork.  He believes the work was focused, purposeful and broad because the group was working with strategic questions rather than educational goals.

Dr. Fleishman announced that the high school committee has decided to move forward with a mixed schedule.  There will be 4 sixty minutes classes and 4 eighty-minute classes. The committee will work on "tweaking" the schedule this summer to figure out how to fit the current program into the new schedule and will present it to the Board in Sept.


The district is currently losing money on the type A lunches but making some money on the a la carte lunches.  The food service needs to have some profit for reinvestment in equipment and in order to maintain and improve the food service. The Board discussed various pricing alternatives and approved a motion to charge $1.90 for the type A lunch.  The entire lunch program will need to be re-bid next year.

The Board reviewed the building and grounds fees and approved a resolution to maintain the current fee schedule. Mr. Gursha asked for an update on how costs have changed and usage so the community can have lead-time if fee changes are necessary. 


Board of Education Meeting June 19, 2007

Summary – Board of Education Meeting – June 19, 2007

The Board and the PTA paid tribute to Lisa Davis, who is retiring from the Board after 9 years of service.  The Board approved a number of gifts, contracts, and bids.  They also approved the transfer of funds for reconstruction of the Horace Greeley bleachers and a bond for the EXCEL construction projects for various buildings.  Policies for the education of homeless children and a policy for the education of students with educational disabilities were approved.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay

This was Lisa Davis’ last Board meeting after 9 years of service. The Board, the PTA and Dr. Fleishman presented both light-hearted and serious tributes to her for her outstanding contributions to the district.


In addition to the usual personnel matters, the Board approved the creation of an additional full time elementary position at Westorchard, and 3 teacher aide positions to staff additional Kindergarten sections at each elementary school.


The Board approved a $50,000 gift from the Chappaqua School Foundation for the purchase of Smartboards at Greeley.  This means that all the secondary math and science classes will have Smartboards.  The Board also approved gifts from the Grafflin PTA and the Seven Bridges PTA that will be used to purchase additional Smartboards for those schools.


The Board approved the transfer of $700,000 from the available fund balance to the district’s capital fund for reconstruction of the Horace Greeley bleachers.  They also approved a Bond Resolution authorizing the construction of improvements to various buildings, which will be repaid from the state EXCEL money.  Both of these resolutions had been approved by the voters in the May school election.

The Board approved various bids for supplies.

President’s Report

After a short discussion, the Board Schedule for 2007-2008 was approved.

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Fleishman reported that 90% or more of students in grades 3-8 passed the recent state math tests.

In response to a number of questions and concerns about the new high school schedule discussed on 6/ 5, Dr. Fleishman stated that the schedule changes do not mean program changes.  The schedule changes have come about after several years of discussions. The changes address the strategic question set by the Board about how to ensure that students think deeply, support their thinking and apply problem-solving skills.  Ms. Habermann clarified that the Board does not vote on a high school schedule.  The Board’s role is to set policy, but the Board is supportive of the administration.


The Board approved a policy on the education of homeless children.  The Board also approved a policy on students with educational disabilities, which combines and updates several older policies. Those older policies were then rescinded.

Board of Education Meeting May 22, 2007

Summary - Board of Education Meeting - May 22, 2007

Tenure appointments for 32 faculty members were approved.  Resolutions were passed approving the abolition of a .6 music position at the high school and a .6 music position at the elementary schools.   The Board approved the creation of a full time counselor position and a full time psychologist position at the high school. John Chow was named Assistant Superintendent for Business. Randi Cohen, Director of the Chappaqua Continuing Education Program, presented information about the program.  The Board discussed policies on disposition of district property, education of homeless children and the student code of conduct.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay

Appointments and Resolutions

Thirty-two faculty members received tenure including Dr. Jerry Wishner, Director of Special Education; Mr. Michael Taylor, Assistant Principal, Horace Greeley; Mr. Mark Bayer, Assistant Principal, Horace Greeley; and Ms. Debra Alspach, Assistant Principal, Douglas Grafflin.    

After an extended search, Mr. John Chow was appointed Assistant Superintendent for Business.

Resolutions were passed approving the abolition of a .6 music position at the high school and a .6 music position at the elementary schools.   The Board approved the creation of a full time counselor position and a full time psychologist position at the high school.

Presentation:  Continuing Education

Presenter: Randi Cohen, Director of the Chappaqua Continuing Education Program
The program has averaged 768 students since 1996.  Profits have increased since '04, possibly because the brochure now goes to surrounding communities as well as residents of Chappaqua. Since '06 the number of senior citizens and the number of students taking courses has increased.  Many classes are offered to senior citizens free of charge and Continuing Ed took over the Driver's Education classes last year.  Board members raised the question of whether there was a bidding process for the driving school that runs the Driver's Ed course.  Ms. Cohen said there had not been, but that the school has been doing a good job and the program has made a profit.
Possible issues to be investigated are:
- Should the program accept credit cards on the Internet?
- What computer technology might be offered?
- Should out-of-district students be allowed to take driver's ed?

Presentation: Student Code of Conduct

Presenters: Dr. Fleishman, Susan Habermann
Ms. Habermann reported that the Code of Conduct has been used for a year. She asked the building principals and assistant principals, who were in the audience, how they thought the code was working.  Tim Doyle, Assistant Principal at Bell, replied that the code was very helpful for guidelines, was flexible and was useful as an educational tool.  The other administrators appeared to agree with him. 

Superintendent's Report

Dr. Fleishman thanked Christine Zumwalt, bus driver of the Roaring Brook school bus trapped by downed trees in the recent storm, and Peggy Jakacki, a parent who took many children into her home.  He  praised the workers from a landscape company who carried children off the bus and asked for anyone who can identify the company to let him know so they can be thanked.

Dr. McKay presented the results of the 2005-2006 elementary English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science tests, and the secondary English and Mathematics tests. Only 83% of grade 8 students scored at or above level 3 on the English Language test, while more than 90% of students in other grades were at or above level 3 on the ELA and the other tests. However Dr. McKay reported that for the '06-'07 year, there has been an increase in the grade 8 ELA to 90%.

Dr. McKay presented a brochure listing extensive summer curriculum work and in-service course offerings for the faculty. The cost will be between $115,000 and $120,000 with $80,000 coming from the district and the rest from grants.

School Policies

The Board approved a policy on the Disposition of District property, which delineates how to deal with disposal of property bought with district funds.  The Board corrected some items that had been omitted from the Student Code of Conduct and clarified some language. The Board had a first reading of a comprehensive policy on the Education of Homeless Students, which details how students are to be given access to public education.  Dr. McKay estimates that there are currently about 10 homeless students in the district.

The next board meetings will be June 5, 2006 at 7:30 at Bell Middle School.  The presentation will be Discussion of the High School Schedule.

Board of Education Meeting March 27, 2007

Summary: The meeting began with a public hearing on whether to grant partial exemptions on school taxes to firemen and EMT's as allowed by state law.  Interim Business Manager Mary Cronin presented information on budget revenues.  The Board voted to use surplus monies to fund replacement of the Horace Greeley bleachers and to reduce the tax increase. The Board discussed policies on records and disposal of district property.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin

Presentation: Public Hearing - Partial Tax Exemption for Firemen/EMT's

A member of the Chappaqua Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the EMT unit presented information and answered questions. In 2003 Firemen and EMT's became eligible for a partial tax exemption (10%) from the town. New legislation has extended that exemption to school taxes if the appropriate school board votes for the exemption. A number of conditions must be met for a person to qualify for the exemption. In addition to 5 years of active service, the property must be owned in his name, and must be within the fire district he serves. There are provisions covering other circumstances such as disability. The current cost for Chappaqua firemen is estimated to be about $24,749. This would not impact the school budget since the cost is spread over all taxpayers. The Board asked for additional information and the hearing will be continued at the next meeting.

Presentation - Budget: Revenue

Presenter - Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin
Ms. Cronin listed the revenue from various sources, including state aid and property taxes. There was more revenue than anticipated, partly due to increases in interest rates. $100,000 has been shifted from the repair reserve to operations and maintenance. The budget surplus will allow the district to replace the Horace Greeley bleachers from district funds rather than having to secure a bond. The Board voted to rescind their previous resolution for a bond and to pass a resolution, to be on the ballot in May, to replace the bleachers using in-district funds. Ms. Cronin presented the Board with 4 revenue options for next year. The Board voted for the option that used $900,000 from the unappropriated fund balance to reduce taxes. The tax increase will be finalized during the summer, but current estimates are that there will be a 4.10% increase for residents of New Castle, and a 3.30% increase for residents of Mt. Pleasant.

Superintendent's Report

Dr. Fleishman announced that a Latin teacher has been hired to teach at the middle and high schools.  He also announced that the science position, which was restored after being cut, would be funded by a $10,000 cut to the athletic department, money from a .7 position and a late resignation.


The Board scrutinized 3 policies, attempting to improve wording and clarity. There was a second reading of the policy on disposition of property which covers everything from textbooks to gym equipment.

There was a first reading of a revised policy on student records which will be combined with the policy on directory information. The policy deals, in part, with keeping information confidential.

There was a first reading of a policy revision on records management and access, which had been suggested by our auditors. The Board discussed whether portions of a document could be blacked out if it was made available to someone.

Questions and Comments

A member of the audience asked why the bleachers would be so expensive. According to Ms. Cronin and the Board, the fee includes architectural work as well as construction. New bleachers cannot be the same as the old ones, but must have concrete supports and footings.

There was another question about whether e-mail addresses could be included in directory information.  The Board agreed that this topic should be discussed more fully.

Board of Education Meeting March 20, 2007

Summary: The Board continued to review the proposed budget. Athletic Director Steve Young presented the Athletic Department’s proposed budget, including a request for a full time athletic trainer. Interim Business Manager Mary Cronin and Building Maintenance Foreman Pepe Leston presented the proposed budget for Operations and Maintenance and also presented information on the Repair Reserve Fund.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin

Budget Proposal – Athletic Program Presenter: Athletic Director Steve Young

Chappaqua has a very active sports program with a large number of students participating. Mr. Young is requesting a full-time athletic trainer for next year. This is budgeted for a salary of $49,241 dollars but there will probably be additional costs for benefits. An athletic trainer is a health care professional skilled in the care and prevention of injuries as well as in conditioning, rehabilitation and management of injuries. It has been difficult to get part time coverage. Mr. Young sees many additional benefits with a full time person, such as availability for working with athletes during the school day. The total proposed ’07-‘08 Athletic Department budget is only slightly higher than the ’06-’07 amount. The Board had many questions about the items listed in the budget. Mr. Young will check the estimates to see why the Fitness Center Supervisor’s salary is higher for next year although the Center will be open fewer hours.

Budget Proposal – Operation and Maintenance Central Service

Presenters: Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin, Building Maintenance Foreman Pepe Leston
The proposed budget for next year is about $500,000 more than the approved 2006-7 budget. Although one maintenance position will not be filled and one position wasn’t filled last year, Mr. Leston assured the Board that the quality of work would be maintained. There are notable increases in heating fuel costs and service contracts. The Board asked for a listing and analysis of service contracts. The Board examined the budget items closely, asking for detailed information and discussing possible alternatives.

Presentation: Repair Reserve Account

Presenters: Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin, Building Maintenance Foreman Pepe Leston
Ms. Cronin explained the Repair Reserve Account, conditions for contributing money to the account, and requirements for using the money. A public hearing is usually required for expenditures, except in case of an emergency. There was much discussion about how much money should be allowed to accrue in the fund, and what projects might be financed by the money. There will be $325,000 plus interest in the fund available during 2007-8.

Other Business: Superintendent Dr. David A Fleishman

Dr. Fleishman announced that the decision to not fill a science position at Greeley has been postponed till next year. A temporary person will be hired. There will be more time to examine the impact of one fewer teacher and to coordinate with the new changes in the high school schedule.

Board of Education Meeting  March 6, 2007


The Board continued to review the proposed budget.  Assistant Superintendent Dr. McKay presented the budget requests for Curriculum and Instruction. Interim Business Manager Mary Cronin presented the proposed appropriations for the General Fund.  Ms. Cronin, Dr. Fleishman, and the Board discussed the scope and financing of the EXCEL Capital Project and decided to ask the community to vote on a bond for EXCEL and a separate bond for bleachers at Horace Greeley High School.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin

Budget Proposal – Curriculum and Instruction

Presenter: Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay
Dr. McKay presented a budget with 3 major goals: alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment; professional development; and leadership learning.  For the ’07-’08 school year there will be special emphasis on K-12 general reading, early intervention and reading support for struggling readers, information and technology literacy, elementary and high school mathematics, foreign languages, and professional development design and evaluation.  Initiatives started in previous years, such as writing, will continue, but not as a major district focus.  The curriculum and instruction budget includes funds for a number of different programs, among them staff developers, the primary intervention program, the elementary science program and new algebra texts as well as office costs, clerical help, etc.  Dr. McKay explained the budget and answered Board questions.

The total proposed budget is $2,942,754, a slight increase over the 2006-07 budget of $2, 817,953.

Budget Proposal - General Fund - Presenter: Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin
This part of the budget includes funds for the Board of Education, the District Clerk, the Superintendent, Business Administrator, Auditors, legal costs, and debt service. Employee benefits such as contributions to retirement, Social Security and Medicare, are also included.  The benefit rates are generally set by other organizations.  The staff contributes different amounts to their health benefits, depending on which unions are involved. Proposed employee benefits total $21,317,700.  Proposed costs for transportation, will total $5,421,953. There is also a capital fund – a repair reserve – which is allotted $100,000 a year and which will have $300,000 by next year.  The Board can decide what to do with these funds but the community must vote on projects. The Board asked some questions and asked for clarification of some items.  They requested a listing of BOCES costs, since various BOCES items are scattered under different headings in the budget.

EXCEL Aid Capital Project Presentation

Presenter: Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin
The Board had 2 tasks: to decide which projects should be included in the EXCEL project, and to decide how to finance it.  At a previous meeting, Ms. Cronin had suggested projects at Horace Greeley and Bell. Dr. Fleishman pointed out that, in addition to those projects, the Horace Greeley bleachers are a health and safety item that will need attention sooner or later and would comply with the EXCEL requirements. New bleachers will cost approximately $670,000.   After extensive discussion, the Board decided to ask for a separate bond vote for money for the bleachers rather than including them in the bond for the EXCEL project. The concern seemed to be that including the bleachers in a bond for EXCEL would lead to confusion, since the EXCEL monies will eventually be refunded to the district, but money for the bleachers will not be entirely refunded.  A few other projects were briefly considered but were rejected because there would not be time to get information for the Board, or because they are projects that might be done in-house.

     The Board gave some consideration to possibly using the reserve repair fund for financing, but ultimately decided to ask for separate bonds for EXCEL and bleachers.

Board of Education Meeting  February 27, 2007

Summary: Mr. Bastian and Ms. Cronin presented an in-depth report about financing the proposed EXCEL Capital Project. Further discussion, including scope of the project, is planned for the next Board meeting.
Dr. Fleishman and several administrators presented an overview of the 2007-2008 budget, which is projected to be a 5.1% increase over last year's budget.  They propose a new Transitional Support Program at Greeley, which would require hiring a full-time psychologist.  The budget also calls for hiring an additional guidance counselor for Greeley. A music position at the middle schools and a science position at Greeley would be left vacant.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin

Presentation: EXCEL AID Capital Project Presentation

Presenter: Chuck Bastian representing Bernard P Donegan, Inc., Interim Business Administrator Mary Cronin
Chappaqua qualifies for $1,355,866 of EXCEL Aid, and also for regular building aid. To comply with EXCEL requirements, a total capital project of  $2,128,000 is proposed. EXCEL Aid, which has been discussed at previous Board meetings, is available from the state for certain types of construction, A decision needs to be made fairly quickly and voted on by the Board so that an application can be submitted to the state and the community can vote on the project. The evening's presentation concerned ways of financing the construction.  Although EXCEL and state building aid will eventually repay the district, the initial outlays will need to either be cash from the general fund, a Bond issue, a Bond Anticipation Note, or a combination.  It's important for the community to know that at the end of the process, most of the money would be reimbursed.  The presentation was very detailed and technical and the Board had many questions.  No decision was made.  There will be further discussion of financing at the March 6th meeting, as well as a discussion of the scope of the projects to be undertaken.

Presentation: Budget Overview

Presenters: Superintendent Dr. David Fleishman, Greeley H.S. Principal Andrew Selesnick, Special Education Director Dr. Jerry Wishner, Assistant Superintendent Thomas Cardellichio.
This was the first of 6 meetings to discuss the budget. Dr. Fleishman is proposing a total budget of $101,989,545, a 5.1% increase over last year's budget. This is the smallest budget increase in several years. Sixty-six percent of the budget is for employee salaries and benefits, 11.1% for special education, 9.6% for operations and maintenance, and 5.5% for transportation. In preparing the budget, Dr. Fleischman observed basic principles which had been developed in conversations with the Board. He was especially influenced by the Board's desire to offer the highest quality educational programs while moderating budget increases and to shift resources where possible rather than hiring additional staff.   The low budget increase is partly due to not taking on new projects, to shifting teachers and the fact that enrollment growth has leveled off.

The administration is proposing one additional full time guidance position at the high school. This will lower the ratio of students to counselors and will allow counselors to know the students well, to be proactive and to stay in contact with students and parents.

Mr. Selesnick and Dr. Wishner are proposing a Transitional Support Program at Greeley, which will necessitate the hiring of an additional full time psychologist. The program is designed to provide a short term, individualized, supportive program to students having a severe emotional crisis, rather than having to send them to placements out of the district.  The program will be available to all students, not just special education students. Dr. Wishner and Mr. Selesnick feel that this program is needed as they are seeing an increase in problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other problems that have required the intervention of many personnel. A special education teacher for the program would be reassigned from other duties.  If enrollment was light, the psychologist and special educator would assist with the heavy testing load and help in other areas.

The proposed budget drops one middle school music position and 1 high school science position. Despite the lost music position, there will still be 4 music teachers per middle school and the elementary 4th grade instrumental program will be maintained. There was a detailed discussion about the consequences of dropping 1 science position at the high school.  All students will continue to take at least one science and the Science Research Program will continue.  However students may not be able to double up on science courses.  Mr. Cardellichio pointed out that as our high school population decreases in coming years, there will need to be other decisions about what to decrease.

Other Business

The Board voted to proceed to a hearing on partial tax exemptions for eligible volunteer fire fighters and ambulance workers.

Dr. Fleishman reported that interviews have begun with 12 candidates for the principal positions at Westorchard and Roaring Brook.

The district will return to the policy of mailing school calendars to all postal patrons.

Board of Education Meeting January 23, 2007

Summary: Horace Greeley Principal Selesnick presented an update on the work of the High School Structure Study Group. They will be examining different models of scheduling classes and plan to implement a new schedule for the ’08-’09 school year. Business Administrator Mary Cronin presented information about EXCEL funds, which Chappaqua can use for construction projects if the Board votes on the project and application is made to the state in a timely manner.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro. Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay

Presentation – High School Structure Study Group Update

Presenter: Horace Greeley Principal Andrew Selesnick
The Study Group has been working for several years to determine how Horace Greeley can best meet the challenges of 21st century learning. Faculty, parents and students have been involved at different points. The group has used diverse methods including research, visiting other schools and even having Mr. Selesnick follow a student around for a day to get a clear idea of student experience! The study has moved from identifying core values, to listing key skills for the 21st century, to studying different models of school structures. This Sept. the group focused on 3 areas: academic advisory- cognitive mentoring, core principles, and reaching beyond memorizing content knowledge. The aim is to keep the rich program we currently offer while enhancing the experience with appropriate 21st century skills and a clearer educational purpose and progression.

It was decided that changing the Greeley mod schedule of 45-minute periods would be the most effective way to allow kids to get deeply into their subjects. There are several models of schedules with periods ranging from 39 minutes to 60 and even 90 minutes. No specific schedule has been chosen at this point. Professional development will be necessary to help teachers make effective use of longer periods. Mr. Selesnick expects that the new schedule will be selected by the spring of ‘07, professional development will take place during the 07-08 school year and the new schedule will be implemented in Sept. 2008. Work will continue on other aspects of the study.

Board members asked a number of questions and seemed particularly interested in the academic advisory concept, which attempts to have students think about themselves as learners. Mr. Selesnick said there are many models of academic advisement and if it were to be implemented, it would probably come at the same time as the new schedule.

Financial Information

Presenter: Business Administrator Mary Cronin
The monthly financial report shows that the district is on target with revenues and expenses.

Ms. Cronin explained EXCEL funds to the Board. They are state funds provided for certain construction projects related to health, safety or energy. Chappaqua can qualify for $1,355,866 but a letter of intent must be sent to the SED. The Board must discuss the scope of the projects and the schools to be included by March, in order to have time for a community vote. Although a bond will be involved, it will not impact taxpayers because the bond will be repaid with EXCEL monies. Ms. Cronin recommended large projects at Greeley (roofing and boilers) and at Bell (roofing, windows, boilers), which would meet the EXCEL requirements.


There was a first reading of policies on managing extra classroom activity funds and on the hiring and responsibilities of the external (independent) auditor.

Board of Education Meeting January 9, 2007

Summary: After discussion, the Board  approved a survey of cafeteria offerings proposed by the Wellness Advisory Committee.  The Superintendent reported that the school calendar for next year has been finalized.  The Facilities Committee reported on visits to Bell School and Grafflin.  The Board approved a transportation policy.  Dr. McKay, Principal Dr. Michael Kirsch and staff members presented a report on the reading program, including the pilot 1st grade early literacy support program.

Board Members Present: President Susan Habermann, Robert Gursha, Janet Benton, Lisa Davis, Jay Shapiro     Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay

President’s Report

Janet Benton reported that the Wellness Advisory Committee would like to survey parents and students about current and future cafeteria offerings. The survey will be on-line and the Committee will report the findings to the Board. Board members expressed concern about the difficulty of stating questions in a neutral way and determining what rate of response is significant.  Ms. Benton said that various people have offered to aid with the questions.  The Board agreed to allow the survey to proceed.

Superintendent’s Report

The Board adopted the school calendar for 2007-2008 presented by Dr. Fleischman. School will begin Sept. 5th for students. Veteran’s day will be a holiday.

Facilities Committee

The committee finds the facilities tours valuable.  At Bell School they paid special attention to structural problems highlighted in the architect’s report. New ceilings and lighting have improved the appearance of some areas of the building.  At Grafflin the committee looked at exterior brickwork that needs repairs and saw the new playground. There was a brief discussion of the need to prepare projects in time to get state aid.

Other Action

The Board approved a transportation policy.

Reading Update

Presenters: Dr. McKay, Principal Dr. Michael Kirsch, Staff Developers Mary Ford and Sel Shimmerlik, teacher Kathleen Kohl
Data was presented showing that 85% to 91% of students in grades 1 to 8 are on, or above, grade level on various assessments, including the state ELA. There are four levels of academic intervention services for children having difficulty.  Services range from pull-out programs to monitoring, depending on individual needs.

There was a great deal of discussion of the 1st grade Early Literacy Support Program, which has been piloted at Grafflin. The program is based on the Reading Recovery model.  Students are seen 1 to 1 daily for 30 minutes by a trained ELSP teacher.  Lessons are predictable and highly structured.  The focus is on accelerating student growth in reading.  ELSP teachers have ongoing professional development. Other teachers are invited to participate in the training sessions.  The Board asked about cost, since only about 7 students will be served each semester.  Dr. McKay replied that there are various models for using teachers.  By shifting teachers’ responsibilities, the district has not had to hire additional teachers to implement the program. Dr. Kirsch pointed out that if the program is successful, fewer students will need intensive help in coming years. Dr. Kirsch and all of the teachers involved in the program are very enthusiastic about it. Based on the positive results of follow-up studies of the students that started the program in Sept. 2004, the presenters recommended that the program be expanded to the other elementary schools.

Updated Oct. 27, 2009 by Valerie Castleman

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