Weekly Feature



2011-01-19 / Education

Three of four district buildings rated ‘unsatisfactory’

Amherst schools
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

The Amherst Central School District’s four main buildings got a report card at the Jan. 11 Board of Education meeting, and only one passed.

Amherst Middle School was deemed “satisfactory” while Amherst High School and Smallwood Drive and Windermere Boulevard elementary schools were deemed “unsatisfactory” according to a building conditions survey conducted by architectural firm Cannon Design.

Deborah Pease and Dan Greene represented Cannon at the meeting.

Pease said the State Education Department requires that the building conditions survey be conducted every five years by an architect or engineering company. All surveys were done by Nov. 15 and submitted to SED by Jan. 15.

Pease said every single system in district buildings occupied by students or staff was examined. Each building could have received one of five ratings: excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory, critical failure or nonfunctional. Pease said a satisfactory rating means that the system is functioning reliably. An unsatisfactory rating indicates the system is functioning unreliably.

Pease also said SED has a category called structural or health and safety items, items that would be addressed first if a district should undertake a capital project. If any item is rated unsatisfactory, it automatically makes the building unsatisfactory.

“By no way does this mean that the buildings aren’t safe,” said Pease. “All it means are these particular systems are functioning unreliably.”

After Cannon conducted the surveys, Pease said representatives reviewed each item in-depth with maintenance crews at each building.

The cost to address all items in district buildings is an estimated $19.7 million.

The middle school was deemed “satisf actory,” with a potential of $4.89 million in improvements in pavement for parking lots, windows and cooling system. The high school has a potential of $4.3 million in improvements, including air-handling units by the pool, HVAC controls and the ceiling in the North gym. Smallwood has a potential of $6.9 million in improvements, with most of the funding needed for roofing. Windermere has a potential of $3.5 million in improvements for HVAC units.

“Overall, we were impressed by your buildings,” said Greene.

A five-year plan is also required but not submitted to the State Education Department.

“The five-year plan combines program initiatives with building condition survey items and ultimately, prioritizes them so that when you do go for your next capital project, you have a complete understanding of what is in that capital project,” said Pease.

In another matter: Using the Link Up program created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, third- through fifth-graders at Smallwood Drive and Windermere Boulevard schools have partnered with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for an interactive, collaborative, musical experience.

Link Up will allow students the opportunity to explore orchestral repertoire and create original music and integrate the classroom learning in an interactive concert with the BPO. The BPO/Amherst concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Leading up to the concert, Matthew Kraemer, associate conductor, and BPO musicians will visit Windermere and Smallwood to mentor students.

“It’s out of our desire to be a part of the curriculum to offer to the students,” said Robin Parkinson, BPO educational director. “Amherst has a strong music program, and we wanted to collaborate with this.”

The Amherst High School Orchestra will perform a pre-concert at 6 p.m. in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans.

Windermere Early Childhood Principal Mary Lavin, Smallwood Principal Dan Lewis and social studies teacher Tom Ferraina led the partnership. Julie Furlong is Smallwood’s music teacher.

In other business, Jeanne Fradella, the district’s director of curriculum and staff development, updated the board on results from a math survey conducted during parent-teacher conferences in the fall.

“The survey of over 570 parents indicates that they are satisfied with the math education in Amherst,” said Fradella. “They feel comfortable with their child’s progress, and they can approach their child’s teacher with questions about math. The teachers in Amherst believe a conceptual understanding of mathematics along with student practice is critical for student success and that the current math program combined with their professional judgment enables them to deliver a quality program for students.”

The board also:

 Adopted its 2011-12 budget calendar. An initial review of the budget, including various options, is scheduled for the Jan. 25 meeting. The budget is scheduled for adoption at the April 26 meeting followed by the public hearing at the May 3 meeting. The budget vote is May 17.

 Accepted the resignation of high school Assistant Principal Victoria Pohlman, effective Jan. 7. Pohlman has taken a position as an elementary school principal in North Tonawanda.

 Approved a leave of absence for special education teacher Richard Crozier, effective Jan. 12, so he may serve as a teacher on special assignment in lieu of replacing the assistant principal position, through the remainder of the current school year.

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