Changes ahead for Pre-Kindergarten

Gwen Chamberlain

All but one section of the Penn Yan Central School Pre-K classes will be housed in the Penn Yan Elementary School building beginning this year, even though some sections will be operated by The Arc of Yates and Head Start.

Superintendent David Hamilton says moving the classes to the elementary building, where declining enrollment has opened up classroom space that will be leased to the outside agencies, means teachers will be able to collaborate and the pupils will find the transition to kindergarten in 2014 to be easier, making the program more effective for all pupils. Under the previous arrangements, 85 percent of the Pre-K pupils had to make an adjustment from another facility to the elementary school when they advanced to kindergarten.

At its Aug. 14 regular meeting, the Penn Yan School Board unanimously agreed to lease five classrooms to the Arc of Yates, and two classrooms to ProAction Steuben and Yates, Inc which operates Head Start in Penn Yan.

Hamilton explains that Universal Pre-K programs in the Penn Yan School District are operated by four different organizations: the school district, The Arc, Head Start and Rainbow Junction Day Care Center.

On a related subject, board member Kathy Guenther read a statement at the beginning of the meeting objecting to changes in the school's pre-K programs. In the past, Pre-K students participated in at least 60 minutes of music, art or physical education activities each day. Beginning in September, elements of each of the three will be integrated into the day's activities, according to Hamilton.

He said adding music, art and physical education to pre-K would result in additional expense, but said he could look into whether it can fit into teacher schedules. Noting there will now be seven pre-K sections in the school building, he said, "there are a couple of factors, but budget is not one of them."

Board member Loni Terpollili questioned if such classes for pre-K level students is appropriate with new standards in kindergarten that call for more structured activities.

Other business on the board's agenda included:

• CSEA HEARING: The board appointed David Hoover of East Amherst as its designated hearing officer for a hearing on charges of misconduct and/or incompetence brought by Hamilton against Abraham Guerrero, a full time systems analyst employed by the district. Hamilton says a hearing will be scheduled as soon as possible.

Civil Service Law requires that such a hearing be conducted. Hamilton presented the charges to the board of education on July 24, 2013.

• STRATEGIC PLANNING: Howard Dennis and Kelly Johnson presented details about strategic planning based on the district goal to "Be a regional leader in the number who are graduating college- and career-ready.

Individual goals have been established for each building based on the district goal, and the teams in each building are working on plans to accomplish the goals.

Academy Principal David Pullen said the strategic planning process "Has driven a depth of discussion that I haven't seen in the past two summers." He said academy administrators and teaching staff "realize if we get kids through the 10th grade, into 11th grade, we've got a good chance." But he added there are still factors — such as substance abuse, incarceration and transfers from other states with low amounts of credits — that the school district can't address.

• EXECUTIVE SESSION: The board entered executive session to discuss collective bargaining.

• DONATIONS: The board accepted the donation of a granite stone plaque honoring former principal Edward Bronson from Nielsen Granite for the elementary school garden, and $2,500 from the Once Again Shoppe for children's supplies.