Grant helps expose Penn Yan students to more skills

Gwen Chamberlain The Chronicle-Express

A $50,000 grant from the Nord Family Foundation is helping Penn Yan Academy students learn to work with industry-standard machines and software as they learn skills that will help them prepare for careers or college.

Rebecca Perrault, John Kriese, Scott Chappell, and Jon Giglio presented information to the board of education on the programs that are offered now with the new table saw that has a stopsaw system, a new mitre saw, plasma cam, drill press, scroll saw, CNC mill, and 3D printers.

Most of the equipment is used in the Academy, but a drill press and scroll saw have been installed in the Middle School.

Chappell, who wrote the grant application, said the goals of the program fit well with the mission of the Nord Family Foundation: to build community through support of projects that bring opportunity to the disadvantaged, strengthen the bond of families and improve the quality of people’s lives.

Kriese reminded board members that in 1985, under the Regents Action Plan, schools closed shops, and stopped teaching skills like carpentry and electricity. “It only has taken 30 years for us to have realized that possibly that was a the wrong move,” he said, adding, “We owe it to our children so they can have a multitude of skills.”

Giglio said the new equipment and opportunities has brought students he’s never met before into his classroom.

“We are just scratching the surface,” added Kriese, saying that the tools bring a new precision to metal working.

Kriese invited school board members to see the equipment. “That shop is awesome, and you need to see the things they prohibited in 1985. We have all the things they took away from us and it is stupendous!”

Kriese also reported on Farmall Fridays — the days mentors from the community visit and work side-by-side with students to restore a 1952 Farmall tractor.

In other business at the March 4 Board of Education meeting included:

• SUPERINTENDENT: The board approved a 3.5 year employment agreement with Howard Dennis to serve as Superintendent through June 30, 2018 at a base annual salary of $126,121. Dennis had previously been appointed to the post effective Jan. 15.

• BUDGET: Dennis and Assistant Superintendent for Business Cathy Milliman presented an update on the 2015-16 budget that includes a tax levy increase of 3.19 percent or $550,638. The spending plan, which totals $33.5 million includes $17,500 for reinstatement of some support services that had previously been cut; $65,000 for a deaf interpreter; $5,000 for two additional modified level coaches; $39,000 for a teacher assistant; and $10,000 for adjustment of clerical support staff. The spending reflects a budget-to-budget increase of 1.25 percent or $412,729.

• PROPOSITION: When district residents vote in May, they will also consider a transportation proposition for the purchase of two 65-passenger buses and two Dodge Grand Caravans at a total cost of $290,000 to be paid over five years. State aid will reimburse 52.4 percent of the cost.