North Colonie School District defending conduct of bond vote

December 12, 2016 06:21 PM

A local politician got expelled Monday by an area school superintendent.

Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners had just finished lambasting the North Colonie School District for the way they're handling the upcoming $196 million bond vote.

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However then, when Conners wanted to sit in on the school district's news conference, the superintendent said "no".

The North Colonie Central School District is experiencing growing pains. With forecasts of an additional 939 students enrolling over the next decade, the district wants to invest $196 million to expand and upgrade their facilities. The bond vote is this Thursday.

"I have no problem with an investment in education. I do have a serious problem with the way the election is being conducted," explained Conners.

He calls it a travesty that the vote is being held December 15, when he believes senior citizens may have trouble getting to the polls. He also objects to the district limiting the vote to just one polling place: the school district headquarters on Fiddler's Lane.

"It creates a tremendous problem with the appearance of voter suppression," Conners argued.

While calling for change in the education law, Conners became engaged in debate with one of the school district attorneys. However, North Colonie Superintendent Joseph Corr held his own news conference after asking Conners to leave.

"What is concerning to me to ascribe arrogance and to ascribe a lack of concern for our voters as our motive is just a completely false mischaracterization of what happened," countered Coor.

He says he's met with the public 35 times since September to explain the vote. In addition, mailings have gone out to every household, there's an explanation on the district website and signs are posted outside every school.

"It's plain and simple: we are following the law," Coor asserted.

In addition, Superintendent Corr says the vote needs to take place this week, or else taxpayers might be on the hook for an additional $26 million.

The superintendent also sent out the following letter on the vote:

A letter from Superintendent Joseph Corr:

On Dec. 15, voters in North Colonie will decide on a $196.4 million dollar capital project, which will include addition and renovation work throughout the district, with security updates for all eight school buildings, K-12. In North Colonie, we teach students about the importance of community and the value of participating in our democracy. I encourage you to make the time to vote this Thursday.

As Thursday’s vote draws closer, it is important that I thank everyone who attended presentations and workshops since December 2015. The feedback and ideas that were provided were essential to the development of this proposal, and a reflection of the hard work and dedication that led us to this point. I recognize this is a big decision for our community and I do not minimize the impact on our taxpayers. However, I do believe the project will address increasing enrollment and the need to bring our facilities in line with the needs of the next generation of learners. It will also allow us to capture the enhanced state aid from the Maplewood annexation, and significantly decrease the local tax impact by doing so.

Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Goodrich Building (district office), located at 91 Fiddlers Ln. in Latham. District administrators were advised in October by school attorneys that all voting must take place at one site, since the school district does not have personal registration of voters. Education Law 2017 permits a school district to divide into election districts if personal registration exists. However, since this is not the case in North Colonie and in order to uphold the law, all voting for the December 15 capital project must take place at Goodrich.

The driving force behind the capital project is the district’s tremendous growth in enrollment. Enrollment has grown by four percent since September 2014. Here is a look at the data:

  • September 2014: 5,346 students

  • Current enrollment: 5,549 students

  • 2025 projections: 6,450 students

The district currently has very little capacity for more classrooms, and right now, elementary class sizes range from 23-30 students. Ideally, the district would like to keep class sizes to no more than 25 students. Smaller class sizes allow for more individualized instruction, more opportunities to engage in project-based learning, and better opportunities to meet the social and emotional needs of all students. In addition, the proposed physical changes to school buildings will bring the district’s educational program delivery to an even higher standard and offer more opportunities to the next generation. To this day, more and more families are choosing North Colonie as a place to call home and educate their children, making now the right time to embark on this project.

Please take the time to vote on Thursday, December 15 at Goodrich. Thank you for your willingness to participate.


D. Joseph Corr


WNYT Staff

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