Whitehall teacher eyes new playground


Holly Pelky, a first-grade teacher at Whitehall Elementary School, is hoping to build a new playground behind the school.

Pelky told the Board of Education that she has applied to KaBOOM! for a $15,000 grant to build a new playground.

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that helps build playgrounds.

The grant would provide $9,000 to build a playground and a $6,000 credit toward the purchase of new playground equipment.

In order to qualify for the grant, the playground needs to cost at least $24,000 to build. It would also need to be constructed by June of next year.

Pelky told the board she is planning several fundraisers she hopes will bridge the gap between the grant and the $24,000 price tag.

She said proceeds from Penny Wars, an annual fundraiser held at the school, and a yet-to-be-scheduled basket party, will be used toward the cost of the playground.

 

Future First

The board approved a request from high school Principal Kelly McHugh to make a farming internship a year-round program.

The program, which is dubbed Future First, focuses on providing life skills to middle and high school students who are struggling academically.

“These young men have fallen behind and even with the support services at school, they need something else,” said McHugh. “This is opportunity for them to do something different outside of school.”

Several students interned with local farmers over the summer helping feed and care for livestock and growing fruits and vegetables. The program was developed by McHugh in coordination with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County.

Other than transportation to and from the farms, which are located in Whitehall, there is no cost associated with the program.

Board member Frank Barber asked about what, if any, liability the district would have.

Superintendent James Watson said the district is covered in the same respect it would be when students attend field trips off campus.

Fellow board member Mark Deluca expressed concerns about the operation of tractors and other farm machinery but McHugh said only students that have passed a tractor safety operation course would be permitted to operate farm machinery.

The board approved the request 5-0. Four members of the board—James Huntington, Adam Mickel, Theordore LaRose and James Brooks—were absent.

Superintendent

The board officially accepted Watson’s resignation, effective Oct. 30.

Watson, who announced last spring his intention to retire, has served the district as its superintendent for more than 27 years.

Deluca said Watson will be missed and district clerk Martha Bascue thanked him for his service.

“You’ve truly been an inspiration to us,” she said.

The board remains tight-lipped on Watson’s replacement.

The district offered the position to one of three finalists last month and that candidate accepted the offer more than three weeks ago, but the two sides have been unable to finalize a contract.

When the position was posted, the board was offering a three year contract with a yearly salary between $120,000 and $130,000. A residency requirement was also expected to be included in the agreement.

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21.

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