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December 10, 2016
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Sullivan West: it takes a state to raise a child

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The March 13 Sullivan West Central School Board meeting was all about the kids. From superintendent Nancy Hackett, to the board members, to faculty and staff, to parents and public, there was universal agreement that the student musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” presented March 7 to 9, was nothing less than a triumph of talent, spirit and hard work. Cited by all as an example of what students can accomplish when properly motivated, it serves as testament to what Sullivan West is doing right.

Student board member Joe Campanelli, himself a participant in Sullivan County’s joint-school musical event, the All-County Concert, talked about the hard work entailed in lengthy and physically demanding rehearsals but also of the satisfaction of working cooperatively with schools that are normally athletic and scholastic rivals. Hackett added her kudos to those of Campanelli, saying that Sullivan West was represented at the All-County Concert in every musical category except strings. (Sullivan West does not offer instruction in stringed instruments because it has a band only, which has no stringed instruments.) Hackett noted that being selected for participation in the All-County Concert is recognition of superior musical talent.

High school principal Margaret Tenbus outlined new course offerings that included Advanced Placement (AP) courses taught by Sullivan County Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University. AP courses are college-level courses that provide students with both high school and college credits.

An update on the disposition of the Narrowsburg Central School (NCS) building and grounds was presented by realtor Elizabeth “Beth” Burnett of Century 21, the real estate firm now in charge of selling the NCS property. Burnett described a social media blitz in addition to print, online and realty network advertising campaigns designed to market the property at an appraised value of $700,000. Burnett justified the appraisal, considered low by some, in light of prevailing unfavorable market conditions caused by a glut of school properties for sale. Nineteen schools have closed in New York State since the board decided to sell NCS; 15 of them are in the Hudson Valley. Still, Burnett was upbeat about sale prospects, mentioning that two serious bids have been received in the nine days that her firm has been actively marketing the property.

BOCES administrators presented an overview of innovative interdisciplinary programs and partnerships with district schools and with other educational entities that include Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and Sullivan County Community College (SCCC). Larry Thomas, district superintendent of Sullivan County BOCES, illustrated one such example: Construction Tech program students helped build a low-cost greenhouse for CCE, which now grows herbs for the BOCES Career Technology Culinary Program.

Hackett closed the meeting with details of her recent attendance at a superintendents’ conference where she met with legislative representatives as well as the New York State Board of Regents and other district superintendents. She came away from those meetings with cautious optimism that state education funding may soon be restored to pre-recession levels and that Sullivan County now has an empathetic representative on the Board of Regents; Josephine Finn of Monticello was recently elected to replace an outgoing board member. Hackett is hopeful that the rural districts of the mid-Hudson valley will now have representation on a board historically weighted toward the needs of urban and suburban districts.