C-R adds back driver's ed, but...


By Jim Poole

Adding driver's education to the Cobleskill-Richmondville curriculum proved difficult Monday night.
The school board approved the course, for which families will pay a share, but only after board member Russ Smith argued that the family-pay method might be used for other classes instead.
Driver's ed became an issue in July, when parent Mary Bates suggested re-instating the course. C-R last offered it in 2009-10 but eliminated it in subsequent budget-cutting.
On Monday night, Superintendent Lynn Macan said C-R offered the course in 2011-12, with families paying the full $320 per student, but not enough kids signed up.
"We're not certain, but we're thinking it didn't go because it cost a lot of money," Ms. Macan said.
She recommended that C-R split the cost--now estimated at $330--with families paying $165 and the district paying the same.
"One-sixty-five's not terrible at all," board member Dan Schulte said.
C-R's share of the cost would come from "bullet aid" provided by Senator Jim Seward, Ms. Macan said.
In a full year, the most students who could take the course would be 32, so the cost to C-R would be $5,280.
Driver's ed will be offered outside the regular school day, either before or after school. C-R has a certified teacher on staff and a retired certified teacher who might be available, Ms. Macan said.
Board members felt the course would be useful because it would be available to all students and could reduce families' insurance costs.
"I've had many parents come up to me in support of reintroducing driver's ed," board President Bruce Tryon said.
But Mr. Smith pointed out that the board has heard pleas from other parents who wanted reduced music lessons restored or more advanced-placement classes.
"We could rebuild the business classes" that were slashed in budget-cutting, Mr. Smith said, instead of adding driver's ed.
As an example, Mr. Smith said C-R might be able to find a retired history teacher who could teach one class per day, with parents paying a portion of the cost, as in driver's ed.
"I'm not against driver's ed, I'm just not sure it should be the first one," he said.
He believed the board was rushing the decision and should form a committee to study options.
"I think it's a foolish way to act," Mr. Smith said. "We need more input from administrators, teachers and especially parents."
Other board members, however, wondered whether the district could charge parents for courses given during the school day.
Also, they wondered whether a retired teacher could be hired while not a member of the teachers' union.
It was also unclear whether forming a committee to study the issue would delay the onset of driver's ed next month.
In responding to Mr. Smith, Ms. Macan said Monday's action is only for the 2013-14 school year. In the coming months, the district could investigate Mr. Smith's suggestions.
"This doesn't end the topic," she said.
Mr. Smith and board member voted against adding driver's ed and Mr. Schulte and Mr. Tryon, along with board members Mary Black, Melissa Bartlett, Jeff Foote and Steve Philbrick voted in favor.
Ms. Macan said students can sign up for driver's ed in September.