Sullivan County Democrat
January 13, 2006

Mold Remains an Issue At LSC

By Nathan Mayberg

LIBERTY — January 13, 2006 – Much of the fire from last month’s meeting on mold at schools in the Liberty Central School District was no longer evident at the most recent meeting held this past Monday.

But the concerns remain, even if the Middle School cafeteria was nearly devoid of a public audience.

Superintendent Lawrence Clarke and Board President David Burke spent about 15 minutes on questions from Padme Dyvine on the controversial topic.

Both Burke and Clarke assured her that an industrial hygienist would be hired to work in concert with an architect to address the widespread mold threat. Mold throughout the district’s buildings was cited in a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, a division of the United States Department of Health and Family Services) and many teachers. The hiring of an industrial hygienist has been a major priority for concerned residents and teachers in the district.

In addition, the board will be soliciting bids from contractors on the middle school renovation project, not to exceed $375,000.

The work will include the replacement of the roof of the Middle School Library which was one of the most problematic sections of the district. Former Middle School Librarian Angela Page complained for 13 years about the roof and related conditions in the library, which caused extensive mold damage. Page had to continuously attend to the leaking roof with water buckets. She said her daily contact with the leaking roof, and the toxins in the air from the mold, led to her immune system being overwhelmed. She wears a respirator in public and was on sick leave before being forced into retirement through a unanimous vote by the board last month.

According to Clarke, other aspects of the renovations will include roofing in other areas, chimney work, drainage work to mitigate water runoff, landscaping to protect soil from sliding into the building, and sealing windows from water leakage.

Dyvine also questioned the continued use of a coal bin in the elementary school and the middle school library, which have both been cited by staff and in the NIOSH report as being potentially dangerous to the health of the students and teachers who occupy them.

Clarke said that BOCES has tested the schools and considered them to be safe. The most recent test was in December, although the results have not been released.

Dyvine questioned the qualifications of BOCES staff to conduct the tests. Dyvine was stopped in her questions by Burke at one point when she brought up the forced retirement of Page.

Last month’s meeting was marked by anger from a number of residents prohibited from commenting on the subject when the board, led by Burke, refused to accept public comment from most of the public at the beginning of the meeting.

On Monday, former board President Philip Olsen called for a review of the public comment policy in order to make “public friendly” accommodations so that people can “speak freely.”

In other board business, business administrator Thomas Goskoski was reluctantly allowed to resign. He and his family are moving out of the area for other career opportunities.

Members of the board went out of their way to thank him for his work and indicated they were highly pleased with his accomplishments. His resignation will take effect in late February.

Burke said that Goskoski “helped us overcome some financial situations that were very grievous.”

Before the meeting, senior high school students gave a presentation to the board on reintroducing driver’s education and a new program for increasing hand hygiene. The four students are involved in the Syracuse University Project Advance Public Policy course.

The driver’s education class was proposed by Christine DiVita and Britney Keator. They highlighted the benefits of the class, which includes a 15 percent reduction on the car insurance of students, as well as a proven record of reducing accidents. According to the statistics they found, there were 1,138 accidents in Sullivan County in 2002, including 12 fatalities.

They have already received major backing from Martin Braunstein, president of M&M Auto Group in Liberty, who pledged to donate a vehicle specifically for use by the class.

Goskoski said such a class would have virtually no impact on the school’s insurance.

Burke said the presentation was well done. The timing is perfect, he said, as the board is preparing to start its budget process.

Dominique Mendez and Pranali Trivedi proposed installing hand sanitizers throughout the district to reduce the amount of diseases spread by human contact. According to their statistics, about 60 million days of school are missed annually by students and teachers due to communicable diseases.

Sanitizers are proven to reduce absenteeism in schools by 50 percent, they said. The pair were scheduled to meet with New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther this week about their idea.

Amy Barkley, the assistant principal at Liberty Elementary School and co-advisor to the Student Council, said she received a letter expressing sincere gratitude from the school in Mississippi which the Liberty Elementary School assisted with Christmas decorations.

Barkley helped spearhead a videoconferencing session between the student council at Liberty and the student council in Moss Point, Mississippi. Families from that school were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

The students helped collect a large amount of decorations to send to the school. A number of families, including teachers at the school, were helped by those donations.