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New Bethlehem school board gets down to business

A new school board president and two newly elected board members began their first Bethlehem Central School District meeting tackling the issues of redistricting and full-day kindergarten.

James Lytle was elected president of the Bethlehem school board with James Dering, vice-president. Lisa Allendorph and Diane Giacone Stever took their oaths of office, and within minutes, the board began to talk about redistricting, hiring the firm of Versa Trans Solutions, Inc., to work with the district on the controversial project.

The process in many ways is already under way here, said Doug Hamlin, representing Versa Trans. "You have changes going on all over the district."

Those changes include an expanded high school, a new elementary school, a move to full-day kindergarten and construction work at several different locations throughout the district.

"We have 52 contracts at nine sites currently in the district," said Rudley Lewis, construction manager for SanoRubin, overseeing the district's many renovations and upgrades.

A committee will be picked by the school board to oversee the redistricting process with a completion deadline in January.

"At the end of the day, you want to have your facilities populated to the best of your ability," Hamlin said.

Several steps are involved in the redistricting process including geographic data, current and future student database, developing neighborhood planning units, and program and staff considerations.

Versa Trans will supply the district with about five different options for redistricting that will be narrowed down to one or two before a final decision is made. Everyone agreed communication is the key component to ensure a smooth transition.

"There will be a very robust communication plan from start to finish," said superintendent Les Loomis.

The district has hired Matt Leon, new communications director to replace both Jessica Sheckton and Audrey Hughes in the district communications office. Leon's last job was with the Albany City School District and one of his first duties will be updating the school's Web site on the redistricting process.

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