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Despite lean times, Niskayuna schools implement new programs in 2009-10 budget

"We have retirements and we have resignations, and that enabled us to make most of these changes without actually laying people off."

She said that there are two administrative positions that are being eliminated. One position that the district is not filling immediately is the director of guidance in counseling and the other is a technology position.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Baughman said that given the "precarious economic climate" in the state and nation, this is one of the most challenging budgets he has had to work with in recent memory.

"The administration and staff collaborated throughout this difficult process to prioritize and develop a budget that is fiscally conservative, while continuing to move our district forward with important initiatives that will benefit the children of our district," said Baughman in a written statement. "We recognize that long-term planning is necessary to preserve and protect our instructional program in this era of economic uncertainty. As such, we believe the proposed budget provides the district a position of stability for the coming years."

However, despite budget cuts, the district was able to put into place some new programs intended to strengthen and enrich academic opportunities for students.

"We are introducing at the elementary level a new enrichment program for kids who excel. We have had a study going on about a BOCES ALPHA program for gifted kids, and we're taking the funding we have been spending in those areas and shifting it to an in-house program," said Susnow. "What we're pleased about is we are also able to go forward with some programs just by shifting resources around."

The district accomplished this through the reallocation of funds.

She said the district is also introducing a foreign language pilot program for first- and second-grade students. Sessions will be seven weeks long, and the instructor will be a teacher from the high school.

Other new programs include additional high school courses, such as introduction to medical science, Russian language and AP human geography; a mentoring program for new teachers and administrators; and a districtwide recycling program.

"We're very pleased that despite having to tighten our belts, we were still able to move forward with programs," said Susnow.

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5, at the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium at 2254 Story Avenue to discuss the budget.

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