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Weekend in review

Apr 27, 2015 6:00 am
Some of the stories that made the news Fri., Apr. 24 through Sun., Apr. 26

Rick Karlin reported at Capitol Confidential Gov. Andrew Cuomo was questioned last week about news that school districts are likely to request delays in implementing the new teacher evaluation program. In response, Cuomo stressed the tests used in the evaluations don’t affect student grades. “The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said. The tests, given in grades three through eight in English and math are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Student scores can be compared at the start and end of a school year to measure how much students have improved. The idea has enraged teachers, and it has also sparked a growing boycott with parents saying their children are being stressed out by the exams. In fact, Cuomo said, for the next five years the score does not count for students.

Ryan Anglim reported in The Daily Mail the Greene County Legislature’s decision to impose a one-year contract came as a shock to CSEA Local 820, Unit 7000. During its March meeting, the Legislature overwhelming agreed to impose the settlement. At a meeting March 9, the union agreed to the county's proposed terms on health insurance, but the two sides were still at odds over wage increases. CSEA alleges the talks ended for reasons only known to Greene Co. Administrator Shaun Groden. The next thing the union knew was that a one-year contract was being imposed. “The county administrator has failed at his job,” said CSEA Capital Region President Kathy Garrison. The union has been working without a contract since the end of 2012. The two major issues have been wages and a change in health care. Legislators Vincent Seeley and Kevin Lennon, both of Catskill, were the loan dissenters on the settlement resolution. They told the paper the contract negotiations were handled improperly, citing a failure by both sides to communicate effectively.

American bison k5680-1.jpgThe Associated Press reported 15 buffalo escaped from a farm in Schodack, Rensselaer County, and were intentionally shot and killed in the town of Coeymans, Fri., Apr. 24. According to a Bethlehem police spokesman the decision was made after experts agreed tranquilizers would not be effective and no portable corrals or trailers could hold the animals. Thomas Gallagher, a Cornell Cooperative Extension large animal expert said tranquilizers are not effective against buffalo because of their thick hides and doses need to be so high they are generally lethal. The story made national news.

Siobhan [SHIV-on] Barton reported in the Register Star the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties has made application for an exemption from the Greenport Town Board for its 66-unit Greenport Gardens project. MHA is asking that it be allowed to proceed with the planned construction on Joslen Boulevard, despite a nine-month moratorium on site plan applications for construction in that area. Attorney Paul Freeman presented MHA's hardship application during a public hearing Thu., Apr. 23, arguing the moratorium will cause the agency substantial economic hardship. The moratorium halts not only the Greenport Gardens development, but to the expansion of neighboring Joslen Commons, as well. The board must decide on the waiver application within 45 days, and is expected to make that decision sometime in the middle of May.

Colby Hamilton reported at Capital New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation to expand online voter registration. The measure would permit all eligible voters nationwide to register online. The announcement was made by the New York Democrat at a news conference Sun., Apr. 26, in Manhattan. The bill, entitled the Voter Registration Modernization Act, would create a national online voter registration system, and require all states to allow eligible voters to register online and update their information electronically.