Monday March 25, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- What constitutes "community service," and when is one more fundraiser just too much?

Board members at Hoosick Falls Central School mulled those questions at their regular meeting Thursday, prompted by a current board goal requiring high school seniors to complete 20 hours of volunteer activity to graduate.

"We’re really talking about sweat equity: ‘Go out in the community and do something,’" said board President Greg Laurin. After discussion in February at a policy sub-committee, the question of how to define acceptable community service was brought to the full school board.

A member of that policy committee, Laurin said a draft policy could include suggested examples. A student will "have to ‘perform a service’ ... not ‘watch, attend,’" he said.

Board and committee member Laurie Gormley said she thought that verb -- perform -- was important.

John Helft, another board member who illustrated one gray area with service on student boards, said a list of acceptable activities would be difficult.

Currently, grade-level coordinators give their OK to service projects proposed by juniors and seniors.

Within the community, local fundraisers may qualify as an investment of the student’s time, explained high school Principal Stacy Vadney.

School Superintendent Kenneth Facin said there had been some community service component required by seniors for some time, with an explicit board goal dictating 20 hours as a graduation requirement for the past several years.

Juniors are expected to complete 10 hours of service, while younger students participate in "grade level" activities like community cleanup days or a kindergarten "trike-a-thon."

A set policy will "clearly define" what that senior service commitment might be, Facin said by telephone Friday. "The question became, we need to codify (community service) as a board-level policy." He told board members at their meeting that a policy was needed because the service requirement was a board goal.

A separate, tangentially related discussion Thursday revolved around school procedure governing student fundraisers. Facin said a policy would allow for consistency.

Board members expressed some consensus to draft a policy that allowed for fundraising for local community organizations, with discretion for larger national disaster-type events, and Facin said a schedule of fundraisers could be plotted out for the school year -- allaying, for instance, an inundation of bake sales at any one time.

Laurin said policies would be drafted for an initial committee review. The full school board will later review several reads of those draft policies before approval.

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