As the volunteer duly elected members of the Rensselaer City School District Board of Education we have routinely insisted that politics be kept out of our school. Our children and grandchildren come first. For the past few months, the Board has sought to stay above the fighting related to the Dunn Landfill which has included petty and false accusations that some are using to advance their own interests. Instead, we have focused on delivering real results that benefit our kids.
We have previously asked local politicians to tackle the debate on the landfill away from the school and to leave the district and our children out of their politics. Today we are renewing that request.
We have heard concerns about the Dunn Landfill from a surprisingly small number of residents. The most vocal have been activists with questionable political agendas, many of whom are non-residents. In March 2019 these same individuals attended a Board meeting where they forceful insisted that we sign a letter, written by them. The letter “Demanded that Governor Cuomo order the closing of the Dunn Landfill.”
We simply will not contribute to anyone’s political agenda to get elected to public office. It is shocking and appalling, and it should stop immediately.
The bottom line: Schools are no place for such divisive politics. Our kids get the chance to be little once. We will not publicly support or oppose any candidate nor will we support or oppose any lawful business – landfills included. We will, however, continue to work through the appropriate regulatory agencies to ensure that our campus is monitored for safety. If there are ANY concerns, families will be notified immediately.
Unfortunately, our children’s education is being ruthlessly attacked with widely distributed lies in the media so we can no longer sit on the sidelines without providing an accurate presentation of the facts.
Foremost, the Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) has 3 monitoring stations on our campus. When there are concerns we communicate directly with the authorities in a timely fashion. Not the landfill. Not the media. But rather, the regulatory authority that has the power to get things done on our behalf.
Next, the DEC’s raw data has been posted on the school district website. This data will continue to be provided and updated as new data becomes available to us.
As for actual findings, the 3 DEC monitoring locations on campus have consistently registered zero Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) readings, with occasional readings of single digit parts per billion. Fortunately, experts have indicated that these levels are not high enough to create health concerns.
In order to continue to ensure our students safety, DEC has agreed to provide a particulate monitor on campus so that we can track any dust related issues from the landfill and take action if necessary. These so called activists, and their political leader, have said that they are concerned with the location of the landfill and the impact on our children’s health. Yet, the activists never reached out to the Health Department to conduct any testing to get real data on the these impacts.
The school district did. We requested that the Rensselaer County Department of Health test our facility for lead dust contamination, after experts explained that lead dust is a leading indicator of contaminants due to how easily it travels. Roofs, entrances, window sills, playgrounds, dugouts and other areas were all tested. The results showed there were no detectable levels of lead in our school and on our campus. This was overwhelmingly positive news and we will stay vigilant in monitoring the situation going forward.
The school district is in no way responsible for the landfill being placed where it was, and is not responsible for determining its future. The Department of Environmental Conservation is the only regulatory body that can now decide the future of the landfill. That being said, until it closes the Board is committed to making the best of the situation for our children and their families. We were able to deliver for our kids by negotiating an agreement for the landfill to donate $125,000 per year for the next 10 years ($10,000 to student scholarships with the remainder to the general fund.) That money was enough to get our district started with a 1:1 laptop program for next year.
In order to ensure that they hold up their end of the bargain we made sure the agreement was in writing. More importantly we made sure that the school district can opt out of this agreement at any time and report any environmental or health concerns to the proper regulatory agency. This money, and help from the DEC in monitoring environmental and health concerns will go a long way in improving outcomes for our students – which always has been and always will be the primary goal of the school board.
The RCSD School Board
For questions, please contact president John Mooney (518) 495-3629