Letters to the Editor – 1/5 to 1/11

The Onteora Outline

The Onteora Central School District, like many other school districts in rural New York, is experiencing the challenges of increasing State mandates at a time of reduced State resources, while at the same time wanting to improve student learning and retain the cherished qualities of the District. Currently three models of reconfiguration are being considered to meet these challenges

The first model would make both Bennett and Woodstock the only two K-6 schools. Students from Phoenicia would be reassigned to Bennett and Woodstock, depending on the location of their residence; some Bennett children may also need to attend Woodstock. This model saves approximately two million dollars annually because it closes a school and consolidates some services. This model would probably be easiest to implement; however, it would be mostly a financial decision as it would not contribute to enhancing the educational program.

A second model, would make Woodstock Elementary School the only primary school, and Bennett would be the only intermediate school which reduces staffing and closes a school building. The savings would be approximately three million dollars annually and would allow the district to focus on early education and the intermediate curriculum more intensely.


The third model is to keep all three schools open, with both Phoenicia and Woodstock educating all students in smaller K-3 primary schools and Bennett educating students in an intermediate school for students in grades 4-6. This model could potentially save the district two million dollars annually while still allowing the educational advantage stated above.

In summary, the Onteora Central School District will being going through major changes for the start of the 2012-13 school year. The Board of Education is committed to making the best decision for the future of the children and our school district community. We encourage you to attend our meetings; the next one is January 10 and then January 24. Please check our district website and Facebook to stay connected.

Phyllis McGill

Superintendent of Onteora Schools



From what has occurred recently, it seems that the expression, “the Lord watches out for little children, fools and drunks” is true at least one third of the time.

Howard Harris



Make 2012 A Frugal Year 

January is usually when we prepare for the coming year. If you or someone in your family has an expensive illness, get out this week and find a pantry. They all have different hours, attitudes toward food, etc. It’s against the law for you to be turned down by a pantry on the first visit…so look for the one that’s going to work best for you and your lifestyle. The cost: $0

Apply for food stamps. For some, this can be challenging. If you’re denied benefits, ask for a review and then reapply. Don’t get discouraged if you discover your allotment is small. Whatever you get on your SNAP card is an extra cushion that you wouldn’t otherwise have. The cost: $0

Check out your eligibility for a wide range of work supports at myBenefits.ny.gov. The website is easy and as confidential as anything on a computer. The cost: $0

Use your library. There are many books to be read and computers available. The cost: $0.

Discover the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. Located upstairs at Christ Lutheran Church, it’s open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for dinner. Drop in about 5 p.m. to enjoy delicious, nutritious soup prepared chefs at the best area restaurants. Monthly, the Catskill Mountain Pizza Co. sends over pizza. You can also get wonderful breads, butter, peanut butter, jelly, baked goods, and coffee and juice. The cost: $0

Happy New Year and peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco



Choose Model 1

Attention Woodstock Parents: In two weeks, the Onteora Board of Education is going to restructure all of our schools. Because of declining enrollment, cuts in state aid, and New York State’s new property tax levy cap, we must “right-size” (down-size) our district.

On December 13, the BOE and Superintendent Dr. Phyllis McGill presented three models that they will choose from:

Model 1: Close Phoenicia school; Woodstock and Bennett remain grades K-6.

Model 2: Close Phoenicia school; Woodstock will have grades K-3; Bennett will have grades 4-6 (the “Princeton Plan”).

Model 3: Woodstock and Phoenicia become K-3; Bennett becomes 4-6 (the “Bookend Plan”).

Both models 2 and 3 are terrible for Woodstock and Bennett children. In both cases, families with siblings will be split up. Those of us with more than one child already know how difficult it is to get kids on one bus, or drive them to one school, much less two. Some say the “Princeton Plan” works in well New Paltz, but I have spoken with parents who told me that it is a logistical nightmare — and the two New Paltz elementary

schools are only five miles apart.

In the “Bookend Plan,” it was suggested by the board that we rent the newly vacated space in the schools to either town offices or local businesses while school is in session. For safety reasons, we do not want our elementary schools open to the public for business. This suggestion proves that we have too many buildings.

In both Models 2 and 3, class sizes would jump by an average of seven children in grades 4-6.

It is tremendously sad to close a school as beloved as the Phoenicia school. Trying to keep all of our community schools open is a noble cause. It is, however, relevant to mention that all of the BOE members who have school-aged children live in the Phoenicia district. While they will undoubtedly make a Herculean effort to remain objective, and to serve our entire district, the Bennett and Woodstock communities are not represented.

I do not wish to vilify the Board in any way. Many of them run for this thankless volunteer position unopposed. If we are not represented, we have only ourselves to blame.

Both because the population of our district will bottom out in two years, and because of the size and state of disrepair of the Phoenicia school, it will likely have to close then anyway. If the BOE chooses either Model 2 or 3, children as young as 5 from Pine Hill and beyond will have to travel on the bus for well over an hour each way to attend Kindergarten in Woodstock. Ultimately, this will negatively impact the youngest kids from Phoenicia the most.

We need to look ahead. Model 1 is the only one that makes sense for all of the children in the district. We must mobilize to keep at least two schools intact. Please come to the only BOE meeting left, on January 10 at Bennett, before they make this momentous decision. Or contact the Board at OnteoraBOE@onteora.k12.ny.us.

Cybele Nielsen



For more letters, see print edition

There is one comment

  1. Onteora Parent

    I’m confused as to why in the above letter by the Superintendent, it is suggested that both Plans One and Three would save approximately the same amount…while in the Freeman article reporting the numbers offered by the board, the amounts are actually a half a million dollars apart (deficit of 2.2 by 2017 for Plan One, deficit of 2.7 by 2017 for Plan Three). http://dailyfreeman.com/articles/2012/01/11/news/doc4f0cf31bc2cc5395298373.txt?viewmode=default

    The third option which Superintendent McGill has stated she favors, which also happens to negatively affect the largest number of students in the district, actually is the _least_ cost efficient and in fact costs a half of a million dollars more than Plan One.

    If the Superintendent favors Plan Three because of “financial and educational benefits”…it would be helpful to have those claims explained as it is puzzling to determine how so. If it costs the district more, it is difficult to see how that could be financially beneficial.

    And most parents would argue that having their children as young as five spending over an hour and a half each day unsupervised* on a bus filled with eighteen-year-olds is not exactly the sort of education they had in mind when picking this district or this area to settle in with their families.

    * other than the driver who one would hope is actually paying attention to the road.

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