The restructuring of our public schools appears inevitable. It’s happening in front of our eyes. The 2% tax cap is squeezing the amount of money available for conducting public education on the one hand and the still standing unfunded mandates on the other are causing districts to take drastic actions. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Team is due to make its recommendations at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, but still in place are requirements for school districts and local governments to provide items like Professional Development Plan Reports, Public School Performance Report, Comprehensive District Education Plans, Academic Intervention Services Procedures, School District Property Tax Report Cards…all logical extensions, we’re sure, of keeping the trains running on time, all expensive, time consuming items that can divert from more immediate goals. There are also illogical ones, like requiring retrofitting of all doors to lock from the inside, and no funding for defibrillator training. Less funding for transportation from the state hampers districts with large territories, like Onteora.
But they still stand, even as the coffers are drained.
That’s why it is of particular importance to local residents to pay attention to the current reconfiguration discussions in both the Kingston and Onteora districts. The Kingston district, meeting on Wednesday, January 4, after we go to press, may have its sights set on Zena Elementary School, after deciding to close Meagher Elementary. Departing superintendent Gerard Gretzinger wants the district to keep Zena open at least another year.
And, as we’ve documented many times, and as the letters to the editor in this issue explain, Onteora is faced with the possibility once again of closing a school, Phoenicia elementary, less than a decade after shuttering West Hurley.
We’re not prepared yet to make a choice among the three scenarios set out by the district, and apparently, the board is not quite ready to make that same choice. The first letter to your right, from Onteora superintendent Phyllis Spiegel-McGill, concisely outlines the different plans, so we won’t do it again here.
Suffice to say that it’s time to pay close attention for all residents of both districts. Fully 60% of your tax bill is to pay for the schools. You owe it to yourself to understand the issues involved.
The Onteora School Board next meets 6 p.m. Tuesday, January 10 at Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville.
We welcome Woodstock’s new town board members and are relieved to hear that they are all hoping to work harmoniously together. Among diverse goals (and that is a good thing, as there are many issues that need attention) all appear to agree that the renovation of Town Hall is high on the list. That would be a fitting accomplishment for the next term. ++