Recently, there have been a lot of rumors spreading between Highland and New Paltz that Highland schools are bankrupt and will be consolidating with New Paltz. While it is true that Highland, like most school districts in the state, is facing major fiscal challenges if it tries to meet the 2% property tax cap level, we are far from closing our doors and sending kids to other schools.
The rumors seem to be stemming from public discussions about looking at school consolidation as a means to operate most efficiently. It IS true that Highland has reached out to some neighboring school districts to see if anyone would be willing to conduct a consolidation STUDY with us. They were also asked if they would be interested in doing a shared services study. During public meetings and the budget forum, the Highland administration was asked to seek this information and is doing its due diligence by following through and examining all options for operating more efficiently. Anyone following what the Governor and the Commissioner of Education are talking about also sees these individuals are pushing for this sort of analysis to be done across the state.
What everyone needs to know is that this is only in the research stage and any possible merger, IF one is even recommended, would be a very long way off and CANNOT be done without community support in each district. The law that currently governs school consolidation requires many steps. First the boards of the school districts need to agree to do a study. New Paltz has agreed to undergo a study, but has also stated they are not interested in consolidating. They indicated that they are interested in exploring shared services. Together, the districts are seeking grant funding to offset the cost of this study and the Ulster BOCES grant coordinator is assisting in this process. They are also examining if Ulster BOCES can conduct the necessary study. If the study results indicate that a merger would be beneficial to BOTH districts, BOTH communities would have to vote to approve the consolidation and it would also require the approval of the powers that be in Albany.
It is important for everyone to have factual information available and to realize how damaging these rumors can be to our communities. Some children have been hearing these rumors and are getting very upset. It is also very important for the community to feel empowered to make a difference in their local education by participating in the process. If people think that has already happened, they may disengage. It is not in anyone’s best interest for either of these things to happen. Please help us put these rumors to rest and help spread the correct information. We would also encourage everyone to either come to our school board meetings, watch them live streamed or view the recorded meetings on our website to keep informed about the budget, these studies and other important school district information.
Deborah A. Haab, Superintendent
Highland Central School District