A voice for parents in school decisions

Photo by Andy Uzzle

Photo by Andy Uzzle

After criticism that the district left parents out of the loop on a plan to reorganize Riccardi Elementary School, the subject of Shared Decision Making is again being discussed by the School Board.

Shared Decision Making is just what it sounds like — parents meet with the educators and provide input on choices facing the district. Though it’s required of all districts, in Saugerties it’s fallen by the wayside. According to Assistant Superintendent Larry Mautone, the district’s plan has not been reviewed since 2010. It’s supposed to be reviewed every two years.

Mautone said the process fizzled in Saugerties because it was unclear what, if any, influence the committee had  in decisions, and parents did not want to take time to analyze issues and make recommendations if they had no authority.


Will such a plan prevent the kind of parental anger seen when the decision to departmentalize (organize classes by subject like the middle school rather than have one teacher teach all subjects) at Riccardi Elementary was announced in June? Maybe not.

School Board Vice President Tom Ham says in that instance, rumors of departmentalizing spread like wildfire on social media before any meetings with parents could be organized. Ham says there is no way to plan for that kind of situation, which “took a life of its own.”

Further, Mautone said, policy dictates that the superintendent has the final say in matters of staffing, so even with an updated plan in place, the final decision would still fall to him.

Superintendent Seth Turner said he doesn’t “want to look in the rearview mirror” about the way the changes at Riccardi were handled. Regarding Shared Decision Making, he said “the spirit of the law is a good thing.” He noted there is a difference, though, between a majority and a consensus, and having to get consensus on every single decision is not practical or effective.

Newly appointed Trustee Damion Ferraro asked that the board be given a presentation on the status of the plan, which is intended to outline the manner by which all invested parties – teachers, parents, administrators – can have their voices heard.

At the August board meeting, Turner echoed the significance of this plan, and said he told Larry Mautone to “get on this” plan the day after he was appointed as assistant superintendent last year. Mautone said he has already spoken with the teacher’s union, the administrators, and members of the PTA, and he hopes he will have an updated plan to share in September.