Sent: Friday, February 01, 2013 10:08 AM
Subject: Update on Advocacy meeting from 1/30
Sorry this so late getting out to you, the meeting wrapped up after 10p.m and I have had a busy work week. I wanted to follow up with all of you about the meeting last night with Assemblywoman Annie Rabbit and Assemblyman James Skoufis. I believe the meeting was a success, despite only a 40 person turnout. (Many thanks for the parents and teachers that came.) The meeting was more of a round table discussion and once again the dialogue was very open. The meeting began with the parents and teachers introducing themselves and describing what concerned them most about the crisis in NY state.
Many parents vocalized a need for drastic change. Some called for a revolution. It was hard to hear the Assemblyman say that within 2-3 years, up to 30 districts across the state could fail. They both praised Warwick for starting the discussions about our budget crisis early. They both talked about how important it is that we lobby for a change in the whole system, not just for a day but for the next year. They spoke to us about being organized and stressed that it will be a long road, because the wheels of the “system” simply are not working.
There were a lot of discussions about how to save the district money. One idea Dr. Bryant proposed was consolidating administrative services between Warwick Schools, Warwick Village Hall and Warwick Town Hall. This would be a tremendous savings for our schools and local government. Annie Rabbit agreed to sponsor the bill.
The discussion of consolidating schools once again came up (Chester, Florida, Greenwood Lake and Warwick). The board members requested that the Annie Rabbit and James Skoufis try and get the school officials to meet and sit down together. The Board vocalized their frustrations on the other schools outright refusal to join them in the discussion. They explained that although students would likely stay in their own schools and retain their own identities emotions get in the way. Consolidating would save money and keep programs. The Assemblywoman said that at this point districts think they can still survive. She felt that they will talk about consolidation only after they’ve lost so much and their schools were literally bare bones.
Skoufis and Rabbit were surprised to hear that it is proposed that we are only going to get around $1.1 million for next year’s budget which is woefully low. They said that if the board supplied them with more details that they would fight to get us more money.
Skoufis spoke about the tax cap sun-seting next June. This is another huge area for us to explore- we could lobby to increase the cap or add more exemptions. He also spoke of raising the sales tax so that a portion if it helped funded the schools across the state. He felt with all the tourists coming to NYC and Woodbury Common, it could help our schools rather than relying solely on property tax and further burdening home owners.
We also spoke with Annie Rabbit about gaining her support to gain revenue for our schools through advertising. The goal is to have advertising on buses, lunchroom menus, lockers and website. Annie Rabbit said she would be the sponsor in the Assembly for this bill as well.
BOE Community forum 2/4/13 at 7p.m at the High School
Joint PTA Advocacy meeting 2/5/13 at 7p.m at King’s Elementary
Thank you and see you Monday,
Parents for Change- Warwick NY
A group of Warwick parents, educators and community members are crafting a proposal for a charter school focused on sustainability and the environment.
If successful, the school would be the first rural charter school in Orange County. Applications for schools opening for the 2013-14 school year are due to the state in July.
A few proposals for Hudson Valley charter schools have emerged and fizzled before jumping the hurdles of a complicated state application. A group in Newburgh is also mounting an application this year for a charter high school to educate drop-out students.
The Warwick group is considering locations throughout southern Orange County, looking to draw some 200 students to a kindergartenthrough-sixth-grade program. The group believes it could make use of one of several empty school buildings in the region, including Pine Island Elementary School.
I asked them today if they were looking at moving the district office into all the empty space at the HS or MS they keep talking about, and the answer was no, they are not considering it. Then there was some uncomfortable response about not having the room to do that at the MS or HS. With probably a little too much sarcasm on the side, I said, “well I guess I’m confused, you have enough room for 400 additional students, but not enough room to move the district offices?” I then got a nonsensical answer about what are they supposed to do put administration desks in the classrooms, or kick teachers out of their classrooms and put them on carts.
Actually, putting the administrator desks in the back of the classrooms is not such a bad idea. Then they actually get to see the students, and they’d actually see how their ridiculous decisions impacts those students. Not a bad idea at all.
Tomorrow, there will be a budget forum from 9am to noon in Warwick. I’m guessing that the chart on school administrators posted on the district webpage ( at http://www.warwickvalleyschools.com/District/budget/1213/1213budget_q_and_a.cfm <http://www.warwickvalleyschools.com/District/budget/1213/1213budget_q_and_a.cfm> ) will be a part of the discussion or presentation at some point.
I actually laughed out loud when I clicked on it, and saw the districts they chose for comparison labeled as numbers. I don’t think they realize it’s all public information and there’s no need for secrecy. If these are all Orange County schools, then this is the breakdown:
School #1 = Valley Central
School #2 = Washingtonville
School #3 = Monroe
School #4 = Minisink
School #5 = Cornwall
They left off Middletown and Pine Bush. Why? Here’s a hint, check out Pine Bush and Middletown’s directories with the administrators listed at:
Pine Bush has about 5,850 students (about 46% more than Warwick) and yet just 11 central office administrators. Middletown also has just 11 central office administrators, scattered around on it’s page, but has about 6,731 students (about 68% more than Warwick). So, both of these districts have just one Curriculum and Instruction administrator, and one Busines/Human Resources position, while Warwick has two of each, making our central office administration group larger than both Pine Bush and Middletown. So what does Warwick do, they leave them off the chart, so you don’t get the whole picture. What’s truly concerning is that most people will look at the chart, not question it’s data, and believe that Warwick is not top heavy instead of looking at all the numbers and deciding for themselves.
Hey if they could somehow prove that having an extra Human Resources/Business position and an extra Curriculum and Instruction position is somehow benefitting students, or raising test scores then maybe they could justify it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Wouldn’t that $300,000+, being spent on two extra administrators, be better spent on student programs or teachers that have a direct impact on learning? You decide for yourself, and let the the Board know tomorrow where you want your tax dollars spent.
January 28, 2012, by Chrissy Pahucki
I spent four and a half hours last Saturday at the Warwick Valley School District
community forum, and another hour Monday night for the recap of that forum.
Saturday’s forum started with Board members Dave Eaton and Lynn Lillian both giving
introductions on what the board is working on. They then handed the presentation
over to Peter Van Buskirk, a college admission expert. Peter did an excellent job
demonstrating how colleges started recruiting more over seas students in the 1990’s
to fill a projected enrollment gap, and why that’s making it harder today for
American students to get in to top colleges.
The forum was then lead by Superintendent Bryant who discussed some of the things
the district has done and is doing to reduce the budget. There was also a
discussion of a possible need to close another Warwick school building in the coming
years. Of course Ray’s solution to is to bring in Greenwood Lake students. I can’t
help but be reminded of last year’s scare tactic of, we may have to cut Kindergarten
and music if we don’t close Pine Island. Now it’s we may have to close our middle
school if we don’t merge with Greenwood Lake.
The community was introduced to the rules of the Board Challenge by Paul Caskey who
developed this game. There were 30 spaces on the board, each representing 100
thousand dollars. Group members were supposed to slide pink slips onto the board
representing peoples jobs, or student programs to fill up the spaces. There were
also green slips we could put on the board that represented raising taxes. I get
that this activity was meant to spur discussion about the budget, but putting
peoples livelihoods on game pieces wasn’t the most tactful way they could have
opened up discussion. One teacher in our group pointed to a pink slip, and said,
that’s my job right there. Now, can you imagine yourself as that teacher watching
people play a board game with your pink slip?
The other problem I have with this challenge is that all of the pieces were
pre-printed, except one wild card piece. So, where was the opportunity for the
community to work creatively together and come up with suggestions? We were
literally treated like children at the forum and handed a game to play with, instead
of being handed the actual budget to discuss. I actually did bring a copy of the
current budget with me, and I asked how many people in our group had had a chance to
look at it, since it had only been posted three days before the forum, and nobody
had seen it yet. We were asked to act like Board members, but weren’t given the same
information that the Board has. A man in my group said the game was “insulting”,
and most of our group agreed.
I played this “game” last year, and laid out across my living room floor, budget,
enrollment, and salary data in attempt to create a fourth budget option that would
least impact students. It wasn’t fun. I was told Monday evening, by Dr. Bryant, that
I was biased, and he told the reporter I was talking to, to meet with him to get an
unbiased view. He’s right, I am biased. I’m a parent of three young children and
have been a teacher (not in Warwick) for twelve years. I highly value contact time
with students. For example, when it comes down to a Kindergarten teacher who is with
children all day long, or a central office administrator who manages data, and makes
almost twice that teacher’s salary,, I’m going to choose to keep the Kindergarten
teacher every time. Judging by the fact that every group put the administration pink
slip on their board, the community gets that too. Dr. Bryant is the school
district’s highest paid employee, and he gets lots of help from his fellow district
administrators with the next highest salaries, so, what’s his bias?
After this forum I still have lots of questions. How many central office
administrators do we still have and what are their job descriptions and salaries? Do
we still have an athletic trainer? What amount of money is in our reserves? How much
are we spending on conferences? We weren’t give the opportunity to even ask or
discuss these things.
I acknowledge that making budget decisions is difficult for our board members, but
all the more reason to educate the community on the whole picture, and ask for
suggestions. We aren’t children. We are educators, business people, artists,
musicians, parents, etc. who have a wealth of knowledge and creativity that can be
harnessed to solve this problem together. Saying that these pre-printed game pieces
are the only budget items the community is allowed to discuss, again makes it look
like we were just brought in to validate the decisions the Board has already made
We have to, as a community, get out of this mindset that our tax dollars belong to
the Warwick Valley School District and that it’s up to our well intentioned school
board to decide how it gets spent. Our tax dollars belong to us and are for our
children and it’s up to us how it get’s spent.
Members of the Parent Information Network have participated in this event before, but strongly caution parents about attending this event, now rescheduled for Jan 28, 2012. While this “looks” like the school district is trying to elicit feedback from the community about the direction to take regarding curricula, etc., the district has already made its decisions and is, essentially, going through the motions to make it look good.