Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Discussion with the Superintendent

Thanks to all who attended our meeting last night. In case you have not attended, and were wondering what the "Discussion with the Superintendent" is all about, people come to the meeting and write questions down on 3 x 5 index cards. The questions are then categorized by type, and I then read and answer all of the questions that I am given.

There were many different topics last night. Probably the most prevalent was the budget. What to cut, how to cut, how deep will cuts be, etc... Last night was a little too early to give in-depth answers, but as a starting point I mentioned that the gap we need to fill, one way or the other, is $2.5M. Cuts will start in our District Office and will end where they need to end in order to balance the budget. Any programming that will be affected will be programs that serve the fewest number of students, or are not mandated. There isn't one program or department that is "liked" over another; it is business. We will conduct our business. Variables that will impact the severity of cuts include the outcome of negotiations with various groups and the number of retirement notifications that the District receives, as well as any softening of the blow the legislators will be able to provide. Weekly updates regarding the budget will be available right here. Stay tuned.

Other topics included on-line programming, our at-risk initiative, and technology. These are all great topics because we are in the middle of growing programs in each of those categories. Each of these categories have shown immediate results in student achievement and each of these categories are helping us to achieve our goal of a 100% completion rate. January two years ago there were 9 students who were unable to graduate, this January the number is 3. Quite a jump for programs that started in November.

I was also asked if our pool was going to close because the pool at Onondaga Community College is going to close. Quite the contrary. We are estimating that we will receive more requests to use our pool which will help us to generate some additional revenue.

Other questions included service sharing, summer school, our early graduation date this year, IEP diplomas, assistive technology for students with disabilities, transportation, sports teams that practice over the breaks, residency issues, and drug and alcohol use among students at the high school. All great questions.

In a nutshell and to address the questions posed above I offer the following:
  • We currently share services with Solvay School District and the Town of Camillus. We service major issues for Solvay buses which generates transportation aid and allows us to staff a mechanic through a contract with Solvay. Solvay does not need to fund a facility and a full range of staffing. We both save. The Town of Camillus shares facilities so that residents can participate in Town run programs at school facilities at a reduced rate we our hockey team is able to use the ice at Shove Park at a reduced rate. We are looking at more ways to share.
  • Summer School is a large program that doesn't cost as much as people think. By offering Summer School students can complete their courses of study and not cost the District extra resources if they were to return behind in subjects. We will explore a BOCES partnership to possibly save money in this area.
  • The West Genesee Central School District philosophy regarding graduation is that if a child is eligible to complete their course of study by the end of June they are invited to Commencement. This being said, it doesn't matter if graduation was held on June 3,7,13,20, or 30 for that matter. The same students would be eligible to cross the stage.
    IEP Diplomas, or diplomas that are sometimes rewarded to students with disabilities may be changed to a Certificate of Completion with targeted goals listed right on the certificate. More to follow as we know more from the New York State Education Department.
  • We are bringing more and more assistive technology devices into our District. This can come in the form of hearing devices, computer systems, wheel chairs, or other equipment that helps a child with a disability to participate in a more inclusive manner. There will always be work to be done in this area.
  • Ninety-nine buses run each day to pick up students, and our buses travel approximately 1,000,000 miles each year. This being said, we continue to maximize our bus runs and may be looking at a system where buses do not stop at houses where students either receive a ride each day or drive themselves to school. We will have to work within the confines of transportation law to make this happen but difficult economic times require out of the box ideas.
  • Sports teams do practice over break and as soon as the entire Section III stops this practice we will follow suit. We are one of 32 District's that practice and play contests over breaks. I have just started as a Section III Athletics Council Member, and I will continue to bring this topic up. It has certainly factored personally into the decisions that are made regarding what sports my own children play.
  • Residency is important. People who try to send their children to our school and live outside the District are tracked by private investigators and are dealt with as soon as we are aware. If you think you have information we need to know what you think you know so we can investigate.
  • When asked if we have a "drug problem" in our high school the simple answer is that we have the same problems that every high school USA has when it comes to drug and alcohol use among students. There is more than anyone wants to admit but at the same time the use is fairly isolated to pockets of students. The job is to find those pockets, get them help, and get drugs and alcohol out of the school. Period.

Probably a longer post than normal but I wanted to summarize what was asked last night. Stay tuned for budget and other updates as we begin to navigate unchartered waters.