Monday, December 13, 2010

Odds and Ends

Greetings from the frozen tundra of Syracuse, New York. We are going to try our best to get through this week with as few interruptions as possible, and as I write this message East Hill is beginning their great holiday concert that I had a chance to see this morning (pictures available on It will be very important for you to check or our Facebook fan page (which you can access from the home page of the web site by clicking on the Facebook icon in the upper right corner) if you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews involved in athletic or fine arts programs to make sure that events are being held as scheduled.

You might have seen some information about a Special Education services audit that was completed by the New York State Comptrollers Office. While the audit summarized that the District did nothing wrong, they did criticize the District for not seeking the lowest per hour price for the people who work with our Students with Disabilities (low bidding is not required for confidential services such as services for children with disabilities). The decision was made to not take the lowest bidder for Special Education services (we pay about $5 more per hour than the lowest priced provider) because we feel that our children, and especially those with disabilities, need consistent services provided by adults that we have individually interviewed to provide the best fit for each individual student with a disability. We would not be able to do this for our students if we just went with the lowest bidder for the services.  If we need to take the hit for that, then so be it. A copy of our audit will be made available on our web site, and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Speaking of audits and budgets, the governor-elect announced today that he is going to be pushing for a tax cap of 2% or the cost of inflation whichever is less (right now inflation is about .9%). He also intends to make the biggest reductions to health care and education. As it stands right now voters (with a 60% majority) will be able to vote to go above the cap.  For West Genesee, the tax cap will cause us to have a gap of about $5M to close. The first thing you might think of is a pay freeze, which I know my staff and I would consider, but the total amount saved from a pay freeze is about $730,000, quite a distance away from the $5M gap that we might need to close. Our principals, directors, and I are prioritizing athletic, fine arts, and academic programs that we may have to do without to close this gap, and I have been working with neighboring districts to discuss consolidation and sharing of service opportunities. We should have some better information right after the holidays, and I appreciate your support through what will be the most challenging times for the New York State public education system.

Our anti-bullying climate survey is also going well. We have administered the survey to approximately 3,000 students so far and hope to have it completed by the beginning of next week. I will post the overall results once we have them, and our team will meet right after the holidays to take our next steps.

Stay warm these next few days. I am hoping that my snow blower will be repaired in time to clean up the snow that is coming this week!

Take care-