Monday, August 22, 2011

Lots to Share!

I hope that all of you will help me in welcoming Vladimiro Hart-Zavoli to our Board of Education. Vladimiro was appointed on August 17 and will fill the remainder of a term that will expire at the end of this school year. Vlad has children in the District, is enthusiastic about his new role as a Board of Education member, and is ready to help us to move forward in challenging financial times. We will be assembling a press release shortly that will expand about what Mr. Hart-Zavoli brings to the table. Welcome aboard!

At our Board meeting on August 17 I outlined several goals for the school year that fall outside of the normal operation of our building and the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan.

Upcoming Contract Negotiations - For starters, we will be working with our staff to negotiate new contracts for the 2012-2013 school year and beyond. I am sure that you remember the wage freeze that everyone agreed to take for the upcoming school year in an effort to save jobs and opportunities for children, and it is now time to do some long-range planning to make sure that there is a balance between our financial needs and making sure that our quality staff is compensated appropriately. We will be working with 13 different labor organizations to help achieve these goals.

Sale of Property - We are also going to sell a piece of property that we own on West Genesee Street in an effort to help close the 2012-2013 budget gap that we project to be around $1.2M when factoring in the new tax cap that the Governor has passed for schools and municipalities. This piece of property is a wooded lot that separates the Sports PT building and “Cheeburger, Cheeburger”. In the upcoming weeks I will outline how this sale will take place and we hope to have a successful sale in place by the end of the school year.

Onondaga Road Elementary School Future - I am sure that many of you are wondering what I am going to write with regard to Onondaga Road Elementary School. At the beginning of last year I was very close to asking the Board of Education to consider closing the building because of low enrollment (currently at 296 for grades K-5) because I had several tenants lined up to lease the building and therefore keep it occupied, maintained, and also generate some revenue.

With the significant decline in the economy, those tenants are no longer interested in a whole building and I am reluctant as a superintendent and community member to suggest closing a building that would most likely sit and quickly fall into disrepair. To put it in plain words, WE WILL NOT BE CLOSING ONONDAGA ROAD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Study on Redistricting - We WILL be studying a complete redistricting of our elementary and middle schools, however, in order to balance out enrollment. For example, East Hill School (which is a sister to Onondaga Road Elementary) has over 400 students while Onondaga Road has 296. This needs to be balanced. West Genesee Middle School has nearly 150 more students than Camillus Middle School yet it is physically smaller. This needs to be changed.

I will be reaching out to a few consultants to assist in this study (and take the emotion out of the study-remember folks, I grew up in this area as well) and as always I will keep you posted along the way. We want to maximize space in buildings, staffing, transportation, and other efficiencies to make sure that we are poised for what is to come. Much more on this as we move forward. I do not have a timetable for transition if there are to be any because I simply do not know what the study will yield and how quickly things will come together as of yet.

Drivers Education - West Genesee Adult Education is now making available the New York State Education Department approved Driver Education Program for our students. Successful completion will earn the student a MV 285 (formally known as a blue card) and an insurance reduction certificate. The course will be offered four times a year beginning in September, January, March, and July. Registration information for the September session can be found on the District web site:, under the Adult Education tab or students may also pick up registration information and forms in the high school guidance office. Please call the Adult Education office at 315-487-2279 or e-mail with any questions.

Race for Respect/Culture Fair - Lastly, I wanted to mention a few things about the Race for Respect and the Culture Fair that we have been fortunate to run each year. We will need to alter how these events are going to run simply because of the economy. Some of our larger donors to both causes are cutting back on community relief and assistance efforts and this will cause us to have to make adjustments.

The first question you might ask is if these donors spent all of their donation money on modified sports or marching band uniforms or other efforts that have made headlines as of late. They have not, and cannot, and I completely understand and am very appreciative of all of the assistance that these groups have given us throughout the years. We will make some changes and move forward as we always do.

Closing in on two weeks before our staff report and I am getting more excited each day! Enjoy the week ahead and see you soon