Monday, March 31, 2014

Drumroll Please…..

State Budget Detail: We have received the state aid figures for West Genesee and as we had hoped, we will be receiving enough state aid to balance our budget without having to make any personnel reductions related to the budget. Unfortunately, there was not enough money made available to add anything back into the budget, but I am pleased that our five-year financial plan is still on target. We do have some enrollment based decisions to make, but we have those decisions every year. Now it is time to finish our budget preparation and get things ready for budget vote day on May 20.

Part of the budget that has not been detailed but will be interesting to see unfold, is a tax credit to homeowners where their local governments tax below the tax cap (our tax levy is projected to be below the tax cap for West Genesee). Another piece has to do with having to show additional savings over the next few years through sharing, consolidation, merging, or elimination of services. Right now we are sharing road salt and the ice rink at Shove Park with the Town of Camillus, and we are repairing school buses for the Solvay Central School District; these would be considered a consolidation of services. We will have to continue to find ways to consolidate, share, merge, or eliminate services in the future. You will be kept posted as we begin to think of other ideas that may have more of an impact on "the way we have always done things".

There is also some language included, but not detailed, about the impact of Common Core aligned state testing for students. The tests will not be given in grades K-2 (they never were so this is not as big a deal as it will be touted to be), and grades 3-8 tests cannot be used to determine placement for the next school year. Any organization that would EVER rely on one state test to make a decision about a student in ANY way is out of touch and off base in my view. Our children (mine included) are evaluated in multiple ways before making any determination about their progress. That will continue.

State Assessments this Week: This week begins the English Language Arts (ELA) state testing window (Tuesday through Thursday) for grades 3-8. Because the state has screwed up the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards this past year, people are as opinionated as last year about the relevance, fairness, and necessity of state testing. I was given about a nine page memo from the Commissioner about how I was supposed to "prepare" you for the testing window.

I will save you the nine pages and tell you that the New York State assessments are one measure, and barely that, of a child's understanding of the new standards. I do think that our children are more prepared to take these assessments than they were last year. I also believe that students shouldn't try any harder or differently than they would on a normal school day. Each testing day is a regular student attendance day, and the tests last about 90 minutes a day for the three days. The math assessments are given in May.

It is my recommendation that students take the assessments as they will be taking some type of test throughout their school career and into college or the workforce. Getting them used to a testing environment has value, and the results of these tests really have no impact on their placement or program.

Recognition of Music Program: This is the ninth time West Genesee has  received the Best Communities for Music Education Award from the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, and the sixth consecutive year. This is a celebration of sustained success in our Fine Arts program. I would like to thank our teachers, parents, and of course our performers for continuing to keep the bar high and not settle for anything but the best!

Honoring our Students: I would also like to congratulate the 146 students who were inducted into the National Honor Society last week. That is quite a number and represents well rounded students. Congratulations to their parents as well!

Looking into the Non-Traditional: I have more to write concerning investigating our high school structure and finding ways to include non-traditional means to graduate, as well as the outcome of some meetings that I had with a couple of community organizations. However, I will save those topics for another blog this week when I can also share the exact fiscal summary of the New York State budget for West Genesee.

If you had water in your basement over the weekend you are not alone. There was about three inches in ours, enough to ruin carpets, some toys, and some other furniture. By way of comparison, we had six and a half feet in the basement of our first house years ago. The cleanup was about the same.

Have a great week.