Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
I can understand their pain a bit, having been there. Back pre-Archambault, Paul and I preferred one candidate by far in a superintendent search, and the board accepted none of the candidates and reopened the search. Then back pre-Crawford, Paul picked the new superintendent dead last out of three, going so far as to say to himself "over my dead body." Paul continues to say "I told you so" about that one.
There was some talk tonight about combining all the vetting committees into one giant committee. I can tell you from experience that teachers who might be as vocal as can be with parents won't open up in front of administrators. I have no idea why parents and teachers were on the same committee this time; it seems like a recipe for disaster. A safe prediction might be that it would lead to Us v. Those Damned Administrators, and so it did. My only consolation is that I'm not on the BoE, and Paul, sleeping soundly, doesn't know what he's walking into. He'll have to pick up a copy of the Cortland Standard tomorrow afternoon, since nobody else bothers to cover Dryden meetings anymore. I give Chris Gibbons kudos for a reasoned and earnest response to some very angry remarks. Yeesh.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
The New York State School Board Association is all irked because there are no school board members on the commission, but to be perfectly honest, school board members don't know anything more about education than bank board presidents do. Instead, the governor has larded his commission with the sort of people who become quickly bored with school life, get out, and establish a nonprofit so that they can talk pie-in-the-sky till the cows come home about how much better schools could be.
What's really needed are principals, who can talk about how the state's current reporting requirements force them to spend days out of each month juggling data instead of observing teachers or dealing with student problems. Maybe a superintendent or two to explain once and for all why the legislature's Good Ideas translate into lost dollars and diminished programs, and how spending 1/10 of the school year testing or grading limits student-teacher interaction and the possibility of learning.
I might include somebody from upstate to speak to the idea that establishing charter schools in small communities merely siphons needed dollars from struggling public schools, and to tell why consolidation is such anathema to people whose identities are tied to a school, a post office, and sometimes a tiny library.
But I don't think this is a real commission. I think it is sleight of hand—look over here at this cool bunch of people while back here I do what I want.
There are people on this commission whom I truly admire: Geoffrey Canada! Michael Rebell! But I think they were chosen not to act, but to talk, and I think the time for talking is probably over.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
On the good side, it looks as though Paul will finally get seated in Dryden.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
PAUL: How’s it going in Ithaca?
ITHACA SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: Fine! We just got another $150K from Lifton. Didn’t ask for it, don’t need it, but hey! We’ll find a way to spend it.
PAUL: Really? When my wife asked for $30K for Dryden Pre-K a while ago, she was told there were no earmarks available. She had to go begging Seward, who finally came through with the money.
ISBM: What can I tell you? We didn’t even have to ask. $150K! I guess for you guys in Newfield, that would be—three teaching positions! (Laughs.)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
There are 37 BOCES in New York State. All but 9 of the state's 721 districts belong to one. Our little TST-BOCES is among the smallest, serving 9 districts in all—Candor, Dryden, George Junior Republic, Groton, Ithaca, Lansing, Newfield, South Seneca,and Trumansburg. Most of those districts cross-contract services with OCM BOCES or GST BOCES, because those larger BOCES provide services that TST cannot, much as a larger school district provides courses and opportunities that a small district cannot.
TST serves over 900 students and 500 adult students and employs around 400 staff. It has been around since 1949, when its services comprised a shared dental hygienist and a teacher of driver's ed. It would certainly be a hardship if the Smith School (exceptional ed) or Career & Tech were to close, but any merger would be likely to maintain the Ithaca campus, because sending students to a different BOCES would mean bus rides of an hour or more. GST, which serves 21 school districts, has campuses in Painted Post and Elmira. OCM has satellites in Cortland and Liverpool in addition to the main campus in Syracuse.
There have been mergers of BOCES in the past (Onondaga + Cortland-Madison = OCM, serving 24 districts; Saratoga-Warren + Washington-Warren-Hamilton-Essex = WSWHE, serving 31 districts), but as far as I can tell, no more than four in the last 20 years, with GST being the most recent. The process seems to be that the state asks the local superintendents how they feel about a merger. I don't think anyone came to the districts from Albany to check things out. Nobody contacted the board (although I think they would have received a fairly unanimous "don't close us" response). In fact, State Ed has been so decimated in past years that I doubt there was anyone available to do a serious study.
Whatever the process turned out to be, and it is a mystery, the word came down this week: TST is to remain intact. That means that the search for a new District Superintendent can go forward—in itself a challenge, since the state's salary cap on DSs places them at lower salaries than many school superintendents who might apply. Plus OCM is looking for a DS at the same time. More to come, I'm sure....
Monday, April 2, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Q: Q: Does the tax cap mean my annual property tax can’t increase more than 2 percent?
A: Not necessarily. New York’s property tax cap law establishes a tax levy limit for each school district. The tax levy limit allows school districts to increase their property tax levy from one year to the next by 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, based on a multi-step formula. School districts are then allowed to take certain exemptions that may boost their tax levy limits to more than 2 percent or the inflation rate. If a school district’s proposed tax levy increase is within its limit, a simple majority of voters is needed for budget approval. If a school district’s proposed tax levy increase exceeds the tax levy limit, a supermajority of voters – 60 percent or more – would be required for budget passage.
Q: What may school districts exempt from their tax levy limit?
A: There are a limited number of specific exemptions to the tax cap that school districts may take. They include growth in “brick and mortar” development that increases the value of a school district’s full taxable property, contributions toward employee pensions above a certain amount, expenditures for some court orders, and the local portion of capital expenditures.
Q: Does the tax levy indicate how much my taxes will rise?
A: No. The tax levy is the amount of money the school district can raise through property taxes. The amount an individual will pay to contribute to the levied amount is the tax rate. Tax rates paid by individual taxpayers may differ greatly from one household to another, based on such things as equalization rates and assessed property values, and may exceed 2 percent.
Q: What if voters reject the proposed tax levy?
A: If voters in the district reject the proposed budget, the school board may put up the same or a revised budget for a second vote, or adopt a contingency budget with a tax levy no greater than what was levied the previous year. If voters reject the spending plan twice, schools must adopt a budget with the same tax levy as the prior year – essentially a zero percent cap.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
In related news, the dollar amount of lobbying continues to rise in NYS. A lot of the changes above required some skillful negotiations behind the scenes plus a concerted petition and letter-writing drive. But the result seems good. More to follow as we learn more.
*LATER: And something most states have been doing for years. As usual, NYS is late to the party.
They are running against Tom Reed, who, it's worth remembering, ran on a platform of rescinding Obamacare back in 2010. In 2011–2012 he sponsored 22 bills, including one to name "Taps" the National Song of Remembrance, one to put a "real time display" of the national debt in the House Chamber, and two "relating to the disapproval of the President's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit." Although I think a well-intentioned turnip could be a better representative of the district, he may yet be hard to beat. The bar is pretty darn low.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
I can't think that Tom Reed is delighted to pick up Ithaca on his way toward a district that will extend from our border in Dryden all the way to Jamestown and the Pennsylvania border. It's a horrible district, one that candidates Leslie Danks Burke and Nathan Shinagawa will be hard pressed to cover in their foreshortened campaigns. Meanwhile, Hanna now resides in District 22, a slab that extends from Broome County up through Utica. Dan Lamb will face him there.
The real, true, finished maps are due next Tuesday. For now, here's what things look like, more or less.