When the score was announced, there was an obligatory round of applause from the majority of the fans in the Carrier Dome that weekend in October. Only the group that won was really cheering. But when the outcome has been the same for so many years, it could surprise few: West Genesee High School won the New York State Field Band Championships again this year.
The Wildcats have dominated the area's marching band competition for years. At the same time, its lacrosse team is a perennial state power. But the school district also excels academically. Officials say that average SAT scores have steadily increased. And West Genesee has a 99 percent pass average for the last school year, according to the New York State Report Card. Its graduation rate is high at 90 percent -- strong, but still not the best in Onondaga County.
All this has occurred while school officials have kept the tax burden on school district residents low compared to other area school districts. West Genesee schools tax residents at one of the lowest rates in Onondaga County.
That worries some who fear that the school district is cutting back too much.
"It's a double-edged sword," said Michael Cost, head of the teachers union. "Costs are low, but it's the students that will ultimately pay."
riculum for the Regents tests Cost said, leaving out more specialized courses. He added that this could make the education of the students too narrow. Student-teacher ratios have risen to almost 30 to 1 in the high school. The amount spent on special education is lower than other school districts and the teachers do not get as many benefits, he said.
"Teachers here rarely leave right after school is over," Cost said.
But lower costs limit the tools teachers have. New computers and software are hard to come by, he said. However, Cost still believes that a supportive community and student body combine to make West Genesee "not a bad place to work." He only hopes that the low costs do not come back to haunt the district in the next few years.