Jan 12, 2011 Dr. Jerome Melvin Uncategorized
This new year brings with it a multitude of challenges and complex problems for our school district.
The major issue is financial. Governor Cuomo’s recommendation to impose a two percent tax levy cap would require the school district to reduce its 2011-2012 budget by approximately $8.5 million. The seriousness of the matter is best illustrated by this year when the school district lost $8 million in state aid and was forced to eliminate 102 positions at all levels. In addition, as Governor Cuomo has stated, New York State has a projected $10 billion shortfall for the fiscal year which begins April 1. It’s not a question of whether or not state aid will be reduced; it’s only a matter of how much aid local school districts will lose when the Governor releases his budget on February 1. A cut comparable to last year’s $8 million, on top of a tax cap, would have a devastating impact on the school district.
The second most challenging issue involves the new teacher and principal appraisal law which goes into effect for some districts next July. Since the current NSEA and principal contracts do not expire until June 30, 2012, North Syracuse will not have to comply with the new requirements until then. Due to the NSEA and administrator leadership through their support of NYSUT’s PARPlus project, I believe we will be better prepared than most school districts to deal with the new assessment procedures. As time goes on, more teachers and administrators are playing an active role, along with their counterparts across New York State in PARPlus. This can only help all of us in the long run. The PARPlus project focuses on teaching standards, teacher evaluation, and peer assistance review.
Although somewhat overshadowed by the financial issues and the appraisal changes was the Regents’ Learning Standards adoption in July of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, and Common Core Standards in Mathematics. Practitioner work groups then made recommendations for adding a small number of student achievement expectations unique to New York State. At the present time, the Regents are scheduled to review the recommended additions in January.
Closely connected to the quest for new teacher and administrator assessments is the federal government’s Race to the Top Program. Although North Syracuse will only receive $323,501 over a four-year period, we will use those funds in the most efficient way possible to ensure that the changes described above relative to teacher and principal evaluation, teaching standards, and a peer assistance review program, are carried out. Also, the School District’s renewed commitment to curriculum mapping, which has as its goal completed maps in English Language Arts and math by this July, is all part of the reform movement and improved student performance.
Facing our financial challenges, we are looking at different ways to reduce costs without hurting the operation of the school district. Indicative of this initiative is the work of a transportation committee which is evaluating the present transportation operation to reduce expenses. At the same time, in cooperation with the different bargaining groups, we are encouraging greater use of generic drugs where applicable, and increased prescription mail order usage.
The cooperation of all our stakeholders – parents, community, and staff alike – is critical if our children’s needs are to be met.