To the editor:
How many graduates of the Cazenovia School District contribute to the economic, social and political engines of this town today? Former students are local business and non-profit organization leaders, philanthropists, farmers, engineers, teachers, officials, religious leaders, mechanics, builders, healthcare providers and volunteers for the fire department and countless community initiatives. The school’s financial resources of yesterday certainly helped shape our current population.
Likewise, Cazenovia’s future citizens are affected by the 2017-18 budget and your tax contributions to cover 63 percent of that budget (about $18 million out of a total budget of $28.4 million). So, it was a surprise to me to walk into a near-empty auditorium on May 9, where Superintendent Reilly and Assistant Superintendent Finnerty, accompanied by the Board of Education, shared budget detail and other items on the ballot for public vote on Tuesday, May 16. You would have heard a thoughtful and organized presentation and had a chance to ask questions about partial replacement plans for seven faculty retirements, about the addition of resources for extracurricular programming at the middle school, and about the rationale for a higher 4.8 percent levy based on a local tax base growth factor.
I raised concern about how this budget would address the “no lunch” problem for so many students in grades 8 to 12 and a universal lunch period proposal drafted last autumn, which would create a 20-minute lunch break for all students. Over 250 students (40 percent of the high school population) do not have a lunch break since some classes are scheduled during lunch, forcing students to cram food in during class or in the hall between classes. I made the case, presented by many families previously, that this is not a healthy way to help students grow. I asked for budget transparency on shared resources (including teachers and building space) between the middle and high schools that may be creating roadblocks to solving the “no-lunch” issue.
Our brains consume 20 percent of daily calorie intake, but represent only 2 percent of body weight; missing or delaying 400 to 500 calories in a 2000-calorie diet, especially considering 12-hour days for athletes, is not healthy. In addition, if students on the free or reduced lunch program are prevented from taking advanced or elective courses because it means losing access to cafeteria meals, this is not a fair or acceptable consequence. We can and should find a creative way to afford our students a chance to eat a healthy mid-day meal and be high-achievers.
I thank this school leadership for their willingness to listen and take action toward solving this issue. As someone who has recently returned to live here, I find the board members, administrators and teachers open and available for debate and dialogue. Although it is now too late for voters to weigh in on this or other budgetary matters, we can and should take the opportunity earlier during the next budget cycle to engage them in the interest of our future citizens.
Piper Lounsbury Stover
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.