Monday, March 3, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Last Tuesday, Superintendent Lyn McKay presented her proposed budget of $116,856,988 for School Year 2014-2015, an increase over the current year’s budget of $ 2,028,900 or 1.77%. The budget shows a loss of 12.2 “full-time equivalent” teaching positions, corresponding, according to McKay, to population shifts at the three school levels. Figures for the next school year show 27 fewer elementary students, 60 fewer middle school students, but an increase of 46 students at the high school.
McKay opened by noting that in a survey the district conducted in November 2011, 95% of people “felt favorably” toward the school district, 69% of them “think taxes are too high,” and 74% “think that property values will go down if the educational quality of the schools goes down.”
“Those are three really important pieces of the survey that we keep in mind as we develop our budget,” said McKay.
• Approved 2013-2014 Budget: $114,828,088
• Proposed 2014-2015 Budget: $116,856,988
• Increase: $ 2,028,900 or 1.77%
McKay intends to add 0.5 social worker at the middle school level, rather than continue with the 0.5 social worker they now share. Advancing her interest in the “social-emotional well-being” of students, she proposes adding a “Student Life Coordinator” at the high school “to help all students, not just special education students, to make the connections they need to make in their lives outside the classroom.”
“In addition to strong academics,” McKay explained, “we want to be sure we’re looking at the whole child.”
McKay proposes designating one teacher as “Director of Literacy” for K through 12 and another to direct and coordinate technology, taking on “innovation and inquiry for [Greeley’s new] iLab” and to work with all the other schools. The two “teacher chair” positions will be filled by current staff development personnel who will receive an additional stipend for their work.
Some modified sports programs will be added to the middle schools.
The middle schools show 60 fewer students next year, with very similar enrollment numbers at both—Bell with 628 and Seven Bridges with 620. Greeley’s student population will increase by 46.
Chow showed a slide of area schools ordered by per-pupil expenditure, highest to lowest, in which—in the “projected-for-2014-15” column—Chappaqua was 13th on the list, spending $28,859 per pupil. At $49,070 per pupil, Potantico Hills is the perennial leader in the list; Scarsdale’s $30,067 puts it at seventh; and Pleasantville is 30th, at $25,907. The per-pupil cost is derived by taking the total budget and dividing it by total enrollment—projected next year to be 3952, down from the current year’s 3979.
In view of student population projections [see slide below], Board President Jeffrey Mester asked McKay and Chow to address the “Sell Bell” concept. “Every year we look at a capacity analysis,” said Chow. “If you look at the Bell numbers, they go down, then up.” He pointed out that if Conifer’s Hunts Place affordable housing and Chappaqua Crossing’s market rate plus affordable housing are developed, any students from both would increase those numbers. “And if you ‘Sell Bell,’ more students would be in those condos.”
“You can always crowd students into a school,” added McKay, “and have art-on-a-cart,” but that was not the direction she envisioned for the Chappaqua school system.
Students and parents plead to keep tech teacher and wrestling coach Mike DeBellis
On the video of the meeting, embedded below, this budget presentation lasted for about 50 minutes. The house was packed, not so much for budget reasons, but in support of Mike DeBellis, a teacher whose position is set to be cut.
Beginning at the 50-minute mark of the video—and running for the next hour—students and parents pleaded with Board of Ed members to retain Seven Bridges tech teacher and district wrestling coach Mike DeBellis in next year’s budget. DeBellis’s 0.7 teaching position is one of those eliminated, the result of the decline in the middle school student population. Two dozen students, a dozen parents—and one parent who is a teacher in Scarsdale—begged Board of Ed members to find a way to keep DeBellis, for his skill and dedication both as a tech teacher and as a coach. It was not lost on several of the speakers that two positions McKay had just proposed to add to next year’s budget—a Student Life Coordinator for “students’ social and emotional well-being” and a technology “chair”—were the very jobs at which DeBellis excels both in and out of the classroom. They begged that he be kept.
See A cautionary tale for Board of Ed members from a Scarsdale teacher, NCNOW.org, 3/3/14.
The following budget information is taken from PowerPoint slides shown at last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. To see the PowerPoint in its entirety, click HERE.
CCSD Board of Education 2/26/14 from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.
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