Summary of the school board meeting provided by Batavia City School District:
Highlights from the BCSD Board of Education meeting on March 12, 2012:
Parent Shares Concern Regarding Consolidation
A parent addressed the Board of Education, voicing concerns regarding the proposals for consolidation and cutting programs. In regard to consolidation, her concerns were about people losing their jobs and about test scores decreasing as class sizes increased. In addition, claiming that Batavia is growing, she felt the District will need to reverse the decision soon in order to accommodate an increase in students. In regard to cutting programs, she also cited concern for people losing jobs, keeping students involved in productive activities, and providing students withoutlets for accomplishments that enhance their college applications. Her recommendation was to avoid consolidation and cuts to programs, move administration functions to the Middle School (rather than fifth graders), have a voluntary pay freeze, and have staff increase their portion of paying for benefits to 20%.
Students Voice Support for Music Department
Five students addressed the Board to show support for the Music Department. In addition to mentioning the fun and enrichment of participating in musical productions and performances, several emphasized that the District’s music program had helped them identify what they wanted to pursue as a career and had offered opportunities for achievements and recognition that helped them stand out on college applications. Two are pursuing careers in music, with one majoring in Music Education and Performance at Ithaca College, and the other majoring in Fine and Performing Arts at Genesee Community College. Noting that cuts were made to the music department during the past two years, several mentioned that, although they were graduating, they would like underclassmen to have the same opportunities to grow in skill and confidence that they were given. All were particularly grateful and complimentary to music teacher Daniel Grillo, who they said has been an inspiration and mentor as well as a skillful teacher of music.
Update on 2012-2013 Budget Preparation
Business Administrator Scott Rozanski provided an update on the District's preliminary spending plan for the 2012-2013 school year, presenting a “roll-over” budget, or one in which minimal adjustments to the services provided in 2011-2012 (current)school year were made. This roll-over budget amounts to $40,622,313.
As noted previously, one significant change in expenses is an accounting change which affects the budget total but not the tax levy: in the past, instead of budgeting for such expenses as post-retirement and unemployment, those items were charged directly to the reserve funds - regarded somewhat as a sidebar to the budget. Now both are added into the budget figures as both an expense and a revenue, creating a larger number in both columns but no impact on the tax levy. Partly as a result of the accounting change, the budget shows an increase in expenses of $1.256 million or 3.19% over the current 2011-2012 school year. When the accounting change (which represented about two-thirds or $850,000 of the increase), is factored in, the real increase is about $403,000 or 1%.
The consequent tax levy needed to close the gap between roll-over expenditures and lessening revenue from such sources as State Aid, shows an increase of$980,957, or 5.515%. This amount is well over the District’s tax cap limit or threshold of 2.59%.
As mentioned in previous reports and news articles, the Tax Cap legislation is referred to as a 2% Tax Cap, when in reality, the “2%” figure is only one of the factors used in an eig determine each school district's and municipality's allowable tax levy increase that requires simple majority approval. Anything over that allowable limit or threshold requires a supermajority (60%) voter approval to pass. The School District’s Tax Cap Threshold is 2.59%; any higher increase requires a super majority of voter approval.
In order to bring the budget down to within range of a 2% to 2.59% tax levy increase, between $520,074 (for the 2.59% threshold) and $625,241 (for a 2% limit) would need to be cut from expenditures.
In providing direction to Mr. Rozanski on how to proceed with the budget, Board members agreed that preserving programs to whatever extent possible was a high priority. With that in mind, they opted to support a budget that does not exceed the allowable threshold increase of approximately 2.59%. This, they noted, will still require cuts totaling slightly more than a half-million dollars.
Board of Education Legislative Committee Chairperson Patrick Burk indicated that members of the NYS Assembly are working to restore approximately $178 million in aid through a more equitable basic Foundation Aid formula, while members ofthe NYS Senate or working to earmark $200 million in Gap Elimination Adjustment aid. Whether either of those efforts will succeed is unknown, and our budget preparation uses the projected figures released by the governor’s office.
School Consolidation Update
Superintendent of Schools Margaret Puzio requested that the Board provide direction on the much-discussed consolidation of schools. Weighing the difficulties and reluctance expressed by some families affected by the change against the educational efficiency and benefits of having grade levels in the same building and the financial benefits of being able to preserve more programs for students, the Board adopted the following resolution:
WHEREAS, the Batavia City School District has invested heavily in its facilities as an important vehicle through which it delivers its quality educational program; and
WHEREAS, Board of Education is charged with ensuring that District buildings are being deployed in the most efficient manner in order to provide the best possible educational opportunities for students at the lowest possible cost; and
WHEREAS, the Batavia City School District Board of Education has officially established the Buildings and Grounds Committee as a sub-committee of the Board to make recommendations regarding the condition and use of District facilities; and
WHEREAS, the Buildings and Grounds Committee is composed of a number of individuals including Board of Education members, District administrators, and a certified architect; and
WHEREAS the Batavia City School District Board of Education referred to the Buildings and Grounds Committee (June 7, 2011) the review of a possible building consolidation process that included the possible closing and reorganization of specific buildings for the purpose of increasing efficiency and reducing operational costs; and
WHEREAS, at various times public forums were held to obtain community input related to multiple options for building consolidation; and
WHEREAS, a final report was presented by the Buildings and Grounds Committee to the Board at the February 6, 2012 meeting, recommending the clustering of elementary grades Pre-K through 4 in two elementary buildings and 5th grade at the Batavia Middle School; and WHEREAS, the Board of Education has determined that it is in the best interest of the community to adopt the recommendations contained in the Batavia City School District Consolidation Feasibility Study.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS - the Robert Morris Elementary School shall close effective June 30, 2012, and Jackson Elementary will be converted to a facility housing primary students in grades Pre-K through 1, and John Kennedy Elementary will be converted to an elementary facility housing students in grades 2through 4, and 5th grade students will be educated at the Batavia Middle School. District administrators and necessary to effectuate the assignment of affected students who previously attended each school to another school building. While details of the plan have yet to be worked out, parents who are registering their child(ren) for kindergarten are still asked to so at their neighborhood elementary school.
Superintendent’s Report Superintendent of Schools Margaret Puzio reported briefly on several other items:
* Petitions for election to one of the seats on the Board of Education are now available and can be picked up in the Administration Building’s Business Office. * Student Artwork is on display in Richmond Library, with a celebration of the artists scheduled for this Friday at 6:50 p.m. * The Administration Building, currently up for sale, has had many showings, much interest, but no offers to date. * There have been inquiries about utilizing one of our school buildings if consolidation was to take place; now those inquiries can be pursued. * Friday, March 16, will be a full day of staff development, with the focus being on implementing the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) adopted by NYS. The Staff Development focus will be on Common Core Literacy, with specific attention on “Deconstruction of Common Core Standard” for identifying learning targets, cognitive load, learning progression, and daily objectives; “Close Reading” for making sense of complex text; “Building Academic Vocabulary” for acquiring and comprehending more sophisticated vocabulary; and “Writing to Respond to a Text-Dependent Prompt” for attending to persuasive and explanatory writing that utilize reasoning and evidence, organized in logical ways. (The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and other experts, to provide a common understanding of what students are expected to learn, and a clear and consistent framework to help all children become well-prepared for college and the workforce through rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills.)
Administrator of Student Assessment/Data Analysis Pam Buresch presented a summary of the District’s Post-graduation Report, obtained through working with the National Students Clearinghouse (NSC), a not-for-profit organization that tracks student enrollment in colleges. Ms. Buresch noted that tracking this information helps the District evaluate our academic programs and curriculum to assess their value in helping District students to be college andcareer ready, to align coursework with college and work expectations, and toensure a rigorous curriculum where students are prepared to succeed in a global economy and society. NSC tracks such things as the percentages of college enrollment; the timetable for enrollment (immediately after graduation orlater); the types of institutions attended - public or private, two-year or four-year; whether the institutions are in-state or out-of-state; the rate of freshman to sophomore year “persistence” (whether students return after freshman year); degree completion rates and timetables; and the most common institutions for enrollment.
Some ofthe findings indicate that college enrollment is typically in the mid-70% range, that our students are more likely to enroll in public institutions, aremore likely to enroll in-state, that enrollment has been higher for four-year institutions than two-year, and overall persistence rate is about 85%.
For more details, the full National Student Clearinghouse report is available on theBatavia City School District web page: http://www.bataviacsd.org/documents.cfmby clicking on the file folder labeled “District Forms and Publications,” then on the file folder labeled “District Information,” then on the document labeled “National Student Clearinghouse Graduation Report.”
District Calendar for 2012-2013
Deputy Superintendent Christopher Dailey announced that the calendar committee finalized the District Calendar for 2012-2013. It is available on the District’s website.
News from Batavia High
Student Ex-Officio Board Member Taylor Harkness reported to the Board that auditions for the High School play are scheduled, and that spring sports are starting. She also passed on a request that the Board look into inequity of improvements that have been made to the VanDetta Stadium site, noting that the boys’ locker room has received some updates and cosmetic improvements while the girls ’locker room has not, and still has, for example, only one bathroom stall. The matter was referred to the Buildings and Grounds Committee which will meet next week.