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December 23, 2016 - 5:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Batavia City School District’s Jackson Primary School teacher, Melissa Mattice, was presented with an Outstanding Employee Award by Board of Education President Patrick Burk at the Dec. 20 Board meeting.

She was nominated by Jackson Principal Diane Bonarigo, who wrote, “Mrs. Mattice is a kindergarten teacher at Jackson School. She is a teacher leader and serves Jackson Primary School in many different ways year after year. She has volunteered her time on the School Improvement Team, PARP (Parents as Reading Partners) Committee, Parent Home School events and works closely with administration and staff to promote a positive and collaborative culture in the building as well as on the APPR District committee.

"Mrs. Mattice sets high academic standards and builds strong relationships with her students. She has earned a great deal of respect in the community as evidenced by the number of parent requests we receive each year, asking for Mrs. Mattice to be their child’s teacher.”

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Batavia City School District’s Jackson Primary School teacher, Marie Bigsby, was presented with an Outstanding Employee Award by Board of Education President Patrick Burk at the Dec. 20 Board meeting.

She was nominated by Jackson Principal Diane Bonarigo, who wrote, “Mrs. Bigsby continues to serve the students and families of Jackson Primary with great enthusiasm and dedication. Mrs. Bigsby is a standing volunteer member on many Jackson committees. Over the past several years, however, she has also dedicated a great deal of her time as a Jackson Teacher Representative and meets monthly with our parent group volunteers and the Parent Co-Presidents to support the school with evening and weekend events.

"You can always find Mrs. Bigsby volunteering to get the school ready for Fall Carnival, Breakfast with Santa, and Family Learning Nights. She works closely with staff to create a strong partnership with our families and is able to initiate great school support throughout the year. We appreciate her hard work and am thankful for her continued contribution to Jackson School.”

Photos and info submitted by Kathy Scott, Batavia City Schools.

December 9, 2016 - 9:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

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At Tuesday's meeting, the City Schools Board of Trustees, represented its president Patrick Burk, presented a series of awards.

Above, the girls swim team is recognized for the kindness they showed to a competing team near the end of the season. 

From the presentation:

A cancelled Senior Night Meet at Wilson Magnet was made up at our home pool recently. Our girls, in an act of generosity, included their four seniors from Wilson Magnet within OUR senior night ceremony with gifts of flowers, candy, individualized recognition and a custom towel.  The honor was unexpected by their families, but greatly appreciated.

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The football team, which won a third-straight Section V title, was also honored.

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Jessica Franks and Christopher Bateman – Outstanding Staff awards.

Recently, Jessica and Christopher both stepped up to help a group of students.  They helped to come up with a logical solution to a problem and volunteered their time to see it through during the school day.  Because of their thoughtfulness and student-first thinking, students in 8th grade Algebra were able to stay current and receive quality instruction during their teacher's absence.  We would like to thank Jessica and Christopher for all their hard work and dedication to the students at BMS.

Two teachers were also honored but were not present at Tuesday's meeting:

Tammy Wiedrich – Outstanding Staff Award

Tammy Wiedrich has worked tirelessly to improve the culture at BMS. She has taken a leadership role in our P.B.I.S. system by creating valuable lessons for our students during HERO meetings. Tammy has also taken the lead to coordinate the staff donated basket raffle for the Family and Community Night, which was a huge success. Currently, she is organizing a holiday gathering for the BMS staff. We would like to thank Tammy for all her hard work and dedication to our BMS family.

Kerry McBride – Outstanding Staff Award

Kerry McBride has worked very hard to promote a culture of gratitude with our staff and students. She is an integral part of our P.B.I.S. program. She helps to organize two of our PBIS events -- "Warm The Night” and our "Giving Back" field trip in December where students make gifts during the HERO meetings for our community. Recently, she placed messages and pictures on everyone's door to make them feel appreciated. Kerry works very hard to make sure that all staff and students feel appreciated. We would like to thank Kerry for her hard work and dedication to our P.B.I.S. initiative.

Photos by Howard Owens.

December 7, 2016 - 9:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, news, schools.

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In an ambitious plan to improve facilities at the district's four schools and build a new stadium and field at Union and Richmond avenues, Superintendent Chris Dailey told the City Schools Board of Trustees on Tuesday night that the $23 million to $27 million project won't increase property taxes at all.

When a board member said, "0.0," Daily emphasized, "$0.00."

Voters will still need to approve the capital improvement project March 2. There will be public forums prior to the vote, assuming trustees approve a resolution at their Jan. 10 meeting to move forward.

At Tuesday's meetings, trustees gave every indication they like the plan.

While every school in the district will get upgrades as part of the plan, the plan's signature expenditure might be the reconstruction of Van Detta Stadium and replacing the grass of the current field with artificial turf and surrounding it with a new, larger synthetic track surface.

The location of the field would also shift diagonally on the athletic facility's current parcel and move more to the east of the parcel. This would create additional parking to the west side.

There could even be more parking near the stadium if the district is able to move the playground at the former Robert Morris School, which is currently adjacent Richmond, and put parking in that spot. The playground would be closer to the back of the current school building and would still be available to neighborhood residents.

The new stadium would have home and visitor locker rooms with tunnels leading out to the field at the 50-yard line and a new press box over the stands, as well as all new lighting.  

"We were given Woodward Field, and we built Van Detta in 1947," Daily said. "We have not done significant renovation since. Most battleships that were built in '47 are retired or are currently museums. Ours holds 2,500 screaming fans on a Friday night.

“Pretty soon it’s going to get to the point where we’re going to have to do it one way or another," Dailey added. "We can do it now with a zero tax impact and it will be called Van Detta Stadium and Woodward Field, still. It will provide a community asset."

The new facility will be able to host a larger variety of events more frequently because officials will no longer need to worry about damage to the grass field. This means not only the district's soccer and lacrosse teams will be able to compete and practice on the field, but it will be available to youth football and soccer as well as adult leagues, such as the local rugby league.

It will be able to host large regional track meets and Section V and Section VI competitions, Dailey noted, and this will benefit local restaurants and hotels and help generate revenue for the district and the community.

The project can go forward without a tax increase because the district believes both that it has enough in reserves and that much of the project can be funded through state aid. Whether the price tag is $23 million or up to $27 million will depend on how much aid the district receives. If there isn't as much aid as hoped, the project can be scaled back or more reserves can be put into the pot.

There was no discussion Tuesday as to whether any kind of bond would be required to bridge any expenditure.

For the schools, improvements include:

  • High school: Upgrades to the auditorium, new public restrooms and an upgrade to the fire alarm system; 
  • Middle school: New attendance entrance, improvements to indoor air quality, upgrades and improvements to the gym and auditorium;
  • John Kennedy: An addition with five more classrooms, reconfiguration of classrooms and upgrades to the gymnasium;
  • Jackson School: Classroom upgrades, expanded restrooms and new public restrooms, new lights throughout the building and window replacements.

If approved by voters March 2, it would be at least six months before state funding could be approved, then design work could start. Construction would likely begin in the summer of 2018, with much of the construction finishing up by the fall of 2019 into early 2020.

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December 2, 2016 - 11:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

Press release:

Work on constructing next year's school budget has begun and volunteers are being sought for the Budget Ambassador Program, initiated in 1996 as a way to increase communication with the community about the District's financial plan.

Ambassadors are residents of the Batavia City School District (BCSD) who volunteer and commit to serve on a committee, which meets with Superintendent Christopher Dailey and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski for three (3) two-and-a-half (2.5) hour evening sessions on Feb. 1, 8 and 15, with an alternate “snow date” scheduled for March 1.

Ambassadors review the preliminary 2017-2018 budget as developed by the administration within the parameters established by the Board of Education, and recommend to the Board any modifications they would like to see. The recommendations, while highly valued, are advisory rather than binding as the Board develops the Proposed Budget to be brought to voters. Ambassadors also agree to explain their work to any interested community member.

Persons interested in serving must notify the District in writing by Jan. 5. The letter of interest should include name, address, email address and daytime phone number and be addressed to BCSD Superintendent Christopher Dailey and the BCSD Board of Education at the District Administration Offices, 260 State St., Batavia, NY 14020.

The letters will be reviewed, with official appointments scheduled to be made at the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 10.

November 17, 2016 - 11:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Press release:

Tiffani Brown receives Outstanding Student Award. She was nominated by BMS teacher Sarah Gahagan, who wrote, Tiffani is an eighth-grade student who shows dedication, perseverance, dependability, and a positive attitude in everything she does. She is one of 19 original founders of the BMS Girls on the Run team, hasn’t missed a single session, and always arrives on time and prepared. She partakes in every race, volunteer activity, and community-sponsored Girls on the Run event. Tiffanie has become so much more confident over the course of three years and many of her teachers think it’s because of this club. She is a great role model to her peers for her positive attitude and has developed her natural talent of working with others.

Maria DiMartino receives Outstanding Employee Award. She was nominated by Assistant Principal Maureen Notaro, who wrote, Maria DiMartino is a very special person. She is a classroom aide, often helping some of our most difficult students, and she goes above and beyond to make every child successful in school. She develops close relationships with the students and also supports them emotionally. The Board and Middle School are very fortunate to have such a dedicated employee.

Muriel Burns receives Outstanding Community Member Award. She was nominated by Assistant Principal Maureen Notaro, who wrote, Recently, one of our students from BMS was walking in the rain, late to school, and with no coat. A woman pulled over and offered him her umbrella. She asked him where he went to school and he said Batavia Middle School. She called the school, spoke to Julie Tybor, and asked us to get his sizes. Ms. Tybor called her back after the counselor provided his sizes. The next day Mrs. Burns returned to school with a brand new coat, three pairs of gloves, a back pack, and a blanket. The next day she returned with boots, hats, and nearly a dozen pairs of socks for him. The smile on the child’s face was priceless. This child does not have it easy, and she truly made his day.

Superintendent of Schools Christopher Dailey was invited to become a member of the National Center for Education Research and Technology (NCERT), an organization comprised of a maximum of 85 prominent school district superintendents as well as select corporate leaders from education-related industries. NCERT’s goal is to network creative and innovative thinkers who are leaders in education with the leaders of the industries they depend upon for products and services, technology, and research. The group focuses on contemporary issues of interest to school districts.

School Board Recognition: In honor of NYS School Board Recognition Week (celebrated this year from Oct. 24-28), several District organizations made donations to local charities in the Board’s honor. The JK Parent Teacher Group made a $50 donation to the Michael Napoleone Foundation, the Jackson Home School Association made a $50 donation to United Way – Community Action, the Batavia Clerical Association made a $50 donation to the United Way for the BCSD Backpack Program for BCSD students, and the Batavia Teachers’ Association made a $200 donation to the Salvation Army’s Backpack Program for the BCSD students. The New York State School Boards Association sponsors School Board Recognition Week to recognize school board members for their commitment to New York public school children and the crucial role they have within a school district.

Photos by Kathy Scott.

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November 16, 2016 - 4:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in John Kennedy School, schools, education, batavia, City Schools, news.

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It's full steam ahead for academics at John Kennedy School, according to Principal Paul Kesler, who delivered a progress report to the Batavia City Schools board at Tuesday night's meeting.

On standardized testing, John Kennedy students are outpacing their peers in other districts, Kesler said.

Kesler completed a comparison of third- and fourth-grade students among 16 similar-sized cities and JK's third-graders have the highest English Language Arts scores and second highest in math. For fourth-graders, they rank third and fourth in ELA and math.

"As you can see from the pattern," Kesler said standing in front of a bar chart, "there's really a straight line year after year in terms of small cities."

The third-grade class is the first to pass through the district since the realignment of schools before their kindergarten year.

Kesler also compared JK results with the 22 other districts in the region and JK students are in the 80th percentile in ELA and 90th in math.

On another math test, 35 percent of the students tested at level 4, which Kesler said was impressive.

"I'm really proud of that because now it's no longer just our top A students who performing at that high level," Kesler said. "It's really all of our students are moving along."

Kesler, who is in his 12th year at the school, praised the work of the school's staff and thanked the district board for helping him recruit and hire talented teachers.

The school also undertook an aggressive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts/design and math) curriculum this year and Kesler said it's going well so far.

There have been three STEAM sessions for the students and STEAM topics are being worked into other parts of the curriculum.

For example, students are going to read "Charlotte's Web" this year, so there will be corresponding instruction on insects and how spiders build their webs, which gets into engineering.

"It's exciting," he said. "When the kids get excited, I get excited."

As for the future, with the district now supplying each student with Chromebooks, there's no longer a need for a computer lab. The plan, Kesler said, is to turn the former computer lab into a STEAM lab and a maker space. It will be a paperless space, he said. For example, the desktops will be white boards, which students can use for their calculations. 

October 19, 2016 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

A consolidation plan enacted by Batavia City Schools four years ago has led to cost savings in some key areas, Sandra Griffin, now a retired principal from Batavia Middle School, told the school board at Tuesday's meeting.

Overall, personnel costs have decreased by $31,000.  

The first year of consolidation, in 2012-13, there was a $1.2 million cost savings, but since then the district has added new staff or AIS support and personnel for arts and music. Even so, there has been a payroll savings each year since consolidation.

When consolidation was implemented, district administration moved from its offices on Washington Avenue to offices at Batavia High School, closed Robert Morris School and shuffled grade levels between Jackson, John Kennedy, and Batavia Middle School.

One of the biggest areas of cost savings was in operations and maintenance, which is down $414,000.

Unemployment costs are down $103,000.

Utility expenses are down $292,700.

The one area of increase is bussing, which has jumped $484,000, the result of a more open bussing policy which has mean 305 more students are able to take a bus to and from school.

September 27, 2016 - 8:35am

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To help expand and extend what Batavia City schools can offer students, a group of community supporters have come together to form the Batavia City School District Foundation, a nonprofit that will raise money within the community to assist with scholarships, grants for innovative classroom initiatives, sports and recognition awards for those who help city schools.

The foundation held its kickoff event last night at Carter's Restaurant.

"In the Batavia City School District, we do a very good job with the budget and the funds we have," said Leslie Johnson, foundation chair. "The tax base is slightly sluggish, but does that impede our progress? Fortunately, no, but it limits where we can go with that as far as what is required and a few steps beyond. We would like to go further."

During opening remarks, Superintendent Chris Dailey said among the opportunities he envisions is the ability for teachers to come up with innovative ideas or discover pieces of equipment that might be useful in the classroom and then, outside of the normal budget cycle, apply for grants to try out those ideas. If they work, then perhaps they can be incorporated into the next budget.

"We want to be on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge when it comes to innovation," Dailey said. 

With a 95-percent graduation rate and many creative programs and demonstrated success in academics, arts, and athletics, the district is already among the best in the region, Daily said. The foundation and community support can help make it one of the best in the nation, he said.

The foundation will also provide scholarships for students who want to further their education and provide recognition awards for those who provide exceptional aid to the district in fulfilling its mission.

The idea for the foundation started with School Board Chairman Pat Burk many years ago, and he suggested Johnson to Dailey as a champion of the idea. Johnson, Dailey said, turned out to be the perfect choice because she had the vision and the ability to see it through. Dailey said staff member Bobbi Norton was also instrumental in organizing the foundation.

Jim Owen, Batavia's most popular substitute teacher, pictured above with Johnson, was also recognized as one of the honorary chairs because of his early financial support of the foundation.

Johnson said the desire to create a philanthropic foundation for the school district has little to do with constraints on revenue by the property tax cap or any sense of revenue shortage, but a real desire to help fund the gap between how good the district is and how good it can be, and just offer more opportunities for students to grow, learn and achieve.

"We hope to appeal to people who are already spending money philanthropic dollars elsewhere, and we're saying, 'keep it at home where it can really make a difference for these kids,' " Johnson said.

September 8, 2016 - 3:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, news, schools, education, sports.

Press release:

The Batavia City School District has always been committed to its girls’ athletic program. We are proud of our student athletic program and continuously work toward achieving equality across all sports. This is of paramount importance to the District.

The District has recently received the Court’s decision awarding attorneys’ fees (totaling $68,000) to the Empire Justice Center in the 2013 lawsuit concerning the girls’ softball fields. The District disagrees with, and is disappointed by, the award of attorneys’ fees to the Empire Justice Center. Most importantly, the lawsuit was simply unnecessary – and only served to waste taxpayers’ money.

The improvements to the girls’ softball field were already approved by the Board before the lawsuit was filed, and they were commenced immediately upon taxpayer approval of the funding. The changes would have been made regardless whether the lawsuit was filed. This was conveyed to the Empire Justice Center, but their attorneys chose to proceed with the lawsuit – and generating unnecessary legal fees for their organization – anyway.

In the end, the Empire Justice Center achieved almost nothing outside this award of fees. There were no substantial differences between the settlement and the capital improvement plans that the Board of Education proposed and approved at its February 2013 meeting for presentation to the voters in May 2013. In addition to routine maintenance, there was only one additional improvement requested in over and above the capital improvement project – the addition of a safety cap to the track and field fence that is adjacent to the no longer used JV softball field.

The District looks forward to continuing to provide a safe and nurturing environment to develop students with high moral character who are able to meet life’s challenges. 

September 8, 2016 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia MS, batavia, City Schools, news, education, schools.

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It's the first day of school, but not just for students, but for some staff, too, including Batavia Middle School's new principal, Ashley John Grillo.

Grillo, originally from Albion, was most recently assistant principal at Holley Central School and was appointed to his new role this Spring.

He said he's very excited by the prospects of his new position.

“Fortunately, I’ve got a great team I’m working  with; the staff I’ve met so far have been wonderful," Grillo said.  "They’ve been very welcoming, very helpful. I’m very excited about this year. I only see nothing but positive things happening."

Grillo said he also received a warm welcome from the student's this morning.

"It’s been a blast," Grillo said. "I’ve been shaking hands all morning with kids and saying hi and introducing myself, and they’ve been coming to me, too, so it’s been nice."

August 8, 2016 - 10:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, schools, education, batavia, news.

Press release:

The Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program provides an opportunity for 4-year-old children, at no cost to their families, to be involved in developmentally appropriate educational classes that, following the school calendar, meet Monday through Friday during the regular school year.

In the Batavia City School District, the program is offered mornings and afternoons at Jackson Primary as well as mornings at two community satellite locations: the YMCA Preschool and Imagination Station Childcare and Preschool. Transportation is also available.

In addition, for a fee, the YMCA and Imagination Station offer “wrap around” child care programs for those who desire it. (Please note that the District will make every attempt to accommodate, but cannot guarantee, requests for placement in a specific location.)

Children who are residents of Batavia City School District and who are four (4) years of age on or before Dec. 1, 2016, are eligible.

Information/Registration packets, including the application, are available at the District Business Office in the administrative wing of Batavia High School (260 State St.), or by calling 343-2480, ext. 1002. They can also be downloaded from the District’s website (www.bataviacsd.org) by using the pull-down menu at the top of the page labeled “Parent,” or the Quick Link labeled “Parent Resources,” then clicking on the link for Universal Pre-K.

The application should be returned as soon as possible. 

August 2, 2016 - 1:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

Press release:

The NYS Office of the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability recently completed a routine audit of the District’s finances to review efficiency and accountability. Looking at the period of July 1, 2012, through March 10, 2016, we are pleased to report that the audit revealed no weaknesses in internal controls, policies, practices, procedures and operations.

As a result, there no findings of fraud, waste, abuse, misconduct, or negligence.

The audit did cite one area of concern: a claim that the District did not effectively manage fund balance, which is the residual money accumulated from prior fiscal years that can be reserved for future expenditures or emergencies. When fund balances are accumulated for a targeted and specific purpose, such as saving for a capital project or an anticipated increase in retirement costs, the law specifies that the amount in these restricted funds must be “reasonable” as opposed to excessive. When a fund balance is categorized as unrestricted (containing monies not targeted for a specific upcoming expense), it must be used to lower property taxes if the amount exceeds 4 percent of the proposed budget for the coming year.

The Comptroller’s Office concluded in its most recent report that the District has too much money reserved in fund balance and debt service reserves.

Ironically, this speaks to one of the practices that the Board of Education and administration feel has been one of its greatest strengths – planning and preparing for the future, whether that be enhancing programming or facing unforeseen expenditures as we have seen in recent years with the pullback of New York State funding and the unstable financial picture.

Our philosophy has enabled the District to weather numerous constraints placed by State and federal laws, regulations, and mandates, as well as the significant unpredictability and fluctuations in both expenses and aid. While weathering these financial storms, the District has continued to deliver exceptional educational programs to our students at a per-pupil cost significantly lower than the State average, maintained a stable tax levy history for over 10 years that frequently has decreased or remained flat (with a 10-year average increase of 0.68 percent), consistently remained under the Tax Cap permissible by New York State, and, by prudent planning, earned State tax rebates for our residents for the three years that has been enacted.

Interestingly, our tax rates have decreased over the years (from 2006-07 at $24.22 per thousand of assessed valuation to $23.02 per thousand of assessed valuation in 2015-16). To analyze taxpayer impact, we conducted a study of an individual taxpayer in the District currently (in 2015-16) assessed at $106,000. The study revealed that, since the 2004-05 fiscal year (base year), the school taxes paid increased a total of $129.95, or 8.49 percent, which is an average of $11.81 or 0.77 percent a year -- amounting to less than $1 a month.

Outside of the District’s control, the taxpayer’s assessed valuation increased from $98,000 to $106,000 in 2008-09 (or an 8.16 percent change). In essence, the increase in school taxes is attributable to the increase in assessed value. Also noteworthy is that this overall increase in school taxes does not include the two rebate checks that the taxpayer received directly from NYS in 2014-15 and 2015-16 as a result of the District compliance with the Tax Cap and with efficiency established since July 1, 2012.

The Comptroller’s Office has recommended several strategies, and the District is in the process of evaluating these recommendations while remaining mindful that changes in practice must not result in significant fluctuations that will potentially harm the community in the long run nor leave taxpayers unprotected from fluctuations in the tax levy due to factors outside its control.

The report noted the belief that, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, the District had overestimated appropriations in budget projections and recommended that the District be more “realistic” as well as use more of the fund balance and reserves for the budget. First, we would clarify that this year’s pre-audited surplus is only $189,600 above the 4-percent maximum, and regarded by the Comptroller’s Office standards as a "good" budgeting process with realistic estimates.

In addition, we would like to highlight that the first couple years of the audit were the years immediately following the consolidation. Not knowing the full impact on major budgetary expenditures, such as transportation, resulted in conservative budgets in these areas. The budgeting practices have been modified, implemented, and are reflected in the 2015-16 budget results.

The District also points out that, in addition to utilizing internal staff’s expertise in analysis and projections, they also rely each year on the input from community budget ambassadors who review the budget proposals line-by-line and provide valuable feedback on the educational programs and potential modifications to the proposed budget for the Board to consider.

Regarding fluctuations in State aid, it is important to note that NYS has a history of reducing its aid to school districts. Most recently this resulted six years of reductions and, in essence, shifted the burden funding the budget to the local taxpayer if a district chose not to make changes and maintained the status quo. The District made tough decisions and changes, most markedly consolidation, and complied with the NYS Tax Cap (well before it was implemented) while receiving a cuts in State aid during these years.

Likewise, the Comptroller’s recommendation to review all reserves to determine if the amounts reserved are necessary and reasonable has been a regular part of the District’s annual budget process. In fact, one such fund, the Tax Certiorari reserve, is slated to be eliminated pending Board approval at its next summer meeting, and the Unemployment Insurance reserve is being significantly reduced. On the other hand, based on factors previously mentioned, the District’s practice is to budget conservatively for a worst-case scenario in order to protect the educational program for our students and to avoid crisis tax increases for our residents.

While there is no concrete regulation on funding amounts or limits (other than “reasonable”) on some restricted reserves, the District plans to continue its practice of periodically evaluating the reserves according to what is believed to be reasonable by District officials.

As for the Debt Service fund, which has operated as such for twenty-plus years without raising any concerns in audits, the District has reduced the balances by nearly $3 million since 2009 and has accounted for all current obligations in this Fund. In 2015, the citizens authorized a $7.5 million capital reserve fund to offset the local share of future projects beginning with the 2013 capital project.

The District will also research the current accounting method for the financing of prior capital projects. It is also important to note that Note 3 in the Comptroller’s response is incorrect. The District has always recorded transactions related to capital projects in the Capital Project fund. The accounting for long-term financing of the projects (Serial Bond principal and interest payments), along with annual revenue received (State aid, transfer from General Fund and interest earning) are the concerns cited in the audit raising the question of whether they should be recorded in General Fund or Debt Service Fund. The District will evaluate the law regarding these concerns during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

In addition, the District felt that the audit did not capture several positive initiatives, which are worthy of mention:

1. The District consolidated and restructured its educational plan in July 2012. One building was later sold and the other building is being used for some district offices along with being leased to generate additional annual revenue which results in tax levy savings. District vacant land was also sold.

2. The District partnered with the City of Batavia to approve three exemptions (Home Improvement Exemption; Mixed-Use Exemption and Inhibited Property Exemption).

3. After receiving community input, the Board approved the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption.

4. The District refunded Serial Bonds in 2012 which resulted in $764,814 net present value savings.

5. Debt as a percent of the General Fund budget has been reduced from 101.87 percent as of June 30, 2008, to 39.19 percent as of June 30, 2016.

6. Taxpayers this year will be receiving their third (out of three opportunities) rebate check directly from New York State as a result of District compliance with the New York State Tax Cap law and efficiencies undertaken since July 2012.

7. In the five years since the New York State Tax Cap, the District tax levy has increased an average of 0.80 percent, while the allowable increase was 3.15 percent. In dollars, this amounted to a $2,146,484 total tax levy less than allowed. Also, three of the last four years (through 2016-17), have had no increase of the tax levy and the average increase is less than 0.50 percent. As previously mentioned, the 10-year average tax levy (five years prior to the 2012 Tax Cap law) is 0.68 percent.

8. From  fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2014-15, General Fund Payroll decreased 2.2 percent, from $20,701,103 to $20,248,248. In 2015-16, payroll was $20,324,816 --an increase of only 0.38 percent over the previous year. Each year since 2007-08, payroll was less than the 2007-08 base year. Savings in payroll have been achieved via strong negotiation strategies and District consolidation.

9. Contracts with all of our bargaining units (Administration, Teacher, Clerical, Custodial, Food Service and individual contracts) were negotiated two different times during the period audited resulting in significant cost savings to the District on employee healthcare contributions.

10. The Batavia City School District survived the 2010-11 to 2015-16 Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) which resulted in a loss of $8,649,980 of New York State aid during those six years. The single highest year of reduction was $2,570,826 and the average State aid cut was $1,441,663. It is also important to note that, from 1990-91 to 1992-93 (three years), New York State also reduced funding to school districts, the first being a mid-year cut. In this 26 year time span, New York State has cut its aid for public schools nine years, or 34 percent of the time. New York State must look into and fix the politics of the New York State public school funding.

11. Since 2010-11, the District has also absorbed $1,704,152 in corrections (current year reduction in State aid) to New York State building aid. These reductions, which were in addition to the GEA previously mentioned, were a result of New York State overpayment of building aid over many years.

12. Since June 30, 2003, all Independent External audits and New York State Comptroller audits are available to our public on the District website in an attempt to enhance transparency.

13. Moody’s has the District rated as A1 which is slightly lower than the median rating of Aa3 for school districts nationwide. According to Moody’s, the financial position of the District is strong and is a notable strength with respect to the assigned rating of A1; the economy and tax base of the District are solid overall and positive operating margins are a component of strong financial management (surplus being generated and the tax base expanded modestly).

While the opinions of the Comptroller’s Office and recommendations of the audit are valued, appreciated, and will be utilized to further enhance District budgeting practices, the Batavia City School District and the Board of Education will not abandon our philosophy and belief that our residents expect and prefer a stable, consistent, and predictable tax rate while incorporating an effective long-range financial plan.

We will use this report and incorporate recommendations that align with our philosophy and long-range planning strategy. It is also important to note that the Comptroller recently released an analysis of State spending that shows the potential for budget gaps in future years - shortfalls that could reach nearly $5 billion beginning in the State fiscal year 2017-18. This could invariably directly impact schools again just as the Gap Elimination Adjustment did when the State had significant budget deficits only a few years ago.

The Board will be careful regarding the choices that are made today to ensure that they don’t put the District in a bad financial position in future years.

July 1, 2016 - 8:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

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Patrick Burk, right, will continue to serve as school board president during the 2016-17 year, and Jessica Maguire-Tomidy will serve as VP. Madison Moore, left, is the student, ex-officio member for the year.

The district board held its annual meeting this morning at the district office. The meeting included approving the board calendar, appointment of committees and appointment of key district staff. Chris Dailey was reappointed as district superintendent.

June 24, 2016 - 1:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, batavia, City Schools.

There is an allocation of $2.1 million available for Batavia City Schools for technology upgrades, according to a state official who contacted The Batavian on Thursday about a previous story on local Smart Schools grants.

"As soon as the district is ready to submit a plan, the money is their for them," said Morris Peters, public information officer for New York State Division of the Budget.

Superintendent Chris Dailey confirmed the district intends to file a plan in the fall.

"There is no time limit on the money so it does not need to be spent immediately," Dailey said. "We plan to use the remainder to replace devices down the road (2-3 years) as part of our replacement cycle."

The district didn't receive an allocation as part of grant announcements in May, and Dailey said previously, the district decided not to file its plan prior to the June allocation deadline.

Instead, the district used current available funds for its immediate purchases, and made those purchases through BOCES.

Peters said the state had asked the city school district to make changes to its May plan submission, which is why there wasn't an allocation of grant money at that time.

CLARIFICATIONS: We need to include the fact that the district will be upgrading the security camera systems by the fall.

The district submitted its first plan March 29. Corrections were requested April 4 and submitted that same time. This district did not receive funding in May and a minor correction was requested for the next funding round in June. At that time, the district decided to go forward with its own funding and BOCES because the state committee would not meet in time for the district to move forward and meet its own Sept. 1 deadline for implementation.

"If they had met in late April/early May, we would have been OK for ordering," Dailey said. "They did not meet until after our last available date to meet our needs for the fall." 

June 22, 2016 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Schools, schools, education, oakfield-alabamp, news.

The Batavia City School District remains committed to providing students and staff the best technology to advance the district's educational goals, said Superintendent Chris Dailey, even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office decided to bypass the district technology grants as part of the governor's Smart Schools Bond Act.

The state is funding school districts throughout the state -- including Oakfield-Alabama, locally -- with a $2 billion bond for technology upgrades and Batavia did not receive funding in May.

The state just announced the release of another $43 million in funding for June, but BCSD did not apply, Dailey said, after being overlooked in May, deciding instead to use current available funds and make its purchases through BOCES to help reduce costs.

"Technology impacts all aspects of education and life," Dailey said. "We want our students to have the same access to the world as any of the more affluent NYS communities have. They will have access to the world and information like never before in Batavia. Technology will enhance the excellent education our staff provide our students. Our students will be better prepared to go into the world of work or college based on the commitment we are making."

Last month, the governor's office announced that O-A would receive $664,680 for its districtwide upgrades.

The school districts are planning increased Wi-Fi coverage at school facilities, laptops or tablet computers for all students, 3D printers, touchscreen monitors for classrooms and lesson materials.

No Genesee County school district was part of the June funding announcement. Another announcement of fund distribution is expected in July.

Previously:

March 9, 2016 - 1:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in universal Pre-K, City Schools, news.

Press release:

The Batavia City School District is pleased to offer the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program for students and will continue to operate the program in the 2016-2017 school year, pending New York State funding.

UPK provides an opportunity for 4-year-old children, at no cost to their families, to be involved in developmentally appropriate educational classes that, following the regular school calendar, meet Monday through Friday during the school year. Since its implementation, the District has provided a half-day program, with a choice of either morning or afternoon sessions.

Children who are residents of the District and who are 4 years of age on or before Dec. 1, 2016, are eligible to apply. Applications are available at the District’s Business Office in the administrative wing of Batavia High School (260 State St.), or by calling 343-2480, ext. 1002.

They also can be downloaded and printed out from the District’s Web site (www.bataviacsd.org) by using the pull-down menu at the top of the page labeled “Parent,” or the Quick Link labeled “Parent Resources,” then clicking on the box labeled “Registering a Student” which links to the Web page with general registration information as well as, under Related Files, the UPK information packet.

Applications should be returned by June 3.

Please note that if the YMCA is selected once again to be the community-based organization to provide UPK, they offer additional “wraparound” programs consisting of Child Watch in the morning (followed by UPK from12:30-3 p.m.), then School Aged Child Care afterward. While there is no charge for UPK, there is a charge for the morning Child Watch and afternoon Child Care programs.

Requests for placement in specific location or times is not guaranteed for either the District program or for the community-based organization that is providing a UPK program.

If there are more applicants than openings, a lottery system will be used to place as many children as possible, with the rest being placed on a waiting list. Likewise, late applications will be accepted and placed on a waiting list if there are no openings.

January 8, 2016 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education.

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Parents and other community members were invited to the library of Batavia High School last night to learn about how the City School District has been implementing technology in the classroom.

District officials shared how technology is being used and how they would like to improve the use of technology with the help of money from the Smart School Bond Act. The district is applying for $2.1 million in state grant money to upgrade the district's technology infrastructure and purchase technology equipment. 

It's an increase in attention on technology that the district has been preparing to implement for a couple of years, Superintendent Chris Dailey said.

One goal is to provide each high school student and eventually, students at the lower grades, with smart devices that connect to the Internet at school. Part of the money from the state will be used to improve the wi-fi infrastructure to support that level of always-on connectivity. 

"Go on any college campus right now, walk into a classroom or lecture hall, there's no pen and paper anymore," Daily said. "It's all utilizing a device. When you're going into most industries now, people are using these kinds of things. We're trying to put those kinds of devices into the hands of our students at a younger age so they're natives to it versus visiting the technology."

Whether a student comes out of high school bound for college or going straight into a career, the future belongs to those with the technology skills needed to compete in the digital age.

"This doesn't replace the instruction that's going on," Daily said. "We want to prepare students for the world that we don't know will exist in a couple of years, with jobs that are evolving as we speak at things like the STAMP project, or you look at what's going on in the incubators in the Rochester and Buffalo area with new businesses evolving all the time at the unviersities. We want to put our kids at an advantage so that when they come out they can walk into those jobs with some skills that other kinds may not have in our region."

Top photo: Mason Battaglia shows off a 3D printer. One of the things he was able to do with the printer was solve a problem for the marching band. The drummers needed glow-in-the-dark mallets, so Mason used the 3D printer to make them.

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January 6, 2016 - 1:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, City Schools.

Press release:

The Batavia City School District will host a Technology Night beginning at 6:30 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, at Batavia High School (260 State St.). Parents and the community are invited to see highlights of what students and staff are doing in the District with technology and to hear more about our plans for technology upgrades as they are developing in our Smart School Investment Plan.

Passage of New York State’s Smart School Bond Act in November 2014 provided the District with an opportunity to receive $2.1 million to invest in our students’ future. To take advantage of this opportunity, the District must develop and submit a Smart School Investment Plan (SSIP) for State approval. This plan for District-wide technology upgrades is being developed with input from staff, students, and the community.

Community members are encouraged to attend this meeting to hear about and review the emerging plans for the near future.

October 2, 2015 - 10:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, City Schools, schools, education, batavia.

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It was a full house at Batavia Middle School on Thursday night for the school's open house.

Above, the Houseknecht family, Mike, Jen and Ella, share a laugh with Ella's sixth-grade math teacher, Andy Reagan.

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June 26, 2015 - 3:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson School, batavia, City Schools, education, schools.

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It was a big day for the students at Jackson School. They moved up a grade, receiving certificates of continuation from administrators during a ceremony in the Batavia High School auditorium.

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