Erica K. Fick-Guerin
Students last The following expressed written views are my own personal observations and in no way reflect the viewpoint of the Saugerties Board of Education.
As of July 2010, is the Saugerties School District a better school system than it was in September of 2009? The answer is no! The incorrectly appropriated funds allocated to the 2009-10 budgets fund balance and a BOCES budget line severely hurt the financial health of our district. You can't blame the students, the teachers, the current administrators, or the taxpayers. Can you blame the Saugerties Board of Education for not complying thoroughly with New York State Office of the Comptroller, Law of New York, 2005 Chapter 263 (http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/schoolsfa/ch263.htm), internal audit function requirements since July 2006? I have never been presented with or reviewed the required annual internal audit report since becoming a board member two years ago!
The Saugerties School District has descended to a state of austerity for the upcoming year 2010-20111. Student opportunities to participate in selected academic offerings, art, music, extracurricular activities and athletics have been decimated and eliminated from the 2010-2011 budget. Sixty-plus instructional and non-instructional school district jobs have been eliminated this past year. The Saugerties School District has become the least attractive school district in Ulster County. Subsequently, the town of Saugerties property values have declined while school property taxes have increased by 12 percent. Saugerties property taxpayers pay more and Saugerties students receive less.
The Saugerties Board of Education has adopted a number of new initiatives, for the upcoming 2010-11 school year, formulated by our new chief education officer. However, these new initiatives have not yet been fully implemented, observed, and evaluated as proven successful models. The most notable district reform, the junior and senior high school consolidation resolution, was adopted by the Saugerties Board of Education in violation of New York State Commissioner of Education Regulation 100.11, and District Policy 3230, "Shared Decision Making," which requires teacher and parent participation.
The declining Saugerties School District graduation rate over the past three years is troubling. The adoption of the district administration's austerity budget by six members of the Saugerties Board of Education, denying the Saugerties community their right and opportunity to vote for or against a revised "Plan B" budget, was unprecedented. The recently adopted Saugerties School District chief education officer's new initiatives are unproven. Sixty-plus instructional and non-instructional school district jobs had to be eliminated due to incorrectly appropriated funds by the previous district administration. Worst of all, the dramatic negative impact imposed on the students of the Saugerties School District, precluded me from voting to reward our current chief education officer with a two-year contract extension, which amounts to approximately a $350,000 future Saugerties School District expenditure commitment.
Remember this past November 2009 the School Board awarded the Saugerties Administrative and Supervisory Personnel Association, Principals and Directors, with a new three-year contract containing a nine percent salary increase, Mr. Petramale and I opposed the resolution. At the time of the vote the Board of Education was well aware of the depleted two-million dollar budget fund balance and the ominous forecasted educational fiscal cuts being proposed in Albany.
As reported in the June 7, 2010, New York State School Boards Association "On Board" issue: "Andrew Cuomo began his front running campaign for governor with a grim message for public schools: be prepared for more cuts." The current governor has proposed reducing educational budget expenditures by $1.4 billion for the upcoming year.
In conclusion, rewarding some Saugerties School District employees, this year, while eliminating others, along with eliminating student offerings, and increasing the property tax burden by 12-plus percent, in my opinion, is unethical and unsustainable. This coming year the vast majority of instructional and non-instructional Saugerties School District employees will receive contracted salary increases. Parents, this past year, your children, the students, have lost more than they deserved to. Parents you need to take action and attend board meetings, speak up for your children. We need to freeze salaries, hire those who will be needed to restore the full and well rounded educational experience, we had, and our students need to succeed.
Mr. Haun is a member of the Saugerties Board of Education.
Out-of-date photo The photo of the Blue Mountain Reservoir in last week's Saugerties Times had to have come from the "archives." I am guessing early to mid spring, and what year?
There should have been two pictures of the reservoir, "then and now" to accompany the excellent reporting. The photo gives a false sense of security. Take a picture of the water flow over the dam today.
Editor's note: The photo of the reservoir that accompanied the story Tomorrow's Water was taken in mid-April.
Troops appreciate care packages
The following letter was sent to Support Our Servicepeople, a Saugerties-based group that sends care packages to troops deployed oversees:
SOS Team and Community,
As you move into the Summer BBQ Benefit, I would like to emphasize my personal thanks for the support that both my unit and I received through the 17-month deployment in Afghanistan from Jan. '08 - July '09. The numerous notes, cards and care packages served as constant reminders of the support and love back home. As I get ready for another year-long deployment in less than 20 days, I look forward to the continued support, well-wishes, and knowing that the various communities support each and every one of us. From the depths of my heart, I say thank you!
MSG F. Cullen Scarborough