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Puzzling School Problems

10 Aug

A special meeting to vote on the Kingston School Districts radical redistricting plan was set and announced in Monday’s Daily Freeman. At the same time, Superintendent Paul Padalino announced that $152,000 in transportation cost savings would be derived from his plan.  Just one piece of the puzzle, according to Dr. Padalino.  That is no small amount of money, to be sure, but it’s nowhere near the nearly $5 million annually promised by the Superintendent as he unveiled parts of the plan.  Without at least a decent estimate of the rest of the projected economic benefits available to the public, I thought it imprudent for the Board to vote on the plan.

Since then, I’ve found the Redistricting Recommendation to the Board of Education  page on the School district website.  Click on the link here and you can follow to the “Frequently Asked Questions”, where you find these estimates.

What is the breakdown of the savings gained through this redistricting plan?                                      30 FTE teachers – $3,000,000                                                                                                                     4 Teacher Assistants – $200,00                                                                                                                   3 Administrators – $450,000                                                                                                                      12 FS/Lunch Monitors – $360,000                                                                                                                 3 Clerical – $150,000                                                                                                                       Buildings (cost of operation) – $600,000                                                                                                  Total – $4,760,000 X 5 = $23,800,000

Since this is for consideration of the 2013-2014 school and fiscal years, the $4.76 million does not close this year’s estimated $6.2 million budget gap, and Dr. Padalino recognizes that, saying the plans and savings are “a piece of the puzzle, not the entire solution.”

Which schools close, and why, are not part of this small discussion today.  Tremendous controversy has surrounded the discussion of every school on the list since the subject of closings was broached nearly three years ago.  As late as this week, Esopus and Rosendale officials started floating secession proposals while discussing the closing of Anna Devine Elementary.  The truth is, all school supporters have equally valid and compelling reasons why their schools should not close, and consensus in this forum is not likely.

Facing the facts of a shrinking school population and tax base demand that we shrink the physical plant and work force to match, we are left with the reality that some buildings must close.

What concerns me most is that the vast majority of savings put forth result from firing 52 people.  The teachers, being the largest part of the workforce, and the largest part of the budget, account for over half of the projected savings from the closings.  Three Administrators (I am guessing Principals) will be eliminated from the system.  eighteen Clerical Workers, Teachers Assistants, and FS/Lunchroom Monitors finish out the list.  Only $600,000 come from closing the buildings.

Most people, when asked in poll after poll, think we should be cutting the size of government.  In fact, over the last 42 months, our nation’s economy has netted over 4 million new private sector jobs, but lost over 800,000 government jobs. These are the government jobs we are losing.  They work in schools, they collect garbage, and they put out fires.  They answer emergency calls, patrol our nights, and supply our water.  They fix our streets, register our vehicles, and defend our shores.

Whatever you believe about private sector vs. public sector, you must agree that jobs are the lifeblood of our economy.  Combined with the 92 cuts for 2012-2013, the 52 scheduled for next year cry out that we are hemorrhaging.  We can’t change past wounds to our district’s health, but we can do something to stanch the flow in the future.

In discussion last week, Dr. Padalino said that he and the Kingston Teachers Federation are working out the specifics of the Teacher Evaluation Systems.  He expects those talks to wind up shortly after the coming school year begins.  After that, he is optimistic that there are no major impediments to negotiating the Kingston Teachers Federation contract.  That contract, as well as the Administrative Supervisory Personnel Association (School Principals and Administrators) contract, have been expired for over a year. Dr. Padalino is calling the coming contract negotiations the “next piece of the puzzle.”

When hired, The Superintendent was offered a contract that included major concessions from his predecessor’s.  He takes nearly 15% less salary, pays 50% more for his insurance costs, has fewer vacation and sick days, receives no pay for unused sick time upon separation, and trades the district-provided car and use allowance for a mileage reimbursement.  At the time, he says, aware of the economic realities of our time and place, he accepted without negotiation.  In doing so, Dr. Padalino began his journey to improving what we have and turning around what has been headed the wrong direction.

The KTF, the ASPA, and the Superintendent can now take the next step together.  We can not lose any more people.  For every job saved, you help save a home.  For every home saved, a neighborhood is one family closer to a comeback.  If a neighborhood comes back, more kids come back to school.  And, if more kids come back, we can hire more teachers and staff to guide them on their way.  You helped earlier this year, by negotiating a return of $1.1 million, almost 4% of your insurance premium.  Taxpayers, you included, thank you for that.  But, as with the transportation savings, there is still a long way to go.  You are the people who can save your colleagues’ jobs, you are the people who can do the most to prevent even more closings.

Dr. Padalino says that he thinks the union membership and its leaders are aware of the same economic realities he saw when he accepted his position.  We all expect both sides to bargain in good faith, with real concern for the students, the employees, and the taxpayers.  In short, everyone has a stake.  In recognition of that, I encourage all parties to bargain openly.  Do not bargain through the media, but keep us all apprised of progress and terms under discussion.  It will go a long way toward rebuilding a badly damaged two-way trust.  Let’s start building here.

-Andrew Champ-Doran                             

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5 Comments

Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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5 responses to “Puzzling School Problems

  1. Mike Heany

    August 11, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Andrew

    The breakdown of the savings was published in Daily Freeman articles at least twice…maybe you missed them.

    Padalino already knows what he wants from the staff negotiations and I believe he will be successful, but not without a fight. The school district will be smaller and splintered due to the closings. We will see a decrease in the high school drop-out rate, an increase in graduation rates, and an increase in overall academic achievement (based on standardized test scores).

    Will the exodus from the county/state stabilize? Will the county see an increase in significant, long-term economic activity? The answer to those questions will determine the makeup of the school district down the road. For the near future (5-10 yrs. after the consolidation), the school district will have stability and a shot at providing a better quality education than today.

     
  2. James F. Shaughnessy, Jr.

    August 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Andrew,

    The $6.2 million budget gap you mention in your post is also for the 2013-2014 school year. The current year, 2012-2013 budget was balanced when presented to the voters in May, as required by law. The 92 positions eliminated were a large part of closing the $12.5 million budget gap for the current year (2012-2013) that was estimated in December 2011. Some of the gap for 2013-2014 will be closed with a proposed increase in the tax levy. That increase will be subject to the cap on the tax levy increase. The school board will not determine what increase will be presented to the voters until April, 2013.

    James F. Shaughnessy, Jr.
    Trustee, Kingston Board of Education

     
  3. Mike heany

    September 1, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Andrew

    Well, the die has been cast with a 9-0 vote. Surprised?

    My oniy surprise was the change in allowing Anna Devine to feed into Bailey vs Miller.

    Mike

     
    • KingstonBarn

      September 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Mike,

      I am not suprised, but that is probably for a different reason than others. I believe that this unanimous decision resulted from truly the best solution available. Given our present circumstances, our Superintendent and Board of Education have reached the only logical conclusion. Our school population of 10,000 has dropped by 30% in recent years. What choice is left but to make the staff and physical plant accommodate our actual need?

      We have unfunded mandates, a coming budget with a $6.2 millon gap that must, by law, be closed, and a 2-1/2% tax cap. Commentators in all media and meetings demand that you don’t raise MY taxes, don’t cut MY services, don’t close MY school. So, what viable solutions do you see?

      One town and area have suggested succession from other districts to form their own. Another suggested breaking away and joining a different school district. Neither, though, are willing to pay the additional millions to do so.

      For all of their demands, for all of their concern, and for all of their claims, very few (if any) have come up with thoughtful, workable aternatives. Anger and frustration are understandable, but they don’t move us any closer to our goals. They inhibit, but do not show a way around the obstacle we face. They create the heat of their fire, but not the light we need to see the answers clearly.

      Superintendent Paul Padalino, County Executive Michael Hein, and Mayor Shayne Gallo have presented paths forward. If we rationally look at these routes, we might come to the conclusion that some are worth taking. If instead of pitching a fit we all pitch in, we might be able to build that barn, instead of knocking it down.

      -Andrew Champ-Doran

       
  4. Mike Heany

    September 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Andrew

    It is a difficult time for the area and its residents.

    Though the consolidation is inevitable, some people need to vent their anger. Whether they can offer no alternatives or irrational ones, reminding them of the facts usually just adds fuel to the ire. The meal has been served; there needs to be time to digest it.

    In small towns, the school is an important, if not integral, part of the fabric of the community on a deeper level than just financial. Not everyone cares to look at the district as a whole and whether those viewpoints are self-serving or not, it continues to work against a united public.

    I believe the majority of students will have no problems adjusting and adapting. Will there be an increase in behavioral issues? Yes, in the beginning, as a reaction to the changes, but things will settle down soon. Will there be any changes in academic performance? I forget the actual name but the student’s period where they receive advice/extra help will be important, if not crucial, for some students, if done well and consistently. I would be surprised if there were significant academic changes in a postive or negative direction for the elementary and middle schools and that will be viewed as success given the consolidation. Friends of mine who work at Miller tell me it will be impossible to segregate the 5th graders from the rest of the school. Personally, I don’t like the idea, whether logistically possible or not. Planned interactions (academics,sports, and the arts) between the grade levels can have significant positive results vs focusing on potential negative issues.

    There will be no secession. Onteora and other districts have significant problems also and it is financially impossible to create a school from scratch.

    Despite the myriad of issues, my focus would be on the students and what I could do to plan for a great education/experience. Hopefully, in the next year, those involved will also do the same in a proactive rather than reactive manner.

    Hope you and the family had a great Summer
    As I grew older, Fall became my favorite Season

    Mike

     

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