Sunday, May 15, 2016

School budget vote reminder, new school leaders appointed

A reminder that this coming Tuesday, May 17 is the annual school budget vote and Board of Education election. Last year’s turnout was historically low with only 146 votes total cast compared with the prior five-year average of 336 votes. We can do better! Every resident in the community 18 and older has the right to express their voice in the funding and the elected leadership of our school district. So, whether you’ve voted before or you are a first-time voter – I encourage all eligible voters to head to the polls between noon and 9 p.m. this coming Tuesday.

District residents can vote at one of two polling sites in the city depending on which neighborhood you call home: the Watervliet Elks Lodge or Watervliet Elementary School. Voting information

More about the budget proposal

The proposed 2016-17 budget totals $26.1 million and increases overall spending by 1.04 percent, which is $269,000 more than the current-year budget. Under the proposed plan the tax levy increases by 0.24 percent, which is approximately one quarter of one percent.

For the second consecutive year, we are able to present a fiscal plan that makes no cuts to programs or staffing and will allow us to address the growing needs of students. The proposed budget will help optimize the learning environment by providing resources to maintain class sizes; reinforce instructional support for English as a New Language (ENL) students, as mandated by the state; strengthen support for struggling learners; increase the number of spots available for students to attend BOCES Career & Technical programs; and maintain extracurricular and athletic opportunities for students.

I encourage you to learn as much about the proposed budget as possible and make an informed decision on Tuesday. Visit the district's budget web page and read the budget newsletter, which was mailed to all residents in early May. A copy is also available here.

The complete budget document is available for residents to view in the main office of each school, the district office or at the Watervliet Public Library.

District welcomes new administrators for the 2016-17 school year

On July 1, the district will welcome three new administrators to our leadership team. I am especially proud to announce that all three administrative positions are being filled with talented educators from within our schools!

During last month’s Board of Education meeting, Loida Lewinter, current assistant principal at the Junior-Senior High School, was appointed principal of Watervliet Elementary School. She replaces longtime elementary principal Terri O’Brien who retired in December. Mrs. Lewinter is a highly-skilled and dedicated professional who, for the past two years, has done a stellar job supporting teachers, staff and her administrative colleagues, as well as building strong relationships with students through the successful Character Education/No Place for Hate program. When she takes the reins as elementary principal, I am confident that she will continue to excel and grow as a leader in our district.

At the same meeting, the board appointed current grade 6 teacher Don Stevens to the position of Director of Literacy and Universal Prekindergarten. Mr. Stevens has served as a classroom teacher for the past 10 years at the elementary school. He completed his administrative internship with the district in the fall. Mr. Stevens recently was selected to serve as a member of the English Language Arts Committee for the New York State Education Department Learning Standards review workgroup. He was chosen for this committee based on his experience and qualifications as an educator from the more than 1,000 applications that NYSED received.

Kelly Webster, who has taught fourth-grade for the past 8 years, was appointed to the assistant principal position at Watervliet Jr./Sr. High School during the May 10 school board meeting. She completed her administrative internship working with district administrators last summer and fall. Mrs. Webster will bring a fresh energy and enthusiasm in her new role.

As these familiar faces begin their new roles in the 2016-17 school year, it sets the stage for increased collaboration and cohesiveness between leadership in both buildings -- and that is something that will benefit our students.

Also, as we prepare for this school year to end, I give a shout out to Paul Scampini who has served as interim principal these past six months. I thank him for serving our elementary students, parents and staff as we conducted the search for Mrs. O’Brien’s replacement.

End-of-year events

Speaking of the end of the school year … I am excited to share some important upcoming dates and events that are scheduled during the final six weeks of school:
  • Thursday, May 19 – Garnet & Grey Spring Concert, 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, May 20 – Senior Class Breakfast, 8 a.m.
  • Saturday, May 21 – Junior/Senior Prom, 7-11 p.m., Walk-thru, 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 25 – Spring Sports Awards Night, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 26 – National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 31 – No School (contingent recess day)
  • Thursday, June 2 – Senior Varsity Dinner, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 9 – Elementary Spring Concert, 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 1 ¬– NYS Common Core Algebra II Regents Exam, 8 a.m.
  • Monday, June 13 – last day of regular classes at Watervliet High School
  • Tuesday, June 14 – Regents Exams begin
  • Friday, June 17 – WES Field Day
  • Monday, June 20 through Thursday, June 23 – WES Half Days  
  • Monday, June 20 – UPK celebration, 9 a.m., 10 a.m. 
  • Wednesday, June 22 – Grade 6 Graduation, 9:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 23 – Class of 2016 Commencement, 6:30 p.m., WHS gymnasium
Again, I hope that you will make time to vote on Tuesday, May 17 -- and encourage your friends, family members and neighbors to do the same. It’s important.