Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thank you for your support

I thank everyone in the community who took the time to vote on Tuesday, May 16. Our 2017-2018 school district budget passed overwhelmingly. I also thank all who assisted in creating our budget and participated in the process. It was a pleasant surprise to see that voter turnout was up this year, as well.

It was exciting to see such interest paid to the two open seats on our  Board of Education. Four candidates ran for the board, and the two who received the highest number of votes were elected. Those two individuals are Steven Hoffman and Mary Beth Whited. I look forward to working with both when they begin serving their terms in July.

I again thank our outgoing board members Mark Scully and Michael Hartkern for their service to the community and our students. I wish the best to both of them!

As we head into the final stretch of the 2016-17 school year, please remember to mark your calendars for the following year-end events:

  • Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day, No School
  • Thursday, June 1 – Senior Athlete Recognition Night, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 3 – Hudson River Communities Relay for Life, noon to midnight, WJSHS
  • Thursday, June 6 – Elementary Spring Concert, 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 8, Board of Education meeting, 6 p.m., WJSHS conference room
  • Monday, June 12 – Last day of regular classes at Watervliet High School
  • Tuesday, June 13 – Regents exams begin
  • Friday, June 16 – WES Field Day
  • Monday, June 19 through Thursday, June 22 – WES early dismissals
  • Tuesday, June 20 – UPK Celebration, 9 a.m., 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 21 – Grade 6 Graduation, 9:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 22 – Class of 2017 Commencement, 6 p.m.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Annual school budget vote and board election is May 16

Tuesday, May 16 is the annual school budget vote and Board of Education election. 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. Whether you have voted before or you are a first-time voter – I encourage all eligible voters to head to the polls between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16.

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 is available here.

More about the budget proposal

The proposed 2017-18 budget totals $26.7 million and increases overall spending by 2.0 percent, which is $530,000 more than the current-year budget. Under the proposed plan, the tax levy increases by 0.7 percent, which is slightly lower than the district’s allowable tax levy under the state’s tax cap law.

Fiscally, we have turned the corner. Our district is no longer listed among the most fiscally stressed in the state according to the comptroller’s office. For the third consecutive year, I am pleased to say that we are presenting a sound fiscal plan that makes no cuts to programs or staffing and allows us to address the growing needs of our students. The proposed budget will help optimize the learning environment by providing resources to reinforce instructional support for special education students; 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. In fact, we are restoring modified sports programs previously eliminated due to budgetary challenges.

I encourage you to learn as much about the proposed budget as possible and make an informed decision on May 16. Visit the district's budget web page and read the budget newsletter, which you should have received in the mail recently. 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.

Speaking of the library, on this year’s ballot voters will see a separate proposition for a library tax to support the city’s public library. I remind you that this proposition is completely separate from the school budget. For more information, visit the Watervliet Public Library website.

Four candidates run in Board of Education election

Also, on Tuesday, May 16, voters will choose from four candidates to fill two open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates include Christine Sutherland, Steven Hoffman, Shawn Smeltzer and Mary Beth Whited. You can meet all four individuals -- all are first-time candidates for the board – on Tuesday, May 9 prior to the annual public budget hearing at 6 p.m.

I wish the best to our current board members Mark Scully and Michael Hartkern who have chosen not to seek re-election. I thank them both for their service to the school district and to the community.

It will be especially difficult to say good-bye to longtime board member, Mark Scully, in June. A lifelong resident of the city and a graduate of our schools, he has served on the board for the past 15 years, holding the office of president since 2009. I was high school principal when Mr. Scully handed his two sons their diplomas when they graduated from Watervliet High School many years ago. I thank Mr. Scully for his time and his support of this district and our students. In recent years, the board has had to make decisions that were not always easy, but Mr. Scully has always acted in the best interests of the community and children. I appreciate his encouragement, his leadership and his friendship.

I also thank Mr. Hartkern for his time and his commitment throughout his term on the board. He, too, is a graduate of Watervliet schools. I am sure we will continue to see Mr. Hartken at school events with his two boys, Nathan and Andrew, who attend Watervliet Elementary School.

Serving on the Board of Education requires an investment of time and energy. Board members serve three-year terms member with no pay and are responsible for policies and regulations governing public education in the district. The role is for those who truly value serving their community, as Mr. Scully and Mr. Hartkern have done admirably.

Tenure granted to six district educators

Six educators were recognized during the Board meeting in April for earning tenure. Congratulations to WES Principal Loida Lewinter, English as New Language (ENL) teacher Rebecca Young, reading teacher Theresa Pelton, science teacher Jaclynne Bishop, and speech therapists Jen Donovan and Kaleigh McGrouty. Thank you for inspiring, educating and challenging every student, every day!

Mark your calendars for year-end events

I am excited to share some important upcoming dates and events scheduled for the final weeks of school:

  • Wednesday, May 10 – Grade 6 Transition Night, 6 p.m., WJSHS
  • Thursday, May 11 – National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, 7 p.m., WJSHS
  • Thursday, May 11 – WES Drama Club performance, 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 13 – WHS Junior/Senior Prom, 7-11 p.m., Walk-through, 6 p.m.
  • Monday, May 15 – Grandparents & Special Persons Night, 6-7:30 p.m., WES
  • Tuesday, May 16 – School Budget Vote, Board of Education Election, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 18 – Garnet & Grey Spring Concert, 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 23 – National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony, 6 p.m., WJSHS
  • Thursday, May 25 – Spring Sports Awards Night, 6 p.m.
  • Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day No School
  • Thursday, June 1 – Senior Athlete Recognition Night, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 6 – Elementary Spring Concert, 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 8, Board of Education meeting, 6 p.m., WJSHS
  • Monday, June 12 – last day of regular classes Watervliet High School
  • Tuesday, June 13 – Regents Exams begin
  • Friday, June 16 – WES Field Day
  • Monday, June 19 through Thursday, June 22 – WES Half Days
  • Tuesday, June 20 – UPK celebration, 9 a.m., 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June21 – Grade 6 Graduation, 9:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 22 – Class of 2017 Commencement, 6 p.m.

Again, please make time to vote on Tuesday, May 16 -- and encourage your friends, family members and neighbors to do the same -- because every vote matters.