Thursday, December 21, 2017

In the spirit and season for giving

During the month of December, I have been reminded of the giving and generous spirit of our teachers, staff, students and families. Generosity is the elementary school’s word of the month, and the true meaning of that word was demonstrated throughout our district this month. 

Second grade teacher Kim Tallmadge and her colleagues again organized a pajama collection for Scholastic Book Club's Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive. The drive kicked off with Pajama Day on December 8 where for a $1 donation elementary students got to wear their pajamas in school for the whole day (fun!). Between staff and student donations, the event netted approximately $800, which was used to purchase pajamas. In the meantime, more than 60 pairs of pajamas were also collected during the drive. The nice part is that through this effort, 137 of our own students will receive a wrapped pair of pajamas and a book, plus we will be able to donate over 65 pairs of pajamas to Scholastic for its Bedtime Story Pajama Drive. 
Elementary School teachers and staff participate in a Giving Tree each year to help support the community’s families in need at the holiday time. Faculty and staff select gift tags from a tree, then purchase and wrap the requested items, which are then distributed to local families.While at the Junior-Senior High School, teachers and staff contributed to the Watervliet Housing Authority’s Adopt-A-Family program. My sincere appreciation to everyone whose support is helping to make the holidays brighter and happier for struggling families in our community.

The Junior High School Student Council also organized its annual Adopt-an-Angel for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Funds collected help grant wishes for local kids with life-threatening illnesses.

Many of our students showed generosity by helping others through community service. I visited the Watervliet Senior Center on December 20 where our student athletes from the boys' junior varsity and varsity teams volunteered to serve meals to senior citizens at the center's annual Holiday Luncheon.
Our National Honor Society members served meals at the Capital City Mission in Albany, as they do several times each year.  The students assisted with the set-up, service and clean-up at the mission, which provides meals to the homeless on a daily basis.

Looking ahead 

As the first semester winds down, my focus will pivot to developing the school budget as it does each year at this time. In January,  Governor Cuomo will deliver his State of the State address and his Executive Budget proposal. Using the financial information outlined in the Executive Budget as a baseline, school business manager Keith Heid and I will work together to develop a proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year that is reflective of our commitment to students and the community. The school budget proposal will be vetted by the Board of Education and presented for its approval in April. Then the district's proposed plan will go before city residents for a vote in May 2018.

It is difficult to make any predictions at this point, but given the state’s projected budget deficit, developing the budget could be a dicey process this year. That said, I invite you to attend the February Board of Education meeting (Thursday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.) when Assemblyman John McDonald will join us to share his thoughts about the state budget proposal and projected aid to schools.

There are also some new and exciting initiatives and programs on the horizon that will benefit our students and schools. I don't want to reveal much information now as the details are being worked out. That said, I will share more on these initiatives in the new year once everything is in place and finalized.

For now, on behalf of the Board of Education and the Watervliet City School District staff and administration, I wish you a joyous, healthy and peaceful holiday season with family and friends. Great things to come in 2018!