Friday, May 11, 2018

School budget vote is May 15

Next week, the Watervliet community will vote on the district's proposed 27.4 million school budget for the 2018-19 school year. Eligible voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday, May 15 from 11 a.m to 8 p.m. at one of two polling locations, the Watervliet Elementary School or the Watervliet Elks Club.

Also on the May 15 ballot, community members will elect two of the four candidates who are running for open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates include incumbent and current vice president Heather Soroka, and newcomers Amanda Cavanaugh, Theresa DeChiaro and Shawn Smeltzer. Board member Jeff Shellenberger, who will complete his term on the school board in June, decided not to run for re-election this year. I thank him for his service to our students, our staff and our community during his time on the board. He will be greatly missed.

About the budget

Our budget proposal for next year maintains all current academic programs and extracurricular opportunities for students. Spending will increase 2.69 percent, or $719,000 more compared to the current year, while the tax levy will increase 2.03 percent, which is below the district’s limit allowed under the state’s tax “cap” formula.

We continue to remain conservative in our approach to budgeting, after putting much effort over the past few years working successfully to restore the district’s fiscal health. As a high-needs, low-wealth district that relies heavily on state aid, we are mindful that a downturn in the economy or an unanticipated emergency or unavoidable expense (think roof repair or boiler replacement) can jeopardize our financial stability. 

To that end, we continue to explore cost-effective ways to provide new and relevant learning opportunities for students, such as the coding class that we will offer high school students next year. We also recognize that not all students are served well in a traditional classroom setting, so we have increased the number of spots that will be available next year for students to enroll in the BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. We will continue to send our at-risk students to the BOCES Pathways Academy, a new alternative education program, as long as it yields positive results for our struggling learners. While we pay up front to send our students to these types of programs, it is important to remember that it would be more costly for us to implement and sustain similar programs on our own, and we receive aid reimbursement the following year.

New PTECH to launch in September

Speaking of new learning opportunities, I am excited to be able to officially announce that our district is a primary partner in a new Capital Region Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) program that will be housed at Watervliet Jr./Sr. High School starting in September.

Our PTECH venture, which includes the Capital Region BOCES, the Mohonasen school district, Hudson Valley and Schenectady County community colleges and several local businesses, is one of six partnerships to receive a PTECH grant from the state this year. Through the new PTECH program, students will be able to earn their Regents diploma and an associate’s degree in information technology and cyber security free of charge from either Hudson Valley or Schenectady County Community College in four to six years. After successfully completing the program, graduates can choose to enter the workforce in the lucrative and growing tech fields, or continue their education at a four-year college.

The new PTECH is open to incoming ninth grade students from Watervliet and neighboring school districts within the Capital Region BOCES area. An informational meeting for parents and students held on April 24 was well attended, which makes me optimistic for the start of this great opportunity for our students!

Celebrating the Top 10 and tenure

I recognize the Top 10 scholars of the Class of 2018, including valedictorian Bethany Livsey, salutatorian Meghan Murray, Maria Baughn, Patrick Ethier, Sheila Caminiti, Angela Keefer, Haadia Faheem, Hosnieh Nazari, Alexis Wilson and Parisa Nori. Best wishes for much success in the future!

I celebrate our varsity wrestling team for their hard work, grit and skill. Under Coach Dennis Lane, the Cannoneers were the Class C Runner Up with a league record of 7-1. The team had 26 wins – the most in a season – and won five consecutive tournaments. Two of our wrestlers – senior Connor Lyons and junior Sterling Spoon – qualified for the state tournament at the Times Union Center and Coach Lane was named Class C Coach of the Year. Congratulations on another stellar season!
I recognize and congratulate the following educators for earning tenure this year and for their commitment every day to the students of our district: Michaeleen Backus, Kelly Bariteau, Amanda Ciampi, Jessica Diamond and Wendy Ryan. I am also proud to announce that Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Michael Foust also earned tenure.

Again, I encourage you to vote on Tuesday, May 15 – and invite your family, neighbors and friends to join you at the polls because every vote matters!

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