OSWEGO, NY – A handful of speakers voiced their opinions Tuesday night on the Oswego City School District’s proposed 2011-12 spending plan.
The speakers touched upon the specific things that Superintendent Bill Crist was expecting.
“It hit on the places that I thought it would. There was concern about the New Visions program (due to some misinformation about the cost of it), concern about the music program, the Study Skills class,” he said.
The superintendent’s proposed budget is $74,844,748.
Terri Stacy urged the board to keep the budget cut that eliminates the New Vision program.
“It is my understanding that this program spends between $15,000 to $18,000 per student,” she said. “I’m hopeful this information is wrong. In this economy that much money is extravagant. Given the financial difficulties the school district faces, this money could be spent on other programs in the district that would benefit more children.”
Everyone is being asked to make sacrifices, she said, adding, “This, to me, seems like a cut that makes sense.”
The cost is a little over $8,000 per student for next year, the superintendent noted.
“And, we get 70 percent of it reimbursed. So, it is only a few thousand dollar cost to the taxpayer,” added John Dunsmoor, chair of the board’s finance committee.
There is still some consideration for some slots for the New Vision students for next year in cooperation with a BOCES program, Crist noted.
Gisele Benigno urged the board not to make cuts in the music program.
All of her children have benefited from what she calls the crown jewel of the Oswego district.
“The reputation of your music program brought me to Oswego in 2004,” she told the board. “Its reputation reaches far beyond the county borders. Oswego city schools values music education, and is proud of its rich history. You can’t afford to cut it.”
A pair of students, Delaney Roddy and Sydnie Leroy spoke out in support of the study skills class.
“I’ve learned a lot from that class. And, I know if I didn’t have that class I wouldn’t have gotten the high grades I have in other classes,” Delaney explained. “I learned the factors of success. I learned how to pass a test … I have passed a test before, but I have never actually known the strategies for it. Sixth graders coming into seventh grade benefit from having study skills.”
Cheryl Rogers, the K-12 team leader for music, asked the board to reconsider cutting a position from the music department that translates into the loss of a full–time high school band director.
After the meeting, Crist said he doesn’t disagree with what was said.
Referring to the study skills class, he noted that there are concepts people need to know about how to study.
“I think (the class) is fantastic. But, what I would suggest is it be for all students, all teachers to use in their classrooms, teachings strategies for getting kids to learn how to study and understand how to study,” he explained. “If we can push that into all subject areas, as opposed to making it an isolated class, than all of our kids will be better off. And I would also suggest that we look at instead of doing it in the middle level, begin as soon as the kids walk into (elementary) school.”
The district is still “banking” on some retirements; if they don’t happen it could impact how certain programs move forward, Crist said.
“I didn’t get in this job to make cuts to anything,” Crist said. “I don’t want to make a reduction to one thing. But when you look at the big picture, you have to step away and say what can we do and still maintain programs? We have to make some very difficult decisions.”
Also Tuesday, after a bit of discussion, the board voted to put a bus proposition on the ballot this May.
If approved by the public, Proposition No. 2 would enable the district to buy 10 new school buses at a cost of $968,000.
The district is looking to acquire eight 66-passenger buses ($107,000 apiece), one 34-passenger bus ($48,000) and one 34-passenger bus with a wheelchair lift ($54,000).
There was some good discussion regarding transportation, Crist added.
“We have 22 buses that are over 10 years old. Even the governor who’s being very conservative in what he’s trying to promote here said we should not have a bus that old,” he said. “Our most important commodity is the students we’re transporting. We want to make sure that we’re doing it safely and we want to make sure we’re doing it in a way that is the most cost efficient.”
Some of the district’s current fleet have 150,000 and 180,000 miles on them, and are getting expensive to maintain, the superintendent pointed out.