FULTON, NY – The Fulton City School District Board of Education heard from district superintendent at CiTi, Chris Todd as he pitched the possibility of funding a long-term study for the district.
“While I’m here try not to think of me as wearing my BOCES hat, but instead more about my role in state education and my responsibility regionally of overseeing the nine school districts (in the county) and making sure you guys have everything you need,” Todd told the board.
Todd serves as the district superintendent on the board of education for BOCES (CiTi) which is made up of representatives for each of the nine school districts in the county: Fulton, Oswego, Mexico, Pulaski, Central Square, Phoenix, Sandy Creek, Hannibal, and Altmar-Parish Williamstown.
Todd first spoke on the creation of a transformational leadership series that has been meeting on a monthly basis with the intent to build regional capacity with leaders from each district throughout the county.
“I appreciate Mr. Pulvino and the other eight superintendents working with me to talk about some regional capacity building within our own region,” Todd said. “If we can get 85 administrators to show up on a Wednesday night for two and a half hours, that not only shows the commitment of the superintendents but also the commitment of the administrators. You’ve got a big showing in Fulton and this is my time to say thank you,” Todd said.
The conversation then turned to a bleak projection of the upcoming economic year.
According to Todd, state-wide revenue projections released by the comptroller’s office for the upcoming non-election year, primarily looking at the revenues that pay most of the public education bill, “are down significantly,” he said.
Specifically, to the tune of $3 million based on the latest update he had received, Todd said.
“Which means we are probably looking at an economic year that is not going to be great. I will tell you that our representatives have worked hard for us, they fight for us, and we should be thankful for what they’ve given us,” Todd said, however as things stand now, he anticipates an increase in the range of two percent to two and a half percent.
“That’s not best case scenario, but that’s probably where you’re going to fall,” he said.
Todd was speaking now to give a forewarning of things that are likely to come because he has witnessed districts throughout the county working hard for years to provide and maintain opportunities for students, he said.
In Fulton specifically, those opportunities are pretty abundant including programs like Project Lead The Way, P-Tech, offering AP classes, IP classes, college classes, extracurricular activities for athletics, academics, music, arts, and ongoing.
However, Todd noted the atrophy that is clear in some school districts throughout the county right now, citing that FCSD had gone through its own tough times years back while some districts are just seeing those same problems now.
“The reality is, we’ve always adapted to our situation. We’ve looked at our revenues and said this is what opportunities we want to provide for our kids and we are going to do our darnedest to make sure we can adapt what we’re doing to get there,” he explained.
Instead, Todd offered a different approach.
“What I’m suggesting is we start digging into some data points and looking at things pretty deeply and over a longer period of time so we can stop adapting because adapting has lead to atrophy,” he said.
Not necessarily in the FCSD, he pointed out, but there are some districts in the county that are not able to offer many of the same opportunities for students as Fulton.
“Depending on your zip code, you either have or you have not and there’s something unfair about that,” he said.
With that, Todd asked the board of education to consider allowing a study to occur within FCSD. A very comprehensive, deep, and lengthy study to show data regarding the opportunities the district offers, the opportunities all the districts in the region offer, and longer term projections for about five to ten years out to look at the sustainability of them.
“Not just from a fiscal standpoint, but also from a feasibility standpoint on the loss of population that we’re all seeing. We’ve lost about 7,000 kids in the county in the last 10 years which is equivalent of (FCSD) and Mexico Central School District, if both districts were just gone,” he explained.
The study would be done through funds secured entirely by Todd, asking not even a penny from the district and also ensuring that the district will not lose its identity as is a common fear with regional studying.
“That is not my intent at all. My intent is truly to make sure we are optimizing and providing as many opportunities for our kids as we can,” he said.
The study throughout the county is likely to cost between $500,000 and $750,000 to be done correct and thoroughly, and would take at least a year to a year and a half to provide the district with their own data and also data of surrounding districts so school officials can look into some more in depth long term planning.
Todd said the school can take the data and act on it or decide not to use it at all, his focus is merely being able to provide the district with those decision making tools.
“I really think it’s important for us to not sit back and allow for any more atrophy. I don’t believe the money pie is going to get much bigger. Two years ago, our last audited numbers, we spent 419 million dollars to educate 20,000 kids in the county. That’s a lot of money, and I’m not asking this district or any other to do more with less – I think the premise of that is stupid, but I think we can do more with the same,” he finished.
Todd simply asked the board members and superintendent Brian Pulvino to consider taking part in the study and return to him with any thoughts, questions or concerns.
Board President, David Cordone who also represents FCSD on the CiTi board, is very familiar and in line with Todd’s initiatives for regional capacity.
“I think it’s great for Oswego County to be bringing our educational leaders together like we have been. That series has been embraced by the county and I think it speaks volumes to the dedication of our educators at all levels,” he said.
FCSD Superintendent Pulvino also agreed.
“I think we can create great opportunities for our kids if all nine districts work together. We would have greater purchasing power and the opportunity to share as Chris (Todd) is looking at how to maximize resources. More information is never bad, and it would be good information for boards and districts to make better informed decisions. If we have ten superintendents taking information, breaking it down, and tackling it together, it can only be beneficial for all,” he said.
And as always, the FCSD along with Chris Todd keep the needs of the students at the forefront.
“We are in it for the kids, for creating and maintaining opportunities for our students. It’s always good to have data and to be willing to do research to allow opportunities for all students in the county no matter which district they are in. I think this has the potential to create a good vision for moving forward,” Cordone said.