WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. News and Comment by John F. Bailey. May 19, 2015 UPDATED MAY 20, 2015:
There are 53 school districts in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam and every district except one opens polls early in the morning for people to vote before work.
Do you know the one who doesn’t?
White Plains NY USA—the excuse is it costs too much money to keep the polls open from 7 to 9 PM. This with a school budget of $205.8 Million up for approval today. I think the shortened hours is to hold down voter turnout.
Well the strategy worked Tuesday again, if it is indeed a strategy.
The Tuesday vote totaled less than last year’s 1,100 votes, with 989 voting out of 31,000 registered voters. That is approximately 3% of eligible voters bothering to vote on the school budget.
I also learned last week that the $205.8 Million budget up includes a 2% raise across the board for 30 administrators…plus the district is hiring new teachers. Again the budget has not been cut. It has been rolled over, and apparently Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. White Plains believe this is the way it should be, at least 4 out of 5 voters did yesterday.
The 2% raises for administrators is a $4-3 Million payroll of administrators alone with an average salary of administrators being $145,000.
The district asked voters to approve their budget as they do every year because they said the budget is thoughtfully managed and makes the hard choices while retaining arts and music classes and sports programs and gives children a top education and the assessment scores that say it does not, are flawed. So they say.
One of those hard choices they made was to hire new teachers with the $2-1/2 million in new state aid money from Governor Cuomo and the legislature…money that may not be there next year and would require a 5% property tax increase to cover. But the voters felt this was O.K.
They reelected two incumbents, Rose Lovitch and Jim Hricay to the school board today, and a third newcomer, Cayne Letizia a teacher in Valhalla. The other candidate for the Michael Bellantoni a businessman with 614 votes finished behind Lovitch with 697 votes; Hricay with 677, and Letizia with 673.
The teacher, Cayne Letizia says he will look at the budget from a teacher’s point of view of what is necessary to do to improve learning. The businessman, Michael Bellantoni says he thinks White Plains is a great school district and is not happy with the amount of testing done either, and promised to bring business practices to the district.
The two incumbents James Hricay and Rose Lovitch approved submitting this new budget.
But no matter that the budget is going up, as it does every year, the Board has to start asking the hard questions.
The five year plan drawn up by the district Financial Committee has the school budget hitting $231 Million by 2019-20 in 4 years if the current rate of spending is intact. This is the exact figure predicted by WPCNR projections about a month ago. The district is projecting deficits the next three years.
Fred Seiler, Assistant Superintendent for Business told this reporter he expects that will not be hit…but instead will only reach $223 Million by 2019-20, instead due to savings on wages and health insurance. We shall see.
But there appears to be no will to cut by this new Board of Education.The tax payers are doomed to pay any miscalculation in this 5 year outlook outlook.
But the real issue is how good is the education, not how much money is needed to keep this district going at its same size and meeting all its priorities.
You might consider the district attitude toward its test results on the Common Core Assessments. You might consider the assessment tests too long and inappropriate for grade level, which may be true or not.
But last week’s U.S. News Index of 100 Greatest High Schools gives every school district in the county that consider themselves “great school districts of excellence,” including White Plains a difficult puzzle to explain.
In looking at the U.S. News index of great high schools released last week which lists great high schools as schools with a huge preponderance of white students, and pre-selected student bodies.
The only Westchester Schools that made the top 100 list were Blind Brook # 73 and Rye at # 81—with the next closest being Yonkers Middle High School at # 121.
Significantly this was based on Advanced Placement Test College Readiness Exams results.
How did White Plains High School Do?
White Plains placed # 1,280 in the national rankings, and # 134th in New York State. Rye for example finished 11th in New York State.
It is worth repeating: White Plains placed 1,280 in the national best high school rankings and 134th in New York State.
Significantly though, of 41% of White Plains high school students taking the Advanced Placement College Readiness Tests, only 32% passed, this is very poor compared to other districts where the average is well over 90% of those taking advanced placement readiness exams passed.
How do White Plains educators explain this abberation? This should be one of the Board of Education’s first questions when they take up matters with our latest new Free Agent Superintendent of Schools.
In math proficiency testing White Plains students, only 76% passed as proficient and 24% not proficient, while in English Proficiency it was 90% passing with 10% not proficient.
I do not know as a parent how to interpret this. I think parents who have students in the White Plains system have to start believing what results say and asking for educators to explain a results like this. The Board of Education should.
But what do they say?
How can educators say that on advanced placements given to the best and the brightest students in the high school only 32% pass college readiness exams?