Clarkstown School And State Education Officials To Meet On Congers Elementary Aid

Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. Morton explains what happens after the bond vote.
Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. Morton explains what happens after the bond vote.

Clarkstown residents learned Thursday night that school district administrators and board of education members are meeting on Monday with New York State Education Department (SED) officials regarding state funding for the repair of Congers Elementary School. The district’s application for SED aid for the school’s $6.5 million repair cost was turned down earlier this month. After Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski intervened, SED agreed to reconsider the request.

State aid would cover 55 percent of the work needed to reopen the school closed for safety reasons in August. If the proposed $6.5 million bond to fix the building is passed next month, state aid would mean a difference in what property owners would have to pay. 

With state aid homeowners would pay $10 per year over 30 years for the work. Without state funds, homeowners would pay $26 annually over 15 years. Commercial businesses or non-homestead properties would pay an increase of a quarter of one percent.

While the SED officials’ visit was good news for the supporters of the proposed bond, they characterized other information coming from the administration as misleading and divisive. A frequently asked question packet, which was prepared for the February 4th bond vote and distributed this week, drew criticism at the board meeting.

Several residents and board member Joe Malgieri took issue with wording.

“I just think this sends a negative message to the community,” said Malgieri. 

He said it tells parents if you vote yes for the bond your kids get moved, if you vote no they stay.

The document reads, “If Bond Vote is ‘Yes’ – It will be recommended to the BOE that all elementary school districts will be rezoned. If Bond Vote is ‘No’ – The only movement of children will be from Congers Elementary into New City Elementary and Lakewood.”

Congers parent Phil Leiter said residents could interpret that if they vote no on the bond, there will not be any redistricting beyond the three schools. Pete Bradley of Congers said the wording makes it sound like people will be punished if they vote yes because all elementary schools may be redistricted.

School Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton explained that if the bond fails, the addition of the 234 Congers students to New City and Lakewood elementary would bring their classes to between 18 and 26 students. Those sizes are in line with the rest of the district. He said that parents would be notified by mid to late March which school their child is going to, however that information would not be complete for students with IEPs until May or June.  

The bond vote will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at Lakewood, Link and West Nyack elementary schools and Clarkstown North High School.



Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 09:37 AM
I appreciate the fact that we agree that all schools need repair, and I respect differing opinions on the fate of Congers ( I do think the "emotion over logic" argument is off base and patronizing, but Congers Resident doesn't have a real name... So I expect snarky comments. Very brave of you...) I guess no one is willing to admit that what Morton put out there was divisive and misleading. I assume to save money, it's OK to turn a community against itself. I guess it's OK to control a vote through fear...I have continually advised people that they should vote their conscience. I can say that anyone who honestly believes that the 3 schools with the "lowest" teacher to student ratios were conveniently in the closest proximity to eachother is either a complete optimist, or truly buys into the belief that sacrificing one school will take the spotlight off their school. I have complete respect for anyone who has studied the issue, done their homework, asked as many questions as possible...and still feel they must vote "no". I don't agree, but I understand. However, will not one person who is promoting "No" come out and admit publicly that a "No" vote will NOT prevent redistricting? Will no one admit that Morton's FAQ was intentionally divisive? It's easy to remain silent when you believe a lie benefits your position, whether you believe it or not. It takes courage to say that you don't want your point of view associated with propaganda and half truths.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 02:45 PM
Hilary, do you recall the Board meeting from November 14? Congers Elementary was on the agenda to be "discussed" only. Instead of pointing blame at Dr. Morton for his FAQ sheet, why don't you ask yourself which Board members impulsively decided we had to have a bond introduced that night? My God, the word "bond" wasn't even on the agenda! If there was some grand conspiracy to close 2 schools and redistrict, why didn't Mike make the original motion for the various bonds that were proposed that night? Those who aren't blinded by emotions can clearly see which Board members forced this to the table that night. In fact, one of them was riling the crowd up which led to a resident berating a student representative on the Board. The fate of this bond rests solely with the Board members who recklessly thrust it upon us November 14.
Clarkstown Dad January 26, 2014 at 02:52 PM
Again with the real name stuff .... I too choose to remain behind the scenes since I choose not to take a chance in public based on the way people behave. More than once I have heard Congers parents say at Board meetings .... we know where you live and where your kids go to school .... and this was from the women. Or how about the Board member accusing other Board members of not caring for the kids and inciting people. Yes I choose to remain this way too. I am a NO vote and I would never guaranty anything, including redistricting. Redistricting may very well be on the table once the Demographer is finished and this could very well include the high schools in the future. Look at the numbers. Divisive, of course it is by its true definition to anyone who wants the Bond to pass. But if the truth is divisive then ...
Scott Northridge January 26, 2014 at 03:36 PM
Everyone touts how wonderful the Clarkstown School District is. Congers Elementary School is in Clarkstown. Lakewood Elementary is in Clarkstown. Little Tor, Strawtown and Link are in Clarkstown. So, what is the problem with redistricting. The children will STILL be in a school within the Clarkstown School District. Most children ride the bus no matter what school they attend.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Clarkstown Dad, I'm truly sorry if a few upset moms frightened you so badly that you must hide behind a fake name...it must have been very scary. As I recall the comments that were made at the meeting were NOT threatening, but were made to point out that those who made statements not supporting Congers families were primarily from schools who felt that the issue at Congers was certainly not their problem & that they didnt want to be affected by this debacle. Those "scary ladies" were deperate for the rest of what should be ONE district to come together to help protect their school. You have every right to vote No...I believe I have stated that repeatedly. I totally agree that redistricting is in our future...Im just asking for acknowledgement that the document distributed, which displayed the ramifications of a yes or no vote was NOT objective and clearly was an attempt by the Administration to sway the vote. The truth is NEVER divisive, and I'm sorry that you feel it could be...the TRUTH sparks insightful, constructive debate, and the TRUTH often leads to compromise. Manipulation, propoganda and threats of retaliation ARE divisive, which is why I would expect any decent, moral person to say they will not tolerate those tactics when our schools are involved.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 05:11 PM
Scott, I believe everyone used to believe our schools were great, but they have been falling behind for years. The district that educated me offered the me the Dimensions Program (back then called Gifted & Talented), FFMS didn't leak (we had no pool, but our classrooms & gyms were dry); South had AP courses which prepared us for college...Now we are debating cancelling Dimensions and AP, and FFMS is leaking. Closing one school is not going to stop this...in reality redistricting is the greatest savings, but that is a very hard decision too. This whole thing is a mess, I grew up here, I have kids in FFMS..I have a daughter demanding private HS because North is gross..I understand hard choices need to be made, I don't say I have the answers...but I don't believe a knee jerk reaction to close a school without all the facts is prudent.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 07:08 PM
Hilary, you are obsessed with people hiding behind aliases. Why? Who exactly are you trying to "out?" It seems like you have someone in mind and it's bothering you. I understand why folks don't want their real names out here. I lived through a nightmare a few years back while battling the last school board. I used aliases because if I didn't I would have police sent to my house for things I posted. Never was I charged with a crime, It was an obvious attempt to "chill" my free speech. It failed miserably. The end result was 3 new Board members were elected. With the present Board I no longer feel the need to "hide" behind aliases. Quite the opposite, in fact. I want Board members to see what I write as me.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 07:22 PM
I should add that of the past Board members, Phil Degaetano never called the police on me. In fact, Phil always spoke to me, explained his thought process, and we maintained a solid relationship even after he lost in that election. So much so that together we ran a food drive for homeless families in CCSD in January 2012.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 07:29 PM
I don't think the term obsessed is correct, but if youd like to know...yes I would like to out Clarkstown Dad...he is comfortable using terms like Congeroid because he can hide behind an alias. Would he resort to name calking and insults if he posted under his real name? I have been civil in everyone of my posts. I think its disgraceful that a conversation about our children and community can have room for cowardly name calling. I have no fear of the police coming to my house because I try to keep my position and opinions respectful...nit because I change my name.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 07:59 PM
Hilary, I understand now why you are upset. Thanks for clarifying. Keep on debating, I am enjoying it.
Congers Resident January 26, 2014 at 09:04 PM
I am shocked at the misinformation and scare tactics being put out by this group that calls themselves "Clarkstown Residents for Education. I was shopping around congers and saw a flyer posted at the Dunkin Donuts that stated the following: In big letters it says VOTE YES annual cost only $10 per year. And in very small letters at the very bottom it says that is based on state aid which we have already been denied but may be approved. That is a LIE! It should have said the TRUE number with a side not saying it could change if the state decides to give us aid. It says that our home values will drop 12-29% if they close congers school. I would like to see the facts and data supporting that claim. I have spoke to several real estate agents who don't believe that is true. It says if they need to redistrict children will have to travel unsafe and unacceptable distances from school? That is an outright outrageous claim. They will eventually be traveling to the middle school which is far away from some towns. If that is the logic should we open a middle school in every town? Local business will close if Congers school is closed? I am sorry I do not buy that. The business in congers seem to be doing fine. I cant see the school bringing that much additional business to the town. I cant believe that they are advertising only $10 a year to save the future of congers. PENDING STATE AID WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN DENIED. Here again, this campaign is being driven on emotion and not facts and logic. I say again. Vote this bond down, have the BOE come back with a plan to fix ALL The schools!
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 09:20 PM
Board of Education Meeting November 14, 2013 Agenda Item #1.09 Discussion on Congers Elementary School Type: Information, Discussion
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 09:20 PM
This was to be a Discussion on Congers Elementary School. There was no Action listed on the agenda. In fact, there is not even a mention of the word "bond."
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 09:21 PM
"Discussion on Congers Elementary School" starts at minute 1:27:50. Here is the video from that meeting. Take a look with your own eyes and listen with your own ears as to how a "Discussion" suddenly turned into an Action item (vote):
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 09:21 PM
Robert Ward Kurkela January 26, 2014 at 09:40 PM
Hilary, read what I just posted above and watch the meeting video from 11/14/13 starting at 1:27:50. This was not supposed to be voted on. This was a discussion. Watch how all of a sudden it became impulsively imperative to force a vote that evening. Mike Aglialoro didn't motion for a bond.
Clarkstown Dad January 26, 2014 at 09:50 PM
So when someone yells out that, "We know where you live and where your kids go to school that should/could not be perceived as a threat by the person it was directed to? The same group of people who also verbally abused a teenage girl for voicing her opinion ...... this is the group that you want people to have an "insightful and constructive debate" with. No thank you.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 10:02 PM
Robert, I have watched that meeting, am I happy with what happened? NO. Do I blame the residents for being emotional? NO. Do I condone the behavior of the peope who behaved in a disrespectful fashion?NO. Do I agree with the reckless actions of the board? NO. Do I REALLY care who's fault it is? NO. Will I sacrifce what I believe to be a vibrant part of our district because I am disgusted by the actions of a few? No. There, you got me to say NO,NO,NO,NO,NO,NO....but when it comes to doing the right thing for a school district that gave me a wonderful education, when it comes to supporting friends and neighbors who I know should stand up for my kids & their schools, when it comes to just being able to know that we don't sacrifice someone elses child to secure a better deal for ourself, well then I say YES! YES to an evaluation of our entire district, YES to saving Congers & YES,YES,YES to this stinky little bond that noone likes! :)
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 10:14 PM
No sweetie,...in that environment, given the context, and coming from a tearful PTA mom, I can't say that it could be too terrifying. Now I'm sure you are used to hearing what I'm about to say. This isn't about you. You shouldn't insult and disrespect others, if you want your thoughts to have any impact on a issue vital to our community. Now go have mommy check under your bed for the boogie man and go nighty night.
Clarkstown Dad January 26, 2014 at 10:42 PM
A "tearful" PTA Mom ..... keep stretching it or should I ask, do you condone her behavior .... Who is it who said, "I have been civil in everyone of my posts." Oh that was you. Who said, "Your correct, not gutless just sad.", yup you again. Enjoy your self-righteous ways and condescending posts. It is obvious you are obsessed as someone else indicated.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 26, 2014 at 10:57 PM
Nope, don't condone her behavior, nope not at all. My tone remains civil, I haven't used derogatory slurs against a part of my own community...and Robert doesn't seem to think I'm obsessed...after my explanation regarding your comment he actually encouraged me to continue the debate. I m sure it feels condescending when your own words are used to make you feel inferior & when you know a good laugh is being had at your expense. But unfortunately this really isn't about the fun I've had with you...its about a serious issue facing our schools, its not about mean mommies, fake names, or hurt feelings. Its about KIDS,long term goals, and strengthening our school district. I apologize to all others on here for getting away from the important things. Now, because I'm sure you need it, "Dad" you can have the last word...I'm done with this conversation.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 27, 2014 at 07:42 AM
Hilary, I sympathize with you, I truly do. However, accountability is absolutely necessary when serving on a school board. That said, I maintained hope up to the last meeting that 1 of 5 Board members who votes yes would motion to rescind this bond. i was hoping it would come from one of them who were so adamant about passing one that night. It didn't happen. I don't understand why one couldn't acknowledge a mistake was made with no plan or information available to the other Board members and public on November 14. Again, there was no plan or information available that evening. I won't sit back and watch people attack or blame Mike or Dr. Morton and his administration for where we are now. Everyone has been put in a terrible position by a few who couldn't see that this would be the end result of their impulsiveness. You are passionate and out here debating and I admire that. I am not trying to upset you more. However, I will be VERY vocal in redirecting criticism to where it belongs.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 27, 2014 at 08:34 AM
You haven't upset me at all.. show me where I have specifically criticized Dr. Morton or "Mike" for the mess we are in, I have said repeatedly that I am not blaming anyone for this disaster, I DONT CARE how we got here- I just don't want to be in this situation. (curious as to why you seem to need to absolve these two specific individuals from all blame...I hold the entire board accountable for this mess, SOMEONE should have stopped it, it never should have happened) I agree the bond should have been rescinded and have the district have ONE bond for ONE district. Since you brought it up, I have heard rumors that Mike informed people that that would NOT be happening, perhaps a catalyst to this disaster?!? As for my position, What I HAVE requested over and over is for a simple acknowledgement that the FAQ- especially the "consequences" chart was presented in a biased, non-objective fashion. That is where my ire at Dr. Morton lies. The "vote Yes, get redistricted; vote No, Close Congers, Save YOUR school" presentation was inflammatory and frightened many voters who really believe that a vote "against Congers" eliminates the threat of redistricting. The FAQ, and mass emails by the district may be the only information some voters will see. My frustration is that we should NOT have anyone voting "against" any part of our district... the very real truth that redistricting is still an option is not acknowledged anywhere in ANY of Morton's presentation. However, the very small part of the population who do attend the BOE meetings know that it is still a consideration. If you think this situation we are in is ugly now...can you imagine what the climate will be if people vote "NO" because they believe their schools will be protected, and THEN we have a redistricting anyway?? I am asking for honesty and transparency from the board and administration...let the voters know the WHOLE truth and allow an informed vote by the public
Robert Ward Kurkela January 27, 2014 at 08:52 AM
Hilary, don't listen to rumors. There are many out there. Send them to me and I will do my best to research them and reply to you. What else are you hearing? I respect and admire the 2 Board members who didn't fall for the nonsense on November 14th. Hilary, I believe these 2 Board members actually left the auditorium and weren't present when the bond eventually passed. They were utterly disgusted by what they saw unfolding. They have no responsibility for hoe this bond was thrust upon the community. None. In fact, time will prove them to be the wisest ones that evening.
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 27, 2014 at 09:31 AM
But no defense of the FAQ presentation? I appreciate your offer to research rumors, I will be happy to send you more specifics of what has been said...In the meantime, I would like you to ask you point out where this document says "One year plan" and do you feel that the statement which addresses redistricting if the bond vote is "No"- "The only movement of children will be from Congers to Lakewood & New City." to be 100% factual?"- it doesn't even say "for now". Do you personally believe a full redistricting is off the table? Will you personally reassure me that according to the "facts in the FAQ" the voters aren't being misled, and that the information being distributed is a clear presentation of what we are facing as a district? I am honestly interested in your response. I would like an honest response, no spin, no explanations, just simply is this a fair presentation of the full picture. It's been fun, but I have to work now, I need the money!...I hear the taxes around here are crazy!! LOL
Robert Ward Kurkela January 27, 2014 at 01:48 PM
Hilary, I am not going to defend the FAQ sheet. I actually stood up and blasted Dr. Morton & Mr. Fucci after the Congers kids were moved because I knew there were problems with the IEPs. Don't assume I am advocating for the Administration. I am not. But I refuse to allow Dr. Morton and his staff or Mike Aglialoro to be vilified as divisive. I maintain my stance that we should not be where we are now. This was avoidable. The bond arose out of nowhere with no plans. No information. No foresight. Dr. Morton had no plans or information available on November 14th because no one knew that a few Board members would blindside the rest of the Board and Administration with ANY bond that night. It was only supposed to be a discussion on "Congers Elementary School." I maintain that those responsible need to accept responsibility for a mistake and rescind it. The vote didn't take place yet. My girls are both headed for North. I want a new North. I want it included in a district wide bond. Make It Happen.
Overtaxed January 27, 2014 at 02:11 PM
How in God's name would you have liked the district to detail the recommendations in the FAQs without actually detailing the recommendations??? I'm sorry Morton did not sprinkle sugar on top of the FAQ Grow up people!
Speaking Out January 27, 2014 at 02:33 PM
Okay again I will state...wanted a bond...bond put up...not the bond that was desired. Wanted a plan....no plan but Dr. Morton's recommendation (in essence his plan) for what he will bring to the Board in either scenario, if bond passes or bond fails.....we are where we are...so let's see what the results are with this bond and what this Board decides to do from there...it truly does seem emotional many stomping around because they did not get what they want. Again it comes down to capacity and space in our other buildings...no aid...no plan...increase my taxes...I will be voting NO for this bond...plain and simple
Hilary Jordan Kunz January 27, 2014 at 02:45 PM
Robert, I am in a situation similar to yours. I have a son going into FFMS, and a daughter trying to convince me that she wants private school instead of North, (due to the conditions of the school, and the concern that cuts may have to be made to AP & IB programs). More than anything I want FFMS & North repaired. I will gladly and gratefully accept ANY guidance on how to "Make It Happen". I don't believe that at this time there is any way to rescind this weak bond. Are you aware of anyway to stop this runaway train? I don't disagree with your points, but I'm not comfortable going down another dead end path. This whole situation is a disaster, but the only opportunity we have to preserve all of the schools -unless there is some way to get this bond off the table- is to reserve the funds to repair the school, and then based upon a full assessment evaluate the entire district & float an inclusive bond. I feel the bond being forced was the first step in isolating Congers & the way it was presented to the public by the administration doesn't cover the full scope of what we are facing. If you have any way out of this...throw it out there. What we have now is awful.
Robert Ward Kurkela January 28, 2014 at 08:13 AM
Hilary, I stood up at the December 12th meeting where the bond was to be finalized. At the beginning of the meeting I spoke and said that a Congers only bond was a very bad idea. I stated that a district wide bond including Congers was the best option if any bond was to pass. I have blogged in various places that sometimes we all make mistakes and to acknowledge an error isn't a bad thing and to rescind the bond. In my opinion, the Board members who should've done this are the ones who were so adamant about passing a bond on November 14 with no plan, no information and nothing but pure emotions fueling them. They didn't listen. In reviewing my prior post where I wrote "Make It Happen" I may have been overly optimistic. I don't think anyone can do anything at this juncture. The bond is going out for a vote on February 4th and we need to vote regardless of how we ended up here.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »