The Clarkstown Board of Education held its first Community
Workshop on the 2014-2015 budget process on Tuesday night with about 60 people
Board President Mike Aglialoro said the goal was to maintain the district’s quality education and balance that with financial constraints. He said planning now would help avoid “indiscriminate” cuts in the future.
District administrators spoke about reserve funds running out in 18 months and the necessity of cutting approximately $10 million from future budgets. The current school budget is $195 million. The attendees included 30 volunteers, who are serving on two subgroups that will look specifically at the elementary schools and at the middle and high schools, and other residents.
Assistant Superintendent John LaNave said the district spends the largest portion of its budget on salaries and benefits.
“The only way to move the need in this environment is salaries,” he said. “Salaries and benefits are the biggest part of what we do.”
Assistant Superintendent Jeff Sobel explained the district’s policy on class enrollments and reviewed the number of students in each of the schools and remaining available classroom space, which led to a discussion on redistricting.
The board’s current policy sets a maximum of 24 students per kindergarten through second grade classes. Once a class has 23 or 24 students a part-time teaching assistant is added. In the third through fifth grades, the maximum number of students allowed is 27 with a part-time teacher added once 26 or 27 students are in a class. Across the district, the average elementary class size is 20 students.
For the middle and high schools, the board’s policy allows a maximum of 30 students per class. However the average class size for teachers, who teach five periods daily, cannot exceed 27 students and must be an average of 25 students for English classes.
As part of the discussion about redistricting and larger class sizes, Sobel showed slides about the number of rooms used in Clarkstown’s elementary schools and the excess classrooms. LaNave said if the decision is made to redistrict, it will not be popular.
“Redistricting is a very painful thing to do,” said LaNave. “It is a thankless job and many of us will be vilified during the process.”
LaNave said the purpose of the presentation was to provide a baseline of knowledge about the district to help the subgroup members understand the challenges the district is facing so they can come up with recommendations. During the three-hour meeting, participants asked questions about selling school buildings, teachers’ contracts, state requirements and revenue generating ideas. The slides from the presentation will be available on the district’s website.
The subgroups are expected to meet again in two weeks and will be divided with the elementary school subgroup meeting with Board member Wendy Adolff and the middle and high schools subgroup meeting with Board member Chris Conti.
New City resident Brian Cocolicchio thanked the board for asking for community input.
“The fact that you guys had the courage to come and ask the community for help is to be commended,” he said.