GWL starts over on school choice

Schools chief says community support was divided: Chester, Warwick back in the hunt for 280 students

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  • Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo said there’s heighten stress now on campus at George F. Baker High School, pictured.

By Nancy Kriz
GREENWOOD LAKE — In an unexpected turn of events, the Greenwood Lake school board Wednesday night rescinded its April 25 vote authorizing school officials to negotiate a five-year contract with the Tuxedo School District that would have kept its students in George F. Baker High School.

The vote to withdraw last month’s 4-3 decision was unanimous. It also cancels the special vote on June 19, when Greenwood Lake residents would have gone to the polls to vote their approval or disapproval of the board’s April 25 decision to go with Tuxedo.

“I think the board acted responsibly last night because they heard a lot of input from the total community and responded to that as public officials,” said Greenwood Lake School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel on Thursday morning. “It was in response to the community’s outcry. The community was very split. A large segment of the community was unhappy with the decision.”

Brockel said the board will now start fresh during its regular June 13 board meeting, and will look at all its options as it begins a new diligence process. That also means the Warwick and Chester school districts — who courted the Greenwood Lake board with their reasons why the 280 or so students should attend their high schools — are back in the mix.

‘Parental choice’
“Our board goes back to the drawing board, so to speak, and looks at all the information gathered and looks at different options and we don’t know what that (outcome) will be at this moment,” added Brockel.

Greenwood Lake students have attended Baker high for the past 30 years.

Yet, within the fourth year of a five-year contract with Tuxedo to be completed in June, the Greenwood Lake board wanted to look at a variety of options.

Greenwood Lake high school students must travel to a different district because New York State will not allow the district to build its own high school.

Public meetings were held over the past months where officials gave presentations touting the merits of what their high schools could provide to Greenwood Lake students.

Brockel said he thought residents wanted a range of options, such as a parental choice on where to send their children. But he knew the community was concerned with finances.

“The thing I think really angered part of the population was that Tuxedo’s tuition was several thousands of dollars higher than at Chester or Warwick,” he said. “The fiscal responsibility that they were seeking in Tuxedo may not have been enough to satisfy a large portion of our community. What they consider fiscally responsible was still several thousands higher. It might not have been enough for our community.”

Brockel wants to send a message to Chester and Warwick residents.

“To the Chester and Warwick communities, I think we recognize their eagerness to take our students on a tuition basis, and we appreciate the efforts of the school district personnel to make very comprehensive presentations on all the aspects of their high schools,” Brockel said.

Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo said she understands Greenwood Lake's reversal even though it makes her unhappy.

“I think their community is clearly saying they want choice,” said Lomascolo. "I would love to have them here for five years, but that doesn’t seem like that is going to happen right now. The message at that meeting was loud and clear. I am disappointed. There is security in a five-year contract.”

She said there’s stress on campus.

“I believe my faculty, my administration, my building is very nervous now,” she said. “I’m not hearing much from the kids.”

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