Still up in the air

No decision on where to send GWL high schoolers; Aug. 29 board meeting will determine choice and fate of Tuxedo’s George F. Baker High School

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— No decisions were made on the “parental choice” high school option being considered by the Greenwood Lake Board of Education during its public work session this past Wednesday night. But the residents who attended and were allowed to comment made one thing clear: They did not want Tuxedo as an option.

“The board discussed all the proposals, shared ideas and allowed for public comment,” said Greenwood Lake School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel on Thursday morning. “What seems to be the major theme from the public comment is that we (the school district) need to leave Tuxedo.”

The reason simply boils down to finances, he said.

“People agree the quality of education in the three districts is good,” said Brockel. “The only big difference is the tuition gap. That seems to be the theme of the public. It was so loud and clear. The people who elected the board want them to leave Tuxedo.”

The three options being considered are:

A parental choice option which includes the Chester, Tuxedo and Warwick school districts for a one- or two-year period, which would not require a public vote.
A parental choice option including only the Chester and Warwick school districts for a one- or two-year period, which would not require a public vote.
A single school district choice of either Chester or Warwick for a five-year period, which Brockel noted would require a public vote. Tuxedo would not be included in that single-choice option. It was initially selected as the single-school district option this past spring by the board, which later rescinded its vote after public outcry.

The Chester and Warwick districts are happy to be in the mix of schools being considered.

‘Last chance’

At a time where all districts are grappling with their respective budget issues and a vast array of financial challenges, the possible tuition they could receive for those 280 or so students is a revenue opportunity which can assist in the maintenance or enhancement of their existing academic, sports or co-curricular programs.
Unlike past years when Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo negotiated contracts, those districts have gotten Greenwood Lake’s attention as it gives even greater scrutiny to its own finances.
Tuxedo School District Carol Lomascolo attended the work session and equally observed the public’s comments.
“The people who were there were pro-Warwick,” she said. “My view is that I believe there are people in Greenwood Lake who want to come to Tuxedo and they need to come to the meeting (on Aug. 29) and voice their opinions. This is their last chance to communicate that they want to come to Tuxedo. They need to be the voice for the people who want Tuxedo.”
Lomascolo encouraged pro-Tuxedo residents to also call and/or write the Greenwood Lake board members and Brockel to voice their opinion in advance of the meeting.
She declined discussing any next steps for Tuxedo, noting she remains hopeful Tuxedo will be part of the parental choice option, which she felt would give everyone in Greenwood Lake the options they want.
“We heard what Greenwood Lake is saying, and they want parental choice,” she added. “We want to be part of that.”
Lomascolo noted a 400-signature petition was submitted to the board last month showing support of having Tuxedo as part of the parental choice option.
But Brockel said on Thursday morning: “I think the tuition difference overrides any petition.”

Impact on Tuxedo

The Greenwood Lake board’s Aug. 29 decision on where to send its high school students will have a tremendous impact on the future of George F. Baker High School, where all Greenwood students currently attend.
The loss of Greenwood Lake students and the tuition that comes with their attendance at Baker high threatens the viability of that school, which is among the smallest in the area. Eighty percent of its student body are Greenwood Lake residents and have attended Baker for more than 30 years.
The district relies on tuition and tax dollars as its revenue as Tuxedo receives little state aid.
“Tuxedo’s offer of a sliding scale for ‘Parental Choice’ also increases Tuxedo school taxes,” Lomascolo wrote in a letter published last week in The Photo News, The Chronicle and The Warwick Advertiser. “This offer was made in an attempt to keep tuition as low as possible, while increasing Tuxedo taxes at approximately the same rate, and attempting to maintain the current program at George F. Baker High School.”
The Aug. 29 meeting takes place at the Greenwood Lake Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.
“The board will make the right decision,” said Brockel. “It’s an intense, complex and actually great situation to be in. When you’re not wanted, you’re stuck. When you’re wanted (by others), it’s wonderful. There’s power in negotiations. Stay tuned.”

What’s the cost?

Here’s a synopsis of the tuition rates offered by the Chester, Tuxedo and Warwick school districts. The Greenwood Lake Board of Education will select and vote on a parental choice option featuring all three; only Chester or Warwick; or a single district option of either Chester or Warwick at its Aug. 29 meeting.

Warwick: $8,000 for all students and bill special education at cost, with a two percent escalator in Year 2 if a 22-month model is implemented.

Chester: $9,500 for all students and bill special education at cost, with a two percent escalator in Year 2 if a 22-month model is implemented

Tuxedo (revised proposal): $13,900 for all students and bill special education at cost, with a two percent escalator in Year 2 if a 22 month model is implemented

Source: The Greenwood Lake School District

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