The choice is Warwick and Chester

GWL Board goes with two school parental choice option; Tuxedo is eliminated and must now focus on its own school’s viability

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— Looking to find a high school for its young residents to attend while keeping fiscal realities of available dollars on par, the Greenwood Lake School Board voted to select the two high school option of Warwick and Chester at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

That 4-2 vote(one board member was absent) eliminates George F. Baker High School in the Tuxedo School District from being a part of that mix. Greenwood Lake high school students have attended Baker high for more than 30 years.

But students who will become the Class of 2013 starting next September will now choose between Warwick Valley High School and the Chester Academy as their school.

“Part of the difficulty in the community is change itself it’s difficult,” said Greenwood Lake School District Dr. Richard Brockel. “We do understand that. It’s financial survival here in Greenwood Lake under the current economy and under the two percent tax. The relationship between Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake has just become unaffordable. It’s not because of anything they’re doing or we’re doing. It’s just a mismatch.”

Several hundred people attended the meeting, expressing viewpoints representing all sides, he said.

“The resolution I recommended covered four areas expressed as concerns,” Brockel said. “First, it takes into consideration all of our K-12 students in the future and the well-being of the K-8 students in the district.”

Current students may stay at Baker

The resolution tackles the small versus large school issues.
“The second point is that is satisfies many people who have expressed fear about going into a larger school option,” he said. “This gives them the small school option as well as the large school option.”
Finances were also addressed.
“It is really going to provide taxpayer relief in the long run,” said Brockel. “If we were to continue to pay a much higher tuition rate by having Tuxedo (as a choice option), we would have less money to use in our own budget. Now, we’ll have more money to use in the budget, thereby defraying taxpayer cost.”
And it also covers the immediate needs of current Tuxedo students.
“Fourth, this resolution is in consideration of all the current students in Tuxedo,” he said. “It is our intent to allow them, if they wish to stay in Tuxedo until they graduate.”
Brockel knows not everyone will be happy.
“I feel this is the best compromise,” he added. “Not everyone is ever going to be happy with a major decision like this, but this is the best compromise covering all those four points that I and the board could come up with.”

What next for Tuxedo?

Tuxedo School Superintendent Carol Lomascolo was unhappy with the decision, as expected. She had remained vocal throughout the process about having Tuxedo being part of the choice option, talking about the merits of a small school setting, the school’s history of academic excellence and the long-term ties between Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo.
“I told the board last night (Wednesday) hat I’m very disappointed in them,” she said. “They demanded us to have the $10,500 (tuition), which left us out of the game.”
The only item she was pleased with was the decision to allow current students to remain if they wish. There are about 250 Greenwood Lake students now at Baker High.
“I think that keeps the welfare of the students I mind, that’s the right direction to go and I’m grateful for that,” she added.
Lomascolo said she will be finalizing options for Tuxedo but declined to provide detail at this time.
“My board is fully supportive of keeping the high school open and we are looking at our options and actively working with the tuxedo community, faculty staff and select the option which is best for Tuxedo,” she said. “And I want to thank members of the Greenwood Lake community who came out in support of us. There were many. I wish them well and wish them only the best. If they (the board) change their mind down the road, they have always and will always be welcome in Tuxedo.”

Chester’s small school option

In an e-mail statement to Straus News on Thursday morning, Chester School Superintendent Sean Michel said he looked forward to a new partnership with Greenwood Lake.
“The Chester Academy administration is excited to welcome the Greenwood Lake students and parents into our school community,” he wrote. “Having two communities supporting one program is a wonderful opportunity for our current and future students. We look forward to September 2013 in welcoming the Greenwood Lake students to the Chester Academy.”
He was happy to offer parents a small school option if they wished, noting he felt all students would benefit academically, athletically and socially.
“Chester feels that this relationship would be beneficial to both communities,” he wrote. “We offer the small school environment that Greenwood Lake is accustomed to. Chester offers a wide variety of opportunities for our students and we would be able to expand these opportunities with an increased enrollment.”
Warwick School District Superintendent Dr. Raymond Bryant was unavailable for comment by press time on Thursday morning.
Brockel said the resolution only authorizes him to enter into contract negotiations with Warwick and Chester for the 22 month period. State law allows a district enter into a parental choice option for that length of time without a vote.
“That’s going to be easy with Chester and Warwick because they’ve stood pat on their tuition charges,” he said.
Negotiations will also have to be finalized with Tuxedo for the remaining 10th, 11th and 12th graders who will opt to stay.

By Nancy Kriz

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