Tuxedo is back
Photo by Ed Bailey Parents react to the Greenwood Lake School Board's decision Tuesday evening that will include the Tuxedo School District as one of three choices that parent can make with regards to where they can send their children to high school for the 2013-14 school year. The other choices are Warwick Valley and Chester.
Photo by Ed Bailey Students and some adults form a circle in front ot the Greenwood Lake Elementary School on Tuesday evening prior to the Greenwood Lake School Board meeting, where the board was expected to decide whether to include the Tuxedo School District as a choice as to where parents could send their high school-age children to in September.
GREENWOOD LAKE — In a turn of events pleasing pro-Tuxedo advocates, the Greenwood Lake Board of Education voted 4-1 Tuesday night to reinstate George F. Baker High School as one of three choices for families to consider by a 4-1 margin. There was one abstention.
The decision was hailed by Baker supporters who since August have been pleading with both the Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo boards of education to find a way to make sure Baker was in the mix of choice options for students.
Greenwood Lake does not and will not be allowed by New York State to build its own high school. For the last 30 years, students have attended Baker.
On Tuesday evening, pro-Tuxedo supporters organized a “human chain” around the entrance to Greenwood Lake Elementary School prior to the scheduled business meeting to again demonstrate to the board they wanted a three school parental choice option.
“I think it speaks volume for the type of education we're getting at Baker, to go to these extremes,” said Carolyn McAteer, one of the community organizers for the group Campaign to Remain. “People value it (Baker's curriculum) enough to put in the time and effort to make it happen. It's just a great thing when you believe in something and go about it in the right way. The lesson I would say is to stand up for something you feel strongly about and to wage a battle with integrity. If you truly believe in it, don't give up. We were able to make a change that otherwise might not have happened.”
Tuxedo reduces tuition rate
But other things did happen which contributed to the board's decision to take a vote at Tuesday night's meeting, scheduled only to be a business meeting to approve the contracts with the Warwick and Chester school districts, the two choice options up until that point.
“I think their movement to $12,000 per student with a two percent escalator for the second year and the fact that they have come away from double billing for special education and just bill at cost and the fact they're charging half tuition for our students going to BOCES, those factors made the majority of the board comfortable,” said Greenwood Lake School Superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel.
He added:”It was right down to the last minute that I think people were making up their minds. W e decided to allow that vote. I had a resolution ready to read into the public section, as we knew we'd have agreement on it and a majority of four votes. I read in the resolution, then we allowed for comments for all the resolutions. We took questions and comments from both sides and then the board took the vote.”
Brockel knows not everyone is happy.
“I believe there are people in town who feel that if you spend any more than $9,500, it's not a good decision,” said Brockel. “They felt that we had other offers that were a lot lower and we should go with that. So there may be people who are unhappy with the decision made last night. But I think those people who signed petitions and came to meetings and who were pro-Tuxedo are certainly are happy with this decision.”
Clearly happy are Tuxedo School District officials, who strongly advocated keeping Baker in the mix after the Greenwood Lake board rescinded its vote last spring to have Baker be the single choice option for the community.
“We feel relieved,” said Tuxedo School Superintendent Carol Lomascolo. “We're so happy to have Greenwood Lake with us next year and have some, if not most, of the eighth- grade come to us next year. I looked around the room (at Wednesday's meeting) and I saw the high school kids so passionate about their school. I'm so proud of them.”
Lomascolo said the last minute tuition reduction was the board's continued responsiveness to requests from the Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake communities to find a tuition number that was agreeable to the Greenwood Lake board.
“We made the (latest) offer on Tuesday,” she said. “We heard the Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo communities at our last board meeting. We had been having conversations with them (the Greenwood Lake board) as to what would work and not work that's how that number came to be. I think it's workable.”
That tuition number will still require Tuxedo officials to cut approximately $1.8 million out of its budget. Lomascolo cautioned that number is not a firm one until they see what the actual numbers of students who choose Baker will be.
Dec. 31 deadline
Students have until Dec. 31 to advise the Greenwood Lake district as to their choice.
“We can't finalize anything until we finalize the number,” added Lomascolo, reinforcing that programmatic cuts would be the very last thing officials would do. “We did estimates with a one-third of the students not coming here. This really was a huge change for us, to offer $12,000. We did this obviously and sincerely to keep our students and our two communities together.”
Lomascolo was grateful to both communities for their efforts to get Baker reinstated.
“They are very supportive of the Tuxedo School District and very much want to continue this relationship as do we,” she said. “We demonstrated that by lowering our tuition to keep this relationship together. It shows me that we're really one community, there's so much passion and emotion. These 647 (petition signers), they look at George F. Baker as their high school and want to keep that, as do we.”
McAteer believed the Greenwood Lake board's decision was ultimately based on finances versus the community's emotions.
“I think ultimately the number speaks to the board,” she said. “But the board did tell us to pressure Tuxedo for a better rate, which we did. Ultimately, our board did help us because they told us what to do. The board stuck to their guns. I'd like to believe the board appreciated our (grassroots) movement but it all comes down to dollars. They (Tuxedo) really made it so it would be fiscally irresponsible if our board didn't accept them.”
Brockel acknowledged the rate should satisfy Greenwood Lake taxpayers.
“The only disappointment that the board and I have is that there were some inappropriate comments and we're disappointed that occurred,” he said. “But the board listened to both sides and come up with a deal that would satisfy the taxpayers and satisfy the families.”
McAteer felt the three school option makes those schools bring their “A game” into play.
“It's a great thing for Greenwood Lake,” she added. “We have three schools that will do their best to make the students and taxpayers happy. We have 22 months now to test all the waters. Greenwood Lake needs a long term solution and that's probably a regional high school. We'll see what these schools are really about, but for now, it puts Greenwood Lake in a really good position.”
By Nancy Kriz
MUST READ NEWS
Sign up to get our newsletter emailed to you every week!
- Enter your email address in the box below.
- Select the newsletters you would like to subscribe to.
- Click the 'SUBSCRIBE' button.