Time has run out for Tuxedo

Board of Regents ‘passes back’ Tuxedo’s conversion charter school application; the decision spells the end of the Tuxedo-Greenwood Lake relationship for high school students

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  • Tuxedo School Superintendent Carol Lomascolo

  • Photo illustration STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. The skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success; these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most effectively.

By Nancy Kriz

— The two years of work by the Tuxedo School District and lead applicants to develop a conversion charter school at George F. Baker High School fell on deaf ears by the State Education Department the past Monday, when the state officials declined to approve the district’s application and instead passed it back to the district because of what it called “programmatic impact.”

That has left a stunned and disappointed Tuxedo School District community now looking at its contingency plans of morphing into a K-8 or K-12 district in September. It was hopeful the Board of Regents would approve its application to create the Tuxedo STEM Academy Conversion Charter School, which would have been the area’s first ever charter school.

Meanwhile, the Tuxedo-Greenwood Lake relationship will formally end at the end of this school year because Greenwood Lake told Tuxedo it would not negotiate for a new contract if Tuxedo went ahead with the conversion charter school application. That means the high school will lose about 70 percent of its student population.

The decision may also mean that Tuxedo will “tuition out” its high school age residents to nearby school districts.

‘It was very different’“I think for the surrounding school districts and BOCES, it was just not the right time for a charter school,” said Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo on Tuesday night, following two days of meetings in Albany. “We were thinking out of the box, we were being innovative but it seems it just wasn’t the right time here, even though the law allows it. The (surrounding) school districts and BOCES had a bigger voice than our application. I think people don’t realize what they’re doing to the kids.”

The decision to “pass it back” to district means doesn’t mean the Board of Regents denied the application, Lomascolo said. It’s empowered to either approve or send an application back to the district for further work.

But that “passing back” had happened several times already, she said. The most recent instance was this past Feb. 20, with the district providing these changes to its application: A re-projection of year one impact on districts based upon actual applications; a grade level cap set at 100 seats or 400 seats building wide; inclusion of student projections for the forthcoming Tuxedo Farms development project; inclusion of projections for “other” districts based upon current applications; a reduction in the Greenwood Lake tuition for current students; and a re-projection of the five-year fiscal impact on all six districts based upon the changes for the term of the application.

Now, it seems, time has run out in the planning for the next school year.

“I think we have had surprises all along the way, so you get to be cautious,” said Lomascolo. “Obviously we wanted it to be a positive result. We thought we had responded to all the questions and concerns but obviously they (the Board of Regents) wanted more. The surrounding superintendents, in a letter, compared our program to theirs but our program is unique. It’s not independent electives that a student might or not be able to take. It’s not a small series of classes. Every single student is immersed in STEM. It’s total immersion from day one, with internships, with college partnerships. It was very different.”

The superintendents of the Warwick, Monroe-Woodbury, Greenwood Lake, and Chester school districts as well as the superintendents for the Ramapo Central. East Ramapo and North Rockland school districts in Rockland County released a letter this week outlining their opposition to the plan.

Budget optionsWhen asked if the district had plans for a possible, future application remission, Lomascolo instead responded: “We need to plan for the immediate future. We need to prepare for the next school year and we will do that by choosing to be a K-8 or K-12 district. That has to be ready for Sept. 1. More importantly, we are focused on our students. They are just devastated. We have had crisis intervention counselors in the building this week and we continue to be doing so.”

As it was awaiting an SED decision, the Tuxedo district put together 10 different budget options for the forthcoming school year. Those options were since narrowed down to two, the first being to have the district become a kindergarten through eighth-grade school district and “tuition out” high schoolers to a different district, just as Greenwood Lake had done for more than 30 years in a contractual relationship.

That Tuxedo-Greenwood Lake relationship will formally end at the end of this school year because Greenwood Lake told Tuxedo it would not negotiate for a new contract if Tuxedo went ahead with the conversion charter school application. That means the high school will lose about 70 percent of its student population.

The high schools under consideration are in the Monroe-Woodbury School District, the Florida School District and the Ramapo Central School District in nearby Rockland County.

A small portion of Tuxedo residents already attend Monroe-Woodbury schools.

The second budget scenario under review by the Tuxedo Board of Education is to have the district remain a K-12 district with a projected student enrollment district wide of 260 students. The district would continue to seek non-resident, tuition paying high schoolers as part of this option.

Either scenario comes with a tax increase higher than residents have seen in years.

The proposed K-8 “tuition out” option carries with it a tax levy increase estimate of 10 percent to 15 percent.

The proposed K-12 option has a tax levy estimate of 7 percent to 9.99 percent.

The details of the choices are available for public review on http://www.tuxedoufsd.org/news.cfm?story=99388&;school=0 and clicking onto “special meeting presentation.”

“The budget process starts next week,” said Lomascolo. “We have major decisions to make, both of them are big budget issues. We want to hear what the community has to say, what it thinks about these two budget scenarios.”

Affects families, livelihoodsUpon her return from Albany late Tuesday afternoon , Lomascolo met with faculty and staff.

“The faculty just really wants to know what options we’re choosing,” she said. “It affects their families. It’s their livelihood. They know, and we know, we just need to be here for our kids and for each other. It’s very emotional right now.”

As crisis intervention counselors continue interacting with students, Lomascolo said she would also be meeting with them now that she’s back from Albany, noting the Tuxedo faculty, administration and staff has done a tremendous job supporting the students and themselves.

Notably disappointed, Lomascolo took time to express gratitude everyone involved in the conversion charter school application process.

“ I think we have an incredible team, faculty, staff, administration, the community, the board who have worked together tirelessly to get us to this point,” she added. I want to thank everybody for their support during this difficult process.”

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