GWL won't approve Tuxedo's conversion charter school application

28 Aug 2014 | 08:16

By Nancy Kriz
— In the latest twist surrounding the Tuxedo School District's interest in creating a conversion charter school at George F. Baker High School, the Greenwood Lake School District told its taxpayers it won't support the conversion charter school application if approved by the Tuxedo Board of Education based on the tuition rate for Greenwood Lake residents to attend that school.

The reason, Greenwood Lake School District Superintendent Christine Ackerman wrote in an Aug. 25 letter to the community, "the charter school conversion will significantly increase our current tuition costs for Greenwood Lake students attending Tuxedo."

The New York State Department of Education determines charter school tuition rates for each school district. In this case, the rate has been has projected to be $18,311.

In contrast, the district, Ackerman wrote, as part of the current three choice high school option available Greenwood Lake students, the district now pays $8,160 per student for students attending Warwick Valley High School; $9,690 per student for students attending the Chester Academy; and $12,240 per student for students attending Tuxedo.

The large majority of students attend Tuxedo.

Ackerman also wrote that based on "the detrimental financial impact such a decision would have on our district, we have determined that it is not in our best interest to support a relationship with a school district that may convert to a charter school in the unforeseeable future."

'Money has to come from somewhere'

In a conversation with The Photo News, Ackerman said the decision was based on a hybrid of financial issues combined with the program impact that would affect Greenwood Lake's K-8 students.

"The problem with the additional tuition, when you have an amount that's significantly greater, that money has to come from somewhere," she said. "Where in the K-8 program do you get that money to support that extra tuition rate? It's not a position we want to be in. Is money a part of this decision? Absolutely, because that financial impact on our K-8 program would be part of that. How can we ignore that?"

Ackerman knows this move will be upsetting to Greenwood Lake families who support Tuxedo.

"There's was a lot of turmoil in our community about our relationship with Tuxedo and moving to the three schools," she said. "I don't want anyone to think it's not about supporting our students going to Tuxedo. It's about the impact it would have on K-8 program. I know students and families are invested in Tuxedo. I'm not making any judgments about the conversion charter school."

Tuxedo school chief responds
Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo disagreed with Ackerman's assessment, sending her own letter to the Greenwood Lake community the next day, Aug. 26.

In her letter, she wrote: "The Tuxedo STEM Academy at George F. Baker High School Conversion Charter School application includes a projected number of Greenwood Lake students based upon the Greenwood Lake choice model. Using this projected number of students and the New York State Charter Tuition rates, Greenwood Lake total tuition for year one of the charter would be less than the 2013/2014 Greenwood Lake tuition, and certainly less than the 2013/2014 tuition and incremental special education costs."

She also wrote about the transitional state aid available to Greenwood Lake and other districts.

"New York State Charter School Transition Aid is expense driven aid received the following school year," she wrote. "That is, transition aid is aid received based upon the expense of a district in the prior school year. Transition aid provides for an 80 percent, 60 percent and 40 percent reimbursement of tuition expense paid out in year 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Greenwood Lake would be reimbursed 80 percent, 60 percent and 40 percent of the tuition paid during year 1, 2 and 3 of the charter respectively."

Lomascolo also wrote the conversion charter school application also includes a waiver requesting "the allowance of a negotiated contract between the Conversion Charter and Greenwood Lake School District for a negotiated tuition rate, a reserved number of seats, and a seat(s) on the Board of Trustees governing Board of the Conversion Charter School."

Ackerman declined to comment on the wavier proposal because she said there were no numbers contained in it or any other hypothetical scenarios.

In a conversation with The Photo News, Lomascolo said she hoped the Greenwood Lake community takes into account all the financial information before any rush to judgment.

"What I hope is the Greenwood Lake district looks at the whole financial picture, not just the first year and not just the $18,311 and look at what aid will be coming to them and share with their community the overall financial picture," she said.

The Tuxedo Board of Education will address the conversion charter school application at its meeting next week.