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Guilderland school board OKs $92M budget

Spending plan within tax cap, largely unchanged from superintendent’s initial proposal

Westmere Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy McFarren, speaking into the microphone, urges Guilderland Board of Education members to not reduce teaching assistants at that grade level on Tuesday, April 8.

Westmere Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy McFarren, speaking into the microphone, urges Guilderland Board of Education members to not reduce teaching assistants at that grade level on Tuesday, April 8. Photo by John Purcell.

— Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton said the district is an outlier in kindergarten support.

“We are really the only district at this point that is maintaining any substantial level of kindergarten TAs,” Singleton said. “We are alone.”

Reducing the teaching assistants was done to help maintain class sizes and preserve programming district-wide. The reduction represents a $248,000 savings.

“Everybody recognizes these little kids … have a whole range of needs, and yet we have to cut,” Fraterrigo said. “It breaks my heart … but in order to try and preserve any legitimacy to the program, you have to do these drastic things.”

Fellow board member Christine Hayes said she would have advocated for the reduction to be restored “had it not been for the BOCES incident.”

BOCES recently completed an internal review and found the tuition being charged was insufficient to cover actual costs. The adjusted costs for programming increased Guilderland’s costs around $480,000, which district officials weren’t informed about until mid-March.

The state budget lawmakers adopted included an additional $784,000 of state aid to the district, but BOCES consumed the majority of it. The overall increase in state aid to Guilderland this year was around $920,000.

'X program' eliminated

A unique course beloved by many students was still slated for elimination next school year.

At least one new student attended each regular board meeting leading up to the budget adoption and pleaded for the “X program” to be restored, which combines history and English. The course had two teachers per classroom, which board members decided was too resource intensive during tough fiscal times.

“I’m very, very sad to see the X class go by the wayside tonight, and I mean that very seriously,” board member Colleen O’Connell said. “I hope that everyone is going to regroup next year. I understand that we can’t go back to the expensive model and rich model we have now.”

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