Guilderland parents and middle school students are petitioning the school board to keep some cuts off the chopping block.
The Guilderland Central School District Board of Education held an informal budget hearing Wednesday, March 20, on potential 2013-14 budget reductions. The two cuts that caused the most concern among meeting attendees focused on eliminating the middle school enrichment program for a $72,000 savings and eliminating assistant coaching positions for around $22,500 in savings.
District officials and board members are determining how to close a $2.1 million budget gap in order to stay within the district’s property tax cap limit of a 3.5 percent tax hike. Superintendent Marie Wiles presented the district’s draft budget Feb. 28, totaling $90.8 million and carrying the elimination of 31.5 full-time equivalent positions.
Jeff Cohen, president of the Girls Soccer Booster Club, said cutting six assistant coaches wouldn’t allow for proper supervision and support of student athletes. He also said there could be a hidden cost to the district after cutting the assistant coaches from boys and girls JV lacrosse, boys and girls varsity soccer, wrestling and gymnastics.
“The liability of the district goes up if the supervision provided for the athletic programs is inadequate,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he wouldn’t be voting “yes” on the budget unless the “appropriate level of supervision in safety” is maintained by not cutting assistant coaches.
Bob McLaughlin said all four of his children have played school sports and assistant coaches played a vital role in safety and development.
“If sports is an extension of the classroom in that it helps breed cooperation, working collectively toward a common goal, dedication, then you must also realize the safety aspects involved,” McLaughlin said.
He said his son, Jim, had two concussions while playing sports in high school, but the assistant coaches helped make the program safer.
Middle school students from the enrichment program asked for the educational opportunity to remain.
Jonah Goldstein, a seventh-grade student, said he has been active in enrichment programs since entering Farnsworth Middle School last year.
“I went early to school every morning to engage myself in clubs that offered me advanced possibilities,” Goldstein said.
In Debate Club, he made it to the final round with his partner and lost by one point to the winning eighth-grade team. He also has risen to the position of editor-in-chief in the school’s newspaper club and oversees the group.
He recently was preparing to take the SATs as part of his enrichment program.
“I never thought I would take the SAT and neither did my peers, but we all did and walked out of the test centers feeling that we had done well and we were well prepared,” he said. “Without this program, none of this would have been possible for me.”
Mallory Trainor, also a seventh-grade student, said she has been taking enrichment courses since first grade. She said there is lack of opportunity for students to explore such learning outside of the program.
“Through these years I’ve learned that the gifted, talented and enrichment programs are an essential part of childhood education,” Trainor said. “Students that are gifted will not reach their full potential.”
The board is scheduled to adopt the budget on Tuesday, April 9, and voters will go to the polls May 21.