SMS Principal Mike McDermott to Retire -- and more from the Scarsdale School Board
- The Goods
- Published on Thursday, 15 December 2016 08:27
- Heather Gilchriest Meili
While the future of Greenacres School attracted much of the attention and public comment at the Scarsdale School Board meeting of December 12, many other important matters worthy of community attention were covered in the Board's packed Agenda.
SMS Principal Mike McDermott to Retire
Perhaps the most noteworthy was the announcement that longtime Scarsdale Middle School Principal Mike McDermott will retire at the conclusion of the current academic year. As he has served in the district for 29 years with the last 25 as SMS Principal, he has guided the educational experience of thousands of students and families. In reporting Mr. McDermott's resignation, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Leadership Development Drew Patrick assured the community that there will be opportunities to honor his service later this year.
You Can Influence Education Policy Nationwide: Contact Your Senators!
School Board member Art Rublin leads Scarsdale's engagement with State and Federal Education policy, and reported that he is closely monitoring issues surrounding President-Elect Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, with particular concern about her advocacy of charter schools. Mr. Rublin encourages all members of the community to contact Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to express opposition to her confirmation, and points out an easy-to-use sample letter available at: networkforpubliceducation.org.
Moving from federal to state policy, Mr. Rublin shared that as part of a consortium of public education groups, the Educational Conference Board, Scarsdale took recently part in issuing a position paper. Chief amongst its recommendations, and very much pertinent to Scarsdale, was a call to change the state's tax cap law. Currently it is set at the lower of 2% or the Consumer Price Index, and next year's cap is currently projected to be a mere 1.14%. The Educational Conference Board recommends changing the cap to a stable 2% and objects to it being tied to the volatile CPI, which has no relationship to items such as pension contributions which are out of Scarsdale's control. As many in the community are aware, the district is not absolutely bound by Albany's tax cap if we deem it necessary for Scarsdale to exceed it, but a budget that increased by more than the adjusted tax cap then requires a 60% majority to pass. Recent history shows these may not always succeed.
Stable Enrollment Projected
With the challenges of Albany's tax cap in mind, the planning from the district business office becomes ever more crucial as each new budget is developed. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Drew Patrick presented the results of the recent Enrollment and Demographic study. Mr. Patrick explained how methodologies are combined to get both near-future and long-term projections. In good news for budget planning, he reported that current enrollment is very close to last year's projection, minimal changes are expected in the short-term, and a housing study projects high stability for the next 5-10 years.
Budget 2017-2018 in the Works
Describing the development of next year's Budget, Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey noted the astounding fact that there are 1,500 separate accounts that make up the entirety of the annual school budget. Nonetheless, the primary driver of the budget is Superintendent Thomas Hagerman's Transition Plan which lays out major goals for the years 2015-2018. With those goals foremost, other items are factored in: enrollment, staffing, contractual obligations, reserves, debt service, and of course - the infamous tax cap.
As one very involved in the tax cap question, Mr. Rublin asked whether the administration is feeling bound by the tax cap. Mr. Mattey replied that they are "always cognizant" but ultimately focused on district needs. Board President Lee Maude affirmed that view: "We start with the transition plan and educational goals and see where the money flows from there; we don't work off of the cap."
Mr. Mattey also outlined what he sees as some "major players" for next year in terms of budget elements. Many items came as good news: pension contributions have gone down in recent years, interest earnings have gone up a bit, health insurance is trending below projections, and new teacher hires have been at lower salaries than anticipated. The one area trending higher is special education. This is a result of bringing more services in-house and having fewer students paying tuition to come in to the district for services.
In terms of timeline, residents eager to follow and comment on the budget process should look to Board meetings during January and February. The full proposed budget presentation will be on March 13th, a budget forum will take place March 27th, and the vote will occur on May 16th.
Where Did the Middle School Parking Spots Go?
Concert-going Middle School parents will struggle even more to make it to their child's performance, but it's all good, as the new Middle School Orchestra rehearsal space construction begins December 14th, utilizing some of the parking spaces as a staging area for construction equipment.
Yes, the December 2014 Bond projects are underway: construction meetings have commenced and construction fences are going up. At the High School, the temporary fitness center should be established in Gym A by the end of January. Edgewood and Heathcote projects will begin this summer.
Away from the active construction, analysis has begun involving administration and principals in planning changes to make the new spaces usable: custodial care, new furniture, etc.