Schenectady school budget proposal slashes staff, programs

Friday, April 3, 2009
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— A third of the athletics department, the strings program and 167 teachers and staff could all be lost under the Schenectady City School District’s proposed 2009-10 budget.

Superintendent Eric Ely gave a grim presentation to the Board of Education on Wednesday. “I am begging you not to do these things. Find a way — for the kids,” he said.

Aid to the district in the state budget currently being discussed in Albany would remain flat. Maintaining existing programs would cost the district $11.7 million more than this year’s budget of $154 million. Ely’s proposed 2009-10 budget reduces the increase to $4.05 million, but even with the staff cuts and the smaller increase the budget still calls for a 10.2 percent tax increase.

Quoting Revolutionary War pamphleteer Thomas Paine, Ely said it is the “times that try men’s souls” and said these cuts would roll back the progress the district has made in reducing class size, offering remedial instruction and reducing negative student behavior.

Ely proposes to cut 14 elementary teachers and 20 secondary teachers, as well as five administrators and 30 paraprofessionals. He also would eliminate two middle school dean positions, one attendance dean and four school climate office positions, and he would leave a technology position vacant.

Ely proposes to eliminate all modified sports and close the pool and aquatics program. He would eliminate the elementary library program and high school family and consumer science programs.

Board President Jeff Janiszewski said the presentation was “very sobering,” but predicted getting dozens of calls from residents saying the cuts are not deep enough.

Greta Obach, who has a special needs child in eighth grade, said playing music has improved his social skills tremendously. “These are things you cannot get through math, science, English, history. These are only things you can get through being part of a group.”

Janiszewski said he did not want to cut arts funding. “Arts is not frill. I consider it core curriculum. The benefit to students involved in the arts has been shown over and over again,” he said.

Board member Lisa Russo said eliminating a strings program would be a tremendous setback, especially since the district has received a national award for its commitment to arts education.

There are some unknown variables in the budget. Ely said the district is waiting for final numbers on how much it will receive in special education and federal stimulus aid. It also wants to see if the state relaxes rules regarding how the district can spend Contract for Excellence money it receives as a district with high poverty and needs.

Also, Ely did not include any use of the district’s $6 million fund balance, or surplus, in his draft budget.

The board directed Ely to come back with options that involve tapping into that.

Janiszewski said that the district has to be cautious about depleting its reserves this year in case next year is worse.

The board will meet again on Tuesday and again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Mont Pleasant Middle School to discuss the budget.

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April 3, 2009
8:08 a.m.
hillbilly says...

Janiszewski said he did not want to cut arts funding. “Arts is not frill. I consider it core curriculum. The benefit to students involved in the arts has been shown over and over again,” he said.

Board member Lisa Russo said eliminating a strings program would be a tremendous setback, especially since the district has received a national award for its commitment to arts education.

Well Mr. Janiszewski & Ms Russo sports are to some kids as the arts are to others. Don't make the distinction that the arts are more important, you're walking a fine line of discrimination.

April 3, 2009
8:09 a.m.
resident says...

So when is the fund balance going to be used??????

April 3, 2009
10:15 a.m.
stoddard says...

It may be time for for the school board to take a hard look at the budget process. It seems that the school budget for Schenectady is growing annually at a rate two or three times faster than the rest of the economy and for no apparent reason.

How long can this go on? Cut what must be cut to get the budget back to real world expectations. I'm not sure I'd recommend illimination of library and business courses. I've felt for years that more attention should be given to business and trade courses. Not every student is destined for college and they will all need useful occupations after graduating. I think the graduation rate would improve as well if more students were encouraged to take those options.

As for interscholastic sports, they are important to student morale and perhaps some of the more important programs should kept, while others might be illiminated. Regarding school psychologists, etc., they are costly frills. Unnecessary office positions can go as well. The swimming pool, for example was always an unaffordable option, which should never have been built in the first place.

If there are other options such as contract revisions or less ambitious building programs they might also be considered if there is any genuine interest in tax relief for Schenectady's citizens.

The "it's for the children" mantra is getting a little old. It's time for school system to tighten it's belt along with the rest us.

April 3, 2009
10:46 a.m.
howieonline says...

Well perhaps instead of paying a Terrorist in the Schenectady School District, give it back to the kids. There is nobody else who would be able to keep their retirement if they did what Raucci did. There's the money folks...Look at the way the Board recklessly spends OUR MONEY !!

April 3, 2009
11:25 a.m.
mom says...

I can't afford for my taxes to go up even more but our community can not afford for unemployment rate to go up any more. Please find a middle ground.

April 3, 2009
11:47 a.m.
hillbilly says...

mom I couldn't agree more. And I'd like to add the "drop-out" rate will also increase.

Obviously sports takes a back seat over education, but in this urban area sports may be the only thing keeping some kids in school.


stoddard I agree with you too, eliminate some unnecessary frills, but here is where the problem with that comes in...........ACORN. They recently said the high school isn't doing enough to help teens with this suicide issue, well I say, what ever happened to parents raising their kids and the schools just teach them. ACORN wants something for nothing, and so do the do nothing parents whom should not of had children if they never intended on raisning them.

April 3, 2009
1:34 p.m.
Whyandhow19 says...

First as a resident of Schenectady, I cannot afford a 10.2% increase. Has anyone done a cost analysis of all the programs/services that the school offers and then used that to determine what programs to keep/cut? While it's nice for a school to offer various programs to their students, it needs to remember the first job is to educate.

Here are just a few suggestions to think about. Maybe extra curriculum activities can be done on a county-wide basis or staffed by volunteers (where you can) so that you don’t have to pay teachers to run these programs. Or work in conjunction with colleges/universities and use student teachers so that they can receive class credit for volunteering. Also would it be cost effective to bring back the use of city buses to get children to school?

Another area to review is the entitlement benefits that teachers receive. I realize that they are union, but the benefit structure that they are offered is very generous in this day. With the economy, it might be better to have leaner benefits then to lose good teachers.

I hope that this situation can be resolved without raising my taxes. I already pay too much money to live in Schenectady. While I love my community, the cost of living here might be too much for me to stay.

April 3, 2009
1:35 p.m.
rowela76 says...

here's an idea how about the educated NY State idiots who keep insiting that our kids "learn" different ways and everyone must be a friggen scholar come teach our children!! thats why the drop out rate is so high not every child is on a regents level- I have problems helping my 4th grader with homework! If the State continues the higher requirements of our children we will need paras. I'm working 2 jobs, training for a third and I'm still waiting for my STAR rebate because some idiot on either a local level or State level doesn't know what a 2 family house is!! I will not pay any more in school taxes not to mention one of my kids is not bussable!! and the school lunches have gone up! lets stop sending me the tax payer letters when I owe 10 cents!!We can not cut teachers and anyone in the middle Schools right now have you spoken to a teenager these days- we need the national guard in there!to protect the staff we already have!

April 3, 2009
4:04 p.m.
insidescsd says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
April 3, 2009
5:17 p.m.
George says...

Speaking of Raucci, How many legitimate complaints/grievance, requests for air quality testing were shoved under the carpet by Raucci and administrators? Clearly, administration tolerated him for reasons. Many of the old buildings have issues with mold, asbestos, and other health hazards. Children, faculty and staff are exposed to unacceptable environmental conditions and no one who has ever brought these issues to surface has gotten anywhere! Gee, I wonder why? Might have cost the district some money! Now, with the President's stimulus, clearly designating money to go to building/constructional concerns and Raucci gone, will somebody please do something and clean up the buildings! Without our health, nothing else matters!

April 3, 2009
5:29 p.m.
insidescsd says...

In response to George, conditions are rather off.

I know some janitors who change their mop heads maybe once a semester. The lunch room smells like a locker room by the end of the day as the mold wafts into the air from the evaporating funk left on the table tops.

Occasionally a mop will be used to wipe up vomit--and at times even BLOOD--and then rinsed once and used immediately after on a table-top for a quick cleanup.

Perhaps some more HAZMAT training is necessary for these matrons?

April 3, 2009
5:46 p.m.
fluffy says...

Wow is all that I can say. Slash programing and cry the sky is falling, but don't do any serious consideration of holding steady with the shifting around of the Howe School and the Central Park building. Do you mean to tell us that that little shift won't be expensive? It isn't even on the table to hold off on the plan-even knowing that there will be the expense of moving all the books and materials, retrofitting the building to make it suitable for multiple age levels and all the summer planning that will have to be paid for. Will they be buying new furniture for the 'new ' k-8 school too? Instead they start with a discussion of cuts that hit the students. Unbelievable. How can any of us take any of the chest thumping and whaling of Ely and the Board of Ed. seriously. They are simply using the same tactics that Raucci used within the district, fear and intimidation. Okay they aren't bombing our cars but they are doing their best to scare us about what they 'have to do' that will hurt our children. They are using our concern for our kids to talk us into giving them a blank check with out any serious and credible oversight.

And why should we trust them?
Couldn't this just be part of a shell game to get our eyes off the mismanagement so evident in the whole Raucci affair.

If this had been a serious budget, would Ely have "begged" the board not to accept i?. Clearly this was a piece of theater and I for one don't appreciate the pompous and condescending tone of it.

April 3, 2009
5:53 p.m.
George says...

Nobody is minding the store! This should be our main concern! Yes, I too experience on a weekly basis, that lovely dirty mop smell! Is it any wonder there is so much sickness! Hazmat is a dog and pony show to make it appear we are concerned about environmental issues. Also, Hazmat, I was told, has no jurisdiction over things like asbestos, mold and temperature variations. Yes, rooms that vary from 50 degrees to 80 degrees! Talk about a waste of money! Teachers have to open windows in the dead of winter because the heat is unbearable thanks to TBS (heating system)
Maybe with Raucci gone, complaints will be taken seriously!

April 3, 2009
5:59 p.m.
George says...

Yes, Fluffy. Central Park is a mess! I can't imagine the amount of money it will take to carry forth on the plan. It is way too costly and it will go over budget. They need to back off this plan and save our library, string and athletic programs..

April 3, 2009
6:57 p.m.
yourfinished23 says...

Cut, Slash, reduce and pink slip everyone and every thing that make a difference in this school district except Ely and his clan. What about the cost for redecorating his office? A new rug, furniture (cherry I hear) lamps chairs what a pretty penny. So much so, that the cost for all that fluff could have kept a few Para's or even a teacher and a program. How about the cost of all those district cell phones. At a glance, these cell phones cost from $15,000.00 to 30,000.0 plus a year so that the staff and the administration can be in contact with each other. Full texting, internet full service phones. Very pricy. These phones are used more for private use than district use.
Has any one of these people heard of staying at their desk or maybe even utilizing their personal phones for limited district business? If you are going to slash costs, start there. Stream lining a businessmeans looking at expenditures that cost more than they are worth. And Ely, this is a business not your private little hobby as you and the rest treat our school district.Overhead costs do not start with people and programs. How much are you paying that investigator $100.00 an hour for two to three days. Interesting. Ely hires an investigator to investigate his office. Ely controls the data, he controls the content of the data and he controls the outcome of HIS investigation. The two or three days were Ely's estimate, knowing there would be nothing to find. Paper shredder worked overtime. I wonder how much it got paid.
How about the two jobs that were created for Ely's and Janiszewski's wives. I am sure there are people working there now with more time in then those two women. I guarantee neither one will be cut. What about the tax roll Ely? You push that off and hurt low income, fixed income and just about anyone who's property would benefit from a lower tax. Stop screwing around with our money. Start doing your job and release the tax roll on time for a change. Tax payers and parents need to stand up and go after this school district. There is so much waste, deceit, fraud and lies all through this school district. Is everyone blind? Hey Raucci can't hurt you now. Come forward and help this situation. Ely can't send his dog after anyone anymore.

April 3, 2009
7:42 p.m.
insidescsd says...

Rachel Risetto is a director for NYState Assoc of Management Advocates for School Labor Affairs(MASLA) Shari Greenleaf, SCSD lawyer, is the president of MASLA.

April 4, 2009
6:54 p.m.
insidescsd says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
April 5, 2009
8:10 a.m.
insidescsd says...

My comment regarding Janiszewski's wife holding a position as head of PBIS keeps getting deleted and I am not sure why.

My question is, will she lose her job as part of the initial cutbacks?

Surely there are people with more seniority, and positions more weighty than head of PBIS, that deserve to be kept instead.

Same goes for Ely's wife who recently became BSI para at Oneida. Surely this position is not as important as one assigned to a particular child in need, or even a DEAN of the school (a position which will be eliminated in the cutbacks.)

My question is will these two receive special amnesty from the cutbacks due to their being the wives of the heads of the schools, and if so, where does that leave all of us?

Someone please investigate.

April 6, 2009
6:28 a.m.
George says...

Why are they keeping teacher coaches? That is costing the district quite a bit. Also, guidance councilors at the elementary level? We have social workers, why do we need councilors too? There are many areas that could be cut without slashing vital programs. Our city kids deserve more than this. Times are tough but there is a lot of waste.

I see this as a downward spiral. Arts education will be for suburbanites only.

April 7, 2009
12:56 p.m.
yourfinished23 says...

Ely and his band of pirates need to look again at what they are purposing to this city. The Commissioner of schools and education is nowhere to be found in this. Gees!, how many more people in this school district are on the take? Great questions above. Still need someone to champion this and get the parents and taxpayers up and active. I wish I could myself. There is so much waste in this school system. There is so much violence in just the elementary schools not to mention the middle and high school. The directive to silence any violence issues in these schools comes from the board and Ely. Parents should be outraged that their children are exposed to this crap. The kids in the elementary schools run the place, knowing that no matter what they do, all they will get is a timeout or maybe a stern "Now Now Bobby" talking to. No discipline, no order, out of control and getting worse every day. Another Albany High starting to emerge. And who's at the head of it all Ely. Just doesn't know how to run a school district at all. That is very apparent with the Raucci incident. "Hey let's look the other way while people are hurt, threatened, and subjected to harassment" as long as it gets Ely and the board what they want. Janiszewski needs to be removed as well. These two guys are as much a hazard to the children and the staff as Raucci is and was.

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