Friday, May 21, 2010

$chool Day$

------GreeneLanders who took part in Tuesday’s school district elections gave majority support to budget proposals that anticipate spending, for the 2010-2011 financial year, more than $130 million. This support coincided with cool treatment of some district trustees who had framed those spending plans.

------In five of GreeneLand’s six public school districts, budget proposals sponsored by the boards of education and superintendents won approval by comfortable and even lop-sided margins. The exception was Cairo-Durham, where the proposed budget did win approval, but with supporters out-numbering opponents by just 24 votes (551 vs. 527). And on the other Cairo-Durham spending proposals--funding for the library and for a biomass heating system--the Nay voters prevailed.

------In Columbia County, too, the submitted budgets in all six districts won local support, with the narrowest margin coming in Hudson, where the winning majority out-numbered the negative voters by 781 to 668.

------In 92 per cent of New York State’s rural, suburban and small-city districts, majorities of voters gave approval to the proposed school budget. (Exceptions in the mid-Hudson region happened in the Ravena-Selkirk-Coeymans, Schenectady, Troy, Berlin, Cohoes, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Rondout Valley and Saugerties districts). The incidence of budget approvals was greater than the average rate in recent decades, even though the local trustees’ budget-drafting work was more difficult than usual. It occurred in the context of pressure to curb expenditures so as to offset cuts in State-provided revenue.

------Support for board-sponsored spending plans was not accompanied in all GreeneLand cases with support for board members. In Coxsackie, with three seats to be filled by popular vote, trustees Mark Gerrain and Beth Tailleur won re-election but trustee Russell Nadler lost to newcomer Stephen Oliveira. In Greenville, Ann Mitchell won re-election handily, while fellow trustee Tina Dombroski lost the second open seat to newcomer Jason Reinhard. In Hunter-Tannersville, incumbent Marc Czermerys’s 244 votes were not enough to win over newcomer Penelope Fromer’s 265.

------In the Catskill Central School District, popular support for the trustees’ proposed school budget ($36.7million) and for the separate library budget ($479.0000) proved to be widespread, with margins of 712 votes to 375 and 701 to 368. This show of respect coincided with meager support for two of the three trustees who sought re-election as well as for a former long-standing trustee. In a field of ten candidates for four open seats, Board President Randall Griffin and Board Treasurer Lisa Warner finished eighth and ninth, while former trustee Carol Schilansky finished seventh.

------At the same time, the other incumbent who sought re-election, Michael Bulich, topped the field. He garnered 578 votes. The remaining open seats went to newcomers Christopher Van Loan (439 votes), Tracy Powell (408), and Matthew Leipman (402).

------ That result attests to influence exerted by local teachers. The victorious newcomers were endorsed by the Catskill Teachers Association (along with Francesca Daisernia, who finished fifth). Thus, no sitting trustee evoked CTA approval, and the CTA-endorsed candidates presented themselves as agents of “change” in board operations, change in the directions of greater “transparency and accountability” of district operations, of economizing chiefly by curbing administrative costs, and of fostering greater freedom of expression for teachers and other staff under the administration of Superintendent Kathleen Farrell.

------ The top vote-getter, however, did not dwell on those themes. Mr Bulich presented himself as a hard-headed “very conservative” trustee, sensitive to economic “tough times,” concerned about nurturing “a healthy private sector,” skeptical of non-traditional programs, keen to imbue students with firm “discipline” along with “understanding…of the true meaning of what it is to be an American,” calling for more rigorous evaluations of district employees, and condemning contracts give employees “never-ending rise[s] of salaries and benefits.”

[Figures, facts, and quotes in the foregoing paragraphs were drawn from The Daily Mail, The Daily Freeman, The TimesUnion, and The New York Post, as well as from the pre-election candidates’ forum and the candidates’ statements in the official 2010-2011Budget Notice.]