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I have recently returned from a little winter time respite down South, and I am catching up with the news from Eldred Central School. The NYS Comptroller’s Office reports that the district is broke because they used all the fund balance to try to keep the tax levy under the tax cap. At a recent meeting, business manager Caleb Russell reported that $4 million was spent to this end since 2010-2011.
Not to fear! The board last year swapped out the previous superintendent and brought in Dr. John Morgano just in the nick of time. He writes, “It is my sincere desire to keep our school district and keep it here forever.” So, with a little tweak to the employees and a little extra tax revenue, we will be fiscally stable in three to five years. There was no word about creating educational opportunities to increase the chances of students coming and staying at Eldred. (Enrollment decreased by 27% since 2008, while the board was spending down its fund balance; official predictions claim the enrollment will continue to decline to 425 students by 2028.)
Maybe it’s time for a little out-of-the-box thinking, such as tuitioning out grades nine through 12 and moving K through eight into the former high school. According to the budget letter, “a study to look at alternative structures for our students was conducted.” When, by whom, what were the parameters of the study, and what are the costs? Who are the parents, teachers and community members that were involved to legitimize the study? Are parents allowed to explore what is available to their students, or has the school board already ruled? Will it continue to be necessary for parents and students with higher expectations to move out of the district?
Paul A. Clark Jr.