KINDERHOOK–A standing room only crowd of parents and staff turned at Tuesday night’s Ichabod Crane School Board meeting to hear the district’s proposed budget. As of the meeting, the budget under discussion called for $37.6 million in spending and 39 staff cuts.
Two staff changes for the next school year are definite regardless of the budget. At the March 2 meeting, the board approved the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Maureen Van Deusen. And Superintendent James Dexter announced that he was final candidate for the position of regional superintendent at the BOCES serving Washington, Saratoga, Warren, Hamilton, and Essex Counties. BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Mr. Dexter said he had not planned to share the information about his new position so soon and before he has final confirmation of his new appointment. But he said he wanted to address rumors about his future in the district. “This community has treated [my family] so very well,” said Mr. Dexter.
Board President John Phillips said the board had been award of Mr. Dexter’s plans to move on and had already created a transition committee with board members.“We wish him well,” said Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Dexter plans to leave the Ichabod Crane Central School District until the end of this school year.
The board is considering eliminating the position of assistant superintendent in next year’s budget. Mr. Dexter said school officials are also talking to the neighboring Schodack Central School District about possibly sharing the position.
The superintendent spent the rest of the meeting going over, in detail, the district’s proposed budget. He reviewed the anticipated major aid cuts by the state and expressed his fears that the state will take away even more aid to schools. “The state is in such a fiscal crisis,” he said.
He said of operations and administrative cuts made in the proposed budget, their plan was: “If it’s not necessary, we’re not paying for it.” After making cuts–things like not printing the district calendars and not hiring substitutes when clerical workers are out–they then had to look at staffing.
Many parents at the meeting were worried about cuts proposed for the art and music programs. Mr. Dexter said plans are to cut one music teaching position and cut the marching band. There are also cuts planned for teaching positions at the middle school, as well as teaching assistant positions, , special education and custodial workers to reach the total of the 39 positions now on the chopping block.
Also faced with cuts are the summer school programs in the middle school and modified sports programs.
“This is not a perfect plan,” said Mr. Dexter. He is looking at the $37.6-million proposed budget as a work in progress and hopes to hold the tax levy increase to 2.5%. “We might find another way,” he said. But right now this is the plan. The details will be posted online at the district website www.ichabodcrane.org.
After hearing the proposed budget parents voiced concerns about cuts in special education and extra-curricular activities. They questioned Mr. Dexter about finding ways for the district to create more revenue. They asked about parent-supported afterschool programs and possible changes in transportation.
Board member Gary Bagnato said having input from the community is very helpful. And board Vice President Andrew Kramarchyk encouraged community members to reach out to board members with ideas and concerns. “It’s important that we hear from folks,” he said.
Individual board members had issues with different parts of the budget. Mr. Phillips said he opposed wholesale cancelation of extra-curricular activities and wanted to look more closely at the high cost of special education. “We need to start talking to each other and the board about special education,” he said.
The board plans to have several more budget meetings over the coming month, with approval of the proposed budget in April. The annual budget vote will be May 18.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. The board rescheduled its roundtable budget discussion, snowed out February 23, for next Tuesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library.