AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Yorktown School Board Decries Underfunded Mandates

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Thomas Cole speaks to the Yorktown School Board on the district's budget.

Yorktown Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Business Thomas Cole lambasted the Race to the Top program at last week’s school board meeting, arguing that the federal educational initiative is another example of a culture of “unfunded and underfunded mandates.”

“The Race to the Top monies are obviously insignificant to cover the cost,” said Cole, as part of a budget presentation highlighting Yorktown’s planned technology, special education and pupil and personnel services spending. “All of the elements of the budget will have to necessarily decrease to pay for more and more unfunded or underfunded mandates.”

The Race to the Top funding awards Yorktown about $7,000 annually but the cost of implementing its series of standards and recommendations will cost more than $100,000.

Yorktown Superintendent Ralph Napolitano said the abundance of unfunded mandates, coupled with New York’s new 2 percent tax levy cap, is beginning to make it difficult to ensure continued educational excellence.

“When you put in a cap and you don’t look at alternative funding, that creates a gap,” he said. “We need mandate relief and we need it fast, or the face of education as we know it will change.”

Speaking to the board, Cole stressed the district’s efficiency, noting that it outranks about 40 area districts for highest percentage of funds spent in the classroom and lowest percentage of funds spent on building administration.

“We’re spending less than three cents of every dollar on supervision in the schools right now — that’s the principals, the [assistant principals[ and the directors within that unit,” he said.

Cole also told the board that about $175,000 had been saved by eliminating district coordinators at the high school level.

He also heralded the district’s technological progress, mentioning that upgrades like a VOIP telephones and a wireless Internet network “have all led us to be more efficient and in many cases have reduced costs” by about $25,000 to $30,000 annually.

“We were given the direction by the board to have technology not just be an add-on but to really integrate it into lesson plans and lesson delivery,” Cole said.

Napolitano also announced the impending retirement of John Wells, longtime principal of Brookside and French Hill elementary schools.

A succession plan will be unveiled at a future board meeting, Napolitano said.

“We accept it with mixed emotion because of course Mr. Wells deserves to move forward with the rest of his life … on the other hand, of course, we will miss him because he has been a very supportive, kind and generous principal. We will miss him but we know that the future will be kind and generous, as he’s been.”

The school board also recognized the achievements of Yorktown High School students in a variety of categories, ranging from Youth Court graduates and National Honor Society members to U.S. Presidential Scholar candidates and Junior Science and Humanities Symposium participants.

The board’s next meeting is March 26, where it will review the full 2012-2013 budget.

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