On Tuesday, the New York State residents will vote on their local school district matters. But it is questionable how local these matters really are. Residents of the Malverne Union Free School District (MUFSD) will vote on approximately $2 million out of the $52 million school district budget, a trustee, and other propositions. Decisions on the $50 million and the direction of student learning experience have been made in Washington, DC and Albany.
A couple of years ago, when the NYS budget was adopted “on time”, after decades of late budgets, the political parties struck an agreement—education reform. They devised financial tools (GEA, tax cap) that aim to gradually drive school districts into insolvency. The state plans to take over the districts and eliminate the local control.
The school administrators, trying to secure more money and avoid the takeover, are establishing capital funds (surplus funds). The capital funds are increasing the tax levy. Unfortunately, the funds allocated for capital funds can’t be used for instruction or programs. After the $14-million bond and 5-year, $5-million capital fund (expiring this year), the MUFSD residents should take break and concentrate on directing the surplus money to programs improving the learning experience of students.
Since all critical decisions are being made in Washington, DC and Albany anyway, we should embrace the integration and drive it actively to our benefit. The MUFSD board of education did already a good job by integrating some services in order to save funds. In the added agenda on April 8th, the board members approved a contract integrating the health and welfare services with about a dozen school districts. Also in the same agenda, the board authorized the Inter-Municipal Agreement to solicit proposals for special education services and appointed the Manhasset UFSD to lead such cooperative efforts.
The STEM program is another example of a high-quality, inter-district integration already in effect. The MUFSD enrolled 9 students in this extensive program. We should work collectively on creating more opportunities for all Malverne HS students so they are able to enroll in similarly rigorous programs that incorporate businesses and colleges into the learning experience. A small high school is not preparing students for a college or career to the same extent as an integrated high school that can offer richer curriculum.
In addition to integrating the MUFSD programs, we need to share educational visionaries, as well. Using the social media, residents not only are able to observe what other superintendents and principals are doing in their districts and schools, but they can directly engage in communicating with them.
It’s a common practice to establish a search committee that submits recommendations to the school board. The committee’s task in our district would be to narrow down characteristics of the future district leader, “lead learner” after Dr. Hunderfund’s contract expires next year. Collaborative efforts of administrators, teachers, and parents are highly valued and sought by educated crowd who in turn come and contribute fresh ideas to the common benefit of the community.