Over the years, I have been a frequent critic of the failure of our education system in New York to recognize the realities of upstate - declining school population, small districts not offering a competitive education, subsidization of school construction projects in declining districts, state mandates imposed because of the needs of New York City, lack of focus on cost reduction in the individual districts.
I am writing this letter to urge the residents of the Fredonia School District to support the school budget by voting "yes" on both propositions on Tuesday.
I think that Superintendent Paul DiFonzo and his staff have done about all they can do with the cards that have been dealt to them:
Sports programs are possible cuts if the school budgets do not pass.
1) They are operating an overbuilt physical plant (remember Vision 2000.
2) State aid has been reduced by over $6 million with no change in state mandates.
3) Their efforts on a school merger passed overwhelmingly in the district only to be rejected by Brocton.
4) New York state Triborough Amendment continues to impede labor negotiations.
With these constraints, what has the administration done?
1) Closed Wheelock school and consolidated all grades in the main campus.
2) Rented out the space in Wheelock to other groups to generate revenue.
3) Established a competitive tuition to attract students from disadvantaged districts - over 60 tuition students are in the system.
4) Reduced administration by two positions (this may change due to new teacher evaluation process).
5) Have done what they can on wages, benefits within New York state rules.
6) Maintained programs to continue a quality education.
7) Did their job in promoting the merger with Brocton within our district (3-to-1 in favor)
8) Stayed within the tax cap (using the typical New York state rule - full of exceptions)
For these reasons, I think the voters should recognize the significant progress that has been made and support the budget. More needs to be done as cost reduction never stops, but the major impediment is a failed state Education Department and Legislature that will not accept the realities of upstate. In spite of this, we must support a quality education.
James H. Mintun Jr. is a resident of the Fredonia Central Schools.