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November-December 2011
Vol 1, Issue 3

Happy Holidays

     Across the Board        

                 A Publication of WPSBA   


 Preparing to Transition 

     January is the start of a new year and we're kicking it off with a program you won't want to miss!   On January 11th, WPSBA is once again joining with  Manhattanville College to present the Winter 2012 Conference on Transitions:  Preparing Students to Succeed in College 

     In the midst of our focus on tax levy limits and APPR regulations, this conference is an opportunity to focus on students, and explore work that is being done at both the high school and college level regarding the college and career readiness of all of our students.

     We're pleased to have Dr. Roger Martin askendall our keynote speaker.  Dr. Martin delighted the audience three years ago when he spoke about his experience of relinquishing his role as a college president to become a college freshman again. He shared some poignant anecdotes from his book Racing Odysseus.  His insights from his new book, Frosh: The First Year Experience in American Culture, will further aid our discussion on what school districts need to do to prepare our students for success after graduation.

     Gather your district team of school board members, superintendent, high school principal, director of guidance, a parent representative and two students so that your district covers the breakout sessions that will follow breakfast and the keynote address.  Workshop session topics include: college programs that support student transition; finding the right fit for the right school;  school district alumni surveys; early college programs; cross-cultural opportunities; and educating the whole child. 

     Hope to see many of you on January 11th!  Until then, enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.

Kendall Egan

WPSBA President 

In This Issue
- From the President
- Memo to Legislators
- Upcoming Events
- Commissioner King's Visit
- Supts/Legislators Meet
- What's on Our Minds

Quick Links



WPSBA Sends MTA Memo to Legislators 


      WPSBA  sent a memo to each of our NYS legislators advocating that ALL public schools be included in the MTA payroll tax exemption. To read the memo in full, click here.





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   Mark Your Calendars!

WPSBA-Manhattanville 2012 Conference on Transitions: Preparing

Students to Succeed in College

Wednesday, January 11th from 8:00 am - 12:00 noonsnowman

Manhattanville College, Reid Castle, Purchase, NY 

Program flyer and info have been emailed.  Please register through
your District Clerk by Wed., Jan. 4

Join us for an inspiring morning.  The conference will begin with a continental breakfast, followed by a keynote address by Dr. Roger Martin, President Emeritus, Randolph-Macon College and author of two books on the first year college experience.  There will be two workshop sessions on a range of topics (see President's message above). We again encourage each district to attend as a team and learn together. 


The conference fee is $15 per person or $12 per person for districts that send a team of 3 or more. Past conferences have been very well received, so please register by Wednesday, January 4th through your district clerk to reserve your spot. 


Legislative Advocacy Committee (LAC)

Thursday, January 12th from 7:30 pm to 9 pm

2 Westchester Plaza, Elmsford, NY

To register click here

Advocacy and a consistent message about the issues that concern us are critical to the sustainability of our school districts and the education of our children. Join LAC board colleagues from across the region to develop WPSBA legislative advocacy goals and strategy, and determine how we will partner with other groups to deliver a unified and focused message. 


Dine & Network: Budgeting Under the New Normal...A Regional Conversation

Thursday, February 9th from 6:30 pm to 9 pm

SW Westchester BOCES, Career Services, Bldg I, Valhalla, NY

Please register through your district clerk

Enjoy an evening of dinner and dialogue as you share thoughts with fellow board members and superintendents on the following topics: The View from the Field: Potential Cuts to Program and Staff; Community Outreach and Messaging: Best Practices and Lessons Learned; Use of Reserve Funds: Incorporating a Multi-Year Tax Levy and Capital Needs Planning Process into the District Psyche; Short and Long Term Implications; and To Override or Not to Override. 


Please Note: Current Issues Program scheduled for Jan 26, 2012 - Cancelled


In case you missed it...

The full line-up of WPSBA fall programs was designed to ensure that board members would have access to the most current information for navigating through unchartered waters. If you missed any of our programs, please visit the WPSBA website to view the presentation  materials from past programs. The MOA's are posted on the website as well. We encourage districts to send us their MOA once a contract has been negotiated, so we can share it with others.

  Latest Happenings

 On Tour with Commissioner King  

by Lisa Davis, WPSBA Executive Director



Commissioner King chats with Ossining

Science Research student

     I was honored to be able to travel with Regent Harry Phillips and Commissioner John King on Tuesday, December 6th during the Commissioner's visit to schools in Westchester County. The single best way to truly appreciate the amazing work that is being done in our schools is to spend time inside our schools and with students, and the day allowed us to do just that. Commissioner King's whirlwind tour started in the Ossining UFSD with bookend presentations on First Steps (a birth to age 4 Literacy Program which is privately funded) and the High School Science Research Programs (students presented the objectives of the program and their own science research projects).
     In New Rochelle, we were invited into the classroom to experience an early grade Spanish language lesson, 5th grade Mandarin Chinese, and inquiry based lessons in both math and environmental science. The visit ended with a conversation with a Latina Mom's group, which the Commissioner conducted in Spanish!
Commissioner King in New Rochelle

Commissioner King joins students in Mandarin Chinese

class at New Rochelle's Webster Elementary School

     At Westchester Community College, programs such as their Early Learning High School programs , ESL and other initiatives that focus on transitions were highlighted, as was state funding and the WCC Foundation. It was an enlightening, yet sobering conversation.
     The day ended at SW BOCES, with presentations on new initiatives, including: regional online learning; the use of data in the classroom (which focused on White Plains teachers and students using assessment data to reflect on their work and develop strategies for improvement); and the John Lennon Bus  visit (a fully staffed, mobile sound/video studio) which empowered students to work in teams and create an original music video, "The Best I Can Be."   The video is amazing, but better yet, were the words of the students who spoke about what this learning experience meant to them.
     Dr. King took many notes, and asked probing questions. He seemed to be struck by the diversity- cultural, racial and economic- across our districts, and we hope it will help dispel some myths about our region. It is apparent that SED continues on its linear path regarding APPR, Common Core, assessments, and other recent initiatives. Their mantra for school districts remains the same- we will need to do more with less, and will have to find new ways to do things in order to accomplish this. As an aside, the topic of consolidation was only mentioned during Dr. King's media interview.
     What was my personal take-away? There is so much going on in schools across our region that is rarely shared beyond the home district. How can we better share our successes and celebrate the fine work that is being done every day in our schools? If you have any suggestions, please pass them on, as this is something that WPSBA needs to better publicize, both among our member districts and with legislators, community members, and the press. In these challenging times, it is critical that we promote the importance of public education for all children and our accomplishments across the region.
LHCSS Meets with State Legislators to Discuss Mandate Relief
     The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents (LHCSS) is making strides in its mandate relief efforts. Superintendents from across our four county region (Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester) met with our New York State legislators on Friday, December 9th to discuss the mandate relief issues that are outlined in their December 2011 Position Paper. Through table conversations, which were led by the superintendents, the critical issues and supporting data were explained to the legislators. WPSBA will work alongside the superintendent groups to ensure our legislators take action to finally address these long-standing school district issues.   

What's On Our Minds


Budget Conversations in the Year of the Tax Cap

by Lois Winkler, President Pleasantville BOE 

When talking about the budget, Board Trustees hear many conflicting messages:


lois"Don't cut spending" - programs valued by different constituents
"Don't increase spending" - my taxes are too high


"We must have excellent schools to maintain property values."
"Freeze spending because we're overtaxing people and forcing them out of town."


"Small class sizes are best for learning."
"When I was a kid, my classes had 40 kids in them...and I turned out OK!"

And new this year: "My property taxes won't go up more than 2%."


     In the words of Albert Einstein: "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them in the first place."

     So what is a Board to do? First, ask questions: What are the basic assumptions that the board, the administration and community are making? How do we challenge and explain them? What are the facts? What does the research show? What will we do, and most importantly, how will we communicate it?

      Many Boards are establishing a Citizen's Advisory Committee or Budget Information Committee to increase community knowledge, participation and engagement in the budget development process. Membership in this committee should be inclusive, with all stakeholders and viewpoints represented. It is important that the Committee identify the underlying assumptions, expectations, and challenges.

     Topics that this Committee might explore include: state aid; state and federal mandates; mandated special education costs; rules of collective bargaining; contractual agreements; long-range fiscal planning; salary and benefits; reserve funds; shared services and functional consolidation (current and potential).

     The Tax Levy Cap provides additional challenges. First of all, it's a cap on the levy - not the tax rate - added to that, a "2" is not really a "2." Secondly, it does not provide reform - the underlying cost drivers are not addressed. There is the potential to widen the gulf between "the haves and the have-nots," to impact property values negatively and to increase unemployment costs. Bottom line, local property taxes will remain high while the strong educational programs we offer will suffer.

     Ongoing communication is key. The Board should make use of all available means of communication and the message should be clear, unified, accurate and simple. Don't be afraid to repeat the message. Enlist the help of your PTAs and other community groups. Be transparent. Involve your stakeholders. Make use of citizen committees. Encourage community members to attend meetings and articulate their concerns. Ask them to contact board members, the superintendent or the building principal with their input. Communication is a two-way street and community involvement is crucial.

     Districts are facing new challenges this year and it is vitally important, for the sake of our students and their education, that we all work together to address and communicate the issues clearly.