A Letter from our Superintendent and Board President to Governor Cuomo...
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We are writing on behalf of the students, parents, staff and community members of the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District. The Niagara Wheatfield Central School District is in upstate NY and is comprised of the towns of Niagara, Wheatfield, Lewiston, and Cambria. Our school district also provides educational programs to the students of the Tuscarora Nation through a contract with New York State.
As you may or may not know, Niagara Wheatfield has the dubious distinction of being at the top on the list of fiscally stressed school districts in New York State. Most often, a district would be proud to be #1. However, in this instance there is no pride, only frustration. It is painfully apparent that the revenues in aid from the state that have been withheld from the district are largely responsible for our being on the precipice of financial insolvency.
Our district has endured years of funding cuts totaling over $67 million dollars; $47 million in foundation aid since 2007-08 in addition to $20 million due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). The loss of these revenues has had a deleterious effect on the programs and services that we provide to our students. We have eliminated 137 positions district wide in just the past three years. This has resulted in the elimination of our modified athletic program, a before and after school bus run for students who receive additional academic support, the elimination of many elective courses at the middle and high school level and significant increases in class sizes. This list is just a sample of the opportunities for students that have been eliminated due to a lack of funding.
The GEA was instituted during the Great Recession when the state had to close huge deficits. Schools, as well as other government programs, shared in the sacrifice to make our state financially strong through reductions made to state aid. At this time, there is a surplus of over $5 billion in the state budget. However, your 2015-2016 Executive Budget did not provide an adequate spending plan for school districts. It did include, though, the possible release of $1.1 billion dollars in increased funding to schools with the passage of your ‘opportunity agenda’ education reforms.
We have worked diligently to stay within the parameters that have been given us. We have done what has been necessary to begin the ascent from the depths of near dissolution only to find that state aid funds are being held hostage to additional educational initiatives that will only serve to undermine the progress that we have made both financially and instructionally. The reforms, fueled by the misinformed notion that all NYS public schools are failing, will serve no purpose other than to exacerbate the tension in an already stressed system.
Niagara Wheatfield Central School District has shared the sacrifice of limitations in funding, suffered significant reductions to student programs while at the same time implementing the initiatives set out by the State Education Department. We implore you, on behalf of our district, to support us as we have supported you. The state coffers are full. They are actually overflowing. It is time to do the ‘right thing’. Fully fund public education at the levels demanded by the courts and the state constitution and eliminate the GEA.
Lynn M. Fusco, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools
For more information on the GEA and what you can do to help support our efforts, click here.
February 26, 2015
The search for the Superintendent of Schools continues on schedule. The members of the Board of Education are committed to finding the very best educator to continue the fine work of Dr. Fusco and lead the District in the challenging years ahead.
Consultants from School Leadership, LLC completed the focus group meetings with stakeholders on February 12 and reviewed the input from the online survey which closed on February 20. On February 25 the Board discussed the information presented by the consultants and adopted the specifications for the position which were based upon the specifications adopted in 2013, the input received from these meetings and from the information collected from the online survey.
The Board of Education has determined that the ideal candidate should be:
· A successful educator, with superintendent, other central office or building principal experience, who will lead an environment of trust and transparency while providing clear and consistent leadership to thoughtfully implement the New York State Reform Agenda, with student learning as the number one priority.
· A visionary leader, who will learn the District and its communities and then facilitate a strategic planning process among the stakeholders which will help establish focus and priorities for the work of the staff.
· A highly effective leader with a proven track record of thoughtful decision-making and performance who is an excellent communicator, who is visible and approachable in the schools and in the community, and whose work is transparent so that stakeholders are uniform in their knowledge of, and respect for, the District’s work.
· A school leader who is dedicated to making a long term commitment to the school community through her/his work ethic and residency in the District (a preference, not a requirement).
· An educator with an excellent understanding of school finance and the human resource function, including collective bargaining, who will gain an understanding of the recent financial and staffing history of the District, and then ensure the availability and use of increasingly scarce resources for the maximum benefit of all students.
· A proven instructional leader who will embrace cultural as well as socio-economic diversity and work with a supportive and well-respected staff in order to build on the strong academic reputation of the District.
· An educator of the utmost integrity focused on further improving academic opportunities and related student performance for students in an atmosphere of mutual respect, collaborative decision-making and accountability at every level of the organization.
In early May, the Board will be interviewing candidates it designates as semi-finalists and, soon thereafter, will be meeting with candidates selected from that group as finalists for the position. Consultants from School Leadership, LLC will be vetting all applicants and assisting the Board in the selection of those designated to semi-finalist and finalist standing. The schedule of activities calls for the appointment of the Superintendent by no later than June 3 with an anticipated start date on or about July 1.
Should you have any questions about the status of the search, please feel free to contact me.
Steven Sabo, President
Board of Education
The Niagara Wheatfield Central School District held a "Common Core Parent Night" at Colonial Village Elementary School on January 14th for parents of students in kindergarten to fifth grade. Please click on the link to view the powerpoint presentation from that evening.
6:00 PM Board of Education Meeting
7:00 PM SHS Musical
7:00 PM SHS Musical
2:00 PM SHS Musical
7:00 PM SHS Musical
2:00 PM SHS Musical