On Tuesday, Mar. 15, the Guilderland Central School District Board of Education held a Question and Answer workshop about the 2022-23 school year budget. This workshop gave the Board of Education and the Guilderland community the opportunity to ask questions of district administrators about the draft of the general operating budget. The draft budget was presented on Mar. 8 by Superintendent Wiles and Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders. Being a draft budget, modifications may be made to the budget until it is adopted by the Board of Education on April 12. Once adopted, that budget will go before voters on May 17.
The following topics were discussed:
Altamont Elementary Librarian. Currently the four larger elementary buildings — Guilderland, Westmere, Pine Bush and Lynnwood — have a full-time librarian while Altamont’s librarian is allocated as a .6 full time employee (FTE). AES Principal Peter Brabant has requested that the AES librarian be increased to .8 FTE, which would be proportional to the populations of the elementary buildings. The board of education and district administrators acknowledged the importance of a school librarian and agreed that this request is an equitable solution. The district plans to address this need before the budget is adopted on April 12.
Reducing class sizes. In an effort to maintain smaller class sizes, GCSD has conducted an analysis of future potential enrollment and class sizes. The district utilizes the following guidelines for class sizes:
- Grades K-2: 18-23 students
- Grades 3-5: 24-26 students
- Middle School: 26 students
- High School: up to 30 students
Farnsworth Middle School, which is fed by the five elementary schools, will undergo a phased-in class size reduction addressing eighth grade in the 2022-23 school year and sixth and seventh grades in the 2023-24 school year. Costing approximately $220,400 per grade level to reduce class sizes, this plan is dependent on the district receiving full foundation aid, as has been promised by New York State for the next two school years. This phased-in class size reduction will be helpful as the district’s analysis of enrollment shows elementary enrollment is growing, which will have an impact on FMS in coming years.
Start and end times. A GCSD task force is in the process of reviewing school start and end times, recently asking families and students to provide feedback to assist in this analysis. Presently external and immutable factors such as the geography of the district, local traffic and the national bus driver shortage have made the 2021-2022 start and end times challenging to implement. By reassembling the task force, the district is hoping to address these issues and work towards solutions which may include making adjustments to the existing schedule.
Social-emotional learning. Following the pandemic, a primary focus of GCSD is social-emotional learning. A question was asked about the possibility of adding more services in this area. The district has used federal funds to add staff, thereby not affecting the general operating budget. It is important to note that GCSD has a very favorable student to staff ratio of one adult for every 10.1 students. To further support social-emotional learning, the Positivity Project was introduced to empower students to build more positive relationships with one another and with their teachers. These efforts are critical to address the needs of the whole student so they are able to learn crucial skills that will aid them far into life.
Technology director. A question was posed regarding the need for a director of technology, a newly created position by the district. It was asked if this position is common at other local school districts and if there is a need at GCSD. Dr. Wiles explained that it is typical for school districts of our size to have a director of technology. She elaborated that prior to posting for the position, GCSD had an expert analysis of the district’s technology staffing, with the primary finding being the critical need for leadership in the technology department. At a time when every aspect of school district operations is dependent on technology, a district with the enrollment of GCSD needs highly functioning, secure and reliable technology systems. Leadership in this area is an essential investment in the future of the district.
Important upcoming dates:
- April 5: Budget workshop
- April 12: Board action to adopt the proposed budget
- May 3: Budget hearing
- May 17: Budget vote and election