Haldane Board Forced to Make Cuts by Reducing Staff

Budget deadline extended to April 22

By Pamela Doan

“This has been the most depressing meeting,” said Haldane Board President Gillian Thorpe, as she wrapped up the April 8 budget discussion. Unable to approve a budget by their own self-imposed deadline, the board had to move the deadline to April 22 to give Interim Superintendent John Chambers and Business Manager Anne Dinio more time to work out plans to cut an additional $176,543 from expenditures. The board must approve a budget on April 22 to meet the requirements for the May 20 vote.

The five trustees agreed with previous recommendations to cut the additional class for the large fourth grade, reduce a Consumer Science position, and participate in the Teachers Retirement System stable contribution option. The TRS stable contribution allows the district to pay the interest over time rather than in the year it is due and results in the most significant savings of all the options the board has reviewed. State aid will contribute $82,206 to the deficit. These measures only account for $436,000 of the nearly $700,000 deficit, though. Now the board has moved to the list of their “undesirable” cuts to make up the balance.

Among the options discussed, including reductions in athletics, staff development, extra-curricular activities, and supplies, none would add up to the significant amount that is needed to balance the budget, said Chambers. Thorpe commented, “We’ve run out of options.” Non-mandated programs and the staff involved will be reviewed for reductions.

At the April 22 meeting, the board will review a recommendation to cut one teacher from a non-mandated program and three teacher’s assistants, which could increase class sizes. Currently class sizes are in the low to mid 20s, depending on the grade level, with smaller classes in the lower grades.

Non-mandated programs are classes like art and music. There are six teacher’s assistants working in the district and three will be affected. Assistants have higher credentials than aides and can help instruct and supervise the classroom. Staff reductions will follow the union contract and proceed by seniority within a program area.

All involved expressed frustration and anger toward the state legislature for the cuts. The money that the district lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment amounts to about $350,000, which as Chambers pointed out, “would allow the district to pass a budget possibly without any tax levy.” The GEA is a measure imposed in Albany reducing school funding to close the state budget gap and is a major source of contention by districts statewide.

7 thoughts on “Haldane Board Forced to Make Cuts by Reducing Staff

  1. Woe to the society which deems Art and Music as “non-mandated” in education. I know that term comes from the state level and has been in the works for over 20 years. It’s heartbreaking to those of us who had our most positive youth experiences in the arts.

    Art and music are essential in development. There is plenty of data to support this. Ask any elder community member about singing in a choir or sketching a landscape and they may tear up recounting the joy it has given to them throughout their life. Please do all that you can to ensure that these subjects are not taken from the district.

  2. David McCullough on the Arts in the Public Schools:

    “. . . Gene Kelly – an American in Paris – he came from Pittsburgh. We had the sense there was no limit to how far one might go. Errol Garner came from Pittsburgh – lots of people in music and the arts. And they went to the public schools there. And the public schools in Pittsburgh in that day and age – art, music and the theatrical arts – were treated just as seriously as arithmetic, spelling or English. We never had the idea that the arts
    were sort of the parsley around the main dish.

    “I’ve been working hard and speaking out at every chance that we must not cut the arts out of public schools. Must not. And to say we haven’t the funding, we haven’t the money . . . of course we have the money. It all depends on what we want to spend our money on. You can tell an awful lot about a society by how it spends its money. I can’t start rattling off statistics but, what we spend on potato chips – what we spend on lawn care . . . to start cutting back on the arts would be a huge disservice. We’d be cheating our children.

    “And it’s a great way to teach history too – is to bring in the arts – get children drawing some subject. I was out on the Brooklyn Bridge . . . doing an interview one time and there were some little kids out doing a drawing of the bridge – and it was part of their understanding of the history of New York. Just as doing a little show, a play about Dolly Madison or Daniel Boone – a child will never forget that. Music in the teaching of history . . . and photography . . . it’s all part of the human experience. And if you leave that out then you’re leaving out a lot of the flavor and soul of life and of history.”

    McCullough: The Johnstown Flood -1968; The Great Bridge 1972; The Path Between the Seas – 1977; Mornings on Horseback – 1981; Brave Companions – 1992; Truman – 1992; John Adams – 2001; 1776 – 2005; etc.

  3. How concerned should you be that Haldane might soon eliminate your child’s “non-mandated” art and/or music program? Very.

    For a start, Google “arts education budget cuts” and check out the tons of evidence showing how educating our kids in the fine arts has crucial effects on how they perform in all other (“mandated”) academic areas, how they develop cultural awareness, how they develop as moral/ethical beings, how they develop a sense of themselves as civic participants, and so on. And this pro-arts perspective comes not from wacko fringe groups but from such entities as, say, the National Education Association and the White House.

    Recent studies by universities and nonprofits have also identified strong connections between arts education and brain development; for just one example, music education is shown to have unique and direct benefits to child development, including developing brain pathways and performing better on math and science assessments. The NAMM Foundation reported on a Northwestern University study pulling together research from all over the world on how music education changes the brain; the “bottom line to all these studies: musical training has a profound impact on other skills including speech and language, memory and attention, and even the ability to convey emotions vocally.” And on and on… once you start looking, the amount of research you find is overwhelming.

    Then, just for kicks, Google “NFL’s concussion crisis” and get a load of the most recent research about contact sports and brain injuries. Having gained energy by recent tragic human stories (such as Junior Seau’s suicide), the research into the connection between football and long-term brain damage is only in its infancy, and already frightening in its implications. (Note such fun facts as one study’s finding that high school football players are twice as likely to suffer a concussion than college players are.) As a former three-sport high school athlete myself, I surely support sports in our schools, and for that matter, I also understand the importance of sport traditions in the life of a school. But such awareness shouldn’t prevent us from reconsidering what we take for granted in light of ongoing advances in science in culture.

    If anything, it’s a sad comment on society that larger forces have put Haldane’s leaders in the position of having to choose among valued programs in the first place. But if, in the end, our school becomes an institution that has scrapped arts-education programs that help our children’s brains and spirits while keeping in place programs where they can have their brains rattled and potentially damaged for life, it will be a truly sad and dire day for Haldane and for our kids.

  4. This two percent cap in theory is good, but it is creating chaos for school districts trying to give children the best they can offer for the taxes collected. There’s no easy answer to the tough times we live in and I for one do not want to see the children deprived of opportunities that children can benefit from to make them more productive citizens in our great nation that we live in. Kudos to the board of education for giving their all handling this.

  5. Years ago, when my father was on the Haldane school board, when tough budget questions came up and there was talk of cutting out “the fat,” it always was mentioned that the arts and sports were the first to go. As one who, during the depression, left school after the eighth grade, he still understood the importance of the arts and sports to many kids who would not come to school if it were not for those things. As a Cold Spring cop for many years, he dealt with many, many of those kids and always knew the ones who were turned off by the core, but stayed in school because of the very things we are talking of now.