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League of Women Voters of New Castle, NY

P.O. Box 364, Chappaqua, NY  10514  e-mail: lwv.newcastle@gmail.com

Observer Notes Chappaqua Central School District Board Meetings 2008


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The League of Women Voters of New Castle is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages citizens to play an informed and active role in government. Basic to all our activities is observing how government at all levels is working. League observers attend local public meetings and provide the following reports. Reports follow on meetings of the Chappaqua Central School District Board during 2008. Earlier notes are on the page School Board (2005-2006). and a separate page for notes of 2007.

Click here for notes on the New Castle Town Board and click here for the Chappaqua Library Board notes.

More observers will be needed, especially when the School Board will be meeting more frequently to prepare next year's budget. To volunteer, email lwvnewcastle@optonline.net.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting May 6,  2008
Public Hearing on Budget

Summary: Pamela Thornton, Director of the Chappaqua Library presented the library budget.  There will be a 2.01% decrease in the budget next year.  Dr. Fleishman presented the school district budget. The budget-to-budget increase will be 5.25%.  It is estimated that there will be a 4.59% tax increase for New Castle residents and a 3.89% decrease for Mt. Pleasant residents.

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey
Mester       Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Assistant Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Budget
Presenter:  Pamela Thornton, Director Chappaqua Library
   
There will be a 2.01% decrease in the budget next year. The library will be able to add an additional full time librarian and a full time clerical position. The public has requested increases in materials such as DVDs and audio books.  An average of 530 patrons use the library daily.  The staff hopes in install self-checkout machines.

Presentation: Budget
Presenter: Dr. Fleishman

Dr. Fleishman reviewed the operating standards that guide budget decisions and also reviewed the 4 categories (pillars) that comprise the budget.  Class size, one of the categories drives 70% of the budget since it impacts the number of teachers. The budget for 2008-09 is 5.25% greater than the ’07-‘08 budget. It is in the mid-range compared to other Westchester districts.  Highlights of the budget are some new programs: a Chinese Studies course, the teacher action research project, and the sustainability units of study.  There will also be new technology at Greeley to support the new schedule. There will be improvements in several buildings, including boiler and roof replacements at Greeley and Bell.

On the revenue side, there is an increase in state aid due to the EXCEL funds.  Nine hundred thousand dollars will be transferred from the unappropriated fund to moderate the tax increase.  It is estimated that there will be a 4.59% tax increase for New Castle residents and a 3.89% decrease for Mt. Pleasant residents.

Copies of the budget will be available on line, in the schools and at the Chappaqua Library. Budget mailings will also go to every household in the district.

 Policies

The Board approved a policy on behavior interventions for students with disabilities. A policy on student records was expanded to cover  e-mail addresses.  Parents can opt out of providing this information.  A policy on purchasing and bidding was approved; the Board agreeing that any expense beyond $40,000 should be put out for bid.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Apr. 15,  2008

Summary: The Board voted to approve the proposed school budget.  The budget-to-budget increase will be 5.25%.  It is estimated that there will be a 4.59% tax increase for New Castle residents and a 3.89% decrease for Mt. Pleasant residents.  The Board discussed 3 policies and approved a policy on rescheduling Board meetings due to emergencies. 

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey
Mester       Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr.Lyn McKay, Assistant Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Budget   Presenter:  Dr. Fleishman

     Dr. Fleishman reviewed the operating standards that guide budget decisions and the district strategic questions. He also reviewed the 4 categories (pillars) that comprise the budget.  The budget for 2008-09 is 5.25% greater than the ’07-‘08 budget. Dr. Fleishman pointed out that the increase is similar to last year’s increase and is about in the middle compared to comparable Westchester districts. Salaries and employee benefits account for 74.2% of the budget. Building projects, debt service and transportation account for another 15.6%. Dr. Fleishman pointed out that the budget increase is similar to last year’s increase and is about in the middle compared to comparable Westchester districts. There are only a few new programs:  the Chinese Studies course, the teacher action research project, and the sustainability units of study.  There will also be new technology at Greeley to support the new schedule.  Thanks to the Chappaqua School Foundation, all 4th grade classes will have Smart Boards.

     The Board discussed the proposal to take $900,000 from the unappropriated fund balance for next year’s budget.  Mr. Chow presented them with several alternative amounts and the estimated impact on the tax rate.  Although the Board votes only on expenditures in the budget, revenue sources were described as part of the budget process and the Board felt it was important for the community to know about this item.  After discussing the pros and cons of keeping various amounts in the fund balance, they agreed to stay with transferring the $900,000 amount from the fund balance.

     Dr. Fleishman summed up by saying that he felt the proposed budget is a good budget that meets both the academic and emotional needs of the students.  The Board voted to approve the proposed budget. It is estimated that there will be a 4.59% tax increase for New Castle residents and a 3.89% decrease for Mt. Pleasant residents. Copies will be available on line and at the district office.

 Other Business

     The Board approved bids for a number of the Capital/Excel projects and approved the March Revenue and Expenditure reports.  They discussed advertising for a new claims auditor in order to comply with state rules that require advertising for a new auditor every 3 years.

     Dr. Fleishman reported that the recent Superintendent’s Conference Day on teaching children with autistic spectrum disorders was very successful.  The district will maintain contact with the Yale Child Study Center and Dr. Volkmar, who presented at the conference. Dr. Fleishman briefly discussed the value of the Board taking “learning walks” through the schools, in addition to the facilities’ surveys.  The next walk will look at literacy instruction at Roaring Brook School.

Policies
    
     The Board approved a policy on rescheduling Board meetings after Emergency closings.  The first reading of the “Behavior Interventions for Students with Disabilities” policy lead to a long discussion.  This policy will address the use of time-outs or physical restraints as part of a comprehensive behavior plan for specific students. The Board wants to frame the policy as a positive intervention to allow students to regain control. There was also extensive discussion after the first reading of a technology philosophy policy.  The feeling seemed to be that the policy tried to do too much and needed to be restructured. In response to the state audit suggestions, the Board discussed how to refine the policy on purchasing and bidding; specifically at what dollar amount the district should require bids.  The feeling seemed to be that $40,000 was appropriate.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Apr. 8,  2008

Summary:  Mr. Chow continued the budget presentation discussing the status of the EXCEL project, expected revenue, and taxes.  The school budget will increase 5.25% over last year’s budget.  It is estimated that there will be a 4.66% increase in taxes for New Castle residents and a 3.82% decrease for Mt. Pleasant residents. 

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey
Mester       Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr.Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

School Board President Janet Benton announced that the New York State Comptroller’s Office had completed their audit of the school district. The auditors made 6 recommendations for improvements in procedures.  The Board has responded to the letter by accepting the recommendations and has already started to make the changes suggested. Ms. Benton stated that there had not been any intentional disregard of problems, and there had not been any fraud or misspent funds.  She and Dr. Fleischman invited questions from the community.  The entire Chappaqua response letter can be found on the district web site.

Budget Presentation:  Presenter:  John Chow

Mr. Chow presented financial information about the EXCEL and other Capital Projects.  The EXCEL project is short $589,400.  By ordering only 2 new boilers instead of 3 for Greeley and making other engineering changes, the shortfall has been reduced to $344,675.  Budget decreases due to retirements, 2 fewer teacher aides, savings on expenditures for classroom cabinets and a reduction in health insurance costs will make up the money needed for both the EXCEL shortfall and increased money for field trips.  The Board was assured that kindergarten classes will all continue to have aides.  The reduction in teacher aides is due to fewer kindergarten classes.

The proposed budget of $107,347,134 is 5.25% higher than last year’s budget.  Real property taxes comprise 89.33% of the budget.  State aid is anticipated to be another 7.45%.  This amount is higher than in the past because of the state money for the EXCEL project.  Other revenues come from charges for services, sales tax revenues and interest. The district will take $900,000 from the district’s unappropriated fund balance for this year’s budget. The Board was concerned about this.  Mr. Chow assured them that, even with the shift of funds, the unappropriated fund will be close to 4% at the end of this school year, which is the legal limit.  The unappropriated fund is for unforeseen expenses.

Estimated tax assessments differ for residents of New Castle and Mt. Pleasant.  The tax rates are determined by a complex formula using an equalization rate determined by the state, the assessed taxables and the full taxable valuation of each town.  It is estimated that the New Castle tax rate will increase by 4.66% and Mr. Pleasant taxes will decrease by 3.82%.  Mr. Chow explained that every 1% increase in the school tax equals about $958,942 in the budget.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Mar. 18,  2008

Summary – Board of Education Meeting – March 18, 2008

     Budget presentations continued with presentations by the Special Education Director, Dr. Jerry Wishner, and the Athletic Director, Steve Young.  There will be approximately a 3.8% increase in the proposed Special Education budget, due mostly to salary increases.  The proposed Athletic Program budget will increase by approximately 5% due to increases in the number of offerings and salaries and 2 additional assistant coaches.  Dr. Fleishman announced that, due to a number of teachers taking leave, the proposed budget increase of  5.35% has been reduced to 5.25%.  If the state budget restores BOCES aid, the increase may be reduced further. The Board discussed the budget information that has been presented so far.

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey
Mester       Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr.Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Budget: Dr. Fleishman

     Dr. Fleishman presented the Board with a comparison of budget-to-budget increases in 10 similar school districts.  At the high end, Mamaroneck is anticipating an increase of 9.57% over last year.  At the low end, Scarsdale is anticipating an increase of 3.91%.  Chappaqua, at 3.25%,  has the 4th lowest increase.

Athletic Budget Presentation:  Steve Young, Athletic Director

     Chappaqua offers 7 different sports offerings to boys and girls at the middle school.  At the high school, there are 15 offerings for boys and 14 for girls.  Offerings range from football and soccer to bowling, wrestling, skiing and golf.  Approximately 65% to 70% of students participate at the high school level.  There are 75 high school coaching positions and 26 middle school coaching positions.  Salaries are a major item in the budget. Mr. Young is requesting funds for 1 additional assistant volleyball coach at each middle school. Other items included in the budget are: contractual and administrative fees to BOCES, supplies, reconditioning of equipment and facility rental. The proposed budget would be $1,099,477, approximately 5% more than last year’s budget of $1,049,729.

Special Education Budget Presentation: Dr. Jerry Wishner, Director of Special Education and Related Services

     Dr. Wishner pointed out that the special education budget covers 38 categories of providers, going beyond teachers to occupational and other therapists, hearing consultants, transition planners, psychiatrists, home instructors and many others.  In addition there are administrators, attorneys, a data manager and office support personnel.  A child’s IEP mandates the services that must be provided. Five hundred fifty-seven of the districts’ 4,359 students have IEPs.  An additional 101 preschoolers (3-5 years) also have IEPs.  One hundred forty-six students have 504 plans and receive accommodations but do not get special education services. There has been an increase in the number of students labeled autistic and the number labeled health impaired; a category that includes students with attentional difficulties. Learning disabilities is the largest category of disabilities, followed by speech or language difficulties, other health impairment, emotional disability and autism. Salaries, which comprise 71% of the budget, are largely responsible for the increase in the total budget.  No new positions are requested.  The budget includes tuition for private and residential placements, BOCES fees, and contractual costs for services mandated by IEPs.

      Dr. Wishner reported that the Transition Support Program, which was new this year, has served a total of 63 students, 38 of whom were special education students.  The program was designed to serve kids in crisis, vulnerable students who need support, and is not limited to special education students.  It has served students returning from hospitals and residential placements as well as students with anxiety disorders, depression or similar needs for support.  Services have included direct instruction, counseling, therapeutic support and family support.  Anecdotally, Dr. Wishner believes that the services have been extremely helpful; a safety net for students who didn’t have a place before.

Discussion

     The Board members discussed the budget information that has been presented in the last few weeks.  Mr. Gursha, while supporting the operating standards listed by Dr. Fleishman, raised the question of what “moderating increases” really means.  Mr. Shapiro felt the district has done a good job of moderating increases and that the Board should wait to get the whole picture before deciding what a “moderate” increase is. Mr. Mester pointed out that, in education, you can’t simply make up a number. Mr. Gursha and Ms. Habermann wondered if some items in the budget might be postponed.  Dr. Fleishman pointed out that 75% of the budget is salaries, which have an average 5.2% increase. This increase can only be controlled by controlling class size and programs.  Mr. Mester wondered what the impact would be if the  flexible areas of the budget had no increase.  The group also questioned how much the increase in school budget would translate to an increase in taxes.  Mr. Chow pointed out that we don’t know all the revenues yet and other things impact taxes. However he and Ms. Benton, having seen rough figures, believe that the increase will be less than 5.2%.

For more details and the agendas of upcoming meetings, please visit the district web site.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Mar. 11,  2008

Dr. McKay presented the proposed budget for curriculum and instruction, professional development and leadership learning.  The total budget is slightly larger than last year’s budget.  Darleen Nicolosi presented the proposed technology budget.  This budget includes money for instructional technology, data management of all databases and the operational infrastructure.  This year’s proposed budget is 10.97% greater than last year’s budget.  There is a focus on adding substantial amounts of equipment to support the needs of the new high school schedule.

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester
Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr.Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Budget – Curriculum and Instruction  
Presenter: Dr. Lyn McKay, Deputy Superintendent

      The Curriculum and Instruction budget covers 3 major areas:

  • Curriculum, instruction and assessment alignment
  • Professional development
  • Leadership learning

         This year academic intervention strategies for both special education and general education students will be a major focus.  Another emphasis will be on piloting new materials for elementary math. There will be a new initiative for developing units on sustainability education.  There will be a major emphasis on assessing narrative writing at the high school level.  A new initiative, Leadership Learning, is intended for administrators to help them look at student learning as related to the Board’s strategic question on learning. Another new initiative is the Teacher Action Research Project.  The project will be a professional development option which allows teachers to use their own classrooms for research and examine their own practices. Previous initiatives on technology literacy, NCLB coordination and content area reading will be continued. 

      The proposed budget for ’08-’09 is slightly larger than last year’s budget.  There have been increases in areas such as reproduction of materials, contractual salaries and new projects such as the Teacher Action Research Project.  There are decreases in areas like ESL instruction, supplies and professional development.  In response to a question from the audience, Dr. McKay explained that there will be a lot of professional development for the new high school schedule, but it is listed in the budget under several different topics.

Presentation: Budget – Technology  
Presenter: Darleen Nicolosi, Director of Technology

     The technology budget provides money for instructional technology to support the curriculum, data management of all databases and the operational infrastructure.  This year’s proposed budget is 10.97% greater than last year’s budget.  There will be a large increase in spending for high school technology to support the new high school schedule.  The new schedule will provide time for more project based, research oriented teaching. The high school teachers have had an opportunity to view technology options and have asked for more laptops and desktops as well as some new types of equipment. Tablets, which use the same technology as smart boards, allow students to write directly on the board rather than keyboarding.  Student Response Systems are handheld devices that enable each child to respond in class.  The teacher sees all the responses and decides whether to keep the response private or to display it for the class. By monitoring each student, the teacher can change teaching strategies as necessary. Enough new equipment will be ordered so that students can use equipment in their classrooms rather than having limited time in the computer lab.  An additional consulting technician will be required temporarily to get things up and running.

Other Business

     The Board approved the Treasurer’s Reports for Dec. ’07 and Jan.’08, and the Expenditures and Revenues Reports for Feb. ’08. Mr. Chow reported on the status of the Excel projects.  It is expected that construction will be substantially completed by Aug. 23.

     The Board adopted a policy on Board Organization and responsibilities.  After some discussion, they adopted a policy on Impartial Hearing Officers for Students with Educational Disabilities.


Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Mar. 4,  2008

Summary: Dr. Fleishman presented an overview of the budget, delineating the operating standards that govern the budget process and the 4 main areas of the budget. The ’08-09 budget is projected to be 5.35% greater than last year’s budget. Over 74% of the budget is for contractual obligations such as salaries and benefits.

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Budget Overview –
Presenters: Superintendent Dr. Fleishman, Asst. Superintendent Thomas Cardellichio

Dr. Fleishman presented an overview of the budget. He delineated 8 operating standards that govern the budget process. These include offering the highest quality educational programs while moderating budget increases, providing high quality professional development, supporting initiatives related to the new high school schedule and maintaining current class size ratios. The four “pillars” of the budget are the areas that must be funded:
--class size affects staffing,
--program includes curriculum and instruction, support services and professional development
--Infrastructure includes technology as well as buildings and ground
--Contractual obligations includes salaries, pensions, benefits, and services of consultants, contractors and others.

The proposed budget is 5.35% more than last year’s budget. Over 74% of the budget is for salaries and benefits: health, pensions, and social security. Enrollment is fairly stable so only 1 new position for the Bell 6th grade, and a .4 position at Greeley for Chinese Studies are required. There will be a .5 ESL reduction. There are no major new programs.

Dr. Fleishman feels that the budget is a good one. It maintains class size ratios, funds important ongoing initiatives, provides the necessary supplies, materials and equipment, maintains the school facilities at a high level, and addresses both the academic and emotional needs of the students.

The Board had several comments and asked a number of questions. Dr. Fleishman said he would provide figures from other districts as they become available. Mr. Shapiro asked that the evening’s power point presentation be placed on the district web site and Dr. Fleishman agreed to do so. Dr. Fleishman will be doing a number of informational coffees in the community and he encouraged people to come to the coffees or the Board meetings and bring up their concerns.

Please go to the district web site ( HYPERLINK "http://www.chappaqua.k12.ny.us/ccsd/default.asp" http://www.chappaqua.k12.ny.us/ccsd/default.asp) for the budget overview notes and the agendas for the upcoming budget presentations.


 

Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education Meeting Feb. 28,  2008

Summary:   Dr. Wishner, Director of Special Education and Related Services, presented a response to the district strategic question concerning in-depth learning.  The discussion covered various aspects of learning.  Financial reports were reviewed; teacher conference days were announced for 2008-2009, and 2 policies were briefly discussed.

Board Members Present: Janet Benton, Robert Gursha, Susan Habermann, Jay Shapiro, Jeffrey Mester    Faculty Present: Superintendent Dr. David A. Fleishman, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay, Asst. Superintendent John Chow

Presentation: Strategic Question – Special Education  
Presenter: Dr. Jerry Wishner, Director of Special Education and Related Services

Dr. Wishner addressed the district strategic question:  “How can the District ensure that all students, in addition to acquiring necessary content knowledge, learn to think deeply, support their thinking, apply problem-solving skills, and actively participate in their learning?"

Dr. Wishner asked the Board to reflect upon  “What is learning?” and  “What makes learning difficult?”  In the course of the ensuing discussion, and in response to Board questions, he pointed out that the process of conversation is in alignment with district instructional objectives and is beneficial to special education students.  It enhances understanding and memory. The more something is discussed, the more meaningful it becomes and it is encoded in a way that orders memory better.  Conversation makes material more accessible; different kids are able to get into it at different points.  Regular education teachers can help special education students engage in conversation in various ways, such has having them talk to a partner. Dr. Wishner feels that pull-out situations are not as rich as the regular classroom in providing this kind of conversation. Goals for special education students include being able to engage in active learning and accountable talk and being able to make some of their own choices in learning.  Making choices is motivating, deepens understanding and makes memorization and retrieval better. Self-directed learning and problem solving is desirable, but Dr. Fleischman pointed out that there is a dilemma.  School is a demanding situation with a great deal of work.  Parents would like to have the special education teachers doing the work with the children but the teachers want the students to take more responsibility.  Dr. Wishner believes that the conversational approach is not yet present everywhere but he is happy to see the cross-pollination of approaches when special ed and regular ed teachers work together. Dr. Wishner announced that the April 4th teacher conference day will feature Dr. Fred Volkmar, Director of the Yale Child Study Center and an expert on autistic spectrum disorders.  Dr. Volkmar will work with the entire faculty in the morning.  In the afternoon, he and his colleagues will work in depth with K-8 teachers. This program was arranged in response to teachers who requested more information about this area. 

Superintendent’s Report

Dr. Fleishman reported that there will be 4 Superintendent’s Conference Days for staff development in the ’08-‘09 calendar instead of the customary 3.  The calendar is on the district web site.

Other Business

The Board received the district expenditure and revenue reports.  They approved the recommended facilities usage fees.  While the Board does not intend to make a profit on fees, they are obligated to cover the real costs of usage.  The fees did not cover the true costs for personnel usage this year and will be raised next year in order to do so.

Policies

Susan Habermann explained that the new Board Organization Policy pulls together several previous policies.  There was a first reading of a policy concerning the impartial hearing officer for students with educational disabilities.

Questions and Comments

The father of a special education student proposed incorporating special needs children into team programs, either special teams or the regular team programs.

The mother of a special education student asked for more investigation of the impact of the new high school schedule on special needs children. She specifically wanted to know if people visiting schools to observe similar schedules had observed special education students.

 


Updated Oct. 27, 2009 by Valerie Castleman

Many thanks to Westchester Alliance for Telecommunications and Public Access (WATPA ) & the Westchester Library System (WLS) for hosting this site.

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