Budget vision, kudos and a plea for more art teachers

Sullivan West’s April meeting

By TED WADDELL
Posted 4/27/22

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Due to a late spring snowstorm that blanketed the Upper Delaware Valley, the April Sullivan West school board meeting was held on Tuesday, April 19 on Zoom.

Dollars and …

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Budget vision, kudos and a plea for more art teachers

Sullivan West’s April meeting

Posted

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Due to a late spring snowstorm that blanketed the Upper Delaware Valley, the April Sullivan West school board meeting was held on Tuesday, April 19 on Zoom.

Dollars and sense

The meeting began with a PowerPoint presentation by interim superintendent Kathleen Bressler. It explained the proposed budget for next year and featured multiple recommendations and budget details (see sidebar).

Education-wise, it focused on three key areas: educating the “whole child,” balancing academic excellence with available funding, and maintaining a safe and collaborative learning environment.

The public can vote on the proposed 2022-2023 budget on Tuesday, May 17 from 12 noon to 9 p.m. at several locations: the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon, the Tusten-Cochecton Library in Narrowsburg, and the Sullivan West Elementary School in Jeffersonville.

To confirm your voting location, visit the district website swcsd.org, look under Board of Education, and then highlight “Where do I vote?”

Bressler will hold a series of three “meet and greet” sessions to discuss the budget with the public: Friday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Rease’s Cup, 60 County Rd. 122 in North Branch; Friday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Jeffersonville Bake Shop, 4906 Rte. 52 in Jeffersonville; and Friday, May 6 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Tusten Cup, 8 Main St. in Narrowsburg.

School vision

Bressler’s budget would fund:

A dedicated middle school program

Ninth and 10th grade English honors courses

AP research and seminars

Collaborative learning spaces

A redesigned library

A coach at the elementary school

Literacy program support

Elementary school Spanish

Additional teachers and a full-time physical education teacher

Universal pre-K

An occupational therapist

An official Future Farmers of America chapter

The creation of a capital reserve for future building projects

For full details, email Budget@swcsd.org.

Primary funding sources:

Local tax levy—$19,116,036

Estimated state aid (based on the governor’s proposal)—$17,576,576.

The district is calling for a proposed 2.5 percent increase to the local tax levy. This is under the state tax cap of 3.18 percent.

Email any questions or suggestions on the budget to Budget@swcsd.org.

Achievements

“There are two events I wish to congratulate students on,” said Bressler. She noted that students recently read their original works at the Sullivan Youth Poetry Festival at Bethel Woods, and the elementary drama club staged two performances of “BOTS.”

Award recipients of the poetry festival were:

First place—Elizabeth Reeves, for “Apples and Lilac Blooms.”

Second place—Regan Russell, for “Corner of My Existence.”

Third place—Reece Maopolski, for  “The Inevitable Ocean.”

Honorable mentions—Sophie Flynn, for “Sixteen Years” and Rahmat Gambari, for “The Murky Depth of Adolescence,” “Coco Gao,” and “Daydream.”

“It was an honor to hear the students reciting their poems, with their teacher Patty Norden cheering them on,” said Bressler.

As for the students who performed in “BOTS,” Bressler said, “They were fearless and the audiences were amazed at the talents of these young Bulldogs. Thank you to Cindy Humleker for putting her heart and soul into making this performance memorable.”

A call for more art teachers

Jena Love, a high school art teacher, presented a passionate plea for more art instructors during the public comment period at the start of the meeting.

Noting that this is her sixth year teaching art at Sullivan West, she said that in the 2017-2018 school year, the second full-time art teaching position was reduced to a part-time, 0.6-year position, reportedly due to low enrollment in art classes at the time and budget allocations.

“However, in these last five years, gains in student interest, engagement and work quality in the art program have been substantial,” said Love. “We have reorganized our elective selections to allot for the maximum engagement for students in various art mediums as well as offering college-level photography, which gives students three college credits upon completion.”

Calling the situation “odds stacked against the teacher,” Love said, “Now, more than ever, kids need a place where they feel safe to be themselves, to express their ideas and emotions without judgment in a low-stress environment. I have heard countless times from students that art is the only time during the day that they get to catch their breath.”

According to Love, at one point “I was assured this [part-time] position would be increased to full time… however, when the budget presentation was released it was not included… I have had to advocate to prove the value of the visual arts to a district that obviously considers them a priority.”

“Sullivan West is doing a disservice to hundreds of students because the district does not see the value in increasing the position from 0.6 to full time,” she said, noting that at this time NYS Senate Bill S4525 is in committee. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Martucci and focuses on the importance of art education in public schools.

“The visual arts are a core fundamental in child development: teaching critical thinking skills, problem-solving, collaboration and expression, all of which are essential to our students’ future success,” she said.

She asked the board to consider making the part-time position full-time with the possibility of tenure. Love said she has collected 254 student signatures and letters from parents in support of this proposed modification to the 2022-2023 school year budget.

In other matters

The meeting began with a moment of silence in honor of former Delaware Valley graduate and community member Audra Spath.

Seniors Regan Russell and Sam Everett presented an overview of the proposed senior class trip to the Kalahari Water Park. The board approved the trip.

Representatives of Energia and Johnson Controls presented a proposal to optimize energy efficiency at several buildings.

Tenure was granted to Kara Parisi, Samantha Scott, Jamie Vogt, Padraic “Paddy” McCarthy and Nicole Olsen

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Wednesday, May 18 at 7 p.m. For information, contact district clerk Christina Kautz at 845/482-4610, ext. 3000 or email kautzchr@swcsd.org.

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