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Students, teachers ask Watkins board for support

    WATKINS GLEN—Some 65 residents, students, and teachers attended the Watkins Glen school board meeting, Monday, March 5.
    Several people spoke, urging the board of education to find some way to not cut the proposed 15 staff members. Watkins is cutting the positions for next school year because of a budget gap caused by a decrease in aid and a tax levy cap. Students from the Save Our Schools group were among those who attended.
    “Our teachers are great teachers,” said student Robert Rondinaro. “We’ve succeeded. We’ve done so well.”
    Student Matt Gill explained they are trying to raise awareness in the area. He added, “we have money for a new building, but not to save our teachers.”
    Teacher Kate Bartholomew said she is not disputing the economic challenges school districts are facing. She added the state passing its tax cap without providing mandate relief has put Watkins in this position. Another teacher, Marie Fitzsimmons, urged the board to support them at an Education Lobby Day in Albany, March 14.
    “Go ask everybody to go to Albany so we can tell (our representatives) we want our money back,” she said.
    Resident Alan Hurley said that taxes are the most important issue. He said the unity from the students and staff is good, but they need a plan and the support of the taxpayers if there is any increase in taxes to keep teachers employed.
    Superintendent Tom Phillips spoke about the reduced federal and state aid Watkins has received since 2009-10. He added that this will be the first year Watkins won’t receive any federal aid, which started in 2009. Phillips explained it would not be until 2019-20 that the state aid levels would return to what they were in 2008-09.
    He also addressed a proposal to do away with the netbooks program and usethat money to restore some of the proposed cuts. Phillips explained by using $280,000 through BOCES, Watkins actually received more aid. He added that ending the program would actually create a $300,000 gap.
    In other business:
    • Phillips said any spring sports schedule the district releases will be preliminary because other schools are considering cuts in their sports programs.
    • Two donations were accepted. The Parent Teacher Organization donated $726 to be used in the elementary library. The Schuyler County Emergency Management Council donated $100 to help senior citizens with the energy efficiency program.
    • Student Brett Somerville was honored for being accepted to the West Point Military Academy.




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