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Students travel to Albany to 'Save Our Schools'

    ALBANY—A group of 27 Watkins Glen students traveled to Albany last Wednesday, March 14, to tell state representatives “Save Our Schools.”
    The students were members of SOS, a group of concerned students that has formed because of budget cuts the Watkins Glen school district is considering. Currently, 15 staff positions will be cut from the upcoming school year. Superintendent Tom Phillips has previously explained that state and federal aid has decreased over the last several years and that the districts have to build budgets around a tax levy cap. The SOS students have already spoken to the school board and Schuyler County Legislature.
The visit to Albany was part of a statewide Education Lobby Day. The Watkins students met with Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Chris Friend.
    “We decided we needed to step up and make our voices heard,” said student Ryan Rondinaro. “We talked about how education has been put on the back-burner.”
    One concern is a $250 million portion of the education budget. Rondinaro said this money is only available to eight percent of New York schools. He said the senator and assemblyman talked about making $200 million of that accessible to more schools. In a press release following the lobby day, O’Mara said the senate and assembly are seeking to redirect this money to “better address the concerns and challenges facing low wealth, rural and high needs school districts throughout the state.” Rondinaro said this would be a great start.
    Student Jenna Gimbar said in meeting with O’Mara the students started off by talking about the personnel losses Watkins faces. She said at the recent three-school concert, the Bradford choir director expressed an interest in holding the event again. However, the Watkins high school will not have a choir teacher next year. Natasha Patel explained the business department will also be facing staff cuts.
    “We’re not just losing a teacher, we’re losing a friend and family member,” said Gimbar.
    Rondinaro added the meetings seemed productive. Gimbar said O’Mara definitely seemed like “someone who heard us.” The next step for SOS will be continuing to spread the message.
    Rondinaro said the group will reevaluate their goals and see who else they could contact about stopping the cuts. He added that the students will be following through with the assemblyman and senator.
    “I think the experience is life changing,” said Rondinaro.
    “We’re going to keep fighting,” said Gimbar.




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