Kudos to schools superintendent Maria Rice and our school board for putting together such a talented team of volunteers to respond to public demand for a solid relocation plan for the one year of middle school that would be displaced by the renovation. Not only did they get us a plan in time for the vote, but they got a great plan that makes use of an existing local public-school building, complete with athletic fields, kitchen and parking, and they got it to us quickly, eight weeks before the vote. My hat's off to all of them.
The relocation planning involved coordinating with the State Education Department, because of the potential regulatory obstacle created by the former Tillson Elementary School being just outside the border of our district. That the state moved so quickly to wipe out that obstacle indicates a strong interest in Albany in helping this project along, which allays fears that the state aid we've been offered to offset the cost of construction does not have firm support for its continuance in Albany.
Look at what's going on neighboring districts in Ulster County resulting from financial miscalculations by school boards and administrators. We don't have those problems in our district.
If you read the recent articles in which local superintendents were interviewed about their fears of looming operating-aid cuts, all but one of them were expressing near-panic. The one that was calm, and said she was confident her district was well-positioned and creative enough to weather any storm into which Albany may throw the operating budget, was Maria Rice of the New Paltz school district, one of the top-rated school systems in the country. This is the same superintendent who immediately assembled the district's 24 best volunteers from the community, middle-school administrators, teachers, support staff and students, and got the answer to the relocation turned around with the best possible outcome in three weeks.
Who would pretend that we have reason to quake with fear that this school board and administration don't know what they're doing in calculating aid, or that they push us towards unnecessary expenses, or that they haven't done sufficient due diligence over either the educational or financial components of the renovation plan after working on it for two full years?
The exact opposite is true. We've got some outstanding people serving us right now, and they have consistently performed - as we expect and deserve - far above the rate that's usual and customary in the public school business, locally and nationally. I, for one, really appreciate that, and so do most people I know. I have every reason to trust the information they've provided to us, and every reason to support the plans they've brought to us for our approval. I'm voting yes on the middle school on February 9.