On March 10, James Kaishan, Superintendent of Schools in Briarcliff Manor, presented the 2014-2015 school district proposed budget to the Board of Education for consideration. In addition, he outlined a plan for the future goals for the District. In a letter sent to school district residents just prior to the presentation, Kaishian acknowledged that the District has endured numerous challenges over the last several years and that difficult decisions were made.
He felt that sound budgetary practices had placed Briarcliff in an advantageous position so that it can meet the educational and fiscal challenges of the future. He wrote, “I would like to commend the Board for its educational vision, diligence, and prudent decision making in securing a better Briarcliff for our students, staff and the entire school community. I would also like to thank those in the community who have volunteered their time and energy to help build a better school district. This budget is a testament to our shared commitment to the children and their success in a demanding modern world.”
The 2014-15 proposed budget is $49,550,000. The percentage increase is 5.91. The 2014-15 tax levy is $39,582,839 which has an actual increase of 1.97%. This is below the tax levy limit of 2.65%.
One of the areas addressed in the proposal concerns class size. According to Kashian, some class sizes at the secondary level are inconsistent and should be addressed to ensure productive learning environments. Middle School math classes, High School math and High School science classes are larger than optimal. In addition, the primary grades (K-2) are seeing an increase in the number of first graders while high school Spanish classes and entry-level Latin are unsustainable. According to Kashian, the new budget makes the necessary investment to realize appropriate gains in student engagement in these critical areas.
Another area for improvement concerns student safety, specifically by investing in after-hours campus monitoring at the Middle and High School as well as securing access to the schools by new front entranceways to the schools. A multi-year security plan will help to address aging equipment and technologies such as smart boards.
There also needs to be improvement in areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which would include AP computer science and computer languages. Among other demands are a need for a data analyst for State reporting and data mining analysis and a technologist for teacher support and professional development. Finally, more network accessibility and personalization would help level the playing field for students and parents and allow students to learn anytime and anywhere.
Kashian introduced the concept of Briarcliff 2.0, which is his vision for moving the district forward. Kaishan reminded everyone present that the most important focus for Briarcliff schools should be “Every student, every day.”
By using a diagram of the 2 Sigma Problem Graph by Benjamin Bloom, he illustrated how tutors were necessary to increase the number of students who would do better than average in school. He spoke of thinking about education as a life-long learning process and how technologies provided by the school for home use could not only even the playing field for those who cannot afford tutors but would also provide all students with more extended help. Kaishan pointed out that in the modern world, technologies grab the interest and personal investment of the students in a unique way. His goal is that by spring of 2014 there would be a pilot “1-to-1” client-based technology in the 4th grade. By the 2014-15 school year, the program would expand to include all 4th and 5th grade students and all teachers K-12. In the 2015-16 school year, the program would expand to the 6th through 8th grades and by the 2019-20 school year, it will expand to all 4th-12th-grade students.
Through reallocation of district resources, there would be the addition of one additional full-time reading specialist at Todd Elementary School. He would maintain 2nd grade sections at the current level of 5 and decrease the class size of current first graders from the mid-twenties. He would also maintain half a position as Technology Staff Developer at the Todd campus.
For the Middle School he proposes a return of the Health course to the 6th grade curriculum, increased math support, and increased STEM offerings in Related Arts cycle. There would also be a reduction of one section of physical education as well a provision for more administrative support.
Briarcliff High School would see two additional sections of mathematics to reduce class size in core Regent classes, as well an additional Spanish section. There would also be a part-time certified math or technology teacher to teach computer science courses and add an additional section of Science Research or Regents Science to reduce core class size in science.
The district would add half a position as Technology Staff Developer to support Middle and High School faculty as well as a Data Analyst.
The 2014-15 budget process moving forward is as follows: on March 22nd, there was a public budget workshop; on March 24th the first budget hearing will take place; on April 7th, the second budget hearing; on April 21st there will be the budget adoption by the Board of Education; and on May 20th there will be the budget vote.