A Letter from TUFSD Superintendent Joseph Zanetti | October 18, 2007

The following letter was written by TUFSD Superintendent, Joseph Zanetti in response to a letter published in The Greenwood Lake and West Milford News

October 5, 2007
Greenwood Lake and West Milford News
61 Windermere Avenue
Greenwood Lake, NY 10925

Dear Editor:

I am writing in a response to a letter authored by Jan Greenfield that appeared in your paper on September 6, 2007.   It is evident that Mr. Greenfield has drawn many erroneous and unfair conclusions about the Tuxedo Union Free School District and its relationship with the Greenwood Lake Union Free School District.  In addition, Mr. Greenfield’s statement “From an economic standpoint it’s a no-brainer that the move to Warwick is the better choice” poses an interesting question:   What does he know that the rest of your readers do not know?

Mr. Greenfield’s statement that the relationship between Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo “ . . . has always been one-sided and over the years through manipulation, creative bookkeeping and stonewalling the economic facts, Tuxedo has kept Greenwood Lake their private “cash cow” to fund their school district and keep their own school taxes low,  . . . .” is false, inflammatory and so irresponsible that it has been referred to our school attorney for review under the libel statutes of our state.

I have worked for both school districts for the past 22 years.  I know, in detail, what has transpired between Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo and the relationship that has been cultivated during that time period.   The bookkeeping procedures we follow are the same procedures that every other public school district follows in New York State, including Greenwood Lake.  Our books are audited annually by a State approved independent (outside) auditor, actually the same auditor that Greenwood Lake utilizes, shared with Greenwood Lake each year and filed with the State Comptroller’s office in accordance with the law.  The fact is that any questions asked by any community member pertaining to the financial activities of Tuxedo have been answered accurately, timely and without prejudice.  Not once do I ever recall Mr. Greenfield asking for information pertaining to Tuxedo’s finances.

Mr. Greenfield’s reference to Greenwood Lake as being Tuxedo’s “cash cow” is particularly disturbing.  The fact that Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo have negotiated (the key word being negotiated) all of their tuition contracts should be a clue that, in fact, Tuxedo wanted to obtain a fair tuition agreement with Greenwood Lake; and not one that was one-sided favoring Tuxedo.   If Mr. Greenfield’s assertion was true, then Tuxedo would have said there is no negotiation and charged Greenwood Lake the full Seneca Falls tuition rate in past agreements.  If one truly looked at the facts, both financial and programmatic, one would have quickly determined that Tuxedo has and currently does place strong emphasis on its high school program, a program that is made up of almost 80% Greenwood Lake students.  

It is no secret that Tuxedo’s true value tax rates are lower than all of the other school districts in our county.  That is not the result of the negotiated tuition contracts between Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake. It is the result of Tuxedo’s property wealth mainly emanating from the Village of Tuxedo Park.  Please know that Tuxedo’s school tax burden, in terms of percentage of increase, has outpaced virtually all school districts in the multi-county area.

The high school academic program in Tuxedo is nationally recognized for its excellence and rigor.  No other high school in Orange County has been cited as consistently for that achievement.   More importantly, it is a program that includes intangibles that are unrivaled in neighboring school districts.   Small class sizes, excellent student support services with optimal student/counselor ratios,  student participation in clubs, activities and sports are only a few of the great attributes of the Greenwood Lake High School at Tuxedo.

Just for the record, the Tuxedo School Board, in no uncertain terms, offered at the negotiations table with Greenwood Lake Board President Kathy Gilson and Superintendent John Guarracino to enter into a multi-year tuition agreement.   Then Tuxedo Board President, Robert Yates, asked “what will it take?” to achieve that agreement.  That offer was made this past January/February and was made again publicly at Tuxedo School Board meetings.  In all instances that offer has not been accepted or even explored.  Mrs. Gilson has repeatedly stated that Greenwood Lake was only interested in a one year agreement with Tuxedo and that even if Tuxedo matches or betters the Warwick deal that Greenwood Lake would still go to Warwick.

Now let us get back to Mr. Greenfield’s statement, “From an economic standpoint it’s a no-brainer that the move to Warwick is the better choice”.    I am in regular contact with Warwick Valley Superintendent Dr. Frank Greenhall and Greenwood Lake Superintendent Mr. John Guarracino.   Just two days ago (October 3rd) I spoke to both superintendents, as I have in the past, to ascertain proposed tuition charges between Warwick and Greenwood Lake.  Neither superintendent stated a tuition number for either regular education or special education students.   They only spoke of conceptual possibilities; not numbers.  So, Mr. Greenfield are you comparing “apples to apples” and looking at real value, or are you just writing what you want people to read and hoping that nothing is done to challenge your unsubstantiated statements?

Joseph P. Zanetti
Superintendent of Schools

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