Anywhere But Tuxedo’s School District
Written by David du Pont | January 21, 2008

If one fact is abundantly clear after Thursday night’s joint Board of Education meeting in Greenwood Lake, it is that, despite Warwick voters’ overwhelming rejection by a six to one margin to accept Greenwood Lake’s high school students into its school system as tuition students, Greenwood Lake’s Board is not giving up on the idea of finding a way to leave Tuxedo. Greenwood Lake Board President Kathy Gilson announced that on January 23, the entire Board will be traveling to Albany to meet with both State Board of Education staff as well as some elected leaders (an annual pilgrimage of rejection for this Board) hoping to accomplish several goals.

The first goal is to get permission to issue diplomas to graduating seniors. This requirement is a precursor to being allowed to build a high school. The second goal is to try and get funding to build a high school. What has changed since previous year’s trips to Albany on the same quest? Absolutely nothing. President Gilson’s main argument for a new high school is that most of the other 700 plus school districts in the State have one, so why can’t Greenwood Lake? What this argument lacks in logic, the Greenwood Lake Board hopes to compensate for with sheer persistence.

From the State Board of Education’s perspective, given the lack of any meaningful political pressure, it is not about to authorize the issuance of diplomas by Greenwood Lake so it can build its own high school and cannibalize the Tuxedo District high school. For the last 27 years, Tuxedo has done an excellent job of educating these same Greenwood Lake students.

Where does all of this leave Tuxedo’s Board? Despite President Hickey’s sincere attempts to offer multiple olive branches to Greenwood Lake’s Board (joint committees, possible voting Board members, joint trips to Albany to get additional aid for Greenwood Lake, long range planning groups, etc.) in return for a long term commitment to Tuxedo, Greenwood Lake’s focus is on just two items: finding a way to control its own high school district and paying Tuxedo as little as possible until it can find a new school district to migrate to. As one Greenwood Lake resident who had graduated from Tuxedo’s high school 22 years ago said, “These are the same issues my parents were hearing argued about 22 years ago. When is this Board going to make progress on resolving these issues?”

The bottom line for Tuxedo is that Greenwood Lake is not offering our Board any justification for charging a penny less to the Greenwood Lake students than the full Seneca Falls formula. Right now, Greenwood Lake pays $12,500 per school year per student, and this is less than the current Seneca Falls formula for Tuxedo calls for. Who makes up the difference? The Tuxedo taxpayer does. Of the 16 school districts in Orange County, Tuxedo’s District receives next to nothing in the form of State aid due to The Village of Tuxedo Park being part of the District. Thus, the Seneca Falls formula calls for Tuxedo’s tuition to be in excess of $15,000 verses a number no higher than $8,500 in the other 14 Districts with high schools. This is a fact of economic life, and Tuxedo owes no apology to Greenwood Lake’s residents for this reality.

If Greenwood Lake’s Board really wants to accomplish something constructive in Albany, they will take President Hickey and Supervisor Zanetti up on their generous offer of jointly going to Albany to see if meaningful progress can be made on amending the current aid formula to Greenwood Lake in order to reduce the high school tuition tax burden on its residents. The Don Quixote approach the Greenwood Lake Board is currently committed to will yield no better results than it did in prior years. It makes no sense economically and even less sense educationally.

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