State Board of Education gives Greenwood Lake Specific Direction | July 2, 2008

On June 20, 2008 Charles Szuberia of the New York State Education Dept. sent the following letter to both John Guarracino, Superintendent of the Greenwood Lake Union Free School District and Joseph Zanetti, Tuxedo Union Free School District Superintendent, with regard to the ongoing issues between the two districts:



In reviewing the letter, please focus on the following of Szuberia‘s points, in order to gain a better understanding of our District’s current situation with Greenwood Lake.
In paragraph two, second to last sentence, Szuberia clearly lays out the only two viable tuition choices Greenwood Lake has regarding tuition costs that must be paid to Tuxedo. “Tuxedo, however, must charge Greenwood Lake tuition based either on the non-resident tuition rate (Seneca Falls formula) or the actual costs of educating students.” For the upcoming fall school year [2008-09], Tuxedo has demonstrated that the actual cost for high school tuition students was well over a thousand dollars per student higher than the Seneca Falls Formula. Thus, for the upcoming school year, it is a safe bet that Greenwood Lake’s Board will opt for the Seneca Falls formula to determine its tuition per student cost.

The first part of paragraph three is extremely important. Szuberia clearly states that the Governor’s Commission on Local Government and Efficiency “…recommends greater consolidation of school districts and services.” In other words, the State Department of Education is not in favor of creating additional small schools at any level unless there are very compelling reasons to do so, which flies in the face of Greenwood Lake’s desire to build its own small high school.

In the second part of his letter Szuberia lays out four steps Greenwood Lake must take if its request for a separate high school is to be considered. The first is that Greenwood Lake must enter into a new five-year agreement with the Tuxedo District. Assuming this cannot be done over the summer, we are looking at the school years 2009 -2014. Given that a five-year agreement with Tuxedo is a precondition Greenwood Lake must meet in order to achieve their own goal, the Tuxedo Board has no reason to make any tuition concessions to Greenwood Lake as it has done in prior five year agreements. Ergo, there is no reason for the Tuxedo taxpayer to subsidize the Greenwood Lake students.
Only after Greenwood Lake has reached a five-year agreement with Tuxedo, may it proceed with steps two though four. Step two is a road Greenwood Lake has gone done repeatedly with zero success, but this does not mean that they will stop looking for a new high school district home for its students.

Steps three and four, as laid out by Szuberia, represent very high hurdles for Greenwood Lake to overcome. Why? Given today’s construction costs, it will be extremely difficult for their Board of Education to come up with all inclusive cost numbers for a new high school, properly staffed, that has a cost per student that is less than the cost of tuitioning them into Tuxedo. Even the Greenwood Lake tax payer will be able to figure this out. Thus, Greenwood Lake’s only viable option is to find a District other than Tuxedo, where it can send its students.

As an aside, I would tell you that in this editor’s opinion, this entire ongoing debate has always had at its heart the Greenwood Lake Board of Education’s desire to control the education of its own students, and although cost has been an important issue, it has never been the main issue. Thus, sending its students to another district, will not solve the issue of “control.”

-David du Pont

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