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A Mid-Year Update from the Cortland Enlarged City School District (CECSD)


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A Mid-Year Update from the Cortland Enlarged City School District (CECSD)

As we begin the second half of the 2016-17 school year, I want to thank our staff for their dedication and hard work in their efforts to foster student engagement and school improvement. Now is a good time to share with you some of the work that has been going on in the background and to offer a glimpse at our future work.
 
The Board of Education (BOE) and the administrative team began the 2017-18 budget process in November and continue to build a financially responsible budget to present to the community on May 16. This year we face many of the same challenges as in previous years: inadequate state aid, a tax burden that has shifted from Albany to the local level, and the Tax Levy Limit (Tax Cap). In response to these economic challenges, we are preparing long-range plans to rebuild the financial health of our district by containing costs and reducing our dependence on the use of our reserve funds to balance the budget. We must do this while preserving opportunities for students and improving their educational experience.
 
While we prepare next year’s budget and head back toward financial health, we are also embarking on a long-range study of our facilities. Our Building Condition Survey (BCS) tells us about the physical needs of our schools and facilities. In addition to the BCS, the Board has asked that a study be performed of the grade-level configurations of our buildings. The study will ensure we are using our physical spaces as efficiently and effectively as possible while we simultaneously explore models that best support student learning. All information will be used to plan our next capital project. We will do our best to keep you informed as we move through this process.

While this is only a portion of our efforts, please rest assured that your BOE and administrative team remain committed to our goals and mission.
 
Sincerely,
Michael J. Hoose, Superintendent of Schools


Building the 2017-18 CECSD Budget

The BOE is committed to maintaining educational opportunities and preparing a fiscally responsible budget for the 2017-18 school year. Difficult discussions continue to take place as the district is still trying to recover from the reduction in state aid that occurred beginning in 2010-11 (Gap Elimination Adjustment). All in all, we received $7,140,876 less in state aid than we were promised. In order to maintain opportunities for our students, the BOE asked voters to approve budgets that covered the gap by a combination of the use of reserves and tax levy increases. The reserves can be compared to a savings account; the funds are gone until new deposits are made. Because of the shortage of aid, the district has been withdrawing from the reserves rather than making deposits.     

The BOE has been, and continues to be, mindful of the impact that the tax levy increases have had. Last year, the tax levy was held constant, with no increase (0%). We were able to do this by using reserves and containing costs by slowing the increases in health insurance and retirement costs. We hope that we are able to limit increases in health insurance and retirement costs next year, too.

Another factor that makes our budget development tricky is the “two percent tax cap.” The two percent figure is just one part of a complex formula that resulted in a 0% tax cap for 2016-17 budget. The way the state requires the tax cap to be calculated hurts us. It is possible that the Board will be forced to ask the community to exceed our calculated tax cap which would require a 60 percent majority to pass. The tax cap makes it difficult for the BOE to prepare a balanced budget that maintains programs for our children.

As budget preparation continues, the Board will build a budget that contains cost, uses reserves wisely, and looks out for the best interest of our children. 


Learn More About CECSD's District Goals

Each year at CECSD, we review our goals and assess our progress. This year, the CECSD continues to take a determined approach toward the accomplishment of its six big goals. These goals are: 

  1. Theory of Action. The first goal for the district is to have a deliberate plan of action for the district, its staff and its students, which will result in high levels of learning by all students.

  2. Measurable Goals. Each of the goals, as well as other key indicators, are being monitored as we implement them. The data we are collecting is used to gauge the progress and help us make adjustments along the way.

  3. Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum. In order to have high levels of learning by all students, we have to be clear about what we want our students to learn and how we will ensure that our students will be successful. All of our teachers have been working closely with their colleagues on conference days, after school, and during the day to identify the essential learning outcomes for our students and to monitor progress toward those essential learning outcomes. We are also developing a new way to house and share our curriculum, so that it is always available to our teachers as they plan the learning opportunities.

  4. Engaging Instruction. If we want Cortland graduates to be "world-ready," the classrooms in which they learn to be ready for their future must be places where they are active and interested in the learning. In addition to being present in school, we are working to ensure that our lessons are more engaging for students and the learning opportunities are ones in which students can find meaning. We believe that in addition to helping our students be ”world-ready,” more students will stay in school and graduate if they are more engaged. All of our teachers are including active learning strategies in their lessons and are systematically looking for ways to involve students in their learning.

  5. Social and Emotional Learning. Being successful in school and being “world-ready” for life after graduation depends on developing skills beyond facts and subjects in school. The district has been developing a set of learning objectives that go beyond subjects in school and include all aspects of a happy and successful life. We will soon adopt a set of objectives for our students that address qualities such as self-awareness, self-management, self-regulation, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Once we adopt these goals we will then make plans to specifically include them in a Cortland education.

  6. Community Engagement and Communication. If we want our graduates to be “world-ready,” a BOE committee, in coordination with district leadership is developing a plan to better communicate with the community. Our first step was the introduction of this quarterly newsletter. We are also working on a new version of our website that we hope you will find to be more informative and easy-to-use. Plans are also underway to bring consistency to all of our communication vehicles and to begin to use social media as a way to bring you timely information the way you want it.

These six goals are not short-term goals. These goals will continue to guide our work in future years, too.


What's New Around CECSD?

CECSD Represented at Regional Spelling Bee

Can you spell abecedarian, finagle, or zirconium? On Saturday, January 14, six students represented CECSD in the regional The Post-Standard Syracuse.com WCNY Spelling Bee. These students are:

  • Grace Bauman, Cortland Junior Senior High School (CJSHS)
  • Zack Do, CJSHS
  • Matt DeRado, Franklyn S. Barry Elementary
  • Nicole Simpson, F. E. Smith Elementary
  • Zahara Petrella, Virgil Elementary
  • Daniel Zhang, CJSHS

Grace Bauman and Daniel Zhang will advance to the next round and represent CECSD in a televised broadcast on February 11. Congratulations to all of our participants! Good luck in the next round, Grace and Daniel! 

For more information about CECSD at the spelling bee, click here!

Innovation Lab Sparks Learning at Smith Elementary

Smith Elementary School was recently awarded a grant by the Cortland Public Education Foundation (CPEF) to purchase kits for creating an Innovation Lab/ Makerspace in Smith’s library. The Innovation Lab has circuitry activities, building materials, games, and newly added small robots that the students use to create, think outside the box, and problem-solve. The lab allows students to work together on real and meaningful projects, experiencing new technology and tools. 

"It has been a great experience so far," said Smith Librarian Annette Herbert. "The kids have been enjoying our Friday morning gatherings in the Innovation Lab!" 

For more information about the CPEF Grants, click here!


QUICK LINKS

OUR SCHOOLS






Mr. Michael J. Hoose, Superintendent

1 Valley View Drive
Cortland, NY 13045
607-758-4100

www.cortlandschools.org


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