More than 75 community members came out on Wednesday, February 12, to talk about the values and priorities they have for their school district. The forum, which was titled, "The Test of Time: Adapting to the New Normal and Shaping the Future of Niskayuna Schools," served as an initial public engagement opportunity for the development of a 2014-15 school budget.
Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio opened the evening with a brief presentation. She said that the district has needed to reduce spending in recent years, and has worked to keep those reductions away from student programs. The district faces potentially even tougher choices as it begins the 2014-15 budget development process and the funding crisis affecting the state's schools enters another year.
As a starting point, Salvaggio emphasized the importance of district leaders understanding community members' values and priorities. This was the purpose of the evening, and the bulk of the time was devoted to small group discussions.
At the end of the evening, discussion group facilitators reported out to the larger group on the areas of common ground each of the groups reached in their conversations.
Salvaggio concluded the evening by asking for community participation not just in the district's budget development process, but also in advocating for Niskayuna Schools with state leaders. The district has lost nearly $12 million in state aid over the last four years due to what is known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA. The GEA is the state's policy, in place since 2010, of withholding promised funding from each school district in order to address its own budget challenges.
Niskayuna would lose another $2.9 million to the GEA under the Governor's budget proposal for 2014-15. Please stay tuned for more information about a community advocacy night, to be held in partnership with the PTO Council.