This morning, a press conference was held regarding the State's announcement of a 1.81% tax cap for the 2020-2021 school year. Commack Superintendent, Dr. Donald James, was one of those who spoke out regarding adequate funding for schools.
Dr. James believes in educating the whole child, and has an ardent focus on the social-emotional well-being of students. His emphasis is in a number of areas including, but not limited to, enrichment for all students; a greater focus on project-based learning and on student engagement through the arts and movement. Further, the District’s attention has moved away from lock-step testing and emphasized the expansion of project-based college and career level course offerings, leading to substantially higher college acceptance, attendance, and college retention rates.
However, as Dr. James shared at the press conference, these programs are difficult to financially maintain as Commack is a squarely middle class district. Commack is not poor enough to qualify for additional aid given the current "progressive" state aid distribution rhetoric, and not wealthy enough be able to maintain our current class offerings and social-emotional programs, clubs, and other activities without increased state aid.
"We pride ourselves in providing Access and Opportunity to college and career ready classes for all students," stated Dr. James. "Ninety percent (90%) of all graduates take at least one (1) college level course. We have a 99% graduation rate, 98% go to college and stay in college, and the other 2% enter chosen careers or the military; our students are ready for the world! Social emotional programs like Movement in the Arts, Enrichment for All, and Mindfulness curricula make for a well-balanced program critical for success – healthy success!"
He continued, "There is a dark side however. Our retirement system and health insurance premium increases for 2020-2021 (controlled by the State) will increase dramatically, and given other cost of living increases for fuel, supplies, books and staffing, we are starting our budget development process in the red. We need additional state aid to hold on to our program as we have spent down our reserves every year for the past 10 years, as the State has pushed us to do. This is unsustainable – we must fight to keep our kids emotionally healthy and the State must find ways to control the cost of health insurance and retirement contributions or provide additional aid to all schools."
If you are interested in helping the District advocate for State Aid, please join our Legislative Advocacy Committee. Just send an email to Ms. Goldberg at [email protected]