Rye City Board of Ed Zooms in Before the Vote
By Peter Jovanovich
On or before June 9, residents in the Rye City School District will vote for or against a $92.4 million budget for the 2020-21 school year and will elect two new members to the School Board. The proposed budget, which was adopted by the Board on May 19, assumes that State aid will be trimmed by 10% and will result in a 1.9% tax increase. With all meetings held virtually since March due to Covid-19, members of the public were allowed to submit questions via email but not to participate in the June 2 Board of Ed meeting, the last one before the vote. Not counting Board members, District employees, and candidates running for a seat on the Board for the Board, the June 2 meeting was “attended” by only a handful of residents.
This paper queried: What cuts would be needed if Governor Cuomo cuts state aid by 20%? Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne explained that the District was creating contingency plans in the event of 15% or 20% cuts, and that he believed additional reductions in spending could be made without impairing the classroom experience.
John Leonard, one of the seven residents running for School Board, asked via email, “Is there an opportunity for savings by rearranging classes where the current class enrollment is below the District’s minimums?” Dr. Byrne replied that the District is studying trends in enrollment, week by week, in order to be prepared for the fall. So far, he remarked, the numbers appear to mimic 2008 when there was a surge of enrollment in Rye public schools.
Leonard had another question for the Board: Should the District pull forward a portion of the borrowing into this budget year in order to lock in the historically low rates?
Board member Chris Repetto replied that this would be an unwise step because one can’t forecast interest rates.
The June 2 meeting began with a report from Dr. Byrne, who explained the District was planning for three options when school reopens in the fall: a regular school day, a hybrid model with part in-class instruction and part online, and one with fully online instruction. He acknowledged that relatively few teachers had been conducting live streaming classrooms, in which the students and teacher could be heard, and promised that live online instruction would be the norm if the District followed that model.
Apparently, the state and local teachers’ unions in New York are opposed to “live” streaming. Dr. Byrne implied that these objections would be overcome, saying: “We’re adding the ability to live stream. We are committed to a consistent program.” Jennifer Boyle stated: “We are looking forward to a structured, disciplined day. That’s where we want to be in September.” Repetto concluded: “I have every expectation that everyone will step up to the challenge.”
Absentee ballots, which were mailed to households this week, must be returned to the District’s Clerk by 5 p.m. June 9.