The October 7 Rye City Schools Board of Education meeting featured pleas for the addition of a High School rugby club, the addition of American Sign Language as a foreign language option, and a request to return Carin Mehler to her Osborn classroom.
By Sarah Varney
The October 7 Rye City Schools Board of Education meeting featured pleas for the addition of a High School rugby club, the addition of American Sign Language as a foreign language option, and a request to return Carin Mehler to her Osborn classroom. The biggest news, however, came last: Of the $2.7 million in the reserve fund earmarked for the 2014-2015 school budget, the District has used just $324,000 since July 1.
Early High Marks for Finance
Accountants from O’Connor Davies delivered a verdict of “unmodified opinion” on the financial budgeting process now headed up by the District’s own Assistant Superintendent for Business, Gabriella O’Connor. The unexpectedly small use of reserves was due largely to “higher than anticipated revenues” and leaves the District with a $1.6 million budget ‘surplus’ going into the current school year.
Additionally, School Board member and Audit Committee Chair Karen Belanger attributed the positive results to “careful cost management.” However, she cautioned that use of the reserve fund to shore up the yearly budget is still unwise. “This is very good news, but this is clearly not a long-term strategy,” she said.
Former Audit Committee member Bob Zahm echoed Belanger’s cautious optimism. “Once again, the District’s spending and revenue have come in much better than planned. This result continues to defer the day when fund reserves are ‘used up’, but spending remains on an unsustainable growth path,” said Zahm.
Adding Rugby to the Rye High Club Mix?
The sustainability of a growth path for a Rye High rugby club without future fiscal support from the District was the major stumbling block for Board members at the end of local parent Evan Kamer’s impressive presentation. Several Board members expressed skepticism that a robust rugby club could grow long term without budgeted funds.
Last year, 24 Rye High students paid $125 each to participate in the club and several students took advantage of scholarship monies set aside by the fledgling Rye Rugby Club, to defray that fee. “When an activity grows to be a certain size, it can turn out not to be self-sustaining,” said Belanger, who brought up the sailing, squash, and crew clubs as examples. While all three are technically self-sustaining, the exponential growth of crew in particular was worrisome to both Principal Patricia Taylor and Athletic Director Rob Castagna. Crew started three years ago with 16 participants and now boasts 80 participants.
When the grownups finished talking about money, field space, EMT requirements and other topics, two rugby club members spoke in support of making the club official. Adam Rock talked about how nice it is that the club includes all four high school grades, while club member Will Steele, who also plays on the Rye High football team, revealed that rugby is actually a lot safer and a lot more fun than that other game.
“I think we’re enthusiastic about the kids’ involvement but safety and cost remain our two main concerns,” noted Board President Laura Slack. And on that note, the Board asked that Taylor, Castagna, and Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez head back to the drawing board to more closely detail the costs associated with formally adopting the Rye Rugby Club.
National Merit Scholars
Dr. Alvarez found a subject that could please everyone, recognizing 17 Rye High School seniors as National Merit Commended Scholars, two of whom were also recognized with National Hispanic Program Scholar designations.