Suggestion To New Clarkstown School Board About Long-term Planning

Clarkstown School District

Open Letter to Editor of Rockland Voice
From: Matthew Spool

Dear Trustees, Trustees-Elect, and Superintendent Morton:

An incredibly difficult job stands before you in the next few years.  The residents of CCSD are highly polarized and divided.  It will be the job of the sitting Board and the incoming Trustees to reunite the community and get the District moving forward.  This will be extremely difficult as there are some pretty deep trust issues between much of the community and the current Board.

Our community is at a point where much of it is looking to move past the issues of the last two years and look towards the future of providing high quality education to our children.  In order to do that, plans need to be made.  The district needs a long-term strategic plan – one that will examine and plan for the use and repair of all of our buildings while reducing our expenses and building our reserves.  The Facilities Improvement Committee presented a proposal to the Board for the repair of our buildings.  The plan was well thought out and prepared.  The only oversight was that there was no insight into which buildings the District will actually need in the future.  Do we need to close any additional schools?  What options are available to possibly avoid that?  Without looking at the full picture a plan to repair the buildings is a band-aide that only covers half the wound.

Here is my proposal.  Disband both the Facilities Use Committee and the Facilities Improvement Committee.  They’re working along the same path but on different issues and neither should be working in a vacuum.  Create a new committee called the Long-Term Planning Committee.  It should be comprised of members of the community (with equal representation from each area of the District), the Board, and the Administration.  Its focus will be the same as its name – to create a long-term plan for use of our buildings.  It will look at enrollment and utilization and will examine all options (school consolidation, grade redistribution, redistricting, etc) and come up with a plan that takes into account the repair of the buildings, the level of enrollment in the district, and input from the community in terms of level of support for each option.

Once the committee has one or more viable options that provide financial viability and maintain the quality of education our children will receive, those options should be presented to the community in a series of town hall meetings where the committee presents them to the district and the community has the opportunity to ask questions.  As feedback is garnered from the community, the committee can use this feedback to hone a recommendation to present to the Board for full adoption.

Given the size of this task, I propose that this committee be formed immediately after the Trustees-Elect are sworn in.  While community participation is likely to be low over the summer months, options can begin to be put together and, if necessary, studies can begin to be commissioned so that when the new school year begins and the community participation level returns to normal, the committee can hit the ground running.

I believe the above approach will provide a level of cooperation and openness that can allow the community to move forward as one united by a common ideal and purpose rather than the divided, polarized community we have now.

Sincerely,

Matthew Spool

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