By Kate Hill
The Cazenovia Central School District (CSD) will welcome back its students on Sept. 5
“We’re ready to have the halls filled with kids again and the classrooms filled with teachers,” said Superintendent Matthew Reilly.
On Aug. 22, the district held its Fifth Grade Locker Day — an annual event designed to ease the transition between the elementary and middle schools.
The incoming fifth graders were given the opportunity to locate their lockers, test their combinations and get familiarized with their new school.
Locker Day is one of several events held by the district to facilitate the transition.
On May 9, students and parents participated in Fifth Grade Orientation, and in June, the students were bussed over from Burton St. to tour the middle school and meet the teachers.
The rising fifth graders were also paired up with older middle school students, who already experienced the move.
“We know as educators that transitions between schools, and even transitions between the summer and the start of the school year, are always difficult times for kids,” Reilly said. “If we can ease those transitions in any way, we can help kids be successful.”
On Aug. 19, the board of education convened for its final regular meeting prior to the start of the school year.
During the meeting, the board approved the adoption of a revised “Non-Resident Student Policy.”
Under the new policy, the district will no longer accept tuition-paying non-resident students.
Current non-resident students will be “grandfathered in” and will continue to pay tuition.
Resident students who become non-residents will be permitted to remain in the district under certain circumstances, as outlined in the policy.
The board also set the 2019-2020 Cazenovia CSD tax rates.
Tax collection will begin Sept. 1 and end Nov. 7.
According to Reilly, school tax rates are determined based on the school tax levy, which was voted on and passed in May; town assessments; and equalization rates set by the state.
“The equalization rates from the state changed, and they changed in a way that negatively impacts tax payers in our district,” Reilly said. “The [result] is that the tax rates ended up being set higher than we had anticipated when we were looking at the tax levy back in May . . . education is like this sometimes. There are things that are within our control and there are things that are state or federally mandated, and that’s sometimes difficult to understand and frustrating on the part of the locality.”
Reilly added that while the district is happy to attempt to address any questions on the tax rates, inquiries regarding the equalization rates are best directed to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.
Ben New, director of curriculum and instruction, provided the board with a detailed update on the district’s Strategic Plan into 2023.
New reported that during a July retreat, the district’s administrative team developed a set of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) Goals around the action plans outlined in the strategic plan.
“The board was really impressed with both the specificity of the goals and the accountability associated with them,” Reilly said. “We are excited to start the new school year and years to come with those in place.”
This week, the district’s teacher leaders including department leaders, curriculum leaders, Burton Street and Middle School leaders, reviewed the SMART Goals for viability and clarity.
The leaders also worked to determine how teachers can help further the SMART goals and to develop complementary goals of their own.
The board was also informed about the progress of the athletic facilities planning study led by The LA Group, Landscape Architecture and Engineering, P.C.
The group is in the process of conducting physical assessments of the district’s outdoor athletic facilities.
This week, they will begin meeting with focus groups made up of constituents that use the fields.
The purpose of the study is to help the district build a prioritized plan for the future of its athletic facilities.
“We think this is going to really give us a much better vision for not just what is possible, but what we really should be doing,” Reilly said. “We want to provide the best opportunities for our kids and athletics is certainly one of those opportunities.”
The board also discussed the responses received for the district’s request for proposals for an Energy Performance Contract (EPC).
According to Reilly, the $1.5 to $2 million energy efficiency project will focus primarily on lighting and building envelope improvements.
An EPC will enable the district to complete the improvements without tapping into capital budget funds, as the project will be paid for with the savings generated from the improvements.
According to Reilly, five energy service companies/contractors have expressed interest in scoping, developing and implementing the project.
Cazenovia CSD faculty and staff will return to school on Sept. 3 and 4.
On opening day, the district will recognize its Teacher of the Year and Staff Person of the Year.
Guest speaker Stanley Leone will share the story of his journey — guided by an invested teacher — from drug-dealing gangster to awarded scholar.
The faculty and staff will also complete mandated trainings and prepare for the students’ arrival.
Monthly school board meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. in the board meeting room in the district office in the middle school.
For more information, visit cazenoviacsd.com or call Superintendent Reilly at 315-655-1317.