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From the School District
Dear Members of the Croton-Harmon School Community:

We cordially invite you to our next Community Information Session:

Topic: Proposed 2010-2011 School Budget and Propositions
When: Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Croton-Harmon High School Community Room (36 Old Post Road South)

This session will be dedicated to the upcoming, May 18th, District-wide vote.

Dr. Ed Fuhrman, District Superintendent; Diane Chaissan, Director of Finance and Administration and the School Board will present information and answer questions about the proposed school budget which includes an estimated 1.64% tax rate increase for the Town of Cortlandt and an estimated 2.38% tax decrease for Yorktown.

Other items on the ballot include the capital fund (science lab project) proposition and bus proposition. The evening will include an opportunity to tour the high school science labs, and the focus of Proposition 1, the transfer to capital fund proposition.

The proposed budget and propositions, voter’s registration information and absentee ballots are available at www.croton-harmonschools.org. Budget copies are also available at the District Office (10 Gerstein Street) and the Croton-Free Library. For more information, you may call the district office at 271-4713.

Sincerely,


Karen Zevin, President
Teri Lukin, Vice President

Andrea Furey
Neal Haber
Lynda Jones
Guiseppina Miller
Beth Roth
Croton-Harmon Board of Education


Frequently Asked Questions About the High School Science Lab (Proposition One)

Why does the district need new science labs?

A. The current lab space is within the classroom. The existing classrooms do not have enough student stations to allow all students to participate in laboratory experiments. This means that some of our students get less of a true “hands on” science experience than other students and is in essence an equity issue. All students need access to laboratory space. We also are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of our students who desire to take advanced science courses such as Science Research. Not having adequate laboratory facilities hinders our students’ ability to participate in research competitions such as the Intel science competition. These advanced courses require students to engage in intensive laboratory experiences that we cannot currently provide, including areas such as robotics and advanced chemistry.

The new space involves thinking “outside of the box”. Rather than redesigning each existing science classroom, we are looking to create a more defined space that can be flexible to meet the demands of all science programs, both during the school day as well as before and after school. We are looking to create a living laboratory that will grow and develop over time in response to student needs, a space that is forward thinking in its adaptability to the curriculum.

What curricular changes will new high school lab space provide our students and why are these changes necessary?

A. More space increases student and teacher mobility which positively impacts curriculum and instruction. For example, we can expect:

• Increased student interactions with each other in problem-solving activities.
Currently, many learnings must be observed through demonstration by the teacher. The new
space will allow students to experience scientific investigations first-hand.

• Increased learning stations will benefit students with differing learning styles.

• Increased frequency of teacher feedback on student work.

• Increased experiential learning due to an increased number of student work stations with
adequate resources: water, gas, electrical access.

• Increased opportunities for inquiry-based project learning experiences that are more in-depth
and span longer periods of time.

• Increased performance based assessments that will allow students to demonstrate what they
know and can do.

• Increased opportunities for students to revise and repeat experiments.

• Increased safety for students and teachers conducting laboratory work.


Can we accomplish these changes with less money?

A. We truly believe that this approach is the most cost effective approach. The alternative is to upgrade lab space in existing classrooms. This is a more costly approach, and work can only be done when classes are not in session (typically the summer months). By looking to renovate an existing space on the second floor of the high school, work can be done during the school year. In addition, we will be able to renovate less space at less cost under the proposed plan.

Why do we need to move the video production program at the high school?

A. The video production program is currently located in the space we propose to use to create the science labs. The program does not need the amount of space it currently occupies. Our plan is to move the video production program to existing space off of the high school cafeteria, thereby “freeing up” the current space for science lab renovation.

Why is the district asking voters to approve only $400,000 if the project may end up costing more?

A. The $400,000 amount will fund the infrastructure of the new science lab space. With this investment, we will able to begin to use the new space immediately upon completion. Even if we were not able to raise additional funds, we would be able to directly impact the science experience of all our students once the infrastructure (walls, lighting, plumbing, and electric) is in place. The initial $400,000 will also generate $80,000 in building aid from New York State. These additional funds will allow us to build out the lab to the point where students can access the resources needed to conduct experiments. Therefore, we know that we will create a better learning experience for our students even if we have limited funds available in the future. Our plan is to prioritize possible improvements and dedicate money raised to the most important priorities first; others will be addressed in future years. Therefore, the project is not “all or nothing”, but results in positive change even if it is limited in scale due to funding limitations..

Why isn’t there a more concrete proposal for what the project will look like before we are looking for approval to move forward?

A. This project is being spearheaded by a committee of parents, educators, administrators and board of education members. We are in the process of doing “best practices” research and are looking at quality science labs at the university level as our model. Our plan is to generate a priority order for desired improvements, and attach cost figures to each. We would complete the stages in this priority order, with available funding determining our time schedule.

Is the high school science lab project more of a priority than fixing the roofs?

A. Obviously, fixing the roofs is our most pressing need. Fortunately, due to good planning and the support of the tax payers in establishing a capital reserve fund, we have set aside the money to do the repairs in a timely manner that will address our highest roofing needs first.






Proposition 1 - Designating Existing Funds for Science Facility Update

The Idea: Updating Croton-Harmon High School Science Facilities without spending any additional taxpayer money.

The Problem: How do we pay for it?

The Solution: This year, we have a unique opportunity to fund this construction project with $400,000 from existing funds originally designated for legal liability. By law, these funds must be reclassified, since the school district does not have legal liability to substantiate designating the funds in a legal liability reserve. Reclassifying the funds will have no additional financial burden on our taxpayers. In fact, the total amount which must be reclassified is $700.000: $300,000 will be used to lower the tax rate; $400,000 will be used to support the science facility update.
The reclassification requires voter approval. The law requires the school district to get voter approval to move the $400,000 into a capital fund. This reclassification is on the ballot as Proposition 1. This Capital Fund will be used solely to:

1. Relocate the Video Production classroom into a space behind the high school cafeteria (which is more suitable for video production); and

2. Construct 2 science laboratories in its place, by completing the requisite infrastructure work.

These funds are separate from the Capital Reserve, which is in place for major facility repairs, including fixing the roofs on CET, PVC and CHHS. It is well-known that our high school science labs are long-overdue for an update. While our students do well, we know that our children are at a disadvantage because they cannot fully engage in the hands-on, project-based learning required of them. The project benefits all students, not just those who are interested in science as a career:

• It will provide all high school students a safe and updated environment to conduct the lab work
required by their science courses;

• It will allow for performance-based assessments; and

• It will allow more students to conduct their lab work simultaneously.

The project is a multi-phase, multi-year project, the cost of which shall not exceed $1,000,000, and may be the subject of future propositions. The District is seeking grant monies and donations to fund the remaining portion of the project. Anyone who is interested in participating in a learning walk of the current labs and proposed space may contact Dr. Fuhrman to schedule an appointment.

If Proposition 1 is defeated, the $400,000 will be classified as unappropriated fund balance and will only be allowed to be used for unanticipated expenditures, due to the state’s limitations on that fund.