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SRCS board approves 2014-15 school budget

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MALONE - The Salmon River Central School District Board of Education on Monday approved a 2014-15 school budget that includes two new positions.

The budget must now be approved by district voters May 20.

SRCS Superintendent Jane Collins said the recently approved state budget gave the district roughly a $500,000 increase in funding from last year. Ms. Collins wants to allocate some of that additional funding to two new positions needed for next year –– a teaching assistant and an art teacher.

“When one of the art teachers retired, we cut an art position and the result of that was that it affected every school and every art program in the district,” Ms. Collins said.

“What I am proposing is the need for bringing this position back and now that we have the additional funds from the Gap Elimination Program, this would be the year to bring it back.”

SRCS Elementary Principal Kevin Walbridge said the teaching assistant at the kindergarten level is needed. Currently the elementary has one teaching assistant for three classrooms of more than 60 students.

“More time is being demanded of the teachers, so a teaching assistant would be helpful,” said Mr. Walbridge. “And not having a full-time art teacher has had an impact; we do not have students after school doing artwork like we use to.”

SRCS High School Principal Mike Warden approached the board with the number of students in the high school who are interested in the art program at SRCS and options for making art a pathway for the students.

As of last year, 100 students –– more than a quarter of the student body –– were interested in studio art. Studio art is the base-level class in a five-class sequence in art. As Mr. Warden put it, “Studio is the algebra of art.”

He said that after looking at the level of student interes, school leaders began to look at the manpower available to teach the students and found there was not enough.

The problem lies in the fact there are not enough studio art classes offered to the students interested in art as a graduation pathway. If the three studio art classes and three art electives are offered, only 60 of the 100 students will have the opportunity to take art.

Mr. Warden said the middle school art teacher said she could teach one of the studio classes, but that would still leave 20 students who would be unable to participate, he said.

If SRCS hires another art teacher, the middle school art program will be covered by this teacher part-time and the elementary school would have its full-time teacher back. The St. Regis Mohawk School would also have its full-time teacher back.

Mr. Warden said that the two elementary art teachers could teach at least two studio art classes, but ideally three. According to Mr. Warden, SRCS will have a total of four or five studio art classes if the new teacher is hired.

“That would be the ideal-type program to fit all of the students interested in the art program and that would make art a viable pathway toward graduation,” Mr. Warden said. “All of the studios will be taught by certified art teachers, and we will get more electives so students will be able to chose that pathway.”

SRCS Clerk/School Business Executive Natascha Jock explained to the board the breakdown of the 2014-2015 budget. Ms. Jock said the district received an increase in state aid of $532,727 between foundation aid and the changes in the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

“Since 2010, we have lost [$]5.1 million due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment; this was just a portion of that aid back,” Ms. Jock said.

The budget approved Monday night includes 2 percent increase in the district’s tax levy, an increase that raises $39,018 in additional revenue. Ms. Jock said SRCS received an additional $882,000 in other state aid besides the foundation and the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Overall, spending is going up by 1.3 percent.

The district will hold a public hearing on the spending plan at 6 p.m. May 7 in the high school auditorium.

The board will also hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. April 22 on competing proposals from Fort Covington and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to provide water service to the school.

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