Get Out And Vote May 19!
Seen from most angles, the upcoming May 19 Onteora budget vote
and school board elections look like a ho-hum news story. The
spending figures being proposed, while higher than last year’s
(when tax levy figures were brought down utilizing various one-time
mechanisms), came in lower than what would be spent should the
budget be voted down and a contingency spending plan be adopted.
And there are only three candidates for three board seats, taking
the drama out of this year’s elections (as well as any
apparent interest in the usual Meet the Candidate events we’ve
come to expect).
And yet there’s still plenty of grumbling within the district.
There have been calls for a budget boycott, with some urging
voters to keep voting down ANY requested spending plan until
the district starts working to consolidate by closing at least
some of its community elementary schools. And there are rumors
about a stealth-styled write-in candidacy.
But both those latter efforts depend solely on a majority of
potential voter’s apathy for success… or a definitive
cynicism, in terms of the way our electoral systems are SUPPOSED
to work. We hope there’s never any possibility of that
happening at Onteora. And so we strongly advise ALL our readers,
all of this vast school district’s constituents, to get
out and vote on May 19.
First off, although there has been a great deal of hurt involved
in wrestling the proposed budget forth, it has all happened
in open discourse, with each cut and retained spending option
discussed fully. There is much within it all we wished weren’t
happening, from shifts to the INDIE program, once Onteora’s
most brilliant shining light, to further hits to special education,
in-school counseling, and other matters we feel essential to
the role our schools play in our community’s social fabric.
But we respect the job that’s been done.
In a recent meeting with district administrators, we were warned
that some of the elements keeping our budgets relatively low
at present, including the use of federal stimulus and other
funding to prop up school aid figures, could fall away in two
years. Combined with continuing decreases in the student numbers,
this signals growing pressures on those in charge to make some
key changes in the coming years.
Yes, there are many of us who feel that what’s really
needed is a rethinking of American education on a state and
even federal level, relieving our kids’ futures from the
vicissitudes of property tax concerns and various localized
social pressures, as well as the discrepancies that occur region
to region, and state to state in a time of increasing mobility.
But we also realize such things may be too far in the future
to consider realistic. As a result, we have to look at what
we’ve got and agree that the current election’s
apparent lack of room for change as a good thing. Unless we
are faced with new non-school issues roiling our communities,
we don’t expect any major board shifts for the foreseeable
future. Which, from the strict perspective of planning and administration,
So to is the present board and administration’s promise
to better its communications with all throughout the district,
both in terms of what it sends out directly and how it approaches
the Onteora public through the media. Expect better calendar
notification of school events, more letters from school administrators
and students, and a better sense of what’s going on throughout
the district be it positive or negative.
Similarly, having recently been told of the current board’s
unanimous finalization of a strategic planning process started
a year ago last month, we must express actual optimism. According
to district superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford, Onteora is now geared
towards providing educations that take into account the likelihood
of local students eventually moving their lives away from the
district, stressing everyone’s need for flexibility and
a lifelong love of learning in today’s changing and increasingly
Forget past battles over finding ways to keep our kids here.
We’ve finally started to accept that opportunity is mutable,
and our communities’ survival and growth is based as much
on new people wanting to live here, as opening up opportunities
for those who wish to stay. Our world is not that, any longer.
Will this fly at Onteora, given the continuing rifts that exist
among our district’s parents, as well as among some of
our kids? Eventually… and hopefully without any surge
of anger rising up outside our letters columns, meetings, and
ballot booths. Because it’s the reality of who we are
as a region, shifting from rural to exurban, as well as on a
national basis, becoming ever closer to the rest of the world,
no matter what we say about Europe’s socialist tendencies,
Asia’s hyper-achieving brand of capitalism, or our North
American neighbors’ wishes to be treated as full partners
on the global stage, and not just neighbors.
Which brings us back, in the end, to where we started…
our need to vote in the upcoming school elections, whether our
individual level pulls seem to matter much or not on the surface.
The thing is that votes always matter, simply because they are
our way of being heard, and keeping our discourse civil. Consider
the alternative… losing a school budget that includes
what we want to one that’s more expensive, all because
we didn’t care enough to stop those who voted to disrupt
things out of cynicism, alone. Or ending up with new school
board members elected via write-in ballots without stating their
backgrounds or beliefs to the constituents they will be representing.
Cynicism is never a true answer to choice, even when that choice
is limited. Only involvement is.
See you ALL at the polls…