Onteora School Board Meeting of Jan 10, 2012
photo: Scott Patterson
By Jen Dragon-
Last night’s Board of Education Meeting was the best one I had ever attended. Speakers were sharp and the Administration inspired confidence. Of special note was the Transportation Director who made complex issues clear and had answers for the audience’s many questions. I went in concerned about the impact closing Phoenicia School would have on local business on the western end of the district and left being inspired by a new vision of early childhood educational excellence. I believe two literacy centers for K-3 located in the far West and East, Phoenicia and Woodstock respectively, is the way towards our Catskills Mountain economic recovery. Without spending much money, our district can become the model for rural schools throughout New York State for elementary school excellence. Young families will be drawn here to raise their children. The real estate market will thrive, property in the Onteora School District will be worth more. And best of all, we will have a great public school system for grades K-12! Starting at the Elementary School, Dr McGill plans to include parents in the early education process so they can, if they choose, be engaged in their children’s learning. Most public elementary schools keep parents OUT at all costs and here we have a District that plans to invite parents IN! In order to do this and many other things that cost so little to implement, space will be needed and Phoenicia Elementary School will be integral to this plan.
Gov. Cuomo* recently gave a speech about the need to consolidate within school districts but to do so finding creative solutions yet without sacrificing educational quality. Creative solutions have already abounded in this district: When Phoenicia Elementary School needed a new library, the parents got together and built it themselves! The amazing Woodstock School Fantasy Playground was also built by parent and community volunteers-not to mention the school gardens that have been cultivated at all the schools.
In a time when all New York State School districts are cutting back, children’s education is bound to suffer. Let’s not permit our District’s children suffer the same fate but use this time as an opportunity to bring our early school education into the 21st Century.
*Gov Cuomo’s recent speech about the State of Education 2011-2012 can be seen here: http://bit.ly/xDmP5G