Story by Christina Hedding
Music filled the cafeteria at S.S. Seward Institute as the Florida Union Free School District Board of Education held their monthly meeting on Thurs., Mar. 16. Students from both the middle school and high school level preformed for the Board members and the audience.
First, middle school music teacher and band director William Couture led the middle school band students in a performance of “Uma Thurman” by Fallout Boy. The students played a wide selection of brass and percussion instruments. Couture spoke about how proud he was of the hard work and dedication of his students and how, despite the snow day taking away their practice time, they will be ready for the upcoming band concert.
Next, Mark Visconti led select members of the high school choir in an acoustic version of “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga. The choir’s rendition of the song was beautifully done and will accompany an eclectic variety of songs at their upcoming spring chorus concert.
“We have seen more and more interest in both the band and choir programs in the past years,” said Board President John Campana. “These kids are doing an excellent job.”
Eagle Scout Project Update
The Board received a second update from Boy Scout Vincent Palacino about his Eagle Scout project. Palacino told the Board that he received approval from the Village of Florida for the sign and also received an install date from the company donating the sign. He said he recently went around to many local shops asking for donations for the garden box he plans to build around the new sign as part of his project. Palacino was excited to say that many business owners thought it was a great idea and wanted to help. He will go around to businesses again at the end of March to collect donations. His project will hopefully be completed before the end of the 2016-17 school year.
Superintendent Jan Jehring gave a District update following the student presentations. She began by recognizing the ten students that received Sojourner Truth Awards this past week at SUNY Orange. The awards were presented to thousands of students throughout the county for their exceptional school work.
Next, Jehring congratulated the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams for making it to Regionals. She stated that she was proud of the number of people who gave up their weekends to travel far from home to support both teams. The girls played in Dryden, NY on Fri., Mar. 10 and the boys’ basketball team played in Binghamton, NY on Sat., Mar. 11. The two teams both earned a place among the top eight in New York state. Jehring also said that Florida was one of the few schools who also sent their cheerleaders to the games to support both teams.
“It’s all about supporting our students,” said Jehring. “Thank you to everyone who came out in support.”
Another program Jehring discussed during her update was the newly created Friendly Visitor Program that has been started in the Town of Warwick. Jehring said that the program reached out to the school and spoke to students about what they could do. The program hopes to get students who are interested in doing a service project involved with the program.
2017-2018 Budget Discussion
Jehring gave a report to the Board about the status of the 2017-2018 District budget. According to Jehring, the District has created a conservative budget with many cost savings measures in place. There will be an increase of about 2.68 percent and the tax cap percentage will decrease to 1.86 as opposed to last year’s 2.0 percent. There will also be an 18 percent increase in health insurance for faculty and staff. However, the increase will not affect the overall budgets 13 percent increase in health insurance costs.
During Public Comment, Florida resident Frank Bannon voiced his confusion over the health insurance increase as Jehring stated most schools had to raise health insurance 18 percent, but then stated that Florida is only seeing an increase of 13 percent.
Director of Programs and Operations Andrew Cameron clarified the situation stating that the District’s budget would only see a percentage increase of 13 percent due to health insurance costs; faculty and staff will still have an 18 percent increase to what they pay for health insurance. The savings difference is due to the fact that the District budgeted for the increase in health insurance premiums and therefore they do not have to raise the percentage due to the policy change.
The Board will hold one last work session on the District budget before finalizing it for the public.
New Class Offerings
S.S. Seward Institute Principal Michael Rheaume spoke to the Board about student interest in new class offerings for the 2017-18 school year. He began by talking about a summary of classes students have taken in the past and how the District has expanded its college level classes through SUNY Orange and Syracuse University Project Advanced. Rheaume also spoke about the newly added virtual high school classes that have enable Florida to offer more technology and engineering classes to students at the junior and senior level. His last comment was about an interest in expanding language classes and adding higher level language courses to S.S. Seward’s course offerings.
The next meeting of the Florida UFSD Board of Education will be held on Thurs., Apr. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the S.S. Seward Memorial Building located at 51 N. Main St. in the Village of Florida.