Nyack's elementary schools may be facing some major changes, and an open forum was held Monday night at Upper Nyack School for several reasons:
- Clear up any misperceptions
- Inform parents of the Princeton Plan
- Gather feedback
The Nyack Board of Education is contemplating a shift to the Princeton Plan, which would divide the current K-through-fifth-grade experience into smaller segments across the elementary school buildings. Currently, the elementry schools are under the common neighborhood school plan, which uses geographic district lines to assign students to schools.
Under the Princeton Plan, grades would be assigned to specific schools. Instead of the three schools—Valley Cottage Elementary, Liberty Elementary and Upper Nyack Elementary—housing children from all grades, they would house children from just two grades.
- K-1: Valley Cottage Elementary
- 2-3: Liberty Elementary
- 4-5: Upper Nyack Elementary
More than 50 parents attended the forum, which was led by Superintendent James Montesano, Assistant Superintendent of Business Service Carleen Millsaps and Nyack Middle School principal Nicole Saieva.
Montesano started by saying that although many parents seemed to think that the decision was already made, he wanted to clear the air and establish that the board held off on discussing the Princeton Plan until parent feedback was collected at public meetings such as the one on Monday night.
"I want to clear up any rumors that this is a done deal," he said, adding that although he is a product of neighborhood schools himself and that he has only held superintendent and principal positions in neighborhood schools, "where we are today, in regards to school funding and what schools are being asked to produce in terms of student outcomes, it's a changing landscape."
He said that there will be a meeting in December to "talk more extensively with the school board on where it chooses to go in regard to future plans for the school district."
Millsaps and Saieva were asked to co-chair a committee of parents and staff back in 2010.
"The advisory committee was established by the board of education in November 2010 and (its) purpose was (to address) the overcrowding conditions at Valley Cottage School," said Montesano, adding that the committee looked at some short-term solutions such as shifting district boundaries. The committee was also asked to look into alternative methods such as grade span and reconfiguration.
After a full year of research and meetings, the committee brought its findings to the board and "basically, what resulted from that, was a recommendation to make a short term solution ... and change some of the boundary lines between Valley Cottage and Liberty in an effort to balance the student population so we can relieve some of the overcrowding conditions," said Montesano.
However, he added that, with the introduction of the tax levy cap and its effect on the school budget, the schools needed to look more closely at and consider the Princeton Plan.
The school recently restructured their administration to shave off about $350,000 and the estimated cost savings with the Princeton Plan is $700,000 - $1 million.
The committee's report was given at a public Board meeting in June 2012 and the committee's findings were presented last night and will be presented at three more public meetings throughout the month of October.
"The board of education did not at that time (at the June meeting) have any serious deliberations about the benefits or disadvantages (of the Princeton Plan). The board of education is very sensitive to the idea that they want to be very transparent and particularly to decisions with such great magnitude that really would change the lives of parents and their relationship to what (they) know as neighborhood schools," he said.
He added that the board chose not to do anything until Fall 2012 so it could hold public meetings and convey to parents “what we’re looking at, why we’re looking at it and collect some feedback.”
Feedback forms were passed around and comments and questions were taken from the audience. Check back with Nyack Patch later today and tomorrow for more articles covering the specifics about the Princeton Plan, how it will affect the Nyack schools and what parents had to say about it.
This year also marks the first the Nyack High School implements block scheduling.
- Liberty School Wednesday, October 3 7:30 PM
- Valley Cottage School Tuesday, October 9 7:30 PM
- Nyack Center Tuesday, October 30 7:30 PM