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District News & Announcements
September 2016

As I write this article, the forecast is for a warm humid day in mid-July.  But by the time you receive this newsletter, the first days of school will be right around the corner!

The custodians and maintenance staff have been hard at work all summer getting our buildings and grounds ready for September, teachers have been working on lesson plans and participating in professional development, and our administrators have been diligently working to ensure they are ready for students in the fall.

The past year has been one of both success and change.  Our graduating seniors did their school proud, winning many scholarships and awards, and they will be missed.  Our athletic teams were very successful as well.  In June, we had three long-time staff members retire, including Vicki Beames, Otego Special Education teacher, Maureen Pawlikowski, Unadilla 5th grade teacher, and Marilyn Klie, Otego Elementary Principal.  We thank them for their many years of devoted service to Unatego.  Several other employees have left us for positions in other districts or to stay home with young children.  Due to declining enrollments and financial concerns, many of these positions will remain vacant, while we are working this summer to fill others.  Pat Scott, most recently the interim Director of Special Education, has agreed to serve as Interim Principal at Otego Elementary.  Her knowledge of the district and elementary education will be invaluable to our students and staff. 

Although we have put together two years of responsible and fiscally sound budgets, financially our position remains precarious.  Years of state aid cuts and a state-imposed tax cap have created substantial fiscal stress for the district.  This financial difficulty, combined with a steadily declining student population, led the Board of Education to bring in educational consultants to conduct a Facilities Study this past year.  The purpose of the study was to examine a variety of variables to determine if there was a better way, both educationally and fiscally, to educate our students.

The consultants had multiple meetings with a stakeholder committee, comprised of community members, parents, faculty, staff, and administrators and, in the end, recommended the district develop a plan to close one of our aging elementary schools (Otego Elementary) within a year and move all K-5 students to Unadilla.  They also recommended that, within the next several years, the district consider building an addition at the Junior-Senior High School, closing Unadilla Elementary after completion of the addition, and bringing all students to the main campus in a K-12 building. 

Although the decision to close a school building is heart wrenching and difficult, in order to maintain fiscal stability the district must closely study all available options.  The Board of Education, while ultimately responsible for that decision, is seeking input from district stakeholders and to that end, we are including a short survey soliciting your opinion as to which options the Board should consider.  In order to provide you with as much information as possible, we have included an executive summary of the study with this newsletter.  Moreover, the full study is available on-line at the Unatego website, under Facilities Study.  We ask that you return the completed survey as soon as possible, as the Board of Education plans on making a decision by mid-November, 2016.  If you prefer to complete the survey on line, it may also be accessed at the district website above.  Please take the time to share your thoughts with us, either through the survey, or by attending board meetings or one of two public hearings which will be scheduled for September and October. 

Despite financial worries, we remain firmly committed to providing our students with an excellent education. We are instituting a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) program this year at Unadilla Elementary and the Middle School to help students be more successful. We were able to restore field trips for our students in all buildings, enhancing their learning experience.  By offering college courses to our high school students at no cost, including the second year of an Associate’s Degree program in Business Administration,  our 78 graduating seniors were each able to accumulate between 3 and 25 college credits, saving their families over $208,000 in future tuition costs.  In all that we do, we try to prepare our students for college and careers.  Although we have work left to do, our state test scores continue to improve, and our Middle School, which was cited as a Local Assistance Plan school last year, has been reinstated to School in Good Standing status after much hard work on the part of their faculty, administration, and staff. 

To end, I would like to thank all of you for your support over the past year.  An overwhelming number of you voted in favor of the district budget and for that, we are grateful.  Please continue to support our schools because, as the saying goes, the children are our future. If possible, let us know what you think about the Facilities Study recommendations by completing a survey by mail or online.  And finally, enjoy the last weeks of summer as all too soon it will end.  As always, if you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.  A list of contacts is included in this newsletter for your convenience and is also available on our web page.  As the old song goes, See you in September!  

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