GWL rescinds Tuxedo high school option

| 24 May 2012 | 12:30

    GREENWOOD LAKE — In an unexpected turn of events, the Greenwood Lake School Board rescinded its April 25 vote on Wednesday night which had authorized school officials to negotiate a five-year contract with the Tuxedo School District and which would have kept its students attending George F. Baker High School.

    The Greenwood Lake board’s vote to withdraw last month’s 4-3 decision was unanimous. That vote also cancels the special June 19 vote, where Greenwood Lake residents would have gone to the polls to vote on their approval or disapproval of the board’s April 25 decision.

    “I think the board acted responsibly last night because they heard a lot of input from the total community and responded to that as public officials,” said Greenwood Lake School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Brockel on Thursday morning. “It was in response to the community’s outcry. The community was very split. A large segment of the community was unhappy with the decision.”

    Brockel said the board will now start fresh during its regular June 13 board meeting and look at all its options as it begins a new diligence process. That also means the Warwick and Chester school districts - who courted the Greenwood Lake board with their reasons why the 280 or so students should attend their high schools - are back in the mix.

    ‘Parental choice’ “Our board goes back to the drawing board, so to speak, and looks at all the information gathered and looks at different options and we don’t know what that (outcome) will be at this moment,” added Brockel.

    Greenwood Lake students have attended Baker high for the past 30 years.

    Yet, within the fourth year of a five-year contract with Tuxedo to be completed in June, the Greenwood Lake board wanted to look at a variety of options - in addition to the incumbent Tuxedo district - which included Monroe-Woodbury (which bowed out of the competition early in the process), and the Warwick Valley and Chester school districts.

    Greenwood Lake high school students must travel to a different district because New York State will not allow the district to build its own high school.

    Public meetings were held over the past months where officials gave presentations touting the merits of what their high schools could provide to Greenwood Lake students.

    Brockel said he thought residents wanted to have different options available them such as a parental choice on which high school to send their children.

    ‘Finances’ But Brockel knew the community was concerned with finances.

    “The thing I think really angered part of the population was that Tuxedo’s tuition was several thousands of dollars higher than at Chester or Warwick,” he said. “The fiscal responsibility that they were seeking in Tuxedo may not have been enough to satisfy a large portion of our community. What they consider they fiscally responsible was still several thousands higher. It might not have been enough for our community.”

    While Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo was unhappy with the decision by the Greenwood Lake School Board members, she recognized why they did so.

    “I understand it,” said Lomascolo. “I think their community is clearly saying they want choice. I would love to have them here for five years but that doesn’t seem like that is going to happen right now. The message at that meeting was loud and clear. I am disappointed. There is security in a five-year contract.”

    She held firm that she felt George F. Baker High School offered Greenwood Lake students an outstanding educational opportunity and the merits of a small school education offered tremendous benefits. She believed a large percentage of the Greenwood Lake community felt similarly. “I believe if choice is put up, Tuxedo would be a part of that.”

    However, the Greenwood Lake board’s decision now requires Tuxedo to look at its own options, though Lomascolo did not discuss them.

    “My hope would be that the majority of Greenwood Lake students stay here as we also move ahead and see what our options would be to grow our program and our building,” Lomascolo said.

    ‘Where we’re going’ She knows there’s stress on her campus now.

    “I believe my faculty, my administration, my building is very nervous now,” she said, with meetings planned with them so they hear the detail from her. “I’m not hearing much from the kids. We need to focus on us and what we will be doing in our future. We will be looking at where we’re going.”

    With a little more than two and a half weeks until the June 13 meeting, Brockel declined to offer a comment directed at the Tuxedo community.

    But Lomascolo did. “To Tuxedo residents, we need to be working together and continue to work together with Greenwood Lake on our options and our future,” she said.

    Brockel did want to send a message to Chester and Warwick residents.

    “To the Chester and Warwick communities, I think we recognize their eagerness to take our students on a tuition basis and we appreciate the efforts of the school district personnel to make very comprehensive presentations on all the aspects of their high schools,” Brockel said.

    In an e-mail, Warwick School Superintendent Dr. Ray Bryant wrote: “We continue to be excited about any potential collaboration with the Greenwood Lake Union Free School District. We’re pleased that the Greenwood Lake Board of Education is taking another look at all the options.”

    By Nancy Kriz