This has been a year thus far of triumph and some unfortunate events as well. For the most part our students are continuing to excel. Our sports teams are doing better than they have in years, our clubs and other activities continue to experience high participation and success rates. Our Weber Middle School Science Olympiad team not only won the county championship again, but did so with the best score ever recorded. On the other side of the coin, we had a bus fire, where thankfully, due to the quick thinking of those at the scene and training nobody was physically injured. Our high school also experienced some high school students igniting a smoke bomb and fireworks whereby the police and fire departments were called to Schreiber. No one was injured and damage was minimal. Just this last week, two of our students were injured in an accident in a chemistry lab. Dr. Gordon has visited one of the students at the hospital and the other is not yet receiving visitors.

Our district is always self-examining. We have looked at our record of achievement to make sure that we keep out upward trends, and do so with fiscal prudence. We have also examined the unfortunate instances mentioned above and are working to make our system even more responsive and transparent in emergencies. As we mentioned in a recent column, our district is leading the way in emergency response management, having put together a working committee of staff, board members and community members, all of whom have experience in this important area.

Next year's proposed budget was adopted by the board of education this past April 10. As we did last year, we have tried to balance the need to keep pace with the ever changing educational landscape so that our students will be able to effectively compete in a global economy, with the need to exercise fiscal discipline. This budget projects a tax levy increase of 4.9 percent about 1percent higher than the local CPI. This takes into account all of the contractual and governmental mandates that we cannot avoid without severely sacrificing the education of our children. You may have read recently about all of the 'extra' education money coming to Long Island. Unfortunately not very much is finding its way into our district revenue. We are, and will continue working with our elected officials and advocacy groups to address the systemic inequities that the current system of financing places on our most vulnerable taxpayers.

We are happy to report that our school district is benefiting from New York State's EXCEL aid program. Under this program we are entitled to roughly $650,000 in direct aid to improve and repair our facilities. The only cost to the local taxpayers for this money is $20,000 in short-term borrowing, so that the work can be done while we wait for the state to remit the funds. Of course, there is a catch. The projects must be approved by the voters. Therefore when you go to vote on May 15 on the budget and to fill two seats on the board of education, you will find three additional propositions concerning the EXCEL aid.

Regarding voting, the school board has worked very diligently this year to devise a new voting system that will have four voting locations, instead of the one single location that had been in place for decades. The new voting places will extend the franchise in an even greater way to the community to ensure that everyone can vote. Cards will be sent to everyone's home very shortly to advise where you will need to go to vote. We will also have the information posted on the school district website and in other medium. Please email us any questions or comments to: robpwsb@aol.com and we will do our best to answer you.

Finally, we have heard the community's concerns with how the Continuing Education program has been run this year. Included in our proposed budget, is the returning of the program, which has been an effective and well-attended program for decades, back to our control and management. We regret any inconvenience that anyone may have suffered during this 'trial'. Since the program is virtually self-funded there is no meaningful impact to the taxpayers due to this change.

On behalf of our 5,000+ students, faculty, and staff, we deeply thank you for your continued caring and support.

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