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Voting Yes on the Mamaroneck School Budget

For the past six months, I and a small group of concerned taxpayers have spent tens of hours reviewing the proposed budget. We educated ourselves by analyzing each budget since 2002, reviewing the five current union contracts, keeping abreast of pending New York State legislation that affect school mandates, and meeting with the Board of Education to gain further understanding of various issues impacting the budget.

It has been an eye-opening experience. Here is a brief summary of what I have learned:

  • Property taxes account for 90% of the revenue that pays for our school budget.
  • 80% of the budget is comprised of salaries and benefits related to teachers, aides, secretaries, custodial and administration staff.
  • The district plans on spending at least $5 million more in 2010/11 than projected for 2009/10 and will have 52 fewer employees.
  • Our State Legislators have passed laws that require certain mandates for employees including guaranteed pensions and seniority protection.
  • District health care costs for retired and active district employees are higher than the pension contributions for 2010/11 ($15.8 million vs. $12.7 million).
  • The district provides several types of salary increases: “step” increases (automatic annual raises during step years), and “lane” increases (based on educational credits). In addition, all employees are provided cost of living increases and most have the opportunity to earn longevity payments (annual additional payments after a set number of years of service).

In my opinion, the problem we face as a district is not the difference between the proposed and contingency budget. It’s the long term viability of our budget.

I do not believe that defeating the proposed budget will be the best use of our efforts or resources. Taxpayers, administrators, district employees and the Board of Education need to focus on the magnitude of the situation before us and work together to make reasonable long-term compromises. We need to find a balance between retaining and attracting qualified talent and having a sustainable budget.

Our district needs to create a five year plan and commit to signing contracts only after fully vetting the long-term cost implications. (i.e. as per the Board of Education, the district has over 450 retired employees. Based on prior agreements, the district must pay between 93%-100% of their medical costs for the rest of their lives. Currently, this open ended liability is estimated to cost $3.5 million next year.)

I plan on voting for the proposed budget. We need to honor our contracts and focus on planning for the multi millions of dollars in future tax increases that may be required in the coming years.

Consider joining me in voting yes, and contact the district clerk Joanne Rice at ( ) for an e-mail copy of prior budget books or copies the five contracts to become more informed.

Ask Suzi Oppenheimer ( and George Latimer ( and other candidates interested in representing us, on how they plan on ensuring the long term viability of school budgets in New York State.

We, as taxpayers, fund a district with 818 employees and $122 million in annual expenses. It’s our responsibility to be the best informed taxpayers possible.

Amy Jogis
Larchmont, NY

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17 comments to Voting Yes on the Mamaroneck School Budget

  • Anon E Mous

    Amy, you’ve apparently learned a lot and are educating more. Thank you. But a careful read of your letter says we must vote no.

    You well may be right that the dollar difference between the proposed and contingency budget is small this year. But it is only by voting no to an increased budget that we make any start on your path to managing for the long term and dealing with open ended liabilities that endanger the future. Too many thought things were fine with Bernie, the banks, etc, until too late.

    Look carefully at the contracts and you’ll see that the administration does not manage the schools, it’s just overhead, while as your numbers show, the union is in control.

    The Mamaroneck Teachers Association is advertising: vote yes. That’s a sign we need to vote no, to achieve better education, more accountability, and preserve the future.

    Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost. – John Quincy Adams

    • Emmy Lou

      LOL – gee Anon E Mous, your quote from John Quincy Adams sounds vaguely familiar to the advice I gave you not more than a day ago.

      Glad you were able to find a quotation from Bartlett’s to summarize my points: encouraging people to vote for their own principles. Albeit, advice from a former President of the United States – to whom I am honored to be in the same company of…not to mention, great minds think alike ;-)

      • Anon E Mous

        Please and Thank You!

        Credit where credit is due and these days oneself is often the best source. Please take yours and a bow. :)

        Those who write as Anon E Mous must find that ‘Barlett’ thing, perhaps on their way back from voting tomorrow. And, Thank You, you’re so convincing us to vote No.

        In the meantime, please remember, ‘Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.’ – Emily Post

        • Emmy Lou

          I am convincing no one to vote either yay or nay; but I am suggesting, as you so eloquently put it the other day, now that we are given the right to vote in fair elections (unlike many citizens of the world today) then we should absolutely and unequivocally take advantage of it.

          So people, get out and rock the vote!!!

          Make it happen….and make history whether you have children or not this is your community and you pay up the ying yang in taxes to live in a community that provides many wonderful thing including an outstanding school district. Exercise your vote – you may even lose some baggage in doing so :-)

  • Groundhog Day

    Amy, I applaud your efforts, but must say that I am still undecided. Like you, I have tried to educate myself on the content and process of the budget (albeit not for the past 5 years). I have heard various taxpayers question the BOE about whether various programs that the District spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on every year have proven to be effective in the long-term. The responses varied from: “we will need to check on that” to “it is complicated” to “it is very late in the evening for that discussion” (e.g. the BOCE program, the preschool program, and the smaller MAS class sizes). Each of these programs seem, on their face, to make great sense, but there does not seem to be any evidence of their long-term benefits to the students we are trying to help. For instance, New York State Board of Education records show that our 2009 MHS 4 year graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students was a mere 59% . As that rate is significantly lower than other school districts that are spending far less on this sub-set of students, what evidence do we have that our programs are working — or are we both failing the students we are claiming to help, while simultaneously needlessly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on programs that may not be working? I would love to see/hear information to support the notion that the millions of dollars we have spent on smaller class sizes in MAS have a long-term positive impact on the economically disadvantaged students there (e.g. increasing high school graduation rates, increasing college attendance rates), but that does not seem to be forthcoming. While I am not one to cut my nose to spite my face and while I fear that the contingency budget (or a second-round smaller budget) could have a negative impact on my children’s education, at some point I believe I must vote “no” to the lack of transparency and accountability. While I appreciate and respect the Board members for volunteering their valuable time, I am greatly disappointed.

    • Jonathan Sacks

      I have searched every document and the current database available for anything to support this 59% graduation rate and I cannot find any data. I have asked you to post the source of the information to see if we can track down it down. If you do so, I promise we will dig into the details.
      A 59% rate would be unacceptable. The best we can find is that the district showed 10 “economically disadvantaged students” enrolled in the school system, system wide in 2005 up from 7 in 2003. There is no data that identifies these students to MAS. So any statistics would not have a valid sample size to apply a percentage. Even if that were so, the core of the program at MAS is not the 10 students.
      I would have to agree that setting low class sizes for a population of this size would be absurd. The MAS class sizes are based on the large non-English speaking population present in the school. I have posted the Hispanic results and it appears compared to peer schools that MUFSD is doing better. A reasonable conclusion is that the program has merits.
      I agree with you that we should be able to see this data and it has been a topic from me to this board and superintendant in the past and will continue to be going forward. A goal for the coming year(s) should be setting up were possible a template for measurement. In all of my past careers whenever a program/campaign was developed a goal was established, measurements were developed, follow up was done and programs evaluated. This basic philosophy should be one of the primary goals of our new administration, how else does the administration, board and community know if a program should continue.
      Unfortunately, most of what I see in results information is anecdotal, I do not see this as a lack of concern or desire for the data, but in a lack of resources to pull it together. I for one would like to see as a primary goal for the superintendent is to re-invent the administration to create a information based system as a foundation for the future. In the mean time I will support the school budget and continue to push in this direction. Moving a school system is much like moving an air craft carrier, you need to make the decision to turn 5 miles out.

      • Groundhog Day

        Mr. Sacks,

        Thank you for taking such an interest in the District and our schools. I did previously post that I found the 59% statistic on a database on LoHud, but since that time, Lohud has removed the link from their “Search our Databases” section; however, I think this should get you there: If not, you can Google Search “lohud new york state graduation rate economically disadvantaged”. The first link you should see “Competing Values: . . .” has a link in it to this database, as well. It is certainly a shame that this information is so difficult to find — I stumbled upon it the first time, myself, and also found it difficult to locate a second time.

        In response to several of your statements:

        • MAS smaller class sizes. The BOE has represented on several occasions that the reason for the smaller class sizes is the 35% of MAS students that are economically disadvantaged. You would need to ask them where that percentage comes from, but as I believe MAS does receive Title I funding, I assume it is true. In addition, you will note that the ESL 4 year graduation rate for 2009 was 20% (1 out of 5 students). You can also check this on the database, as well as the corresponding graduation rates for the same population of students at New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, Yonkers, and Port Chester — none of which are dedicating the funds we are to these programs and most of which have graduation rates that equal or exceed ours. As far as the non-English speaking students, I believe the ESL classes are targeted at helping those students, and if we need to have more of them, then we should; but, again, to my knowledge, the Board has always indicated that the smaller class sizes are due to the large percentage of economically disadvantaged students at MAS and the studies that the based the smaller class size program on are studies that looked at those populations, not non-English speaking populations. (please see the BOE FAQs on the budget, page 15: “[I]t was based on research showing that for economically disadvantaged children, smaller class size and additional resources are strategies that result in higher academic achievement.”) It is also my understanding that the population of ESL students at MAS is about half the size of the population of economically disadvantaged students.

        • Goal Setting and Monitoring. I could not agree more with your goal-setting suggestions. This is where my concern lies — we seem to implement expensive programs with the best of intentions, but not track their success (or lack thereof). It does not appear to me that we do annual assessments of the “best and highest” use of our funds and in that, I believe that our District is both failing the students we are supposed to be helping and over-spending while we are at it. There are estimated to be 5 to 6 additional teachers at MAS this year (over and above what would be required if MAS had the same class sizes at the other three schools – well over a half million dollars in salary and benefits). 65% of the students receiving the “benefit” of the smaller class sizes at MAS do not fall into the targeted group that we are trying to help. Is there not a more targeted, more successful, and less expensive way to actually help these children? (Especially if we do not have any evidence the current program has resulted in any long-term benefits for them?).
        Any digging you could do would be appreciated, and I am happy to help. I want our District to work for all children. I do believe the Board’s intentions are good and appreciate the fact that they volunteer so much time for our District, but this is one area that continues to disappoint me. I have yet to receive any real answers. If they need help, I believe there are quite a number of us who continue to have our hands raised.

        • Jonathan Sacks

          I cannot locate anything from the links or search provided. I do have the complete database from the NYSDOE and I cannot find any information to support this.

          In fact the database does not have graduation rates for “Economically Disadvantaged” only “All Students”, “Students with Disabilities” and “General Education”. The only data identified for performance is at the ELA level. The sub group 660701030006 (Economically Disadvantaged ) had only 24 and 29 students identified as entering into the high school in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

          Of the drop outs (noncompleters) 4 of the 12 were identified as “Students with Disabilities”. The data shows that we had 7 in 2004 and 3 in 2005 enter the high school, this would be a “60% Drop-out rate”, should we assume we do not know how to teach students with disabilities? In both cases these are not statistically sound sample sizes to compare to the “General Education” group, but it does show that in the Economically Disadvantaged group all but 2 students met Level 3 or better criteria. So as you can see there is no way to draw a conclusion on these sub-groups.

          Further I see no way from the public data to be able to identify if a child that did or did not graduate ever attended MAS or for that matter any other school in the MUFSD before grade 9. So somehow using this data to support a conclusion about MAS is not possible. If someone can tell me how to identify this further, I’m more than happy to do the work.
          So as of this writing, on a macro basis it appears that the current education system is performing well and absent of data to show that we should make a change to cut education programs, I don’t want to vote against it. But don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the data, I simply want to make an informed decision, that is my only agenda.

          • Groundhog Day


            For some reason, they keep moving the database. Please try this link:,%202009

            I just double-checked it and it worked.

            You can use the drop-down menu to get the information I have been quoting with regard to graduation rates for each school in Westchester.

            I regret your hostile tone and implication that my data is not grounded in fact. Your hostility is regrettable. I am simply trying to share information, as the Board has not provided any. Why not ask these questions of the Board who is actually charged with managing this? Furthermore, you unfortunately continue to miss the point. I am not claiming that the smaller class sizes do or don’t work. I am saying that there has not, to my knowledge, been any tracking/confirmation one way or the other as to the actual long-term benefits to the MAS students and that is irresponsible. As any attempt to get information regarding the long-term success of this program has failed, the only information I can look to as a potential indicator is the 59% 4 year graduation rate at MHS for Economically Disadvantaged students. While this is not a perfect indicator (for several reasons that you point out), it is the closest I can find. The data you mention has much less of a correlation to the program as, again, it is the “economically disadvantaged” student body that hte program is targeted at helping — it is not based upon race or nationality.

            I am only stating clear facts, as follows:

            1. The BOE has indicated that 35% of MAS students are economically disadvantaged.
            2. The BOE has indicated that the smaller class sizes were implemented 10 years ago as a result of the large economically disadvantaged student body.
            3. Our district has spent millions of dollars on this program.
            4. According to the Lohud database (which you have, unfortunately, to date been unable to locate — see the new link, above), only 59% of the 29 economically disadvantaged students in the 2009 MHS senior class graduated within 4 years.
            5. I have have indicated on numerous occassions that I am open and welcome facts that support that the millions of dollars we have spent have actually had a long-term positive impact on these students, but this is the only data I can find on the population of students that the BOE indicated this program was set-up to help.

            If you are still having technical difficulties locating the information I have shared with you, why not go straight to the Board and they can confirm it.

            As I have no interest in engaging in disrepectful, unproductive conversations, or responding to them further (I count your last post in both categories) — this will end any and all of my responses to your posts.

            It is unfortunate, as I was looking forward to working with you going forward.

            • Judy Silberstein

              graduation rates

              Groundhog and Jonathan: this is the data to which is linking. The source is NYS Department of Education — so the same data base as referenced below.

            • Jonathan Sacks

              There was no disrespect intended and your data is consistent with mine. The number you are looking at is 4 year graduation rate, if you look further at 5 year you will see most of the balance of students. 4 students out of the population of 44 (29 for 2005, 15 for 2004) dropped out. The true graduation rate for this population is 40 out of 44, that is 90%. The data is misleading as you look at it in the database if you only focus on 4 year graduation.

              My points were:
              1. A sample of 44 students is not enough to create a statistical sample.
              2. There is no way to identify that these students came out of the MAS program. The data provided is simply for students that entered MHS in 2004 and 2005. Some of these students never attended any elementary school in the MUFSD.
              3. Before the introduction of the new class size and strategy the school was underperforming in meeting the minimum requirements for the students and many were determined at risk, after the introduction of the current program the school meets or exceeds the state minimum requirement. Although anecdotal, it would appear that the program is successful.

              I did confirm tonight that data does exist in the system that gives the graduation (and drop-out) rates of children out of the MAS program, I will ask the question to see if I can get the data. I also was made aware that a statistic exists to show first year drop-out rates at the college level for this population and apparently it is significantly less than the balance of the population.

              Again, I apologize if my enthusiastic tone in support of what I consider a strong education program came off as disrespectful, it was not my intention.

              • Groundhog Day

                Thank you for your apology. I do understand that these subjects can get very emotional, but I believe that the best way to find solutions is by sharing information in a respectful manner.

                With all due respect, I do not understand why you think the 4 year graduation rate of 59% for Economically Disadvantaged Students is misleading and NOT disappointing. The 4 year graduation rate for Non-Economically Disadvantaged students was 92%! Are you saying you thing the smaller class size program is successful if it results in economically disadvantaged students graduating in 5 years?

                Moreover, our 4 year graduation rate is LOWER than the 4 year graduation rate of school districts that I believe are not as well funded as ours and have much larger populations of Economically Disadvantaged Students (see below):
                Total # students
                % graduated
                % Still enrolled
                % Dropped out

                Mamaroneck Union Free School District 4 year (graduated Aug 2009) Economically Disadvantaged 29 59% 0 7% Details

                Mount Vernon City School District 4 year (graduated Aug 2009) Economically Disadvantaged 293 78% 0 2% Details

                New Rochelle High School 4 year (graduated Aug 2009) Economically Disadvantaged 259 72% 4%


                • It is a fact, not an assumption, that according to the BOE, the large majority of our District’s Economically disadvantaged students at the elementary level go to MAS (I believe their statistic is 35% of MAS students are economically disadvantaged – it is in single digits in the other 3 schools)
                • “29” (the number of Economically Disadvantaged Students in the 2009 MHS graduation numbers) approximately equates to 35% of a full year’s students at MAS.
                • Let’s assume that we did not have a complete turn-over of Economically Disadvantaged Students (meaning, let’s assume that, upon graduation from MAS, all of those students did not leave the district, at which point we coincidentally had an incoming new student body with approximately the same number of Economically Disadvantaged Students.)
                Once again, I am only working with the very sparse information I have been able to gather myself. Please ask your questions of the BOE, I would welcome seeing the response. I want to believe that we have not wasted millions of dollars on a program that is not working.

                I am only asking questions, which I think you would agree need to be asked:

                • Are we doing the best that we can for these (and all) students with the resources we have?
                • Are we wasting resources on an expensive program – resources that could be used in a more direct manner (or, based upon these statistics, perhaps partially deployed at the HS level)? (Again, I would love if the answer is no – but am not pleased with having to go to a 5 year graduation rate to see a rate that approaches that of the general population – we should have a better 4 year graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students).
                • Can we please start tracking the data of this (and all other programs that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on) going forward, as any business would, to ensure that we are using our resources in the best and most effective way possible to educate and support all of the District’s students?

                Please continue to ask questions and gather and share data. It is much appreciated.

          • Anon E Mous

            Information, facts and opinions. For each to analyze through their own eyes:

          • Anon E Mous

            More information, facts and opinions. For each to analyze through their own eyes: <a href="; rel="nofollow"

  • Anon E Mous

    Graduation rates are highly correlated with socioeconomic status and the extent to which schools are pressured to graduate students.

    The mistake is made of assuming when there are high grades and high graduation rates that they are due to the school, yet evidence of effectiveness of the schools or staff performance is missing.

    If the School Districts and the Municipalities measured accomplishments and managed to those measurements spending would be less, accomplishment more. Yes, this would be like turning a ship around, and so the start is at the polls tomorrow, voting no to the same path of budget increases absent validation of their effectiveness.

    ‘Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.’ – H.G.Wells

    • Sushi Says

      I don’t think this is more true of any school system out there than Mamaroneck Public Schools. The teaching has always been so over-rated for decades now; and the teaching staff has been riding the coat tails of the higher socio economic community living here as well as the fact that if you stuck most of the school’s population in a room, taught them the 3 basics, and little else, undoubtedly, they would self-educated over achievers as they have proven for the last 70 or so years in this community.

      The credentials of the teaching staff have never been superior – but the teachers have benefited enormously from the fact that the students are so driven and self motivated to succeed. They focus on the top students and hope all the rest follow suit. Most do out of peer pressure to perform well. But the teaching in the Mamaroneck School District? Third rate at best overall. A pity for the tax payers. And a dirty little secret that people refuse to readily admit, publicly.