An Update from Local Superintendents of Schools
Dr Eric Lutinski, Superintendent of Rye Neck Schools (left) and Dr. Robert Shaps, Superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools
By Janet Bear
Dr Eric Lutinski, Superintendent of Rye Neck Schools and Dr. Robert Shaps, Superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools, addressed the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit webinar co-hosted by LMC Media on Tuesday, April 5th, providing an update on the focus and current needs of their school communities and the impact on their upcoming school budgets.
After summarizing the actions of the Rye Neck school system at the start of the pandemic two years ago until today, Dr. Lutinski stated, “This years’ goal is to prioritize full time learning and keep students in school where they belong.” Many students had to re-learn how to sit still for a 42-minute class and interact with their peers and teachers. This resulted in the addition of support staff in academics, guidance, a bi-lingual social worker as well as reinstating funding for clubs and intramural sports. Parents had to assume a greater role, and the school system has worked to improve communication through a new website, weekly newsletters and use of google classroom. Rye Neck Schools are making a “slow crawl back to in person events” with the return of musical theater and the upcoming “Spring Forward” PTSA outdoor event, to name a few.
Several capital projects were completed during the pandemic, including the addition of a middle school gym and the opening of the Collaborative Science Center. Dr. Lutinski stated the Rye Neck proposed ’22-’23 school budget is $47.5 million, a $1.5 million increase resulting in a 1.8% tax increase. The highlights include an investment in technology and an increase in support staff including a new Assistant Principal for the middle school. Schools exist to “bring people together” and the Covid experience has required “heavy lifting by teachers, staff, students and parents.”
Both Superintendents thanked the tremendous support they have received from Westchester County (Executive Latimer and the Health Department) as well as State Senator Mayer and Representative Otis throughout the pandemic, including testing and on-site vaccination clinics.
Dr. Shaps added special thanks for the support received following tropical storm Ida last September. The Mamaroneck school system suffered $3.5 million in damages as well as a cascade of mental and emotional health issues. Given these challenges, Dr. Shaps indicated that the greatest success this year is a “sense of normalcy”. Thanks to the efforts of educators, staff and families, Mamaroneck has seen academic progress. For example, Dr. Shaps highlighted the creative use of technology in the music program, the introduction of an advisory program in the middle and high schools to bring together students and faculty, and the continued expansion of the Dual Language program. After 10 years it has 480 students in K-8 and will expand to the 9th grade next year. This years’ efforts, like Rye Neck, are to get back to “typical (school) experiences”.
Dr. Shaps indicated that the proposed ’22-’23 Mamaroneck school budget is $149.7 million, an increase of $4.7 million with an anticipated slight decrease in the tax rate. This budget has been driven by non-instructional challenges (e.g. transportation, retirement costs, special education and purchased services) but includes extra funding for STEM programs and staff expansions. Capital work is about to begin on a new STEM Design Lab and work will be completed on a new Culinary Arts suite. This summer will see five of the schools with capital construction projects. Dr. Shaps is thankful for the “return to normal”, the joy of welcoming families back into the school and “pride in the staff”.
During the Q&A session we learned that the local high schools continue to have success in their college placements, but this year proved to be more competitive because of an increase in applications due to deferrals from the class of 2021. Our local schools emphasize self-motivation, depth of study and students’ passion and work with students to meet their needs. Over the past 5 years, 14% of Mamaroneck students are the 1st generation to attend college.
The public was reminded that the school budget vote and school board member elections will be on Tuesday, May 17th and absentee ballots will be accepted. Both school districts will send out written materials and budget information is available on their websites.
For information on the school budgets:
Rye Neck: https://www.ryeneck.org/domain/340
The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make a better life for the community by keeping it informed of major issues of concern. The next Zoom program, co-hosted by LMC Media, will be Tuesday, May 10th at 8:00 a.m. and will take a look at Affordable Housing, including what has worked in other communities.
Visit the Local Summit online: https://www.localsummitlm.org/LMC