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Castellani responds to citizen concerns

January 16th, 2013

Marlboro School Superintendent Ray Castellani, who attended the Marlboro Community Concerns meeting, acknowledged that most of the information compiled in the PowerPoint presentation was accurate and correct. He said the district has a two-fold plan to meet the challenges ahead, with the first phase making $5 million in spending reductions.

“That is strictly in personnel and programs; to the way we deliver school services in the district; it’s closing two elementary schools; it’s restructuring central office staff and [down] to pencils and paper,” he said.

Castellani said class sizes would increase but “still be maintainable, still education-sound.”

Castellani said this phase does not include the restructuring of teacher contracts or transportation costs.

The superintendent said another plan under consideration would make deep cuts to programs, increase class sizes to 35 students at the elementary level, reduce all extra curricular activities and trim some Advanced Placement and higher level course offerings.

“It is somewhere we don’t want to go but based on where these numbers are going to come in the next couple of months is what we have to decide,” he said of the still unfolding Dynegy bankruptcy/auction settlement.

Castellani said the $4.5 million in reserves can be used to offset the coming impacts, however, some of this has to be set aside to cover state-fixed teacher and employee retirement costs. He did not state an exact number for these costs.

Castellani said the main issue is what the plants’ assessments will be, figures that have not yet been settled or released to the district or the public. The two plants combined were assessed at $895 million but the final assessment number is sure to plummet, especially in light of the recent sale of the two plants for $23 million and the scheduled demolition of the Danskammer plant. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the plants involve 24 tax parcels, making assessment figures even more time-consuming to calculate.

Castellani said the school board is fully aware of the present state of affairs.

“We want to work together with the community and the groups that are out there,” he said. “The Board of Education is willing to take on more members and where they place them is the board president’s prerogative.”
Castellani made a promise to the community.

“There is no secret I am trying to hide or the board’s trying to hide. There is no game anyone is trying to play,” he said. “This is real. This affects me; this affects my children and everyone on the board’s children and everybody in this town. We want to make sure that we as a community, can try to attack this. What’s been done in the past can be questioned and can be discussed and that’s fine [but] but moving forward is really where we need to be.”

Castellani said he does not put credence into rumors and allegations but he assured the public that at board meetings there is no laughing, joking or snide comments being made about the public’s concerns or comments – “that is simply not true.”

“This is affecting every one of us in a horrific way and we take this very seriously,” he said. “I am here to work with you, not hide from you and not try to trick anyone. That’s always really how I feel.”

— Mark Reynolds

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