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Outsourcing Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow Pre-K

Dr. Howard Smith has proposed a budget for the next school year that requires moving Pre-K teachers to higher grades and contracting out their jobs.

Despite a projected budget in better shape than recent economic-slump years past, the Tarrytown Union Free School District still has to make its annual sacrifices.

This year, talks of major structural change to the pre-kindergarten program in the face of swelling student population elsewhere in the system had all the pre-k staff in attendance at the latest Board of Education meeting, worried for their fate.

The idea is to farm out the pre-k to contracted workers and reassign the six unionized staffers currently there (three teachers and three teaching assistants) to positions otherwise requiring new hires.

Though Smith has assured teachers there will be a job for them on the other side, somewhere, this doesn’t sit right for many.

One pre-k teacher, who didn't want to use her name, said she was new to our system this school year and noted how sick over the news she was, losing sleep, “not knowing where I’ll be next year.”

Following the staff’s presence at the latest board meeting, the Teachers’ Association sent a letter to Smith.

“The tentative budget proposal that eliminates the district-run Pre-Kindergarten program and outsources these services to an outside, private agency ends a 45 year old district tradition,” the letter began.

Check back for the full version of this letter to be posted later today on Patch.

From the national level (President Barack Obama proposing universal pre-k in his State of the Union address) to talk here of a more robust pre-k statewide, pre-kindergarten has certainly been a matter of scrutiny for some time.

According to Smith, the state has in the past granted a waiver to Tarrytown's program to the requirement that they contract out the pre-k. The state has announced it wouldn’t approve that waiver any more.

This is matched with the problem that the pre-k has been supported largely by state funds which have been frozen at the same level for five years, not keeping pace with annually rising costs. “We’ve been underwriting the program,” Smith said.

Then there’s that population bubble coming up in older grades (3rd, 4th, and 6th grades) which requires budgeting in additional teachers next year. Of course, faced with the infamous tax cap, Smith can’t add to staff “without finding savings elsewhere,” he said.

“With the money saved from contracting out and the level of funding from the state, we can fill a few new elementary positions,” Smith said.

Namely: adding a new teacher in 3rd, 4th and 6th grades to keep classes at the 22-25 student standard. There’s also a proposed new halftime and one full-time special ed teacher position at the high school and one new ESL teacher for the elementary school.

“When the dust settles, as long as you have enough positions for everybody, everyone will have a place," Smith said. Teachers can make requests annually for where they want to be placed and he said he'd find a way to fit everyone accordingly.

Though all pre-k teachers are certified to teach through the elementary grades, that doesn’t mean they want to. “They are there for a reason: they love it,” Smith said. “They wouldn’t voluntarily choose this, but no one’s going to lose a job.”

In the end, says Smith, he bequeaths a district in relatively healthy shape to the new Superintendent Dr. Christopher Clouet.

“If we can pull that off, we can feel good at a time when I’m leaving, that we’re handing over a staff that hasn’t faced carnage like other districts," Smith said.

As far as who will be staffing the pre-k, the district is sending out a request for proposals to local agencies. The program would still be housed at John Paulding School, Smith said, with the same principal and operating by the same principles. The district still approves the curriculum and maintains the same standards from certified staff.

The now-tentatively balanced budget will be formally proposed on March 7, and until then, there’s some “holding our breaths making sure nothing else comes up that would change that," Smith said. "We're in a position that proposes increased staff not layoffs.”

The Teachers' Association begs to differ with this "healthy" status. "It seems shortsighted to do away with a well-established, educationally sound, successful program to save money," their letter stated.

Stay tuned for more. What do you think about a contracted out pre-k? Tell us in the comments.

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Heron February 21, 2013 at 03:50 PM
This decision makes sense to me. It sounds very reasonable. They aren't doing away with the program (which isn't an option for many people because there's an income cutoff) - they are just outsourcing it.
Cynthia Aridas February 21, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Seems like more funny accounting from Smith. Why, all of a sudden, do we need additional 3rd, 4th and 6th grade teachers? These kids were just in 2nd, 3rd and 5th, so will we not have a surplus of those grades? With taxes we pay, should be able to keep the Pre-K exactly as-is.
Jennifer Clarke February 22, 2013 at 01:13 AM
Can someone explain why outsourcing makes sense? What will these outsourced educators bring to the pre-k that the current educators aren't? Will these outsourced educators receive health benefits and other benefits that the current educators receive? Are they as well-trained? I am a Tarrytown tax-payer with no children of my own and I am not a teacher or affiliated with the schools but strongly believe in the importance of education. There is a tremendous amount of psychological and economic research on the positive and long lasting effects of early childhood education. As a community we should be doing everything possible to ensure that schools receive the funding and support to give all children the opportunity to thrive. If there is more information on the rationale of the outsourcing, I'd truly appreciate hearing about it.
Karina Arreola February 22, 2013 at 02:38 PM
I totally agree with you, and I don't have children they will attend, my son is attending Pre-K program this year and I can say teachers are well trained, they are awsome. Our children need early education, why they don't ask the Kindergarten teachers about how helpful is for the children coming from the Pre-K program, my son is able to count to 100 with just some help. The problem is when the kids don't receive enough early education from the begining, then problems start to pop-up later in their school life. It's like math, if you don't learn well how to add or substract, then you won't be able to multiply or divide!
Hugo Lyppens February 22, 2013 at 03:59 PM
@Heron: AFAIK, there is no income cut-off for Pre-K at the Tarrytowns school district.
Heron February 22, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Thanks Hugo. There was a cut-off when my kids were in Pre-K but that was a long time ago. From what I'm reading, they don't plan to do away with the Pre-K program -- they just want to outsource it, which is something that districts do to save money. There would still be a program, and the teachers would be offered jobs teaching a different elementary school grade.
Michelle Spino Andruss March 11, 2013 at 02:18 PM
I think the current second class is large so they have one or possible two more classes than the other grades. That is why we need to add more teachers at the third grade level. That is also why Morse does not a designated Music room anymore they needed it for the added second grade class.

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