Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...
I began my career as a business teacher. One of the concepts business teachers teach students is that if one invests wisely, one will reap the benefits of social and economic returns.
This logic can be applied to the community’s investment in our schools. I am proud to say that over the last several decades I have been associated with the Lancaster Central School District, the community has invested wisely and is reaping the benefits of its investment.
We have a highly effective and engaged workforce, our buildings are in excellent condition. Our students are top achievers in academics, athletics, music, and a host of other endeavors. For example, the Class of 2012 achieved $6.1 million in scholarships and awards. Judging by the Top 10 students featured in this publication, we can expect more of the same from the Class of 2013.
Our students have gone on to become leaders, from shore to shore of this great country and beyond, but also right here at home. Yes, contrary to conventional wisdom that so many of our young people leave the area for careers and lives elsewhere, Lancaster reaps the return on investment in our excellent education system in the form of generations of alumni who are proud to call this community home–our last two town supervisors and other elected officials, business owners and business leaders, teachers, administrators, coaches, doctors, lawyers, nurses, policemen, firemen and other civil servants proudly wore the red and black in their formative years.
In other areas of the state and country, the converse has also shown to be true. Those communities that do not invest wisely in their educational systems and infrastructure have seen a decline in property values and the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Once that decline begins, it is difficult to turn around.
While we have been keeping a close eye on the bottom line and striving to earn the faith you place in us, Business First recently reported that Lancaster once again ranks last in per-pupil expenditure in Western New York. In other words, according to data supplied by the New York State Education Department, we are spending the least, per pupil, out of all 98 districts in this region.
This is one ranking for which we are overjoyed to come in last place! Compared to the state average spending of $20,410 in 2011, the most recent year in which official figures are available, Lancaster spent $12,894 per pupil, and 5 percent less than its closest runner-up.
None of this would be possible without the tireless and dedicated support of our staff–from teachers to everyone behind the scenes. Not only do they deliver above and beyond every day, but to a person, they took voluntary wage concessions in their paychecks last year that enabled us to adopt a budget that was below the state-imposed tax cap, while maintaining the integrity of our outstanding educational program and preserving jobs for many in our community.
While there are other communities lamenting budgets that call for staff cuts this year, it is important for our community to know that as the result of declining enrollment beginning with the 2009-10 school year, a total of 63.5 FTE (full time equivalent) positions have been reduced from our budget, including 28.5 FTE teaching positions, 34 FTE support staff positions, and one administrative position. Thus, wehave been reducing personnel gradually over the last several years, thereby avoiding the massive layoffs that some districts are experiencing. Declining enrollment and anticipated retirements are once again contributing to stable class sizes, staff retention, and cost containment this year.
Inside this year's annual budget report, we provide an update on our successful academies that partner with iconic Western New York institutions; we are the only school district in Western New York that offers six career-focused academies. Despite budgetary constraints being felt throughout the state, our music and athletics departments remain strong and robust. They continue to make our community proud with award-winning productions and championship teams, all the while promoting individual talent, sportsmanship, and teamwork.
At a recent board of education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Pupil Services, Dr. Michael J. Vallely, presented our New York State School Report Card, which contains some of our best results ever in math, English Language Arts, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and other learning opportunities for students. In some cases, not only did we exceed our own best results, but we are performing at a level that is among the best in Western New York. One thing I think we can do a better job at is giving taxpayers more examples of ‘return on investment.’ This year's annual budget report seeks to do just that.
If there is one piece of sage advice I can leave you with as I present my last budget to this community as superintendent, it is to remember that the investment you make in our school system not only benefits the students of today, but it also enhances your property value and ensures that we are putting forth our community’s best effort toward building a responsible, prepared, well-educated citizenry for the Lancaster of tomorrow.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for allowing me to serve the families of this community in what has been a most fulfilling and rewarding career. Lancaster has been a wonderful community in which to grow up, raise a family of my own, and work with you to provide a sound education for all of our families. I have many blessings to count. As always, on behalf of the children of this community, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
Edward J. Myszka
Superintendent of Schools