August 30, 2013

Prospect of school closing dims season’s start

Hard to believe it’s been about 15 years since the last major demographic shift hit the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. At that time, the district announced that some of the students enrolled at Katonah Elementary School would be shifted to Increase Miller Elementary School in Goldens Bridge. Despite an outcry from parents — including legal action to try to stop the redistricting — students from the Katonah Ridge area north of Route 22 and west of Route 35 now attend Increase Miller.

Judging by the outcry at the time (which impacted relatively few families), the district may be advised to brace itself for a powder keg on its hands as it approaches the topic of a school closure in the district.

It is no secret that economics in the district are, in the words of more than one administrator and board member, “unsustainable.”

A group of district residents, aware of the constraints on the school system from both the tax cap and escalating salaries and benefits, formed the coalition “Forward Together KLSD” seeking a workable solution to the district’s future. “We are 860 community members who have joined our voices in an independent grass-roots movement to ask that Katonah-Lewisboro teachers, staff and administration work collaboratively with the board of education to develop a sustainable budget in an environment in which Katonah-Lewisboro’s revenue is now limited by the tax cap.”

A school closure task force is entrusted with analyzing the costs and other factors associated with shutting one or possibly more elementary schools in the district. These include Katonah and Increase Miller in Goldens Bridge; Lewisboro Elementary School; and Meadow Pond Elementary School in South Salem. While enrollment is decreasing throughout the district, no school or schools have yet been targeted.

The committee, chaired by board trustee Janet Harckham, includes board vice president Marjorie Schiff and trustee Richard Stone, assistant superintendent for business Michael Jumper, assistant superintendent for curriculum Alice Cronin, assistant superintendent for human resources Harry LeFevre, director of transportation Patricia Kristoferson and director of operations and maintenance Tom Psomas. It will also include the parent council president or a designee and one representative to be named from each of the unions, the Katonah-Lewisboro Association of Administrators and Supervisors, the Katonah-Lewisboro Support Staff Association and the Katonah-Lewisboro District Teacher’s Association along with a special education representative.

What makes this task all the more difficult is the vastness of the district. Anyone who has traveled from Katonah to Vista to drop off teenagers on a Friday or Saturday night knows that it can be almost as long a trip as traveling from Katonah to Grand Central via Metro-North. Whichever school or schools are closed will mean a much longer commute for many students and inevitable inconvenience to parents.

In addition, there is sure to be an outcry about the loss of traditional values that come from attending a nearby elementary school, which can be measured in friendships made, values shared and the sense of a tight-knit community.

Although New York State law requires only one public hearing, four board meetings with school closure on the agenda along with subsequent gatherings in the community are scheduled prior to the initial filing. The public sessions will be held at the middle school, on “neutral ground,” and at different times of day to accommodate diverse schedules. “We’re trying to be as open and transparent as absolutely possible with the process,” said Ms. Harckham at a meeting in early August.

After the impact statement receives board approval, a public hearing is required by law to solicit community feedback. The committee has a month to get input and implement the changes.

In early August, the district announced it will be presenting the findings from the task force on Dec. 19. Depending on which district you live in, it may come as one heck of a holiday gift.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

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  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

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Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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