From the Superintendent of Schools


    From all of us here at Cleveland Hill, we hope that you had a wonderful holiday season, and that the first half of the school year has been a positive experience for all.  The intent of these updates is to provide you with the most accurate and up to date information that we can.  As I draft this message it is mid-December, and though things have been going fairly smoothly, it is difficult to predict what challenges we may be facing when you receive this issue of Highlights later in January.  To date, if there is one point of emphasis that I can make regarding this school year, it is the fact that I believe our goal of keeping students in school, full-time, five days a week will be attained.  I know rumors have circulated that Erie County schools may be forced to shift to hybrid or remote learning models.  I assure you that those are only rumors, and at this point, we have absolutely no intention of doing any such thing.  As long as we can maintain the safe environments in the buildings, we will fight to keep our students in school.


    We are presently watching Erie County’s Test-to-Stay pilot program being done in the Grand Island School District.  This program allows students to avoid being quarantined after being identified as a COVID-19 close contact by being tested each morning before school.  So far, the results have been excellent, with about 99% of the students being tested not testing positive and able to attend school.  These results closely mirror what we are seeing out of Monroe County where they have been running a Test-to-Stay program for a couple of months now.  I hope that by the time you receive this newsletter, that Erie County has expanded this program and that we have it here at Cleve Hill.


    I am excited to report that we are in the early stages of developing the scope of work for our next capital project.  This project will focus largely on replacing or maintaining current mechanical systems and infrastructure that were identified as being in “unsatisfactory condition” in our most recent state required Building Condition Survey.  The Board of Education has again made it our goal that this project will have no impact on our tax levy.  I am regularly asked how we can spend millions of dollars and not impact the tax levy – I will try to explain that below.


    First, Cleveland Hill is considered a “high needs” district by NYS.  Having this designation makes us eligible for a higher percentage of building aid from the state.  In fact, we receive 89.8% back on every dollar we spend on aidable work completed in a capital project.  So, if we invest $10,000,000 in capital improvements, we actually receive $8,980,000 back from the state in building aid.  So where would the other $1,020,000 come from?  It comes from our reserve accounts and fund balance.  Much like we all try to save money at home when we can, we do the same here at Cleveland Hill.  Moving forward, we will work with our architects, construction managers, financial advisors and Board of Education to evaluate and prioritize the work needed to be done, and how much work we can afford with the money in savings being used to cover any of the costs not being reimbursed through New York State building aid.  We will be sharing specific details regarding this in the coming weeks.  We expect to have this building project up for voter approval in May.


    As I detailed in my November article, preparing for this school year, we anticipated a significant increase in the number of students who would need additional social, emotional and behavioral support after not having a full school year since 2018-19.  In fact, we have doubled our student and family support services since the onset of the pandemic.  I am pleased to report that we are beginning to see some good progress in this regard.  Our effectiveness is greatly enhanced when we work in concert with our families.  Please know that taking a proactive approach and reaching out to us when your child may begin to show signs of struggle can be of vital importance.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if your child seems to be struggling in any way.  Please know that we are not only here for your child, but for you and your family as well.  We will do everything that we can to assist.


    Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to express my most sincere appreciation for your incredible support, cooperation and patience.  I know how challenging and frustrating these last couple of years have been on all of us.  From remote learning, hybrid, quarantines, isolations, masking, testing, personal loss and an abundance of uncertainty at every corner, this has been a much longer ride than most of us ever anticipated.  We have all faced challenges that we could have never imagined.  But we continue to work together as a school community, to provide our children and leaders of tomorrow the best education and supports that we can.


    Jon T. MacSwan