Niskayuna school officials worked Wednesday night to learn what parents and residents value in their schools.
The discussion came with the backdrop of the impending 2014-15 school district budget debate and a budget gap that could be as much as $2.6 million.
Wednesday night’s effort, billed as a community conversation, tried to get those attending to prioritize district programs.
“We really want tonight to be a step back, a deep breath, and take an opportunity to talk about what we value and what we prioritize in Niskayuna,” Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio told those gathered.
The event was centered around questions posed in small groups. The big question was simply: “If you only had one dollar to spend, where would you spend it?”
Leaders of each group reported back at the conclusion. Groups focused on multiple areas, including saying the core academic program and meeting the needs of all students was most important.
Several of the groups also wanted more information on the structure of administration in the district.
In one group, parent Daniel Kos said he thought the district needed to concentrate its efforts on giving students the best education, rather than things that might look good but not serve that purpose.
“I think really what we need is just more focus on kids and core teaching,” he said.
Those attending were also invited to write on sticky notes their thoughts about what the district must do, even in the most challenging times. Those notes were then gathered on a board.
One note read simply “maintain high-quality academic programs.” Another note read “make necessary decisions to balance the budget!”
The district is expected to hold more gatherings in coming weeks. The school board is also expected to start its focused budget discussions soon.
One area that is off the table this year, however, is closing a school. The board last week voted to table that discussion for the year.