Assemblywoman Jenne: North Country Schools Getting $600,000 More in Supplemental State Aid

July 18, 2017

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, has announced over half a million dollars of supplemental school aid is headed to North Country school districts.

The funding for supplemental aid was passed in a resolution at the close of this year’s legislative session, after Jenne successfully advocated on behalf of schools in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties.

"I'm grateful that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie understands the challenges facing our public schools in New York State and ensured additional funding is available to assist some of our schools with the greatest needs. He recognizes the critical importance of providing all students in the state – whether they are in the Bronx or in rural areas like St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties – with access to a high-quality education," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

She noted the supplemental aid is critical for a number of North Country school districts still recovering from several years of fiscal stress that resulted in the loss of educational programs, larger class sizes and reductions in staffing that impacted some schools' abilities to provide their students with a quality education,

The assemblywoman has consistently fought for additional funding for schools that have the highest needs.

"I advocated to have supplemental aid targeted to North Country districts that face particular challenges due to the dynamics of their student populations. Small city schools have traditionally been underfunded and benefit greatly from the additional funding. We have other schools in the region, like Canton, that were hit hard by the GEA cuts," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

The Ogdensburg City School District has been awarded an additional $300,000 in state aid and an additional $100,000 has been secured for the Watertown City School District.

"The Ogdensburg school district has a large percentage of tax-exempt property and high levels of poverty. OFA Superintendent Tim Vernsey has told me in the past that without the nearly $1.5 million in supplemental aid I have secured for his district in recent years, district officials would have been forced to make deep cuts to the district's music and art programs and to reduce AP class offerings," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

Mr. Vernsey said he was grateful for Assemblywoman Jenne's advocacy in getting additional state aid appropriated to the district.

"Assemblywoman Jenne's support of the Ogdensburg City School District is longstanding and very much appreciated. Her financial assistance over the years has helped Ogdensburg maintain several key programs that allow our students to get the most out of an excellent liberal arts education," he said. "Her work on behalf of the entire North Country has been positive throughout her tenure as our representative in the Assembly," the OFA school superintendent stressed.

Watertown City School Superintendent Patrica LaBarr said she was thrilled to learn additional funds were headed to the North Country.

"This was Christmas in July for the Watertown City School District. Our next board of education meeting is on Aug. 1, and we will discuss the best use of this money in supporting our students. We are beyond grateful for the support from Addie Jenne to help our school and community.”

Eight schools – Alexandria, Lyme, Canton, Hammond, Heuvelton, Massena, Morristown and Norwood-Norfolk – will each receive $25,000.

"I have always fought to make sure our schools in the North Country get their fair share of state aid so they have the resources necessary to provide students with a quality education," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

"Our North Country schools did well with state aid in this budget, but many of our school districts are still recovering from years of fiscal challenges. That's why I have continued to work to secure additional funding for schools in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties after the budget negotiations were completed," she added.

"We know that small city schools are traditionally underfunded. There are also a number of other districts in the region that have challenges ranging from high percentages of tax-exempt property to schools classified as average-needs districts that have their state aid revenues skewed due to valuable waterfront property values that don't take into account the high levels of poverty in those same communities," Assemblywoman Jenne continued.

Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady said the funding will be utilized to help pay for a study as well as to aid the district's community schools effort.

"We appreciate Addie’s continued support of our students and staff in Massena. She has been a great friend to our school," he said. "We plan to use some of the funding to support a school consolidation feasibility study, which is examining our programs and operations to enhance quality and efficiency. This work will begin this summer and include a host of school and community members to provide input."

"We would also use funding to support our Community Schools initiative to provide additional supports to our students and families. This may include afterschool programming, mental health services and educational resources," Mr. Brady added.

Former Heuvelton Central School Superintendent Susan Todd, who received news of the additional funding on the day before her retirement from the district, said the allocation will be utilized to purchase new tables and chairs for the high school section of the school cafeteria as well as for equipment for classrooms.

Ms. Todd said Assemblywoman Jenne had asked her about needs that might have been delayed due to budget constraints.

"I explained that an area that continued to be put on the back burner for districts like mine was the replacement of furniture, since there is no state aid revenue source allotted for items such as the cafeteria tables that are in really bad shape and are in need of being replaced at Heuvelton," Todd said.

The outgoing superintendent added she was appreciative of Assemblywoman Jenne's advocacy for providing the necessary resources to public schools so districts such as Heuvelton can provide a quality education to their students.

Alexandria Central School Superintendent George Merritt pledged to use the additional funding to improve the educational experience for students in the district. He said the supplemental funds will be utilized to continue the district's new venture, MakerSpace opportunities. The program will revolutionize science, technology, engineering and math labs and allow students a dynamic new learning experience.

MakerSpaces frequently include elements found in computer labs, science labs and wood shops in a single space. Mr. Merritt said his district’s MakerSpaces will range from Lego projects for younger students to CNC cutter and plastic modeling tools and equipment for older students.

Lyme Central School Superintendent Cammy Morrison said she envisions utilizing the supplemental aid for making improvements to the district's outdated public address and telephone systems.

"We at Lyme remain grateful for the ongoing support from Assemblywoman Jenne. We are in desperate need of upgrading our communication systems in the district. Our gymnasium is also our auditorium and that wide open space, along with very old and outdated equipment, presents all kinds of issues for drama productions, graduation ceremonies, staff development and academic presentations by and for students," Ms. Morrison said.

"In addition, we would also hope to utilize at least a portion of those funds for updating our telephones throughout the district. We have recently been notified by our vendor that our telephones are now considered obsolete and can no longer be repaired or replaced. This is a huge expense for the district and one that was not planned," she added.

Lafargeville Central School Superintendent Travis Hooper said he was excited when he learned the district would be receiving supplemental aid. He expressed the district's gratitude for Assemblywoman Jenne's work to have additional aid directed to the district. He said the funding will be used for technology upgrades.

"This funding is going to allow us to upgrade our wireless infrastructure so we will be able to move forward with a 1:1 initiative at the secondary school," Mr. Hooper said, noting the district will be providing Chrome Books for all students in grades 7-12.