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Monticello Board of Education adopts 2024-25 proposed budget

Alex Kielar
Posted 4/23/24

MONTICELLO – The Monticello Central School District Board of Education held its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 16. The meeting began with an executive session at 6:30 p.m. before the open …

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Monticello Board of Education adopts 2024-25 proposed budget


MONTICELLO – The Monticello Central School District Board of Education held its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 16. The meeting began with an executive session at 6:30 p.m. before the open meeting began just after 7:30 p.m. 

Several action items were voted on, none more polarizing than the vote to adopt the 2024-2025 proposed school budget. The proposed $100,277,426 budget was passed unanimously by the board. It is a 2.44 percent increase from last year’s budget and carries a 2.6 percent to the tax levy. Superintendent Matthew Evans noted that the previous two school budgets had zero percent increases to the tax levy. 

Residents will vote on the proposed budget and elect three members to the Monticello Board of Education on Tuesday, May 21. 

The biggest concern from the public is that the alternative school, St. John Street Community School (SJS) which offers individualized learning for Monticello High School students who need a non-traditional pathway to success, would move to the high school in the proposed budget. 

Many public commenters were current or former students of SJS and said they felt a greater sense of belonging at the alternative school than at the high school as it gives them an atmosphere in which they can thrive. Many students also noted that they nearly dropped out or knew they weren’t going to graduate before they began the SJS program. Those same students said that they have now made the honor roll consistently and have been excited about learning. Another consistent theme in the comments was that SJS has been like a family to them and makes them feel safe.

“I don’t know where I’d be without this program,” said Mariyah Foreman, who will graduate in two months. “People will be there for me and they won’t give up on us or judge us. I’m not up for me, I’m up here for upcoming students like me. A program like SJS doesn’t come around often.”

St. John Street teacher Phillip Alden said that throughout his three years of working in education so far, he has never had a work experience as phenomenal as being a part of the staff at the alternative high school. 

“I can’t describe the passion behind this team as anything less than a force,” Alden said. “The atmosphere I’m surrounded by is inspiring. [There is] a pure motivational drive backed by a sense of hope and importance that is unmatched by any job I’ve ever held previously.”

Alden also said that it is built into their schedule for the staff to stay an hour after the students leave, which is time that they use to discuss the successes they had throughout the day and create plans on how to solve complications that arise. He noted that the separate space in the SJS building provides the environment for the staff to work at one hundred percent of its potential, as they are free from distractions that exist at the main campus. 

“Our students have a negative view of the main campus,” Alden said. “They do not feel safe in that building, whether it be from previous interactions with students or trauma from personal experiences that have been projected onto the idea of going to school.”

Another recurring theme in the public comments was the fact that SJS helps students which much more than just education, but also makes them feel heard as well as providing a safe environment and a different approach to learning. 

Susan Mendoza, a business owner in the community, spoke on behalf of a student at SJS and also gave her own view of the situation. 

“Education is not and should not be a one-size-fits-all,” said Mendoza. “The fact that these students have stood up here tonight, wrote their own speeches and have the guts to stand here with such confidence to read in front of you is a testament to the incredible staff and their hearts and souls. I know you mentioned, Dr. Evans, about balancing a budget. What’s really important to consider here is the balancing of a child.”

Echoing the thoughts of Mendoza was SJS math teacher Thomas Ventre, who said that if you let the staff and students be themselves, their personality will shine through in everything that they do. 

“Tonight, the students that so bravely spoke, fighting off anxiety, nerves and tears,” Ventre said, “are the same students that are cast off, forgotten or given up on at the high school. But tonight, they are here fighting because not only do they care about their academics but they also care about their peers.” 


Comments from  Superintendent Evans

As he took in the all the public comments about SJS, a majority of which shined a negative light on the main campus high school, Superintendent Evans had his own point of view to share to recognize those comments.  

“I certainly have been around long enough to recognize that there are no cookie cutter environments for kids and that every kid has a unique space, mindset, attributes and how they approach things,” said Evans. “I also recognize that people are entitled to their opinions, good, bad or indifferent about different programs that we run.”

On that note, however, Evans said that a vast majority of staff at the high school care deeply about the students.

“So I wouldn’t in any way want some of the comments that were made to cast dispersions upon our staff members,” he stated. “Because the vast majority of them do excellent work everyday for our kids.”

Evans also mentioned that when they began exploring the process of moving SJS to the high school, he knew that they would need a special leader to help facilitate the process. That leader being the new principal of Monticello High School, Jennifer Gorr, who was formally recognized by the board on Tuesday. Gorr was hired as principal of St. John Street Community School when the alternative school was launched by the school district. 

Evans said, “I want to thank Ms. Gorr for her willingness to step up and transfer into this position.”


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