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Superintendent Slentz Meets Rotarians, Talks Future

The future was in the spotlight when Superintendent Ken Slentz spoke to the Skaneateles Rotary Club recently.

“In the past, I’ve told you more about the ‘WHAT’,” Slentz said. “Now, we are talking more about the ‘WHY.’”

In everything the district is doing – from curriculum and budget planning to Project 2021 development – the future is key.  Guided by the best research available, the district is looking ahead three, five and ten years or more.  Where once there was an awareness that schools were preparing students for jobs in the future that didn’t exist yet, “now we are preparing kids for jobs NEXT YEAR that we don’t have names for,” Slentz said.

There also has been a change in “how the kids are coming to us,” Slentz said.  There are more mental health issues and social emotional issues than before. “We must look through a broader lens than ever before,” he said.  Students must be well in every way – physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually as well as intellectually – in order to learn … and in order for the district to help make them READY for their future, he said.

The Skaneateles Central School District has a history of excellence, Slentz said. In order to continue to meet  that expectation of excellence, it is necessary to increasingly look into untraditional approaches.  Now, more than ever, students must be nimble, he said. The students who reach their own potential “understand what it is to be a lifelong learner.”

Slentz challenges his staff, members of the board, the leadership cabinet and the strategic planning committee to constantly ask: “what can we do differently and better to ensure they are READY?”

When students walk across the stage at graduation, they should have a good sense of what they want to do “and what they don’t want to do.”  It is not enough, he said, “to develop only their intellect.” The six dimensions of wellness include occupational as well as intellectual, physical, social, emotional and spiritual (“finding one’s ‘North Star’”).

While helping students find their “North Star” in terms of the future, Slentz said that in addition to asking “What do you want to do when you grow up,” it is important to ask “what kinds of problems do you want to solve?”

Just as the district is being proactive in terms of preparing students for the future, it must be proactive in terms of financial strategies.  “If we are in the reactive mode, we are not being responsible with taxpayers dollars,” he said.

The district is using a long range budget planning process, with scheduled replacement plans and a district reserve plan, which will generate greater cost predictability. Predictability and cost savings both help the district focus investments on what matters most:  enhancing student learning opportunities and experiences, he said.

Maintaining facilities is an important part of being good stewards of the Skaneateles Central School district.  A most important element involves being careful about the WHEN and HOW, said Superintendent Ken Slentz.

With careful planning, the district can have a big and positive impact on local taxes. “We maximize aidable serves whenever possible,” Slentz said. “By increasing our use of BOCES, we have created an additional $200,000 in state aid.”

He explained how the district leverages the District’s building aid ratio, available for projects from the state.  “By spending $100,000 on a project one year, we get back $63,000 the next year … which means the project only cost $37,000.”

Fine-tuned planning will allow taxes to stay “nice and consistent” even as the district takes on payment for Project 2021, Slentz said. That’s because the cost of the project will come onto the books at the time that previous debt/mortgage retires or is paid off.

Project 2021 will touch all of our buildings (while focusing on the high school and middle school). Sixty to sixty-five percent will be in areas that are original to construction.
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Eric Knuth
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152