Michael R. Cornell

Mr. Michael R. Cornell
Superintendent of Schools
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Budget supports quality schools

   I hope this edition of the Focus finds you well. Before I address the substance of the 2020-21 school budget, it is important to summarize the changes in process for this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, by Executive Order, declared that this year’s budget vote be conducted exclusively by absentee ballot. In order to assure that your ballot arrives in the Business Office by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9th, 2020:
   • Look for your absentee ballot packet in the mail during the last week of May.
   • Fill it out and sign it.
   • Put your ballot in the mail using the postage paid envelope as soon as possible.
   One of the best books I have read recently is titled “The Culture Code,” by Daniel Coyle. At the very beginning of the book, he reminds the reader that the word “culture” comes from the Latin word, cultus, which means to care. This current health crisis has brought with it much anxiety and distress. The culture of our Hamburg Bulldog community, which is inherently caring, will allow us to remain resilient in the face of all of the challenges that this pandemic has brought to our community.
   The Board of Education and I want everyone to know how much we appreciate the efforts of our students, families and all our staff members to assure children are learning and receiving the necessary emotional support, even though schools are closed. Our people have always been the strength of the Hamburg Schools, and your support and resilience is what sustains us during these difficult days.
   While the 2020-21 budget looks challenging, we always begin with the mindset that we must be respectful of the taxpayer’s money. Within that mindset, we also plan with three key objectives in mind. First, we want to have a budget that preserves the great programs that we currently have in place. Second, it is important that we pass a budget that gives us the greatest amount of flexibility to adapt to the changes that we know will come throughout the fiscal year. Third, we need to pass a budget that is balanced. While our ability to accomplish all three objectives is largely dependent on a Federal Relief Bill, we have contingency plans that could allow us to do so if we get less funding from the federal government than we expect.
   Preserving and optimizing our current educational program is a critically important priority. By any measure, the Hamburg Central School District is among the very best school districts in New York State.
Hamburg High School has the highest graduation rate in Western New York.
   • The Hamburg Schools are ranked #10 out of all school districts in Western New York, ranked #36 out of 431 upstate school districts, and our students perform better on NYS Regents Exams than the students in all but six school districts in the region.
   • Our Middle School and elementary schools also rank among the very best in all of Western New York.
   We take the business of being respectful of the taxpayer’s money very seriously.
   • In 2019, the Hamburg Central School District was ranked #2 out of all 96 districts in Western New York in Buffalo Business First’s rankings of Administrative Efficiency.
   • We have negotiated contacts with nearly every bargaining unit that honored the value of our great team members and were also affordable for the school district.
   • 2020-21 is the first year that we will operate a fully self-funded health insurance plan, a move that we made in full cooperation with our bargaining units.
   • We have replaced 20,000 lights with energy efficient LED lighting and are participating in an energy benchmarking program sponsored by NYSERTA at no cost to the district.
   According to the data, and based on all that we continue to do to become even more efficient, there is no school district that offers a better taxpayer value, in terms of student achievement and financial performance, than the Hamburg Central School District.
   Despite the headwinds we face, we remain optimistic that the 2020-21 budget will allow us to continue the progress we’ve made over the last several years. Next year’s budget:
   • Maintains all current programs at a total budget cost of $75,515,500
   • Requires a levy increase of 2.38% (last year’s increase was 2.87%), which falls within the allowable levy limit (tax cap)
   • Trims costs in almost every non-instructional area in an effort to put forward the most fiscally responsible budget possible
   There is a Chinese proverb which says that society should “not confine your children to your own learning, since they were born in a different time.” The core of the Hamburg Central School District’s commitment to educating your child to become a “modern thinker who creates, cares, solves and discovers” (HCSD Vision Statement) is formed by purposefully designed instruction, which includes:
   • Student Agency — students making meaningful choices about their learning. As a result they are collaborating, creating, making and publishing in authentic ways.
   • Self-efficacy — students experience failure as an opportunity to learn through more information, time and resources
   • An emphasis on strong relationships — students have productive, enduring and engaging relationships with their peers and teachers
   A school district’s budget reflects the priorities and values of the community and allows students to have the experiences they need at school to thrive in a world increasingly characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Thank you for your continued partnership and support. In order to assure that your voice is heard, please make sure that you put your ballot in the mail to assure that it arrives in the Business Office by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9th, 2020.

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