The Utica City School District (UCSD) has unanimously voted to turn down $4.1 million in funding offered by New York State in the form of an Extended Learning Time Grant.

In a passionate display of support for the children, parents, educators, administrators, and school personnel, several members of the UCSD School Board said that they applauded the intention of the grant, but had issues with the fact that "too may strings are attached" to permit acceptance of the funding.

WIBX broke the story that the Utica City School District had received the funding, and that it was granted on the condition that the school day be extended by approximately 300 hours, or 90 minutes per day.  The news caused immediate reaction from educators and parents, all of whom said that the notice, given in July of 2014, was inadequate time to effectively restructure the school day by the start of school in September, and not sufficient time to consider whether the educational community would benefit from a longer academic day.

Several days later Christopher Salatino, President of the Utica City School Board of Education, told WIBX that the UCSD had requested an extension to consider acceptance of the grant more thoroughly.

Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino, WIBX / Townsquare Media
Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino, WIBX / Townsquare Media
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The district received the extension and subsequently held a series of forums, one at each of the five schools potentially affected by the grant, to openly discuss the issues with those immediately and directly impacted by the district's acceptance of the grant. At those meetings there was an overwhelming lack of support for the extended school day.

Photo Credit: Townsquare Media
Photo Credit: Townsquare Media
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In addition, as noted by Superintendent Karam at tonight's school board meeting, approximately ninety percent of teachers were not in favor of the longer school day, despite the fact that it would have meant a pay increase of about $10,000 annually to those teachers who participated.

Several in attendance at the meeting noted the open and welcoming nature of the forums, and tonight's vote was of surprise to few.  No one in the audience took the opportunity to speak during the board's public comment period, and each speech by board members was met with quiet applause.

 


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