Clarence Voters Teach Students a Lesson

Perhaps we should retain the services of 20 year old Y counselors to “teach” kids at or near minimum wage with no benefits? Is there a way we could outsource teaching to Bangladesh? Should we eliminate music education, art classes, electives, and advanced placement – fire those teachers? Because all of the gloating I’ve seen Clarence school opponents express in the last 7 hours is packed with thinly concealed animus towards the teachers and their labor union.

The teachers. In this country, at this time, we demonize and defile the educators.

Last night, Clarence voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposed 2013-2014 school budget, and elected two of the so-called “pro-taxpayer” board candidates. A tax that is wholly deductible from federal income taxation is rejected. The curriculum will suffer. Teachers will be put out of work and stop contributing to the local economy. There is no win here, and the school opponents’ gloating is disgusting and unseemly.

The most direct way to personal achievement and success? An education. The key to unlock a better future for WNY? An education. The reason why families have flocked in recent years to Clarence? The schools. A huge source of pride – at least until yesterday – in the town? The schools. First, do no harm.

So why did Clarence families come out in unprecedented numbers expressly to reject a crisis budget that sought to address a fiscal shortfall? I don’t have the answer to that. I’m just really angry and disappointed about it.

I guess I should be amused by the fact that not a single media outlet, except the Bee, picked up on the fact that the tea party astroturf group spent tens of thousands of dollars of outside money to defeat this budget. If AFP was so concerned about the taxpayers, they could have just donated the money to the district or maybe the band boosters to keep the music programs afloat. They could have directed that money to the Advanced Placement programs or electives that will likely be eliminated from the curriculum. But because AFP is about helping people express their frustrations over federal or state taxation at the students of Clarence, it was more important to spend huge sums on slick propaganda.

People complained about the teachers and their union, claiming that they were completely unreasonable and wholly to blame. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the product – look at the outcome. We get (got) what we paid for. Our taxes in WNY are high, but Clarence’s are among the lowest. The proposed levy may have been steep, but the result still would have been a lower payment than the checks families cut in 2003. The overall rate is down even as budgets and property values have gone up.

But the parents of Clarence students didn’t have a massive billionaire-backed lobbying and propaganda group to help them agitate in favor of the budget. The teachers’ union didn’t send 3 slick mailers to every home in Clarence and a 4-page full-color insert in the Bee. Big, bad NYSUT has nothing over the AFP’s access to money.

No, the truly grassroots pro-schools effort was barely funded, relying on Facebook, e-mail, leafletting, and word-of-mouth. There were no big 9′ tall signs on any vacant eyesore properties placed in favor of the budget – only “summer portrait of a lovely grandma” was placed, and defaced.

And I suspect that the budget opponents did the defacing in order to earn free media attention and to portray themselves as victims. WGRZ didn’t report on the mailers that came from Long Island, but they did report on the supposed vandalism. WGRZ didn’t do a story on the consequences of this no vote, but did you see what they did to that sign?!

So, now what? Another $2.4 million in budget reductions will need to be added in order to bring the levy within the tax cap. The revised budget will be submitted to the taxpayers who may very well reject it again, in which case a contingency budget with no increase will be imposed. Either way, kids get shafted.

I’m obviously angry because I have a personal stake – I have two children in the system and we moved here for them. But when they leave the Clarence school system, I understand that it’s important to continue to maintain the system’s excellence (perhaps even to improve it) for future generations. Just because I’ve got mine doesn’t mean I will withhold it from you.

My kids’ – your kids’ – education isn’t some hypothetical or theoretical thing to be used as a pawn in a tea party showdown. It’s their only chance, and they should get the best education possible. Clarence just showed me that it doesn’t really much care. In unprecedented droves. Right now, my decision-making is whether I make this a personal cause or if there’s no point and I should just stop caring, move, and give up. The fact that the value of my property likely plummeted yesterday makes that a difficult decision.

But yesterday near the high school at Gunnville and Main Street, hundreds of students excitedly and hopefully held signs, sang songs, and urged passing motorists to vote yes on the budget. The voters didn’t just vote no – they really showed those kids! Because for all the rhetoric about how the teachers make more than doctors and drive to school in gilded Rolls-Royces and furs, the reality is dramatically different, and it wasn’t the teachers who were taught a lesson.

One of my (Republican) friends on Facebook wrote,

It is a shame that voters took all of their National and State tax frustrations out on the local kids in Clarence with this vote. AND shame on you parents with kids that voted against the budget as well as those of you that have already benifitted from this great school system. I know that their was a lot of you. F…ing selfish and stupid! This is the saying… Be careful what you wish for. Wait until you see what happens to the kids and the school district now. I bet you wish you could do it all over again. For $300-$400 (tax deductible) a year was this worth it.

In another thread, a current Clarence HS student writes,

As a student of Clarence High School I almost can’t stand to see the argument that has ripped this town apart. True, I wholeheartedly support the budget because it is my education and I have worked hard recently to try and get people educated on the actual facts of the budget. As an active member in the school’s music department and an avid participant in the electives and AP courses our school offers I am extremely worried about this budget because I know if this budget doesn’t pass these classes will be cut, my high school education will be highly deprived, the prestige of the Clarence community will go down and the number of colleges that will accept me will decrease. I know that it is now to late to change your minds but I’d like to thank those of you who voted yes and ask those of you who voted no what will happen over the next few years as with out a stabilizing budget this year how will taxes and the schools be affected. Staff cuts will run rampant and our schools will be reduced to teaching only the core concepts required by the state with high class sizes and an increasingly unstable budget so taxes will continue to need to increase.
That is all I have to say

Taxpayers? I’m a taxpayer, too. I’m also someone who knows that you get what you pay for. If frugality was the key to everything, we’d all live in a 500 SF apartment and drive a Smart forTwo. Being frugal isn’t the key – getting quality, value, and a good return on investment is what’s important, and Clarence schools excel at that. For one of the lowest tax levies in WNY, we get one of the best educations in WNY. How much of a school tax abatement did the town IDA give to a German niche car company to build a new dealership across the street from its current dealership? How much in school tax abatements has the IDA given in the past, say, 5 years, further burdening residents and – now – punishing students?

My wife told my kids this morning that the vote failed. “Why?” asked my 1st grader. “There won’t be a musical next year. No show choir, no voce” because the teacher will be laid off, said my 7th grader. They’re surprised and sad.

The huge turnout of no votes taught a lesson, alright. They taught the kids a lesson about lies, propaganda, and punishing them for daring to want to learn. They taught them that it’s better to load up on outside money, cloak it in secrecy, and invest in mailers and signs rather than schools.

138 comments

  • It’s really a shame that essentially ALL education in a location is tied so closely to such a political process. It’s one of the biggest failings of our current public school monopoly, in my opinion. But as long as you have all the money going to one corrupt pot, you’ll get exciting events like this.

    If all kids in Clarence (hell, all of NY!) had even $10k tied to their names, imagine the creative and wonderful educational opportunities that would pop up to serve their needs. Alan’s music-loving kid could jump to a music-focused school, concentrate on that and be happy for the rest of her life. Kids could learn in real ways instead of being jammed on school buses to learn bad words, getting bullied in the halls, avoid drugs (yeah, I’m sure there’s NOOOO drugs in Clarence)… whatever.

    But no, I guess it’s more important we all make our kids suffer the same institutional injustices we got as kids (and fuck them brown-skinned kids in Buffalo, we got ours, we moved to Clarence!). But UH OH, wait, the voters get a say in how much we get to spend? OH NOES! Let’s blame the Republicans!! Obviously bitching on Twitter and Artvoice doesn’t help.

    Support the Education Investment Tax Credit (http://investined.org). Don’t waste time trying to save the dying monolith.

    • Where is this mythical music loving school with a strong/well funded program in the Clarence/Amherst area?

      • It’s all about money, isn’t it Russ? Watch the schools flourish if you get the money out of the hands of the monopoly.

        • So to make the schools grow we have to financially gut the schools? What?

          Also, where is this great music option Alan’s kid has?

      • Williamsville’s music programs are awesome.

    • Too bad about the drug comment. You lost me right there.

      • You seriously believe Clarence schools are ‘clean’? Kind of pollyanna-ish, don’t you think?

        • And you seriously believe all Clarence schools are little more than drug dens? Get real.

          • I didn’t remotely say anything of the sort. Get real, yourself.

          • Maybe not, but you sure as hell implied it. You assume facts that are not in evidence. And you should NEVER assume…for the obvious reasons(everyone can fill in the punchline…:) )

          • I also assumed there are bullies there, and that kids learn bad things on the bus. You (and Alan) chose to ignore those, which is curious.

          • Thanks Jesse, I needed some comic relief after picketing all day yesterday. Your post hit the spot.

          • I’m not talking about bullies. I’m talking about the charge(implied, to be sure)about Clarence schools and drugs. You seem to think it’s around every classroom, I strongly disagree.

          • because of your silly parenthetical, which only dealt with drugs.

        • Quite the contrary. I assume no such thing. I fail to see why you brought it up at all. It completely cheapened the broader point you were trying to make, and because of it I disregarded it.

      • I graduated from Clarence in 2009. Small amounts of marijuana were frequently exchanged at school, going back to maybe 7th or 8th grade. I knew many kids that would come to school high or get high during one of their study halls.

  • I’m a homeowner in Niagara Falls. I vote for EVERY SINGLE budget EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

    Why? Because kids. They deserve it.

    Fuck you self righteous anti-tax wingnuts. Glad you could save enough money this year to go out to eat one or two more times.

    • You clearly don’t know anything about Clarence. Clarence isn’t full of rich, snobby Spaulding Lake kids who get brand new cars which they don’t even work for. The tax increase was going up 9.8%, even if it would have been passed, classes still would have been cut because there are barely any kids enrolled in them.

      • Not all of the classes that have been and will be cut are due to lack of enrollment. There are several full classes on the chopping block right now as well. They are also raising the enrollment threshold in some classes to significantly above other districts.

  • I’m honestly surprised that YOU’RE surprised by this outcome. Where did you think you lived? You live in a republican town with a privatization fetish, populated by tax refugees and “olds” who overwhelmingly vote for tax cutting plutocrats when given the option. Most people I know who live in Clarence don’t choose it for the great schools, they choose it because of the artificially lower taxes as compared to Amherst or any other town that pays for a full share of town services and policing. Frankly, aside from you and a few other people, almost everyone in Clarence is an asshole.

    • We moved to Clarence because of the schools, and I know many other people who did the same. Wow, you know almost everyone in Clarence? I’m sorry you consider me an asshole– I’m really a pretty nice average person.

  • This is austerity. It’s coming for all of us. It came for places like
    Buffalo and Lackawanna a long time ago, and middle class people watched
    it happen, maybe even cheered for it, because they couldn’t imagine it
    ever happening to them. It’s going to happen. No one is safe.

    • And when this same crowd whines and bitches about how the schools in THEIR town are now looking like Buffalo, I can turn to them and say “And did you bother to vote for YOUR school district’s budget? You didn’t? Then SHUT THE F UP. Or…You voted it down? You made your bed. Now you have to lie in it. Don’t whine about your kids’ education ever again.”

  • I cannot think of a better example of class warfare than when a small group of billionaires send money and resources to an area they have no personal connection to simply to cripple its public education.

    • Anne Terranova Gaca

      I wonder if these people would also move from using the State Troopers to having their own police force? Lancaster has over 50 Police officers ….Clarence 0. Our State Tax pays for their protection. Cough up the money for your children.

  • tonyintonawanda

    The fact is costs go up every year. The safe move is for district to do small increases each year and try to control costs. If you deplete reserves eventually you need the big increase and voters don’t reward you for years of zeros.

    I vote for my school budget every year and if I lived in Clarence, I would have voted for that budget too BUT……….school administrators to me seem to have little to no understanding of resource management. I know teachers who kill themselves all day while “specials” teachers in subjects like gym, music, art seem to have much more free time. But rather than allocate this free time to bus duty or the lunch room, the districts hire more personnel for those jobs.

    Let me be clear, we need music, art, PE. But administrators need to better understand their resources and get more out of those resources. Same thing when it comes to building maintenance, building consolidation bus routes, etc. Show me you’re managing the heck out of the resources you have and I’ll vote for your increase. But when you keep doing it the same way over and over and when tough times hit threaten to cut the stuff that makes a school special…that’s when you divide a community.

    • I can perhaps shed some light on the workload of the music educators. While ensemble directors usually spend only one or two periods a day actually directing, they are also responsible for sectionals and lessons during the day. I know from my experience in the Clarence music program that most directors have 1 free period for lunch, just like all the academic teachers (near concerts, there are more lessons, and consequently less free time, but it evens out). It’s also worth mentioning that the bands now have only part-time clerical help, as opposed to full-time of the past decade or more. Lastly, a couple directors also teach academic music classes (Comprehensive Musicianship I & II, and AP Music Theory), which help prepare juniors and seniors for collegiate study in music. And all of this is ignoring the contributions of these individuals to plays, musicals, the pit orchestra, jazz ensemble, jazz chorus, brass choir, and a handful of other small ensembles (these are the equivalent in commitment level to running a club). Art teachers are in a similar situation, actually, to academic teachers–in that the bulk of their instruction commitment stems from classes that they teach 7 or 8 periods a day.

      I’m not super comfortable talking about the PE program, since I’m honestly not entirely sure how many periods per day they teach, and there could very well be room to remove 1 position. There are 5 PE teachers, I think, and there are 4 people in the room at a time, so it seems the numbers are reasonable.

      • PE teachers certainly teach all day unless things have changed drastically since my school days. Many of them coached,too.

    • But that is EXACTLY what Alden has been doing (small increases, controlling costs) the past 6 years or so and we also were voted down… ;o(

  • personably eye dones theenk teh teechers is overpayed and gladd thet teh buttgets in da skools was cut; naybe noww they shuld get rid of ten year and fireh them teechers peeple like in buzness werld?

  • Alan, thank you for your well thought out and researched (as much as you can with the secrecy) columns. I, too, am disturbed with the crickets in our local media about the AFP connection and it’s purchase of a portion of our school board. I noticed the connection with AFP last year.

    My 15 year-old daughter has been crying her eyes out over this, and the orchestra concert tonight could be her last. She is begging us to move to Williamsville. Not only that, but her friends outside on the corner were shocked at how many of those sweet-looking grandmas drove by them yesterday and gave them a middle-finger salute. Congratulations, seniors, and good luck when the AFP that used you so cleverly comes gunning for Medicare and Social Security– don’t count on anyone to stand by you.

    By the way, I e-mailed WGRZ regarding their story on the vandalization of the sign and why they weren’t covering the big money influx, and more crickets…

  • i’m a proud Clarence graduate (class of ’91) and resident and now my kids are 1st and 2nd graders in the district, i took them with me to the vote last night, hoping their presence would sway a no voter to yes, to see who they would be taking away from, innocent kids, who love their teachers and school still, who themselves want to be educaters some day like their aunt and favorite teachers, and look forward to art and music and the special things the school does for them…i too had to explain to them why next year there probaly wouldnt be a Christmas concert or an art whow and why they might not see mr or mrs so and so teacher next year. i dont live in spaulding lake or in a half million dollar home or developement, i live in the Harris Hill gardens, a beautiful older neighborhood, where everyone kows everyone and joins together to help a neighbor out, and did so with this vote. and i too run on a very tight budget. i cant afford to send my kids to out of school dance class or soccer camp, etc, i look to the school to provide them the fun stuff we cant right now. i was willing to sacrafice a few extra dollars a month for my kids, and so were my neighbors. my kids deserve to have what i had in Clarence, and i cannot describe the sorrow and disgust i feel towards this town right now. their flyers didnt even depict pictures of our true residents, they had to use stock photos and scare tactics, threatening rent increases to seniors…sad sad sad…

  • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

    this author states that outside monies used to sway voters could have been donated to the school.how about this???all proponents(including this author) can volentarilly give an extra 19.6% when they pay thier school tax.that way everyone is happy.the failure to pass this budget now forces the board to come up with a more in line budget and try again.using the loss of sports and band,etc. is an appalling tactic.and for those “yea” voters try and live on 14k a year and see if you would still vote yes

    • Why would I agree to subsidize other people’s selfishness?

      • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

        and why would i???is 19.6% too much??when it is your money you draw a line

          • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

            2×9.8..put your $$$ where your brain is..you must have it

          • Are you trying to say you (or whoever) pay 9.8% on two properties? First, the actual tax rate increase was 8.8%. Second, this increase is applied to the total assessed value of the propertie minus any exemptions. The tax rate is still the same it does not double. You still reap the benefits of both properties. It’s the value of your properties that is double, not your tax rate. This is the same kind of misleading the AFP group tried to pull with the bottom line being Clarence’s median tax bill vs. Williamsville and others. The lower tax rate in Clarence can give you a higher tax bill because the median home price in Clarence is higher. For the same home value, Clarence taxes are lower than all of those other school districts. Clarence has consistently been of of the best stewards of tax payer $ in all of Western NY. That’s a fact.

    • Hey, TROLL, come back when you actually have a take and can SPELL.

      Time for THE MANUAL BUZZER… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQxT7ab07jk

      • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

        i can spell..and think.the comment in this article made a point of the “vote no” folks in front of an eyesore.what did that have to do with anything???it was a sublimanale shot at the owner of that property that pays more taxes than you could dream of. is 19.6% to much for you???so you drew a line…so did i on a smaller scale

        • Still no cred with me, no matter how valid your point is.

          • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

            let’s see what the next proposal is. i may vote for that one

          • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

            i am a 3rd generation resident and intent to stay here until i die.some of the seniors in this town don’t want to be taxed out of thier homes.i have friends that pay thier parents taxes so they can stay there.you can pay more without an official tax increase.so do it and help out

        • He should sell if it’s too much. Or maybe, y’know, develop it. That eyesore is a write-off and every penny of expense is an offset against his profits at Oak Rock and the no-tell motel he runs down the road.

    • Damn, I think I know why you’re so bitter. I think that when you were a child they cut your schools budget, and apparently all of your English classes got removed. Now, as an adult you push to try to make others as uselessly ignorant and uneducated as you. Truly a hero.

  • Come to Akron, we would love to have your kids. We value arts and athletics. It is a shame, though. I wish your kids good luck in the coming years.

  • I think your IDA comment is right on. Clarence IDA can give away school property taxes and the schools (and actually all schools in Erie County)’s share of sales tax revenues as well. It’s frankly part of the argument that hasn’t gotten much attention–which is surprising because of how heated school budgets seem to be. Just think…part of the reason your kids may lose art/music/sports ect is so you could help subsidize Paula’s Donuts, build a Dash rather than have to drive all the way to transit road to go to wegmans or tops, take the Borders Books from the Amherst side of transit to the Clarence side (where it belongs!), and, of course, help a struggling mini cooper dealership move out of its lexus parents house across the street.

    • The only thing I see discussed at ALL is the lazy, awful teachers with the $100,000 salaries the free healthcare for life and the $100,000 tax-free pensions for the half-year of work, who “believe they should be paid millions of dollars!”

      Bonus points if you can guess who I’m quoting above! 😉

  • Charles Dabkowski

    We had idiocy like this at Starpoint a few years back, but not on this scale. It’s quite heartening to see the kids out campaigning, though.

  • You do know that not everyone itemizes their deductions and gets a tax savings.

    Outside interests didn’t start this discussion, a 10% tax hike started it. Maybe if the administration wasn’t so arrogant and tried for a 6% ( or should I say 5.9%) instead of 10% (even after the extra state money) it would have passed without fanfare.

    Everyone else is taking pay cuts and paying more for their healthcare, why should the Clarence teachers be exempt.

    The year they started reassessment and the rate per thousand went down, the school tax bill went up by 3%.

    • You do know that not everyone itemizes their deductions and gets a tax savings.

      But most everyone who pays a mortgage and/or pays state income and property taxes probably does, because of how high they are and the comparative benefits.

      Outside interests didn’t start this discussion, a 10% tax hike started it. Maybe if the administration wasn’t so arrogant and tried for a 6% ( or should I say 5.9%) instead of 10% (even after the extra state money) it would have passed without fanfare.

      Strawman. I didn’t say AFP started the discussion. They merely provided the propaganda to help destroy the schools. Because socialism. Frankly, I think rejection of the school budget is the new normal in Clarence. I have been shown just what the residents think of the schools, and it isn’t pretty.

      Everyone else is taking pay cuts and paying more for their healthcare, why should the Clarence teachers be exempt.

      Because they are charged with an important task – more important than most other jobs, except maybe physician. They are tasked with educating the next generation of Americans, and it used to mean more to be a citizen than to simply be a drone taxpayer. We used to think that taxes were good to pay because they are the cost of a civilized society, not some burden with which we will punish children. Just because many in the private sector settle for horrible terms of remuneration doesn’t mean everyone should. Try living on 40k/year with the debt associated with obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as a new teacher does. See how that works for you, and they have zero job security. What a great gig!

      The year they started reassessment and the rate per thousand went down, the school tax bill went up by 3%.

      School taxes even after the 9.8% rise would be lower than in 2003. That’s a fact.

      • tonyintonawanda

        Alan, I very much doubt this is the new normal in Clarence. Every now and then districts have these years where people express their frustration at overall taxation and take it out on school budgets because that’s the one place they get a say. And the number seems huge, no matter how much work you put into explaining what it actually means…like they say, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.

        But if I’m wrong, then this is totally short-sighted by Clarence residents because once people think the schools “aren’t what they used to be” your property values go down quickly. Seniors need to remember that it’s not other seniors who buy their homes, it’s young families.

      • Most teachers become teachers because a) They are not talented or driven enough to succeed in the private sector and b) they want the easy life, only working about 190 days a year, getting out at 4pm, retirement at 55, and very cushy salaries about 10-15 years into the gig. Outrageous salaries at 25-30 years on the job..

        A “Masters degree” that a teacher gets is nothing like a real masters degree. It is much more akin to a community college certificate program than a real graduate program.

        I doubt most teachers would last a month in the private sector.

        • Jason: How about you go to the library and read Patrick Welsh’s book Tales Out of School? Then come back here and say all of that again with a straight face.

        • You have to be the biggest idiot on the planet. My kid’s teachers include several Engineers and two MDs– what’ve you got?

          My husband is a teacher now after two successful careers in the private sector (he completed the education MA at 41). He has a Masters in Computer and Electrical Engineering. He plans to teach as long as he is allowed– and his district hopes that’s a long time (his former district hopes he’ll come back).

          I dare you to try what he does, and have your misconceptions cleared up. You wouldn’t last a week. It Might benefit your monstrous ego, too.

          I’m thankful you won’t be influencing large portions of our future generation.

        • Oh, and I see by your profile you are a child– you sure come off as one. Grow up.

          Are you related to Jack? Maybe older brother?

        • This is quite possibly the most obnoxious and hateful thing I’ve seen spewn at teachers.

          Most teachers become teachers because they love to educate children. They love to help kids become good and smart citizens, leaders, thinkers, and learners. Teachers may get summers off, and many of them work a second job during that time. They work long hours during the school year, preparing for the curriculum, correcting papers, writing tests, and offering extra help and guidance. Many of them in the elementary level have to shop for school supplies because the schools can’t provide them thanks to budget cuts. They take phone calls from frustrated or concerned parents and students at all hours, any day. They work part of the summer preparing for the next year’s curriculum. They always work with the threat of budget cuts hanging over their heads possibly eliminating their jobs.

          You should be ashamed of yourself and your own pathetic, petulant ignorance.

          • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

            i agree

          • Alan: I think it’s pretty obvious he has no shame.

            Too bad we can’t have Anne Robinson bidding him farewell in her own unique way….

          • You consider 8:00-4:00 long hours? At CHS, the teachers only teach 5 of the 9 periods of the day. They are either study hall or lunch monitors for another period. They have 1 period off and 2 planning periods. Real rigorous day it seems like…

            I’m sorry, I’ve been in school much more recently than you have and am much more in-tune with the realities of what goes on in classrooms, especially in this district, than you are, so I find your accusation of ignorance laughable.

            Also, what teacher gives out their personal number so they are reachable at all hours? What dream world are you living in?

            There were some passionate and talented teachers, but I found them to be in the minority.

          • I have had plenty of teachers who have given their personal numbers out. You have no clue about the relationship between the parents and teachers– how many kids do you have again?

            My kids were in Clarence High School classrooms today– were you? Don’t assume in your childish arrogance that parents don’t know what goes on in the classroom– good, bad or ugly.

          • LMAO. No I wasn’t in the classroom today (yesterday now), but I was in the classroom 6+ hours a day 180 days a year as recently as 4 years ago. When were you last there? 20 + years ago? Do you honestly believe your kids tell you everything that goes on at school? Most of the teachers that I had still teach at CHS. I’m sorry, but I am much more knowledgeable about what goes on in school than most parents.

          • Not this one.

            Nice try though, Junior.

          • You’re wrong. Period. Nice try though, old bitty.

            See, I can play the inane belittling game too! 🙂

          • Cute. I’m sure your mother would be proud.

            Someday, you might mature. Good luck with that.

          • Lesson of the night: when you can’t win, just marginalize instead!

          • Win what? Anyone who reads your comments will notice that like all children, you think you know everything, and you do not. There is no win.

            You can’t have a discussion in which someone puts out facts and the other person says, “no.”

            You stated that teachers do not give out their personal information. I get home and cell phone numbers from multiple teachers each year. You are not a parent of school-age children, correct? Therefore you have no idea what goes on between parents and teachers, or how involved I am in my children’s scholastic careers.

            So, would you like to be a man and admit that statement was incorrect or not?

          • Fine, you have gotten phone numbers from teachers. Good for you. You are more knowledgeable of the parent-teacher relationship, and I am more knowledgeable or the student-teacher relationship and the overall modern classroom environment (at least at the secondary level. I will admit I don’t remember all that much from my primary education and was too young to evaluate what my teachers were doing.). I find my knowledge to be much more expansive and relevant.

          • Oh, one more thing– it’s Old Biddy. If you’re going to namecall, you should use the right name. 😉

          • Yes, I believe I have one child who gives me every little detail, and one who tells everything without meaning to.

          • And said child is in middle or high school? If so, you are delusional.

          • Both children are in high school. The one who deliberately tells me everything is laughing at you as I write this.

            You may also forget that I have a husband who teaches high school in another district– so I know quite a bit a student-teacher relationships and the modern classroom

          • It’s pretty evident that you have some personal axe to grind. Your recent school experience does not comport with my current one.

        • Teacher!Teacher!

          Jason, I worked in the private sector, in fact I worked my way “up the ladder” for over 10 years to become a bank manager. I chose to become a teacher because I could impact the lives of so many human beings, not just to teach them but to help them become the best they can be. Given that I teach and advise and coach roughly 200 students per year, over 30 years is 6,000 people. Out of those 6,000 I have had many become teachers. Even if only 10 become teachers I will have impacted roughly 60,000 people, and so on. My nights and weekends and most of my summers are involved with lesson planning, coaching/advising clubs, grading papers, late night emails and phone calls. The idea of making 6 figures is laughable and won’t happen in my district. Finally, having worked in the “private sector” this is the hardest, most rewarding job I have ever had. However, few people have what it takes to teach. I had a retiring Lieutenant Colonel decide he wanted to teach so I invited him to shadow me for a day, he made it through 1 class and told me he had a new found respect for teachers and that he would never come into a classroom again. I dare you to do the same.

      • I just have to point out that teachers do have job security… tenure… and unfortunately some truly crappy teachers have been allowed to continue because of it.

    • AFP was behind the anonymous flyers we received LAST YEAR trying to vote no on last year’s budget. There was no 8.8% tax rate increase (the actual tax rate increase). So I’m calling BS on your AFP didn’t start this. I connected the anonymous flyers to AFP through a post that Ms. Thrun wrote last year in response to a Buffalo news article. It was clear she was responsible for those flyers. So I have been following this for a year.

      Next lie…? My guess is there will be an effort to vote down the revised budget at the tax cap. I don’t believe for a second the line in the much slicker ads this year (apparently the 2012 election taught the lesson of how to pour anonymous big money into an election) stating “we are not opposed to reasonable additional taxes– just excessive ones.”

      Outside of all that, doesn’t it bother you that a group with national political affiliation (and I could care less which party) just bought a chunk of our school board? I find that more offensive than the actual budget vote. I suppose we can just call Ms. Thrun to inquire the opinions of Mr. Showalter and Mr. Lahti, since she’s the local AFP puppet-master. I’m disgusted.

  • Alan: In regards to what course you take, there is only 1 option: You get in there, redouble your efforts, and you FIGHT like hell. And if they don’t want to listen, you raise your voice louder. And louder. What you’re doing here is one way to do it, so(even if you’ve only got a few people listening)you’ve already got a good starting point.

  • Lindsay J. Rollo

    This says everything. As the daughter of a woman who has worked in the Clarence Music Department for years, I am heartbroken. Thank you for your voice. For your support. It is a sad day, indeed, when the lead “vote no” candidate, states that his children (both music students) don’t need the same opportunities that he did growing up. A sad day indeed.

  • I am ashamed of Clarence — I went to High School there from 2003-2006 and had an extraordinary education that set up my foundation to go on to a great university and become a successful and competitive person in this economy. If the voters/tax-payers feel that their kids do not deserve a great education and that they would much rather pay for those kids to live with them, unemployed, for decades past high school — then more power to them. Education – quality education – is not only necessary in this economy, it will be the only way we can accomplish anything in the future.

  • A 9.8% tax increase is a drastic change for any family. Idiots who are saying the school is being destroyed or they are ashamed of Clarence, don’t understand how drastically the increase could affect a family.

    • Yes, it’s a drastic change, but it’s also paying the piper after years of no or less than 1 percent increases. They could have done what most area districts did and presented a 2-3 percent increase every year. Instead, they held the line for as long as they could, spent their reserves, and found ways to do more with less until they had no alternative but to ask for this much. It’s sad that the voters turned them down.

    • It amounted to about $29/month for a $250,000 house. Not that drastically drastic.

      If the schools lose their ranking and my property value drops, that will affect me, too.

      Ultimately, this is about a bigger political strategy anyway.

    • Hue Hue, Go check out seethroughny.org. Look up Clarence School payroll.

      it must be tough making ends meet with only 100k+ a year… or 160k or 200K.. This doesn’t include cashouts at retirement, pension contributions etc. . Not all government employees are over paid but quite a few are when you total up the entire compensation package.

      • There are actually very few teachers who are making $100,000– can you point out the ones making $160,000 and $200,000, please? Is it possible that those might not be teachers?

        Do you also realize that these salaries are going to vary a great deal as older teachers retire and new teachers are hired at lower salaries? All districts go through this cycling.

        There are government Administrative Assistants making more than many teachers– are they required to have Masters Degrees? Where is the outcry over that?

        • An employee is an employee. I didn’t say teachers. And the salaries I pointed out seem to be administration type people.

          • I asked this question because all of the ire is directed at the teachers. Easy target. Duh…

          • 240 students for every administrative staffer in Clarence. That’s the second highest such ratio in Erie County. The back office is exceedingly efficient.

        • There are actually quite a few. You add up base salarys, what they are paid by way of a health insurance plan, pension contribution. So someone with a base of $75,000 might get a $20,000 health care package and at minimum $5000 contributed to a pension. Right there is a $100,000 employee.

          • 75,000 is at the top of the Clarence pay scale (maybe 77,000?)– it takes about 20 years to get there. Also, keep in mind that this is a cyclical process. Clarence is at a higher end of that right now. They will have a bunch of retirements at some point and then you have a bunch of new employees at about half the salary and likely in the Tier VI retirement.

      • disqus_XqdV8Ngf3L

        i agree.the private sector took a hit in this reccesion.why are gov’t employees except?where can you retire at 55 with enuff of a pension to live on??

    • disqus_g6fqjyhj09

      On a $200,000 assessed home it is an increase of about $238, or less than $20/month. Yes, there are families who need that $20 but if they’re living in a $200,000 home in WNY then they’re probably not doing that bad.

  • Concerned tax payer

    Why doesn’t the writer of this article pay more money out of their pocket. The writer of this article is the one spewing lies and propaganda. Send your kids to a private school if you don’t like Clarence schools.
    I love how people like to spend others hard earned money. It is never enough money. Next year they will want another 5%. Rather than fix a broken system, let’s just throw money down an obvious black hole.

    • If I may speak for the writer for a moment. First, he was willing to pay more money in the in the form of a 9.8% tax increase. Secondly, the writer has two children in the Clarence school system. You get one shot at raising your kids. No mulligans. If you fuck it up it is to the detriment of your children. Thirdly, I think he likes the Clarence school system, that’s the whole point. I don’t know this guy but I sure as hell can appreciate a father being an advocate for his children.

      Is the system a mess? Duh. But if your idea of fixing a broken system is at the expense of students, don’t ask that of people.

    • Please point out ALL lies and propaganda and PROVE they are lies and propaganda.

      Ready, go…

  • Alan, not trying to play devil’s advocate here or poke the anthill — I’m truly curious — how long has it been since Clarence had a substantive tax increase? I feel the people who let the situation go until a 10% increase was the only answer are the ones to blame. The people of Clarence (in general) bragged for so long about the low taxes — didn’t anyone ever realize that they were eventually going to have to pay the piper?

    I know you have written about how many dollars per year a 10% increase would actually come to for the average homeowner, but I think that message got drowned out. People just couldn’t get past “ten percent” being a large amount, especially when most other districts’ increases were only in the neighborhood of 3-4%.

    There was an ad in the Clarence Bee comparing the tax rate in Clarence to other districts — completely ineffective. Nobody cares about other districts, or how their district rates on a list. Also, no offense, people don’t care how much taxes were 10 years ago and how today’s taxes compare. All people care about is how something is going to affect them NOW and directly. The people who don’t have kids in the schools don’t care; the ones who do needed to know how much more $$ they were going to have to pay. If you want to reach the taxpayers, keep it simple: this is how much it’s going to cost you per year. This is how much your property value will go down if the schools tank. You have to show people where it’s going to hit them and how much it’s going to hurt. (I’m not saying “you” specifically, I’m saying in general)

    It sucks that this happened, but I wouldn’t be so quick to rail at your neighbors or an outside group whose motives aren’t clear. Look to the people who got you into this mess in the first place and demand answers.

    • This is a thoughtful argument. The previous administration is certainly to blame for painting the entire community into a corner, but just like people don’t want to hear about how their taxes compare to other districts, they also won’t tolerate the blame game. Beyond that, the anti-tax zealots behind this year’s “Vote No” antics have been there all along holding a gun to the board’s head, albeit not so brazenly as they were this year. There is just no easy way to approach this issue without discussing context.

      Sadly, most people just don’t have the time or intelligence for that, and this is what happens when you have an electorate that is too stupid, lazy, or easily misled to make an informed decision. And that’s just half of the people who voted this thing down. The others are selfish pigs, proudly displaying their “Vote No” signs outside their $600,000 homes. These people don’t understand what it means to be part of a community, and are generally awful people to be around. But hey, as long as I get mine, right?

      God Bless America.

      • Yeah, and the people in those $600K homes probably send their kids to private school, so what do they care about the public school district? They moved to Clarence and built their mega-mansions because the taxes are so low, and they want to keep them that way…

    • It has been five years, and this Superintendent, in my estimation, was trying to continue the policy of a popular, long-term administrator. Was it a mistake, yes, but this is a bigger issue that is tied to national politics. The same vote no group attempted a no vote on last year’s budget, with anonymous flyers. This year, they spent huge money on advertising and the get out the vote effort. The motives of the outside group are very clear–the complete dismantling of public education, and education based on what one can afford to pay. I personally e-mailed WGRZ and the Buffalo News about this– nothing… why? And I absolutely blame the outside group and I blame my neighbors for falling for it, especially the senior citizens who think this group cares about them when another of their goals is the dismantling of Medicare and Social Security. I blame Mr.s Showalter and Lahti for allowing themselves to be bought.

      Pro-budget voters did everything they could to explain the actual costs of the increase, the fact that even with the increase the tax rate would still have been one of the lowest (Clarence could STILL brag about that), the low spending increase and what we stood to lose– though you really can’t put a number on the potential loss of property value. If you are talking about the glossy ad in the Bee with the misleading comparison to other school districts, that was actually very effective– people looked a that and said how come I pay more than Williamsville? No matter that they were comparing a tax bill from two vastly different home values.

      Lesson learned here should be the dangers of the big political money we have allowed to flow freely and secretly into our political system, and it can sneak up on year on a small local level. This is not the first time these billionaires have bough a school board, and you would be Shocked at how many colleges they own (big donations for them to install curriculum and prohibit hiring of professors who disagree With their political agenda. Scary stuff. Especially when it invades a nice little area and causes grandmas to flip off and Swerve their cars at high school students.

      • The ad I was talking about was actually placed by the Clarence Teachers, I guess. I thought it was a waste of time and money. It didn’t appeal to people in the right way.

        But anyway… what I don’t understand is who this outside group is and why they care so much about what happens in Clarence? Is there some bigwig in Clarence who is in cahoots with them?

        Also, the topic of the budget came up today at work, and three people I work with live in Clarence and send their kids to school there. One said “my kids don’t take music lessons, so I don’t care if they cut it,” one said “I send my kids to Catholic school, so I don’t care about the public school budget” and one said, “I voted, but the rich people in Spaulding Lake are always going to win.” God, how depressing!

  • Michael Rockwell

    Why so much rage against teachers? Over the last few days we saw teachers in Oklahoma shielding students from a tornado. In Connecticut the teachers took bullets and some lost their lives for students. I know Clarence teachers, they would do the same. They really care about these kids. I suspect that the community may get concessions, not because of the negative vote, but because of how much these teachers love and know the value of the opportunity and futures that they are giving these kids.

    I worked at the election last night. There were several young kids come through with their parents to support education. I can still see their bright happy faces. What do we tell these kids today. Mommy, daddy, and your teachers support you, but less than every other person in Clarence does not. It is just a stunning event. What kind of damage is the vote going to cause? We will see over the next week.

  • Michael Rockwell

    I just got back from an orchestra concert at the high school. Wow these kids are good. The auditorium was packed with parents and alumni. It would be really great if we could have a huge turnout for the district wide Spectrum concert at Clarence High School on June 5 at 7:30 pm. This might be the last chance to see all the school bands play. And you may also want to see the Clarence High School Bands play at Kleinhan’s on June 4 at 7 pm. What Clarence has built up as a music program over the past 50 years is amazing. Come out and see them while you can.

  • This concerned tax payer is well aware that:
    -a 9.8% increase still amounts to a tax *below* that of 2007
    -a 9.8% increase manifests a smaller tax bill than any of the other top 4 districts,
    including Williamsville, East Aurora, Orchard Park, and Amherst
    -a 9.8% increase all but guarantees educational experiences that rival–and in most cases
    surpass–the experiences a student would have at any of the aforementioned districts
    -under pressure from “anti-everything” groups, the board has capitulated year after year and
    raided the reserve fund instead of edging up taxes which would have been a more responsible course of action
    -those who claim to be concerned about the health of the community actually have concern for only one thing: their own pocketbooks!
    -strong schools make Clarence an desirable place to live; poor schools attract nobody
    -a defeated budget has a negative impact on property values
    -those who have benefited from the many opportunities available in the schools owe to to future generations to perpetuate the experiences, especially since the reserve fund dollars made it possible…

    -private schools pick and choose their students; public schools must educate everyone, regardless of ability/disability. It costs more to educate a student with special needs.

    How is voting no responsible? For goodness sakes, even the bus proposition was rejected–that speaks volumes! This behavior screams short-sighted stubbornness and concern for only the almighty dollar…

  • concerned parent

    I think it is ridiculous that this budget did not pass. I find it interesting that so many people are concerned about their taxes but not about how this will affect the children. I went to vote last night and was amazed and impressed by all the kids outside holding signs and begging people to vote yes. I don’t know how people can walk by, look at these kids and vote no. Don’t they have kids or grandkids? I also found it interesting that certain people and groups offered incentives to senior citizens to vote no. Rock Oak offered a free pancake breakfast and then drove the residents to the high school to vote no. Also, the owner or one of the higher-ups at Rock Oak had a letter in the bee a few weeks ago saying the seniors could not afford to pay those taxes, that they were on fixed incomes.However, he has no trouble raising their fees every year, and not by a little bit. It really makes you wonder.Also, how many people on the Vote no committee had their kids go through the Clarence schools? Now that they have had the great education and are done, who cares what happens to the rest of the kids. It really makes me embarrassed to say I am from Clarence.

  • I think it is time to de-politicize education, how come no administrators ever get laid off, they are the ones who make over 200k a year, and do nothing for the students.

  • Ditto–no administrators laid off? Their ranks should be the first depleted–with or without budget approval. Compare the number of assistant principals per thousand students with the number from 1975.
    That said–if the test of a school system is the amount of money spent, then Buffalo should be the Gold Standard. They spend a sum per pupil there which dwarfs the annual tuition at Nichols, Park or Buff Sem. They are proof that you do not get what you pay for in the business of government schools.

    • One point you have to remember when using the tuition numbers of private schools is that the amount of tuition is not equal to the number of dollars spent per pupil at those schools. Not sure what the actual $ figures are, but maybe you want to look it up. Also, I’m sure there is a cost differential in the number of students who need special services due to the difference in the caliber of student– BPS have to educate everyone; they don’t get to pick and choose.

      I’m not saying that BPS don’t have places to make cuts, just that they are apples and oranges.

  • They are never going to fix the “budget crisis” in this or any other district because each time they are deciding what to cut 75% of the costs (salaries and benefits) are off the table. So they line up school children with propaganda signs and threaten the band and sports programs until we say uncle and open up our wallets. I wonder how many uninformed professionals in this community that bust their hump for $50k a year in the private sector went and voted yes “for the children”. If you voted yes, what you voted for were teacher and administrator salaries, cost of living increases, pensions, etc. In the real world, when our employers costs go up, they don’t levy a tax, they take it out of our paycheck. All these teachers and their unions that only “do it for the children” never seem to want to reevaluate their pay structure or benefits (which exceed almost anything available in the private sector). But dont worry when those gym teachers making 100k retire at 55, and collect ~70k a year in pension benefits until the day they die, we can think of all the children that know how to climb a rope, and get those warm and fuzzies as we pay the tax man.

    • The local school board has no control over the pensions, etc. I fail to see how it makes sense to harm the curriculum to express anger at the state.

      • Salaries are not dictated by the state. The state doesn’t tell the district to pay its gym teachers 100k. You can go job by job (teacher, secretary, mechanic, groundskeeper) within any WNY district and compare salaries to private sector counterparts and you will see the disparity. Your comments here and above are laughable….the NO voters are the ones doing harm instead of the ones that are perpetuating this overly generous compensation package for school employees. You need to get a grip.

  • The taxpayers were well informed by both sides of the proposal. A high percentage of
    the community participated instead of just those who work for or have students in schools. Good to see democracy at work, maybe someday the students will be able afford to live here.

    • The students’ ability to “afford to live here” is in large part dependent on the quality of the education they get. Unfortunately, that quality is about to be harmed in an unprecedented way. Congratulations, I guess.

  • Shouldn’t be ANY “PUBLIC SCHOOLS”. Every school should be private, paid for by the families that send their children. Period. Government is NOT the answer to everybodies problems – it is quite the opposite! Down with ALL politics, all forms of government control. Adults don’t need a nanny government to tell them what to do, how to do it and why. This silly guy that calls himself “president” is a great example of why government has gotten out of control. Same with Prince Andrew and Saint Silver here in the Socialist Republic of NY.

Leave a Reply