MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (Jan. 25, 2016) — The Mount Vernon City School Board voted unanimously Thursday night to seek a bond totaling $108 million to facilitate the district leadership’s vision to improve the quality of instruction, enhance programs and services and close achievement gaps. This initiative will ensure that all students receive a rigorous education and develop the necessary skills, which prepares them to be model citizens capable of competing in a global society. The bond will also fund targeted urgent infrastructure needs to ready the district for significant technology upgrades. Residents of Mount Vernon will vote on the measure on March 15.
There would be no increase in taxes for the bond until the 2017-18 school year. “The edict to improve our facilities and educational programs while minimizing the tax burden is no easy feat,” Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton said. “With projected increases in state aid and the highest state reimbursement rate possible, the stars have aligned to make this bond possible with the least impact on the taxpayers of Mount Vernon.”
The annual tax increase for residents having an average home value of $315,000 (for tax purposes, a home with an assessed value of $10,000) would average $7.34 a month over the next 20 years. Please visit www.mtvernoncsd.org or see below for a monthly breakdown each year as the amount will fluctuate.
Planning Today for Tomorrow
With stable, long-term administrative leadership in place, Dr. Hamilton has embarked on a master plan, his “20/20 Vision” for the district, which includes improvements for all of Mount Vernon’s schools.
Recognizing the importance of early literacy for student success, the 20/20 Vision will implement a district-wide full-day universal pre-kindergarten program. This program will be housed in both neighborhood schools and an early childhood education-learning center at Parker Elementary School. This restructuring will create the space necessary to implement a K-8 configuration district-wide (Pennington, Holmes, Traphagen, Lincoln and Columbus will become Pre-K-8 buildings. Williams, Grimes, Graham, Turner and Hamilton schools will become K-8, with the new Parker Early Learning Center housing the Pre-K programs for those schools. The Turner schools will provide a K-5, then a 6-8).
The implementation of universal full-day pre-kindergarten will introduce students to a rigorous curriculum that will allow them to jump-start their formal education. The program will also eliminate the need for parents to assume the exorbitant costs of childcare during the workday.
“Mount Vernon is a community with many exceptional children who deserve an excellent school system, equipped to offer many different pathways to a successful life,” Dr. Hamilton said. “The 20/20 Vision provides a blueprint for Mount Vernon to become an outstanding, contemporary and progressive city school district – rich in opportunity and innovation. In addition to the 20/20 Vision, this bond will provide the district with the financial resources needed to address long-standing infrastructure issues, creating a more comfortable, safer and technologically advanced learning environment for our students.”
Dr. Hamilton has already made a number of improvements since becoming Superintendent of Schools in August 2014 and his 20/20 Vision is an extension of the work that has already begun. The district’s educational programs and facilities have experienced the beginnings of a rebirth. Under Dr. Hamilton’s leadership, the district has:
- Had a zero percent tax rate increase for the 2015-2016 school year
- Increased professional development and accountability for teachers and administrators
- Established a pilot full-day pre-K program
- Restored the Career and Technical Education programs
- Brought back modified track and field and basketball programs at the middle schools
- Expanded Behavioral Intervention Services to ALL elementary schools
- Begun restoration of the Mount Vernon High School swimming pool
Great strides have been made creating a more open and transparent school system so residents have a clear understanding of the district’s management, direction and financials. “This school district administration understands the need for stringent financial oversight and we will provide the same diligence as we do for our day-to-day financial operations,” Dr. Hamilton said. “The district will provide residents with a timeline of completion and ongoing public updates of our progress in bringing these changes and improvements to life.”
Supporting the Vision
Changes to the district’s buildings are needed to support the 20/20 Vision. Some examples are:
- B. Davis and Mount Vernon High School will each receive upgraded science labs to support their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and technology curriculums.
- Thornton High School’s turn-of-the-century auditorium will be restored and equipped to become a state-of-the-art facility to support its performing arts curriculum and provide a performance venue for the community.
- B. Davis and Mount Vernon High School will each receive artificial turf fields to improve safety and the competitiveness of its athletic programs.
- Thornton High School will be outfitted with educational space that focuses on dance, including a dance studio to support its performing arts curriculum.
- Parker Elementary School will have bathrooms installed in each pre-K classroom to provide added safety and convenience for students as well as a site plan reconfigured for safer, more efficient traffic patterns that will provide for safe pickup and drop-off of children.
- Districtwide state-of-the-art science classrooms for 7th– and 8th-grade students.
Conversions of High Schools
At the high school level, students will have a choice of entering one of three “schools of excellence.” These schools will offer students a choice of specialized areas of study in addition to general studies. They will raise rigor, restore excellence, and provide multiple pathways to graduation.
- B. Davis will become a 9-12 high school, offering a concentration in STEAM programs as well as general studies.
- Thornton High School will become the district’s performing arts school and house performing arts students in 6th through 12th grade (auditions will be required).
- Mount Vernon High School is maintained as a 9-12 high school. It will become the center of the District’s reinvigorated Career and Technical Education program as well as a general studies and technology school with an International baccalaureate program.
“As our academic programs increase in both scope and quality our school system will see a resurgence like never before,” Dr. Hamilton said. “We fully anticipate the return of students from private and parochial schools as we transform our district. Coupled with increases in property values and the desirability of our community for new families – the district’s renaissance will have a tremendous positive impact on our tax base and community. Improved facilities will support competitive sports teams, create better curb appeal and establish a greater sense of community pride.”
Urgent Infrastructure Needs
Many of the district’s buildings have been neglected and are in disrepair. Classrooms and school buildings equipped with state-of-the-art technology will restore a sense of pride and motivation for students and teachers to perform at a higher level. Basic repairs and replacements need to be made, such as:
- Expanding classroom spaces to eliminate modular classrooms
- Retrofitting wiring for high speed Internet and wireless communication
- Abatement of asbestos associated with projects
- Replacing or repairing ventilation systems
- Creating safe age-appropriate play areas
- Replacing or repairing roofs and windows
- Replacing or repairing parking lots and walkway
The 20/20 vision is part of an ongoing, sustainable strategy to improve education in the Mount Vernon School District. “By introducing, and implementing a long-term sustainable vision for our schools we are working to help break the cycle of poverty and provide an opportunity for our students to achieve the American dream,” Dr. Hamilton said.
Average cost breakdown for Mount Vernon residents
Monthly bond cost impact for a Mount Vernon resident with a home assessed at $10,000*
School Year Monthly Increase
*Homes in Mount Vernon assessed at $10,000 have an approximate market value of $315,000.
About Mount Vernon City School District
With more than 8,000 students in 16 schools, the Mount Vernon City School District is committed to providing a quality education to its children as well as developing programs that meet the diverse academic and social needs of its students.