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Five Questions With Superintendent Clouet

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - As the 2012 to 2013 school budget season approaches, White Plains Public School District Superintendent Christopher Clouet briefed The Daily White Plains about fears surrounding the 2 percent property tax cap and his daily duties.

There's been a lot of talk about how difficult this school budget season will be. Have there been other budget seasons in White Plains that are comparable?

The last several years have all been very difficult. In the last two years, we have proposed budgets for voter approval that were below the 2 percent tax levy cap that has now become law. But by virtue of doing that, we reduced our district wide staff by nearly 14 percent and had to reduce programs. That’s a significant hit.

With all that as background, this is going to be even more difficult in that now we have this legal restraint to remain within a 2 percent tax levy cap. This is going to be another difficult year and part of that is because people have very high expectations for what we provide for children. Parents are understandably concerned about the future of their children.

You've mentioned that cutting a significant amount of staff wouldn't be a wise way to save money. What other budget trimming methods would be more viable?

It will probably end up being some combination of staff, programs, equipment, transportation cuts. We'll be looking at all of those areas and trying to trim something, so we can try to put together a budget that works. That's in contrast to saying we’re going to chop out whole sets of programs.

The property tax cap will be in effect for at least five years. Could it dramatically change the school district over those years?

It has the potential for changing the face of public education in New York. There are some things that schools have to offer. It seems obvious, but schools have to have a first grade or have to offer certain history, civic or math classes for the regents. You don’t have to offer certain things that are not mandated courses, but that make a big difference in the development of a child, like music, like the arts, like after school programs that allow for socialization and other forms of learning. Over the next five years, there is potential for those things to get reduced, and that changes the quality and character of public education in a way that is not positive.

What part of your typical work day do you enjoy most?

I love being in the schools and I love interacting with the kids. The kids always share their youthful enthusiasm for their work and love sharing their accomplishments. Of course, there’s always a little wisdom that they have that they can share too.

You've worked at a few districts, by comparison, what would you say White Plains Public School Districts' biggest strength is?

It’s strength is that we have a big number of very talented staff, teachers, administrators, and TAs, among others. There’s a very strong work ethic among the staff to deliver what’s good for kids. And then the other exciting part of White Plains is the true diversity. And I always say true because we really do have a socioeconomic diversity as well as racial-ethnic diversity. That makes it a really vibrant place. I think that the education that kids in White Plains get bodes well for them in their future because they really will have become accustomed to what it’s like to live in a multicultural or global environment.

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