OSSINING, N.Y. -- U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey visited Ossining Public Schools recently and met with school administrators, Board of Education members and parents to see the district’s full-day pre-kindergarten program and to hear about the district’s successes and challenges.
Lowey visited the Park Early Childhood Center, where she met with Superintendent of Schools Raymond Sanchez and other district officials, including Ossining High School Principal Joshua Mandel and Park Principal Carrieann Sipos, then toured pre-K classes. The district’s full-day pre-kindergarten program was launched in the fall, after Ossining learned just weeks before the start of school that it had secured a portion of the state’s $340 million in full-day pre-K funding.
Lowey, who made her visit on Nov. 24, also expressed an interest in the district’s dual language programs, which blend dominant Spanish-speaking students with dominant English-speaking students starting in pre-kindergarten – another program for which there is a waiting list. Mandel reminded Lowey of the praise often given to Ossining High School’s science research program, which in 2012 earned the school national recognition with the highly coveted Intel Innovator Award. He also noted that OHS is working with Westchester Community College and Purchase College of the State University of New York on a program that would permit some students to receive one year of college credits -- the equivalent of a year toward an associate’s degree -- while still in the high school and at about one-third of the cost. At the same time, school officials noted that Ossining faces unique challenges, including enrollment that has increased by 700 students in the last decade, as state funding has plummeted. Although voters approved a $41 million bond to finance much-needed facilities upgrades several years ago, New York State froze the District’s Foundation Aid in 2008-09. The Board of Education recently noted in a resolution that had Foundation Aid not been frozen, Ossining would have received about $50 million over the past seven years. “It’s clear that your schools are not getting the funding you need to adequately educate your students,” said Lowey. “You do such wonderful and creative things here in Ossining and it does my heart good to see what’s being accomplished here. I would hate to see that change.”
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