Superintendent's Message

April 2021

Dear Binghamton Families:

I am so pleased that this month brings with it a return to more students coming more frequently and safely to our schools. A separate communication was sent to each of you detailing our revised reopening plan. You can find more information regarding the reopening on our website. I also want to remind you that we have a new tool to help you access information about how your child is doing. With the SchoolTool Mobile App you can get in-the-moment push notifications about your child’s assignments and grades at the secondary level, and attendance at all levels. The SchoolTool mobile application is now available for Android and iOS devices and can be found in your device’s app store.

Throughout the past two weeks we have unintentionally but understandably drawn regional and state-wide attention to anti-racism as a result of the book, “Something Happened in Our Town” which was used in several elementary classrooms at MacArthur and remains a resource for our teachers. Through phone calls, letters, emails, and public comments at the April Board meeting, we have heard numerous opinions both in support and in disappointment of its use. Please know that I speak out of care, respect, and devotion for everyone. Division doesn’t get us anywhere, but dialogue, collaboration, understanding and partnership will move us to a place where all children, families and employees will thrive.

Earlier this month, we were pleased to see that the New York State Board of Regents launched an initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion across all schools in New York State. The Department of Education is releasing resources to help support districts’ on-going commitment to addressing equity and inclusion. Our job as teachers and leaders is to care for and to educate all of our students. An important element of our that work is to ensure that equitable and fair environments exist across all classrooms and that all voices are represented and heard. Our faculty encourage our students to be thoughtful about perspectives held by others. Conversations that occur in classrooms are focused on listening, learning from one another, and giving one another space to safely express themselves. The book, “Something Happened in Our Town,” must be read and seen in its entirety. Its intent is to foster kindness and acceptance, to open discussion and introduce divergent perspectives on the realities of what some of our students, communities, and families are experiencing and feeling. It is not to champion one perspective over another.

During our cultural responsiveness training with Dr. Sharroky Hollie, our teachers have learned that conversations and dialogues surrounding race and injustice are not comfortable, and they should not be. Now more than ever, it is time to have uncomfortable conversations and engage in open dialogue to foster environments of safety and inclusion for all students.

The Binghamton City School District has an opportunity to be a leader in fostering these conversations with everyone. In June, our board of education will be discussing and defining opportunities for the school community to come together and continue the conversation around anti-racism and inclusion, with the objective of walking away with real-life solutions that bring us closer together as a community. I recognize the passion and concern that it will cause. But I am speaking from the heart as an educator and encouraging us to wrap our arms around each other as this will result in better opportunities for all students, and in particular, marginalized and under-represented students and their families. We must work hard to use systems and spaces in ways that actively promote equity. This is one important issue among many that we will be addressing in the months ahead.

Next month will bring forward our annual budget vote and the presentation of our spending plan for the 21-22 school year. A public hearing on the plan will be held on May 11th, with the Budget vote and Board election being held on May 18th. While providing a safe, sound and fiscally responsible educational experience for our children has remained our primary mission during the pandemic, our strategies and methods for doing so have changed, as needed, to meet the ever-changing environment of the pandemic. We are keenly aware that the pandemic has brought hardship not only to our staff and our families but to the members of the business community as well. So we have tried harder than ever to keep our taxes manageable without depriving our students of the education they need and deserve.

In total our aid package holds the tax levy increase at 0.64% - the third lowest levy increase in the past 10 years. We also anticipate receiving some form of stimulus funding from the federal government, and after receiving clarification on how these funds can be used, we will share with the community a spending plan for it as well. More information about the budget can be found here.

I look forward to our building leaders sharing final plans for end of the year celebrations. Our teachers, staff, students, and families have worked hard to prepare some great events. Thank you for your continued support of your children, their teachers and leaders, and the school district.

With Patriot Pride,

 Tonia Signature
Tonia Thompson, Ed.D. 
Superintendent of Schools
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