“it is by virtue of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Woodstock Schools, and the administration of the Woodstock preK-8 system and their conformity to State regulations that the Academy is able to exist”
There has been much talk about the quality of education in the Woodstock preK-8 system and at the Academy. Indeed, a lot of this talk has come from one member of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, out of the mouth of Ernest Wetzel. Do the insinuations and accusations of Mr. Wetzel actually reflect the views of the Woodstock Academy leadership?
By contrast, Lindsey Paul, chairman of the BOE, stated last Friday in the Villager “The Academy IS Woodstock’s high school! (we added the exclamation point). As stated in the article “BOE Negotiations with the Academy May Resume”, the Cafe supports both the Woodstock Board of Education and the Woodstock Academy. This endorsement has forced the Cafe to think more deeply about the relationship between these two entities.
Although the Woodstock BOE and the Academy appear to function as separate entities, they are hardly separate. We suggest that perhaps these two organizations should change their perceptions and look at each other conceptually as partners. YES, the Academy describes itself as “a non-selective, comprehensive, independent and co-educational secondary school” with a very long history, and YES the Academy is separately incorporated as a non-profit institution, and YES the Academy has a Board of Trustees that oversees its operation and adherence to the bylaws. But, the relationship between the Academy and the Town of Woodstock is truly co-dependent and co-morbid, and even promiscuous in the sense that there are other ‘women’ in the form of other sending towns.
In 2005, Woodstock sent 475 students to the Academy or 43% of the student body (7 more were added during the school year). The other sending towns were Brooklyn 296, Pomfret 214, Eastford 87, Canterbury 17, and Union 15.
One of the themes of the spokesman for the Academy Trustees has been that the Academy is better run than the preK-8 system because the BOE squanders money while the Academy adds programs to enrich the lives of its students. We calculated that the tuition for the Woodstock preK-8 students was about $9300 this year while the tuition charged by the Academy is $9849 if you don’t count costs that come out of the BOE budget to support Academy students. If you count the costs of mandated transportation of Academy students paid out of the Woodstock town education budget, the fee per Academy student is more like $10,300, or about $900,000 in differential tuition cost of WA students versus preK-8 students.
The ‘spokesmam’ for the Board of Trustees of the Academy pointed out that the tuitions for preK-8 students and Academy students are really the same if one adds the bond debt service to the cost of the preK-8 students, even though no public school system in Connecticut does this. It was suggested by the ‘Trustee spokesman’ that the Academy does this by adding $318,729 (this year) in building projects into their calculation of what the tuition should be. If the tuition of the Academy is partly based upon ‘building projects’ that are normally charged to Town operating budgets on behalf of their public schools, then perhaps the Academy should reduce their tuition by $274 per student, or $9575 per student as opposed to $9849 to conform to public school accounting. The Academy could, instead, pay for “building costs” with revenues from their endowment fund.
These thoughts led us to think differently about the financial relationship between the Woodstock public school system and the Academy. This year the State of Connecticut will give the Town of Woodstock about $4,865,000 for “education cost sharing” which funds about 34.5% of the Woodstock education budget by virtue of the Town conforming to State-mandated requirements for their ‘public’ education system. And this year, the Woodstock BOE has budgeted about $4,740,000 to pay the Academy for tuition of Woodstock students. Thus, the Town of Woodstock turns over about $1,635,500 of the State grant to the Academy in the form of tuition. YES, this state grant is not restricted to the preK-8 system. In fact all of the sending towns of the Academy support the Academy with a similar proportion of state grant money. If the State only funded preK-8 education, then the Academy would have to become a truly independent ‘private school’? and would probably cease to exist.
The ‘Trustee spokesman’ and other critics of the Woodstock education budget should also recognize that $748,955 of the Town education budget funds the Academy outside of the tuition costs of $4,740,000. Within these additional costs to the taxpayers of Woodstock is $580,554 for mandated special education services and $168,401 for mandated transportation costs. If we subtract this funding from the calculated tuition per preK-8 student, we find the adjusted preK-8 tuition is actually $8538 per student ($9300-$762) and the adjusted WA tuition is actually $10,611 per high school student ($9849+$762), or a differential of $999,186 for the Academy over and above the tuition rate for preK-8 students.
The Academy is not an independent private school. Instead, the Academy is truly dependent or co-dependent on the State funding of education to the accredited sending towns with about 46% of its student population coming from the Town of Woodstock this year. By contrast, The Pomfret School and the Rectory School are truly independent private schools that do not support themselves on State public school funding. To say this one more way, it is by virtue of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Woodstock Schools, and the administration of the Woodstock preK-8 system and their conformity to State regulations that the Academy is able to exist.
Then what is the role of the Academy in our Woodstock education systemâ€¦and for the other sending towns? The role of the Academy, as the Academy states, IS a non-selective, comprehensive, and co-educational secondary school with a tradition of excellence. But, the Academy is not independent. The strength of the Academy is in its tradition of excellence spanning two centuries and its very respectable leadership in Headmaster Foye and his administration. The Board of Trustees of the Academy, the governing body of the Academy, is in part a group of hard working dedicated people. Read the rest of this entry »