MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - With local taxpayers approving a “historic” $108 million bond referendum by an overwhelming four-to-one margin, Mount Vernon school officials are set to hit the ground on a districtwide rebuild.
Last week, following six months of presentations, programs and public discussion by district officials, Mount Vernon voters approved the bond - and Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton's "20/20 Vision" for the future - allowing for an overhaul of infrastructure and a transition from a traditional to a “K-8” education model that will emphasize early childhood education.
Officially, the bond referendum passed by a 2,330 to 690 vote. Of the $108 million bond, $81 million is covered by state aid, with taxpayers responsible for the remaining $27 million. There will be no tax increase until the 2017-18 school year, with an average tax increase of $7.37 each month for the next 20 years, peaking in 2020 with a $12.92 monthly increase.
Mount Vernon Board of Education President Adriane Saunders said that by approving the bond, voters are betting on the future of the city.
“The impact of the vote cannot be underestimated. The approval of the bond gives the children of Mount Vernon wonderful opportunities for the future,” she said. “We are finally able to best position our district to fulfill its mission of providing all our children - from preschoolers to graduating seniors - with an exceptional, meaningful and life-changing educational experience.”
With the bond officially passed, the district will implement full-day pre-kindergarten programs, “allowing educators to nurture students at a much earlier age,” while alleviating some Mount Vernon families from having to pay day care cost.
Under the plan, Pennington, Holmes, Traphagen, Lincoln and Columbus would become Pre-K-8 buildings; Williams, Grimes, Graham, Turner and Hamilton would becomes K-8 with the new Parker Early Learning Center for pre-kindergarten programs; with the Turner schools providing a K-5 and 6-8 model.
Once students enter high school, they will have their choice of entering one of three “schools of excellence,” which will provide specialized areas of study, as well as general education.
The A.B. Davis School would offer concentration in STEAM programs, Thornton High School would become the district’s performing arts destination for students in sixth through 12th grade and the Mount Vernon High School would be maintained, becoming “the district’s reinvigorated career and technical education program.”
Hamilton hailed the vote's outcome, calling the collaborative, community-wide effort “historic."
"Our students will now have every possible academic advantage to become college and career ready, to be able to make a difference in the communities they will live in, and even beyond because of the contributions they will make to our nation," he said. "Mount Vernon’s educational transformation continues into the next phase (with this vote).”