An Open Letter to Governor Spitzer

Dear Governor Spitzer:

I’ve read the description of your executive budget recommendations for elementary and secondary education. Thank you. Your financial support of public education is unprecedented in my seventeen years in education. We’ve said “show me the money if you want improvements” and you’ve effectively said, “Here it is, now you better make it happen.” Our rural district is one likely to receive an annual increase in Foundation Aid in excess of 10 percent. Under your plan, we will be required to develop a Contract for Excellence that indicates how we will spend new State funding on measures that have been demonstrated to effectively increase our student achievement and graduation rate.

That would be right up my alley, Governor, because it’s my job to do just that, increase our student achievement and graduation rate.  I welcome the challenge and especially the opportunity to problem solve with a new perspective. In the 28 months I have worked as G-Town’s high school principal, it has been my focus to examine all of our practices, from AIS to instructional strategies to literacy to use of time, AND to implement changes that will help our students improve, while managing day to day operations.

I must admit that as I research, evaluate data, and read about successful school districts, particularly with students of poverty, I sometimes place good ideas in my file folder entitled “research”. This isn’t exactly an “active” file. As we currently evaluate ideas, initiatives and solutions, I’ve tried to implement changes with very little, if any, fiscal impact. For example, I recently set my counselors to the task of rethinking our entire schedule. I asked them to think only of maximizing instructional time, allowing the details like the breakfast program, crossover teachers to the middle school, and departure times for vocational students to sit on the back burner. I asked them to dream big, to let go of past practice, and determine something more effective. My only limit on their planning? It can’t cost any more money.

How do your recommendations change all that? We can now truly “dream big” with the idea that we can possibly fund another bus run for an after school program or an additional FTE to make that schedule work, if need be. Maybe we can increase the school day or year. Maybe we can hire that literacy coach. Thank you for the possibility to reach a little bit higher. Hopefully, a lot higher.

Here’s what I need though. Specifically tie the money to academic, instructional programs that directly benefit students. I hope you’re already planning this, but haven’t seen it spelled out anywhere. Don’t allow the increase in aid for reform to end up financing something entirely different. Give district school boards and voting taxpayers some parameters on how the increase can be spent. Give me the authority along with the responsibility, to spend the increased aid on the programs that work.

If you want to assess my effectiveness, if you want me to stand behind my superintendent as he signs your contract for excellence, if you’re putting my job on the line, make sure I see the money.


Kimberly Moritz, NYS High School Principal

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