Utica Schools Join Big 5 Conference

Keshia Clukey

Posted Mar. 5, 2014 @ 11:01 am
Updated Mar 5, 2014 at 3:48 PM UTICA

The Conference of Big 5 City School Districts is adding on a sixth for the 2014-15 school year, and possibly more to come. The Utica City School District has joined forces with the conference based on similar interests and need for legislative change.

The Utica City School District has joined forces with the conference based on similar interests and need for legislative change.
“We are a member and the idea behind this is that it will give us a louder voice in Albany to be heard on the Foundation Aid Formula, the underfunding of state aid, and other educational issues that are of prime concern to the (district),” said district Superintendent Bruce Karam.
The Big 5 is comprised of the Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers Public Schools.
The Conference is a membership organization that has been in existence for over 55 years representing the needs and interests of urban education in the state.
The districts have larger populations that the other districts statewide, and are not independent of the cities in which they operate, so they don’t have the ability to levy their own taxes, that is done through the municipal governing body.
Utica, however, has faced many of the same challenges as the Big 5 in recent years with inadequate state funding and a growing student population due to a high number of refugees and immigrants.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Karam said. “We are a small city school district, but we are an urban school district and we have a lot of similarities…We deal with the same basic urban issues.”
The district hopes to make the partnership permanent.
“We plan on becoming a regular member down the road,” Karam said.
Karam and school board President Christopher Salatino are in Albany this week along with representatives from the conference to push for more school funding.
“This is the first time in the history of the Utica City School District that an initiative like this has taken place,” Karam said. “It’s a very creative idea in order to achieve our goals.”