Last month after former Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio announced his retirement following the revelation that the Board of Education mistakenly accounted for $55 million in state aid that never existed, many Yonkers parents, students and school personnel were understandably upset and uneasy about the state of Yonkers Schools. After all, Yonkers’ families and teachers are still reeling from several years of cuts.
Last year, my second in office, I passed a bipartisan, unanimous City budget that actually increased school funding. Our historic investment in education provided the BOE with resources to restore positions, sports, art and music. The BOE’s budget error not only jeopardizes those restorations, but the entire school system and every Yonkers taxpayer too.
An error of this magnitude requires that those responsible be held accountable to the taxpayers who fund our schools. That’s why I am pleased that this week the Board of Education Trustees accepted Mr. Pierorazio’s retirement and appointed Dr. Michael Yazurlo as Interim Superintendent.
Dr. Yazurlo is a great fit for Yonkers Public Schools. A Yonkers resident and product of Yonkers Public Schools himself, Dr. Yazurlo taught at Enrico Fermi Middle School and Lincoln High School, and served as the principal at Hawthorne Jr. High and Roosevelt High before taking the job as Superintendent of Tuckahoe Schools. Dr. Yazurlo also has private sector, academic and finance experience that will serve him well as the BOE copes with its financial challenges.
As we work with the State and City Council to help the BOE manage these budgetary issues, we also have a responsibility to taxpayers, parents and students to ensure these accounting errors don’t ever happen again. It’s a matter of common sense – more than $500 million is paid to the Board of Education by taxpayers with little oversight or accountability; that’s more than half of the city’s overall budget. We’ve already made progress on this front. Earlier this month we entered into an inter-municipal agreement with the BOE and my finance team has begun to open the BOE’s books.
Later this year I will also ask the State Legislature to pass school governance reform legislation that will provide the City with greater oversight over the BOE’s finances. Doing so could save taxpayers millions of dollars by consolidating overlapping operations in the Board of Education’s front office. It just doesn’t make sense for Yonkers to have two law departments, two IT departments and two HR departments – one on the municipal side and one on the educational side. We should put those functions under one roof because we are one city.
Despite our challenges, Yonkers has come a long way in the last two years. We’ve moved our city in a new direction and together we will move Yonkers Schools forward.
Mayor Mike Spano is the 42nd Mayor of the City of Yonkers, NY. Mayor Spano is a lifelong Yonkers resident, husband and father of three who has dedicated his life to standing up as a voice for Yonkers' families and communities.