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Nightmare: Yonkers School District In Dire Financial Straits

You Name It, The Students Don't Have It As $41 Million More Cut From Budget
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Yonkers School District

For some, this is what a textbook looks like inside Yonkers Middle High School. (Photo: CBS 2)

Lou Young headshot Lou Young
A native New Yorker, Lou Young joined CBS 2 in June 1994. He has...
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YONKERS (CBSNewYork) — The budget knife draws blood.

A local school system is ordered to find another $41 million in cuts — that’s 8 percent — from an already lean budget. And the results are not pretty, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.

The ax has already fallen, but the pain is just beginning to set in. It will include crowded hallways and classrooms, and students with individual horror stories.

“On the first day of school for my Spanish class there were over 52 students,” ninth grader Fatima Alibba said.

“In the beginning of the year I had a business management class and they cancelled it because there wasn’t enough money in the budget,” 12th grader Ayana Nedd said.

“Half these textbooks aren’t even full textbooks, like there are some that are only two-thirds of a textbook. There are no covers, no backs to some of them,” added ninth grader Ayla Palancio, who added when asked if she feels neglected, “Yes. It’s unbelievable.”

There are libraries without librarians and teachers with no budget for classroom supplies.

“I have to get it ourselves. Sometimes I buy it myself, sometimes I fundraise,” art teacher Denise Cochoian said.

Young went to Yonkers Middle High School on Wednesday. There, classrooms are crowded, maintenance is deferred and more than 20 teachers and staff members have been laid off, leaving behind a vacuum the survivors are struggling to fill.

Want a guidance counselor? Get in line.

Administrator Natalie Davy told Young that the ratio of students to counselors is an unbelievable 900 to 1.

It’s a disaster for college-bound students hoping for a meaningful recommendation letter.

“They need to write them for every single student and I feel like they don’t have the time,” 12th grader Michaela Conte said.

When asked to be realistic about what kind of recommendation letter she can you write for the students, guidance counselor Roselyn Jones said, “It’s gonna be, it might have to be that cookie cutter.”

Yonkers has also slashed its social workers and psychologists working among the high-poverty student body. The district is stretched beyond paper-thin.

“Currently we have approximately one counselor working for every 1,300 students,” administrator Donna Murtage said.

“I’ve been in two separate situations already this school year when I’ve had to be pulled from one building to assess a suicidal prevention assessment at another building,” social worker Nancy Medina-Hernandez said.

Most athletics are gone; the band uniforms are in storage, and the students are beginning to wish they were somewhere else.

“If was a freshman, I would find a private school,” 12th grader Jonah Abue said.

For most here that is simply not an option.

Yonkers is one of only five school districts in New York State completely dependent on city and state government for finances. It has no independent taxing authority.

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