February 8, 2022

Honorable Kathy Hochul                                  Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH
Governor of New York State                             New York State Department of Health
NYS State Capitol Building                               Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza,
Albany, New York 12224                                  Albany, New York 12203

Dear Governor Hochul and Commissioner Bassett,

As you are aware, the last two years have brought forth a number of challenges for every government agency, business, and citizen in New York State. We can all be proud of the way our communities have responded to the COVID crisis and how our citizenry have responded to keep their neighbors healthy.

As school leaders, we are especially proud of the way in which our students and their families have worked with us to keep our schools open for in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible. The flexibility and understanding that our families and students have demonstrated has been extraordinary and, with their partnership, we can affirmatively state that the safest place for the children we serve is within our schools.

From our perspective, it is now time to forge ahead, and to develop a “Pathway to Normalcy.”
In speaking with our families, the consistent message we receive is how they need to get back to normal. Frankly, they need more consistency from their schools, and we agree with that concept. Therefore, we are asking the state to consider working with school leaders to develop a “Pathway to Normalcy,” which consists of the following key components:

Roadmap on Masking: While we all understand the need for masking during high rates of transmission, providing specific metrics for when this requirement can be optional as transmission rates decrease or vaccination rates reach a certain threshold is essential to maintaining our focus on teaching and learning. We would also ask that the state avoid having to differing masking rules for the public in general and schools. Specifically, our students go out into the public each day both before and after school. Here they will have a choice as to whether or not they wear a mask. Therefore, if the student and family have a choice in the public setting the vast majority of the day, why would the state wish to place an additional burden of mandatory masking during their public time in schools? This is confusing for all, so please consider any masking rule changes going forward to be applicable to all (the public and school settings).

Seeing the Whole Student: After school and extracurricular activities are an essential component of our educational program. Extracurricular activities are a lifeline that brings many of our students to school and these programs have never been more important for our students. However, the current guidelines make participation a significant challenge given the varying vaccination requirements. School districts support and advocate vaccination efforts within our communities, however there is a major disconnect of logic between school day events (e.g., PE class, student group work) and after school events (e.g., chess club, athletics) which makes it very difficult to explain to our parents and caregivers. Especially, when the same type of activities outside of our school atmosphere, are not required to follow the same masking and/or vaccination requirements imposed by New York State, our by NYSPHSAA (the governing body of the state public school athletics program)

We would like to thank you for the changes you have already made to the state's procedures, allowing more students to remain in school each day and for the millions of antigen tests you have made available to schools across our state. In doing so, this allows us to continue to work with families, keep sick children home, and to provide families with the necessary resources to make informed decisions about children who are symptomatic.
In the meantime, we will continue to work with the families we serve to understand the need for higher vaccination rates and keeping all as safe as possible. However, we need our elected leaders and the Health department to immediately create and publish a necessary path forward to normalcy as soon as possible that allows public choice going forward. We request this plan as soon as possible to avoid the constant whiplash that is starting to occur regularly from communications and/or decisions from the state level and court systems.


Dr. Thomas J. Douglas
Superintendent of Schools
Horseheads Central School District
Greater Southern Tier BOCES CSO Legislative Committee Chairperson

On behalf of the 22 Superintendents of Schools in the GST BOCES region:

Joe DioGuardi, Addison CSD            Tracie Bliven, Alfred-Almond CSD
Jesse Harper, Arkport CSD            C. Saxton, Avoca CSD 
Joseph L. Rumsey, Bath CSD            John Marshall, Bradford CSD
Ann Meccariello, Campbell-Savona CSD            Chad C. Groff, Canaseraga CSD
Thomas J. Crook, Canisteo-Greenwood CSD            Michelle A. Caulfield, Corning-Painted Post ASD 
Hillary J. Austin, Elmira CSD            Michael F. Gill, Elmira Heights CSD
Kyle C. Bower, Hammondsport CSD            Jeremy Palotti, Hornell CSD
Dr. Thomas J. Douglas, Horseheads CSD             LeeAnne H. Jordan, Jasper-Troupsburg CSD 
Christopher J. Wood, Odessa-Montour CSD             Kory G. Bay, Prattsburgh CSD
Diahann Hesler, Spencer-Van Etten CSD            Kai A. D’Alleva, Watkins Glen CSD 
Eric Knolles, Waverly CSD            Kelly Houck, Greater Southern Tier BOCES

cc. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate Leader
Carl Heastie, New York State Assembly Leader
Robert Ortt, New York State Senate Minority Leader
William Barclay, New York State Assembly Minority Leader
Phil Palmesano, New York State Assembly Deputy Minority Leader
Thomas O’Mara, New York State Senate
Christopher Friend, New York State Assembly
Marjorie Byrnes, New York State Assembly
Lester W. Young Jr., Chancellor, New York State Board of Regents
Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Commissioner of Education, NYSED
New York State Board of Regents Members
Jack Wheeler, Steuben County Executive
Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health Services
Chris Moss, Chemung County Executive
Peter Buzzetti, Chemung County Public Health Services