Southern Westchester BOCES: A brief history

On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, a Brief History of Southern Westchester BOCES

By the end of World War II, it became clear in New York State that a regional educational delivery system was needed to provide services to students in rural areas. In April 1948 an intermediate school district bill was passed, leading to the formation of 11 cooperative boards at the request of local boards of education.

 SWBOCES charter by SUNY On June 15, 1948, BOCES II, eventually to be known as Southern Westchester BOCES, was established.

 Its mandate was:

"To carry out a program of shared educational services in schools of the supervisory district and for the purpose of providing instruction in such special subjects as it may hereafter approve, and it further appearing that the formation of such a board in such supervisory district is for the best educational interests of the pupils in such districts, it is ordered that a Board of Cooperative Educational Ser­vices be and is hereby established for the Second Supervisory District of Westchester County."

This was later clarified to explain that the objec­tive was to provide, on a cooperative basis, additional educational services not now feasible particularly in the smaller school dis­tricts. In other words, shared services were·to be furnished by BOCES with the state paying approximately one half of the cost.

The Reporter Dispatch newspaper reported at the time that schools in rural West­chester were being brought up to New York City standards through cooperative educational services.

The first meeting of BOCES II was held on September 16, 1948, with the following districts and common schools attending: Ardsley, Rye, Pocantico Hills, Hawthorne, Thorn­wood, Hartsdale, Greenburgh 7, Edgemont, Armonk, Harrison, and Mamaroneck. 

original SWBOCES board members

The original Board of Education with their terms of office follow:

1 year - Clayton B. Emerson, Pocantico Hills
2 years - Edward C. Holmes, Ridge Street
3 years - Vincent F. Cunningham, Armonk
4  years - Mrs. Ida Munier, Hartsdale
5 years - Angelo Russo, Attorney, Harrison

 Mr. Russo was made clerk, and Mrs. Ing, the District Superintendent's secretary, became secretary of the Board at $1 per hour. It will be noted that three of the original board members, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Holmes and Mr. Russo, remained for many years and contributed greatly to the growth of BOCES II.

The shared services provided were: school nurse teacher, attendance supervisor, dental hygienist, guidance counselor, psychologist and reading teacher; teachers of music, physical education, vocational agriculture, and vocational homemaking.

It was agreed that shared teachers be paid a salary comparable to that of teachers employed by the schools.

Most Board meetings were held at 4 p.m. in the Superintendent's Office in the County Office Building. Occasionally the Superintendent or a member would invite them and their spouses to a dinner or picnic at their home, with the formal meet­ing beginning at 8.

With the Cooperative Board Bill of April 1952, the District Superintendent front then on be elected by the component school districts. This bill made BOCES a corporate body, provided for a new method of electing Board members, set up a calendar for BOCES' budgets and spelled out responsibilities for administering instructional services.

The responsibilities of the District Superintendent were des­cribed as follows:

  • To direct and administer the BOCES' program
  • To pass on certification of teachers
  • To screen and appoint teachers
  • To compute state aid
  • To be in contact with county agencies
  • To work on school district reorganization.

In the early years, BOCES' vision of shared teachers expanded. An in-service training course for teachers was begun at Greenburgh in 1948, and in 1953 a speed reading and study hall improvement class was started at Irvington and Greenburgh. As time went on, the superintendent’s functions expanded to include supervisor of shared teachers, personnel director, and coordinator. It was at this time that the question of whether districts should be billed for administrative expenses was first raised.

A period of growth

valhalla campus rendering

The period of 1948 to 1956 saw rapid growth. Larger offices beyond the County Office Building were needed. On September 10, 1956 a lease was signed for the upper floor of the Valhalla Fire House for $315 per month plus utilities. On January 28, 1957 a bill was passed in Albany allowing BOCES to make and adopt its own budget, includ­ing office rent.

 In 1954, 51 BOCES had been approved by the state Education Department. By 1960 there were 82. The growth of BOCES was accelerated by an amendment to the BOCES' law was passed on May 2, 1967, that permitted BOCES to acquire property and to build on it with the help of the Dormitory Authority when authorized by a referendum of the voters of the com­ponent school districts. A referendum was held and passed on February 14, 1968, providing for four buildings at the Mid­-Westchester Center for Occupational Education in Valhalla, three buildings for the Rye Lake Education Center and a bus maintenance facility.

Legislation was adopted in the late 1960s to authorize BOCES to provide data process­ing services on a multi-BOCES basis, a precursor to today’s regional information centers. Computer assisted instructional  services also began to be requested as well as planning and staff development services and adults programs.

teacher and student

BOCES’s growth was also again accelerated by a landmark 1971 Supreme Court decision related to the education of children with disabilities that mandated the state provide for their education at public expense. The state Education Department followed in November 1973 by ordering all school districts to provide ''adequate and appropriate" education for all such children.

By 1980 most of the school districts in the State were component members of BOCES. In 1983, BOCES’ authority expanded to include academic programs, such as summer school, alternative high school or other central academic services.

The modern era

Today  there are 37 BOCES across New York State, with nearly every eligible school district belonging to one, including several Special Act districts. Membership is not available to the Big Five Cities of New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers, though each receives services from neighboring BOCES.

students and teacher in carpentry shop

Southern Westchester BOCES’ instructional programs serve children in K-12 settings through our Career and Technical programs and extensive Special Education services. Adults can enroll in workforce preparation and literacy programs offered throughout Southern Westchester.

Many services extend beyond the region. The Lower Hudson Regional Information Center supports districts in three BOCES regions.

  • Its Instructional Technology division offers over 120 unique learning solutions for K-12 students. Model Schools' customized and regional professional learning program has welcomed over 500 participants in 2022-23. The Technology Leadership Institute brings thought leaders from around the world to our region to share their research and best practices. The Data Privacy and Security team supports district compliance with Education Law 2-d and works with LHRIC teams and other RICS to protect K-12 data and systems.  This statewide service has 53 district participants in the region and 578 across New York State. 
  • Data Services comprises three teams. The Data Warehouse team collects, securely stores, and transfers regional school district data required for NYSED accountability and federally mandated reporting. The Testing Team supports districts with their state testing requirements, providing support for paper- and computer-based testing for 59 districts and over 200 non-public schools. The service process around 400,000 tests per year. State Reporting offers specialized support and mentoring services to 25 districts, which guides Chief Information Officers and their staff through more than 800 reporting requirements and 40 deadlines a year.
  • Student Services supports three primary Student Information Systems. The team of 14 supports over 50 districts in the region. Financial Services supports school district financial needs such as payroll, W2 processing, 1099s, time clocks., etc. The team offers a disaster recovery service and supports 42 districts.
  • Technology Support Services supports  WAN/Internet in 37 districts, Managed IT in 27 districts, Collaborative Network Support in 14 districts, Service Desk in 41 districts, Systems Team in 27 districts,  Datacenter Team and Managed IT Leads in 41 districts. 

The Center for Interscholastic Athletics supports 77 schools in four counties, managing tens of thousands of scheduled contests and officiating assignments. The Hudson Valley Bilingual Regional Education Network partners with 142 districts across southern New York to support English Language Learners.

The Center for Professional Learning and Curriculum Support leads shared learning throughout the region and serves as a bridge with the New York State Education Department. Shared services are provided to component districts to support their daily operations. The transportation department helps keep bus fleets running smoothly, while the School Communications team helps schools capture and tell the story of the important work they do.

In 2013, several Southern Westchester BOCES departments and programs, including the LHRIC, Professional Learning, Communications and others, relocated from cramped quarters with inadequate parking in Elmsford to a modern, corporate-style location at 450 Mamaroneck Avenue in Harrison. In 2015, Southern Westchester BOCES greatly increased its capacity to provide needed support services to students in its Special Services programs by leasing the Tappan Hill School and campus in Tarrytown.

Southern Westchester BOCES will continue to grow and evolve as needed to meet the needs of districts, reflecting the latest best practices and researched-based strategies to ensure the needs of all students are met.

Return to SWBOCES 75th Anniversary page.