Friday, 08 April 2011 00:00
Students, parents, faculty and concerned community members filled the Robert M. Finley Middle School library at the final budget workshop in a series of meetings that have occurred over the past month, as the deadline for adoption of the budget looms closer. The Glen Cove Board of Education is slated to adopt a budget for the next school year on April 11. All trustees were present for the meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph A. Laria presented the details of the proposed budget thus far, urging everyone to remember, “Nothing is final – this is a work in progress.” He stressed that the board and administration were holding to a theme maintaining a “tradition of quality and future of excellence” while creating the budget.
Currently, the proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year is $72,539,981, with cuts nearing $3 million. With this proposed budget, the estimated tax rate increase would be 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value, or 4.1 percent. Dr. Laria went over the items that are included, stating that the cuts have “minimal to no impact on educational programs and services to children.”
The proposed budget includes all current programs and services, music and art programs, the academics plus program, special education programs and services, an eight-period, fully teamed middle school and an eight-period comprehensive high school schedule, with elective offerings. Current class sizes will remain the same.
The proposed cuts include a reduction of 19.2 positions district-wide. According to the current draft, 11.7 teaching positions, two custodial positions, two clerical positions, three monitor positions and .5 administrative positions will be eliminated. Additionally, the Frost Valley field trip will be cut, and the registrar and transportation departments will be consolidated.
After some discussion, the board decided to include funding for other items and put $190,000 back into the budget at this time. They agreed to keep $40,000 in the budget for clubs, and $150,000 for replacement of two bathrooms at the high school.
“Can you explain the savings for an 8-period day over a 9-period day?” Trustee Joel Sunshine asked the superintendent.
“Both the high school and middle school had fewer reductions in staff than anticipated,” said Dr. Laria.
“Is that because kids are fully scheduled?” asked Mr. Sunshine.
“Yes,” Dr. Laria replied. He said most of the teaching positions being cut are related to the change from a 9-period day to an 8-period day, and most are at the secondary level.
Vice president Gail Nedbor-Gross asked for an explanation of how the curriculum affects the budget.
“We have an obligation to address the needs of all the children on the bell-shaped curve, from those with special needs to those who are extremely gifted,” Dr. Laria explained. “We have made provisions in the budget for a curriculum development needs assessment to be implemented the following school year.”
Trustee Grady Farnan asked about the civil service/mini center position. Dr. Shari L. Camhi, assistant superintendent for curriculum, explained that the staff of the library will supervise the staff of the mini center, and that there had been a resignation since the last meeting.
There was some discussion about how the change to an eight-period day will affect the incoming sixth-graders music choices; under the new schedule, they will only have one choice, while they have had the option to play two instruments in elementary school, and will have that option again in seventh grade and beyond. Trustee Sunshine asked if anything could be done for more continuity; Dr. Laria yielded the question to middle school principal Dr. Anael Alston.
Dr. Alston said that the two possibilities were to have a zero period option for kids who wanted another music class, or to hire additional staff to teach the class.
Dr. Camhi said that even with the zero period option, additional staff would need to be hired because the current teachers already have classes scheduled for other grades during that time. “The issue is funding,” she said.
Trustee Nedbor-Gross asked if it was possible to have a lead teacher help coordinate the transition from elementary school to the middle school for children who would need to decide on one instrument.
“It is permissible…it is certainly doable,” Dr. Laria replied.
One parent in the audience asked about the possibility of dropping the third grade strings program and starting children in the music program in fourth grade instead so that there could be more continuity once the child has started playing instruments.
“I agree there needs to be more continuity…there are other ways to get funds for sixth-grade music – it doesn’t have to be ‘eliminate third-grade strings,’” said Trustee Sunshine.
A number of students made their case to the board about the importance of keeping the business program at the high school.
“This is a yearbook from 1980, and Glen Cove had seven business teachers – now we’re down to almost zero,” said a high school student. He said it was necessary for all students to take business classes to get ahead, and also said he had talked to students who were being turned down by guidance counselors for scheduling business classes, with the information that the courses would not run next year.
Dr. Laria said he was not aware that was happening and would look into it.
Dr. Camhi explained that they had made changes and condensed classes, and in some cases offered classes at two different times rather than at one time. “Having 62 singletons in a high school schedule just does not work, she said.” She also said that the number of business classes offered next year would be the same as this year, meaning no reductions.
Suzanne Anderson, president of the PTSA at the high school, thanked the Board for putting money back into the club fund and said, “It is appreciated, but I would rather see that money go toward saving a teacher or a program.”
Linda Perlman addressed her concerns for the merging of the registrar and transportation into one position. “You’re asking one person to assume two large responsibilities,” she said.
One concerned parent argued against the option of a zero period music class, saying that adding another class was too much for the students and parents to handle in an already busy day.
“As a parent, I don’t want my child in this building at 7:20 a.m.,” she said. She also expressed her dismay at the elimination of the Frost Valley trip. She said she felt it was a good experience for her daughter and said, “You said the programs cut would have no educational impact on the children, but I think it does have an impact on education.”
“My explanation for eliminating the trip was driven by interest and based on the number of participants, the cost and the educational impact…the teachers left behind cannot teach the materials with a number of students gone,” Dr. Laria said.
A student who identified herself as a high school freshman said that she knew of a lot of students who did not have a lunch period due to a full schedule, and said that with only eight periods, she felt that more students would skip lunch to take required classes. Another student reiterated that point, saying “An eight period day does not allow kids to get a full schedule…kids need to have a full course schedule or colleges won’t even look at you any more.”
“All students have the option for a lunch period,” Dr. Laria said. “I suggest you address your concerns to a guidance counselor or principal, and I’m sure your concerns will be clarified,” he told the student.
The board will adopt a final budget on Monday, and a public budget hearing will be held on May 10. The budget vote and school board election will take place on May 17.
“I would like to commend and thank the high school students who had the courage to get up and speak at the podium and microphone,” said Dr. Laria. “We encourage you to stay involved in public policy issues, because you are the future leaders.”