Written by Margaret Whitely: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00
At the outset of the last Herricks School Board meeting, trustees Richard Buckley and Peter Grisafi both announced that they would not be running for re-election.
“I moved into this neighborhood 22 years ago, three weeks before my first of three daughters was born. Both my wife and I being in education, we wanted the best schools.
“Two of my daughters are now off to college and my last will be a senior next year. They all received a fine education in this district and I want to thank the educators, not just the teachers, but also everyone on staff at the Herricks Public Schools for their extraordinary work and commitment.
“Twelve years ago I became involved in the PTA and nine years ago the board of education.
“Working alongside trustees like Peter (Grisafi) and Chris (Turner) among others, we kept it simple.
“Our first question was how will each decision affect the children. That was our goal for all the years I was on the board.
“Many decisions such as a full day kindergarten and a new tack were established.
“People say being on the school board is the most unrewarding job anyone can have and there is some truth to that. I never realized how often one can get yelled at while giving up his time freely in the service of the community.
“But the reward was knowing for the last nine years we did what was right for the children of this district. After all, we are members of the school board.
“I have always believed that the makeup of the board should be a mixture of trustees with children that have already gone through the system and trustees with children in the schools when they are on the board.
“For myself, I have always valued having my children experiencing the schools while I am on the board. It gave me insights that I felt were invaluable to my decisions. Since my last daughter is leaving after next year, I have decided to leave with her and not seek reelection this year.
“I would like to thank all who have supported me in the past nine years. Special thanks to the administrative team for their guidance. To my fellow board members, it has been a pleasure to work with such selfless dedicated people.
“Lastly, to my family who put with hundreds of night outs and countless hours of board business, thank you for understanding the value of my role in this district.
“Times are difficult and the future of Herricks will rest in new hands after July 1. My only instruction, if I may, is always keep in mind our first question, how will it affect the children.”
“With mixed emotions, and after having been on the board for a 16 year period and, yes I was 10 years old when I started, I, too, am announcing that I will not run for reelection.
“I will give a speech, at the last board meeting, and I am sure there are people out there who have more energy who will run.
“I want to thank my colleagues, my fellow boards members, the administration, teachers, custodians and bus drivers. I truly feel I have been supported by everybody. Also, the reporters, Maggie was there and I still have the picture she took of my wife and kids, who were so little.
“At the time my oldest son was in the third grade and he graduated from college four years ago.
“It has been a long, fruitful and rewarding journey and I just want to thank everybody.”
Announcement by Dr. Hayes
After the announcements by the board members, which had been expected, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Deirdre Hayes announced that the junior girls basketball team member Alison Ricchiuti has been chosen as the “Conference Player of The Year” by the Nassau County Coaches Association.
Dr. Hayes reported that Ricchiuti averaged 18.5 points per game, making her the leading scorer in the conference.
Dr. Hayes also announced that applications for the Universal Pre-K Program are now available at the administration office at the Herricks Community Center, 999 Herricks Road, New Hyde Park. Any child who will be four years old by December 1 is eligible to apply.
The program is funded by New York State and only 55 students, per school, are eligible, picked through a lottery process. The program is held at Harbor Day Care which is housed at the Herricks Community Center, 999 Herricks Road, New Hyde Park.
Herricks Board President Christine Turner said she felt that at the cost of approximately $2, 700 per student the state could put the money to better use for more than 55 students.
Herricks Superintendent Jack Bierwirth said that the board did not have a budget to present as yet, but he did say, “In spite of the fact that we have not received a budget from the governor and after adding plusses and minuses, it looks like we are going to be able to put $281, 000 back into the budget.
The budget will be presented at the March 15 meeting and Dr. Bierwirh asked that the board decide what cuts, previously announced, they would like put back into the budget.
President Turner then asked the board how they wanted to proceed. Dr. Sanjay Jain said, “We have to have a certain amount of flexibility as we go forward.”
Bierwirth gave a brief summary of the cuts:
• We have cut four elementary classroom positions, primarily due to the reduction of enrollment. This will result in slightly higher-class size, but in line with the class sizes of this year.
• Cut two grade sixth positions due to lower enrollment.
Elimination of three point five positions in grade 7 and 8 due to the elimination of the grade 8 teams. This would not impact the students.
• Four point four positions at the high school accomplished by way of little cuts and bus cuts.
• We did not eliminate the number of courses that students would be allowed to take.
Offsetting the cuts, would be the cut of under one position at the Shelter Rock Academy and this could be accomplished by admitting four students outside the district and it could be higher due to the interest and the fact that there is no other alternative school in the county.
• Elimination of four positions in the facilities department, due to retirement. The facilities staff will eventually be dropped.
• Another change for this department in order to make a decreased staff work, the students will now be required to put their chairs on top of their desk when they leave the room and put them down when they return. Further, the students are requested to put their garbage cans outside the door and all of this will allow the custodians a 10 percent reduction of staff.
• Ten percent reduction in the operation of clubs
• Further, $75,000 has been cut from the Athletic Department by eliminating the Inter-Mural teams and Athletic-Training positions.
• Elimination of five teaching assistants.
• The district will resign from the Tri-state consortium resulting in a savings of $15,000, but does involve staff time.
• Fees for use of fields to perhaps be increased.
• The start time at the higb school was also suggested and this would be made possible with the change of bus limits to the high school to 3 miles. He added that there are a little over a hundred students that ride the bus on an average day. However, this would have no impact on the budget but has been requested, by the students, for a number of years.
Bierwirth added, “These adjustments are only possible due to the fact that the retirement and health costs have come in with a much less number than anticipated.
At the end of Dr. Bierwirth’s discussion, trustee James Gournaris suggested that the entire amount of $281,000 be put into reserve fund in case of any emergency situations. But, it was pointed out that there was a reserve amount on the budget line.
Residents all had suggestions of how they would like the money used and many suggested the reinstatement of various teachers so that the class sizes would not be large.
The board, however, will make these decisions at the next board meeting, when the final budget will be set.