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Talking Budget Gaps

Ways to cut an anticipated $937,515 revenue gap in next year’s school budget occupied the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education at their recent meeting.

Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of schools for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, outlined cutbacks in elementary school class size, reducing one fulltime position in the English as a Second Language (ESL) support program to a part-time positions, and reduction in athletic programs and some elementary co-curricular activities at the board’s March 12 meeting at the Oyster Bay High School Library.

The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings to set the budget for the 2013-14 school year in time for voter approval on May 21 (See Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot March 1.

 At earlier meetings, school district officials explained the estimated spending plan of $53,967,475 necessary to maintain existing school programs — a $2,440,071 increase, 4.74 percent over the current budget.     School officials noted that they anticipated a 3.06 percent increase in revenue, accounting for the $937,515 revenue gap.

In other business, the board voted to ask for voter approval for extending the district’s capital projects fund and to seek voter approval for as much as $1,720,000 in capital projects for the 2013-14 school year. Both ballot measures were discussed at the board’s previous meeting.

After outlining the cutbacks necessary, Harington announced that “we can meet the gap without cutting anything at the high school” other than limited cuts in the athletic programs. Some of the audience members broke out in applause in response.

Harrington detailed the specific reductions in class size at James H. Vernon Middle School, which would involve reducing the number of sections in grades four and six. Despite the reductions, she noted, class sizes at the two schools will continue to conform to the class size policy guidelines set by the board in the past.

In addition, Harrington detailed reductions recommended by the athletic department, including cutting two assistant junior varsity lacrosse coaches, two middle school lacrosse coaches, and one middle school football coach.

Furthermore, the athletic department recommended cutting the number of “yellow coats.” “Yellow coats” are staff members who wear yellow coats while monitoring the crowds and provide assistance at home games and meets. Yellow coats would be eliminated for middle school field hockey, track, and volleyball, and reduced for junior varsity boys and girls basketball and varsity football.

Other cost-saving measures include cutting the number of middle school athletic contests by 15, junior varsity by 19, and varsity by 42 to save on transportation and officiating.  Varsity wrestling, track, cross-country, and golf teams would also attend fewer invitationals.

“Is it really necessary to have the yellow coats?” Dr. Michael Castellano, a board member, asked.

“They are there as a back-up” in case problems arise, Harrington explained. They are mostly teachers who know the students and are able to deal with potential difficulties.

Jim Mattel, school board vice president, wondered if the Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety personnel, whose cars are commonly seen round town, might be called in to assist at sporting events and save on yellow coats.

“I never explored that,” Harrington said. “It’s certainly worth looking into.”

Jim Robinson, a school board member, remarked, “You have a responsibility for the decorum of the crowd,” but added that there haven’t been problems.

Castellano suggested that if crowd control is a problem, perhaps there shouldn’t be spectators at events.

Harrington also explained that at Vernon, they would cut back on co-curricular activities other than student council, Leaders’ Club, and intramural sports. In response to a question, from board member Maryann Santos, Harrington replied that such activities as the chess club and the art club would be cut.

There are other anticipated expenses relating to taxes and other issues, Harrington explained. By taking a “calculated risk” and not including them in the budget — because of indications that the district will ultimately not have to pay for them — the district would save $220,000.

At the next meeting, March 19, Harrington noted, the board will consider the issue of revenue.  She also explained that there is still hope that some state aid will be restored.

In other action, the board approved the hiring of a new science and technology learning supervisor, Janna Ostroff, for kindergarten through high school. “We are quite happy,” Harrington said, “to add her to our already amazing team.”

News

With a general discontent about the view-blocking pedestrian railings recently installed along West Shore Road, the discussion at the Oyster Bay Civic Association meeting on Sept. 18 focused on the possibility of having the road designated as a scenic highway.

This concept was suggested by Gregory Druhak of Centre Island, a regular traveler along West Shore Road, who said, “I believe this is the most scenic drive on Long Island west of the Hamptons, perhaps on all of Long Island itself, and it is not being treated as such. I feel we are being given the Lefferts Boulevard [down by JFK airport] expressway extension instead. For all you can see, it might as well be the Belt Parkway below the fence instead of Oyster Bay. This is wrong.”  

This year you can expect to see the Freedom Schooner Amistad, Connecticut’s flagship, tied up on the Western Waterfront Pier at the Oyster Festival on Oct. 18 and 19. The ship is a Baltimore Clipper that is 129 feet in length and weighs 96 tons. Its home port is New Haven, Conn.

The tall ship visits ports worldwide, as an ambassador for friendship. It serves as a floating classroom, icon and monument to many souls that were broken or lost as the result of the transatlantic slave trade.

The original Amistad, which means friendship in Spanish, was made famous in 1839 when 53 African captives (men, women and children) transported from Havana revolted against their captors. The captives gained control of the ship under the leadership of Sengbe Pieh, later known as Joseph Cinque, who commanded the ship’s navigator to return them to Sierra Leone. Instead, the ship headed north, landing in Long Island, and was taken into custody by the United States Navy.


Sports

Football season is here and the Oyster Bay-Bayville Generals  held their opening day games on Sept. 14. Here are the results:

5 & 6 Peanuts:

The Peanuts opened the season vs. the Seaford Broncos and came out on the losing end of a hard fought game. The Lil Generals opened the game on offense and quarterback Rodney Hill, Jr. marched the offense down the field and completed the drive with a touchdown pass to Francesco Allocca. Yes, the Peanuts have a potent air attack with Hill Jr. going two for two for 26 yards. The defense played strong with Allocca leading the team in tackles with help on the defensive line from first-year players Dean Wolfe and Anthony Pelchuck.  

Former football coach and NFL player Bill Curry recently brought a wealth of experience, knowledge and history to a wide audience of student-athletes and coaches at Hofstra University for a lesson on diversity, tolerance and respect in high school athletics.

 

Director of the NYS PHSAA Sportsmanship Committee and Manhasset High School Athletic Director Jim Amen Jr. established the summit and invited Curry as keynote speaker.

Amen Jr. and Section VIII Executive Director Nina Van Erk introduced Curry to a crowd representing more than 37 local high schools.


Calendar

Plein Art Exhibit

Wednesday, Oct. 1

College Discussion

Monday, Oct. 6

Collecting Manuscripts

Thursday, Oct. 9



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com