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OBEN District AA2 Bond Rating Saves $45,000 on Refinancing

Moody’s Raises OBEN District’s Bond Rating

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District Board meeting on June 2 opened to good news: an award for board member Keith Kowalski as Inventor of the Year; and a new bond rating for the district.

Superintendent of Business Christopher Van Cott reported that Moody’s has upgraded the district’s bond rating from AA3 to AA2. The result is the district was able to save $45,000 on refinancing. The reason he said is that over the last six to seven years the district has maintained fund reserves, an action looked on with favor by Moody’s.

Board President James Robinson announced that Mr. Kowalsky won a prestigious Inventor of the Year award for the development of the Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) Thermal Spray Apparatus and Method, a process that applies a coating of molten metal to the interior of aluminum engine bores to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Mr. Kowalsky, president of Flame-Spray Industries Inc. and his family were present at the award ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

With the Oyster Bay-East Norwich school district vote successfully over and new board members-elect Michael Castellano and James Martell in the audience, the June 2 open meeting ended at 9 p.m. and the board went into executive session.

Board President James Robinson had told the audience that the new board members were welcome to sit in on the executive sessions to jump start their four-year term of office which will officially begin on July 1. They will be inducted at the Tuesday, July 7 board meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington again thanked the community for approving the budget which she called, “A labor of love to ensure that we will continue to be supportive of the students and responsible to the taxpayers.”

She welcomed the unofficial board members, Dr. Castellano and Mr. Matell. She said at the June 16 board meeting they will be celebrating staff members who have served the district for more than 25 years. The public is encouraged to attend, she said.

She announced that OBHS science teacher Kathleen Meyer just decided she will retire and that was on the agenda to approve; as well as a part-time unpaid family leave for speech teacher Deanna Darcey for working May 27 to June 26 half days.

Mary Ellen Kerr was appointed a home tutor for 80 hours at $70.47 per hour. Regents Review Instructors were approved in advance, pending student enrollment using Title I Funds of $70.47 per hour for a maximum of six hours.

The board also approved a contract for health services at $764.83 per student for 32 residents attending St. Anthony’s High School and for three residents attending the Long Island School for the Gifted for a total of $26,769.05.

Todd Balch was approved as the stage craft advisor for the high school musical for $3,028 as agreed upon by the district and the teachers union. Additions were made to the substitute list to be called upon as needed at $100 per day.

The board awarded the sidewalk construction work at the high school to be done over the summer by Ferran Development Corp. of Farmingdale. The board approved the bid for the new PA, Intercom, satellite clock system for the OBHS, and the Roosevelt Elementary School to Palace Electrical Contractors, Inc. of Wantagh. The cost is $267,000.

The board rejected the bid for the new electronic marquis at the Vernon School. The bids received were deemed too high and there were not enough responses to the bid, said Superintendent of Business Van Cott.

Assistant Principal for Curriculum Laura Seinfeld announced the district has done very well in the NYS evaluation of their math results for grades three to eight. She said there has been a steady increase in almost every grade level over the past four years, from 60s to 70s to 90s. She credited the hard work of the teachers, administrators and the parents who assisted the students at home with drills such as multiplication tables.

She said Nassau County averages overall surpassed the state; and this district surpassed the county. “The sixth grade figures were off the chart,” she added, thanking the staff.

Time Out for Applause

With the business items complete, Dr. Harrington introduced youngsters in the district who have excelled creatively in the literary arts including: Brianna Baugh, a kindergartener who did a film on the “Wow” factor; Michael Biggiani for poetry; Charlie Lublin for her artwork; Tiffany Ha, Daphne LaCroix, Matthew Schwartz, Michael Palczewski, Ed Demaria; Giani Napolitano, and Daniel Horowitz.

Coach Dawn Cerrone introduced this year’s winning athletes. She said, “I couldn’t have picked a better year to become the athletic director.” This was a banner year during the fall and winter seasons where many athletes won high honors in All Long Island, All County and Division “C” Championships. The Spring results are not yet complete, she said.

Enrollment Projections

Dr. Harrington introduced Ross Haber of Ross Haber Associares, a statistician who looked at OB-EN district enrollment to project what will be happening in the district over the next five years. His report in online at the district website OBEN

He said statistics are usually done looking at five year figures but that this district has three “bubbles” in class size making that difficult. As a result he looked at the five year figures, and three year figures and combined the two to come up with a projection.

He said the upper grades in the district usually have more students than the lower grades. People move into the district with older as well as younger children.

He said in his experience in spite of the economy those students in private and parochial school will stay in that system. He said students in religious schools will go to another religious school despite their transportation needs and that wealthier children stay in private schools, in his experience. He added that projecting students from those areas to go to the public school cannot be projected – but if it happens, it happens suddenly at enrollment time.

He said currently the OBEN kindergarten has 105 students and he said traditionally they will add about two to 20 more students by September.

He said with few housing starts in the area there was no sudden rise in enrollment predicted. He said a site such as Mariner’s Walk does not attract families with children.

He showed a graph with enrollment shown in 10 year blocks: 1283 students for 1980; 1363 for 1990; 1569 for 2000; and 1620 for 2008. He predicted the school term for 2013-14 would have between 1733 and 1740 students.

He said there were few building permits in the area. The exception was Muttontown, but they send children to OB-EN, Jericho and Syosset.

The diversity in the district is reflected in: Asians, 4 percent; Blacks, 3 percent; Hispanic, 14 percent; Whites, 78 percent. The figures included: free lunches for 11 percent of the school population; and Limited English Proficiency for 4 percent.

Dr. Harrington said overall, looking at the projections it appears the district is in good shape and has made good decisions as to expansion of the district schools. She added that it appears that the high school might need to think creatively on its use of space. Additionally, with the increased size of the Vernon School she said there should be a consideration on whether there is a need for an additional administrator. Another item for board members to consider is the ratio of guidance staff to school population in their long range planning.

This year the high school is getting a large seventh grade and losing a smaller senior class, which will have an impact on the use of space.

Board President Robinson said a discussion was needed on the request by the teaching assistants to be represented by the teacher’s bargaining unit. Legally they can do that - or become a unit of its own – just as the nurses want to unionize, said Mr. Robinson. If the bargaining unit accepts the new members that is allowed legally.

Dr. Harrington asked the board to pick a day to volunteer as chaperones for the B.O.B. summer program to be held at the Western Waterfront. Each community group in the district is asked to volunteer for the program.

Additionally, Dr. Harrington mentioned the request of Mike Rich to honor a 1929 graduate of Oyster Bay High School, East Norwich resident Belle Santora. It is the 80th anniversary of the first class to graduate from the building.

District Clerk Margaret Nolan said Ms. Santora had worked at every district election except this last one.

There were no public comments or questions for the board and so they went into executive session at about 9:20 p.m. Dr. Castellano and Mr. Matell joined them for the executive session that Mr. Robinson said might last until 1 p.m. A good way for them to get a feel for their new volunteer jobs, he said.