Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 02 March 2012 00:00
On Monday, Feb. 27, members of the Plainview-Old Bethpage (POB) Board of Education got their first look at the proposed 2012-2013 school budget. With a total figure of $137,018,011, the proposal calls for a 2.1 percent increase over last year’s budget, while maintaining all instructional programs. While the board expressed approval with the budget so far, members discussed several concerns with the purchasing of certain instructional materials—concerns that may end up affecting the final budget that residents will vote on this May.
In board announcements, Angel Cepeda reported on a recent trip to Washington D.C. for the National School Boards Association FRN (Federal Relations Network) Conference, where he represented the district, as well as the Long Island region as a whole. Cepeda noted that much of the discussion between school board members and lawmakers centered on possible modifications to NCLB (No Child Left Behind). However, the board member also commented that it was clear to him that the educational conflicts in Washington are deeply ingrained, making policy change a very slow process.
“Even in areas where there is some commonality, it’s hard to get anything done - and that’s a shame,” said Cepeda.
In other board news, four board members received recognition for their educational accomplishments: Angel Cepeda and Debbie Bernstein received the Board Achievement Award, and Emily Schulman and board vice president Amy Pierno received the Board Excellence Award.
During the evening’s main event, the budget overview, Assistant Superintendent for Business Ryan J. Ruf explained that staffing costs are projected to go down slightly next year due to decreased enrollment. While some schools will see their populations rise (a fact reflected in the individual school budgets), the district as a whole anticipates an approximately 1 percent decrease in enrollment in 2012-2013.
While the budget is very similar to last year’s overall figure, the amount allocated to purchasing textbooks has increased at all four elementary schools and the K-Center due to the need to purchase enVisions math materials that have increased in price due to aligning with the Common Core Curriculum. Both middle schools will see some furniture replacement, but no major changes. At the high school, the projected 4.4 percent budget increase includes the cost of replacing graphing calculators and furniture upgrades to several offices, as well as new textbook initiatives in Spanish and Economics.
One factor that has kept instructional costs down not just at the high school, but throughout the district, “recycling” workbooks, was a subject of some debate. The policy, which allows the district to order fewer workbooks by preventing the children from writing in them, and instead copying out all of the information on a separate sheet of paper, saves thousands, but has been criticized by parents at previous school board meetings.
Board member Ginger Lieberman called the policy “penny-wise and pound foolish,” but Assistant Superintendent Jill Gierasch stated that teachers would give mixed feedback on the issue. Superintendent Dempsey agreed with Lieberman that the subject bore further inquiry, and that the board will consider reversing the decision to recycle workbooks.
After presenting an overview of the budget, Ruf explained the impact of the tax levy, although some financial information from the state is still pending. If this draft of the budget were to pass, the tax levy would increase by 2.5 percent, although individual taxpayers may see higher percentages depending on their property value assessments. Board members expressed concern that the tax levy situation was confusing, especially since residents have heard general talk about a “2 percent tax cap,” whereas in practice the cap is above 2 percent for the district. The nuances of the budget, including how the tax levy will be calculated, will be addressed in greater detail during the March Board of Education meetings.
During public participation, several speakers addressed a recent incident that marred the 2011-2012 season for the wrestling team. According to the speakers, the team’s coaches did not submit the requisite information for the last tournament of the season before the deadline, leading to several players learning they were already disqualified from the competition when they reached the venue.
Superintendent Dempsey apologized to the students involved, calling the missed deadline “a terrible mistake,” and said that an investigation into exactly what went wrong, involving Deputy Superintendent Arthur Jonas, is currently underway. The results of the investigation will affect coaching appointments for next year.
Finally, there was also time to acknowledge a very special retiree: Evelyn Helmers, who started with the district in 1964, and was recognized for her remarkable 47 years (and six months) of service to the district. According to coworkers, the seasoned secretary will be long remembered for her professionalism, her genuinely caring nature, and her staunch refusal to let anyone get away with taking her pens and pencils.