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POB BOE Votes To Challenge July 1 APPR Deadline

Also decides to hold off on building Fern Place parking lot after hearing residents’ concerns

As per usual, there was a lot on the agenda at the Monday, June 4 meeting of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District Board of Education, however the most notable for those following the ongoing saga of the proposed Fern Place School parking lot over the past few weeks was the board’s decision to hold off on building the $80,000 lot in light of extensive community opposition.

Superintendent Gerard Dempsey reported that he and buildings and grounds director Kim Parahus had recently met with fifteen different families from the neighborhood around Fern Place to discuss concerns about building a second parking lot. Though not all residents agreed, many said that parking on the street in front of their homes was not as extensive as it had been in the past, and they did not feel the additional parking lot was necessary.

“If we don’t have to spend the money and people don’t want it, I don’t understand why we’re spending the money—I’d rather keep the money in the budget,” said Ginger Lieberman, going on to say that the district could go ahead with scheduled repairs to the existing lot (a separate issue from the proposal for a new parking lot), which will add 14 more parking spaces. Board members agreed that they could wait and see if the additional parking improved the existing parking situation before committing to building an entire second lot.

However, board member Angel Cepeda cautioned that delaying the lot, while it may please some in the community, will not solve the problem some residents initially complained of—too many school staffers and parents parking on neighborhood streets— and that this issue will likely have to be revisited when it comes time for the district to negotiate extending the lease with ACDS, the building’s tenant. While board members acknowledged Cepeda’s concern that this could be “kicking the can down the road,” several board members spoke of the importance of not building what the community has made it clear they do not want.

The repairs to the existing lot, which residents by and large support, are scheduled to be done in three weeks during this August, while ACDS is temporarily closed.

In other news, board president Gary Bettan shared a joyful announcement: a new turf field for the district, something desired but not slated to happen anytime in the next several years due to lack of funds, is going to become a reality. According to Bettan, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Venditto shared on the town’s Facebook page that the town will honor its commitment to build a turf field at POBJFK High School next summer, with the goal of having the field available for play for the school year of 2013-2014. While the field will be built on district property, funding will come from the town.

Bettan thanked Venditto and Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia, as well as all those who had lobbied the town to provide a new field where the children could play. “It’s a fantastic opportunity and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Bettan.

After some more reports from guidance and personnel, as well as several questions and comments from residents, in the New Business portion of the meeting, district council Greg Guercio shared the details of the latest problem with the implementation of the state’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). To be eligible for additional state aid, schools are required to submit extensive documentation by July 1. According to Guercio, not only is the timing unrealistic since coming to agreements through collective bargaining can take time, but the legality of the required documentation is dubious at best.

Guercio explains that in order to be eligible for additional state aid, the district is required to submit a certification document that requires certification of two union presidents. “We’ve concluded that that requirement has no basis in the law, and has no basis in the regulations,” said Guercio.

The district voted to participate in a legal action that will make it possible for districts not to lose their eligibility for state aid even if collective bargaining continues past the July 1 deadline. Many other school districts on Long Island, as well as other parts of the state, are participating in this action. According to Dempsey, the district stands to possibly lose $300,000 in state aid under the current law.

“So the commissioner [of education] is aware that the school districts are about to bring legal action, and he’s okay with us expending school district funds on attorney’s fees?” said vice president Amy Pierno.

“That’s an excellent point,” replied Guercio, going on to say that the commissioner has received a warning letter.

The next meeting of the board of education will take place Monday, June 18 at the auditorium of POBJFK High School at 7:45 p.m., instead of Mattlin Middle School. The meeting will feature the second and final student recognition ceremony of the year, and a selection from the drama club’s recent production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.