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POB BOE Holds Budget Hearing

The Plainview-Old Bethpage School District Board of Education held a budget hearing at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 4. The proposed budget for the 2010-2011 school year was revealed to be $130,888,845, a 2.1 percent increase over the previous year‘s budget. In addition to maintaining all programs, services, and extracurricular activities, the budget includes funding to enhance technology with 61 new interactive whiteboards, 60 audio support devices, and five Mobile Visual Presentation Systems for elementary schools, among other items. While the purchase of new textbooks was limited to those subjects for which the new texts were considered essential to the curriculum (in light of the difficult economic climate), there are plans to purchase many new social studies textbooks. There is also over a million dollars slated to go to building and maintenance projects, such as a partial roof replacement at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, and masonry reconstruction at several district buildings.

The Board also explained Proposition II, a resolution submitted to voters for the purposes of establishing a capital reserve fund for future maintenance and infrastructure projects. The fund, which will not exceed $5 million, will be funded through “unanticipated revenue”, or unexpected tax refunds; the unexpected reimbursement of the MTA tax was provided as an example of unanticipated revenue. The main benefit to establishing a capital reserve fund is to avoid the costs associated with bond borrowing, including interest.

If the budget does not pass, the district will adopt a contingency budget of $127,872,708, however, the planned building work will not take place on the smaller contingency budget. Registration for the vote will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from noon to 9 p.m. at Jamaica Avenue, Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, and Old Bethpage Elementary; the vote itself will take place on May 18 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at those same locations.

In addition to the hearing, the board also heard teacher tenure presentations; 14 teachers were recommended for tenure by their school administrators, and the recommendations were passed. Many of those who received tenure on Tuesday evening were teachers of Special Education.

There was a report from the POBJFKS Student Council, who reported on the success of several activities, such as the recent theatrical production of The Wedding Singer, and the SADD blood drive, which collected 117 pints of blood. There was a debate on the subject of the first day of school for kindergartners, which will be atypical this year due to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah necessitating an unusual schedule. Initially the plan was to make the kindergartners’ first day an orientation day, where they would see the school for the first time with their parents, however due to concerns about parent availability and proper student acclimation, it was decided that the first day would likely be changed to an instructional day with busing. Some board members were interested in keeping the day an orientation, but with the addition of busing in order to take the burden of transportation off the parents, however Superintendent Gerard W. Dempsey Jr. clarified that it wasn’t possible to mix and match features of an orientation and an instructional day, and the Board would have to pick one or the other.

Finally, the Board debated a new policy called “Wellness Policy on Nutrition and Physical Activity”, which is intended to address the childhood obesity problem in the area, as well as bring the district up-to-date with current research in nutrition and child psychology. While all board members were staunchly in favor of limiting student access to unhealthy foods and making more healthy food choices available, there was a spirited debate about how significant the changes to district policy should be. For example, the new wellness policy enumerates that food may not be used as a reward for academic performance, however board members pointed out that there is a long history of food being used as part of the celebration of student accomplishments; it could not be agreed upon whether the idea of providing food as part of a celebration in and of itself was potentially harmful, or whether the established practice of providing primarily unhealthy foods like pizza and cookies was at the heart of the problem.

In addition, there was confusion regarding a clause about physical activity, which according to the new policy “shall not be used as a punishment or behavior modification device”; some board members questioned whether or not coaches who directed their students to run laps might not end up in violation of district policy. Dempsey clarified that Policy 7515, or the Wellness policy, will be further revised for clarity in light of the Board’s concerns before it is put to a vote.