Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 14 May 2010 08:58
At the Monday, May 11 Syosset Central School District Board of Education Meeting, there were many historic firsts. For the first time, the board recognized the accomplishments of a large group of students who had performed exceptional community service. In addition, when students took to the stage to sing a special version of We Are the World, it was the first time that children ranging in age from elementary school to high school had performed together at a school board meeting. As is often the case during Syosset Board of Education meetings, it was close to standing-room-only in the South Woods Middle School Auditorium while the children were performing.
However, since the time for the annual budget vote is rapidly approaching, there were also many topics broached that have become familiar to the members of the community who regularly attend these meetings. As he did during the annual budget hearing last year, long-time Syosset resident Dr. Richard Joseph asked the board to reassess the budget in order to lessen the burden on residents. He referred to the Board’s actions as “dragging the taxpayer on an endless annual spending spree,” and advised the Board to tell the unions that “the line has been crossed.” Other members of the community expressed similar concerns.
In contrast, Susan Parker, president of the Syosset Council of PTAs, gave the proposed budget a favorable review. For the children of Syosset, “Nothing less than excellence should be acceptable,” said Parker; she praised the Board for their commitment to education as well as fiscal responsibility. All 11 PTAs unanimously voted to support the budget, and Parker urged members of the community to follow suit when the budget comes to a vote on May 18.
Superintendant Carole G. Hankin, who now has several years experience in presenting the school budget to a recession-weary public, was very forthcoming with specific information about how the district had worked to prioritize and save money to get the budget increase down to a 2.74 percent increase over the 2009-2010 budget. “Maybe we don’t have as many trees as other districts- or the computers get replaced in five years instead of three,” Hankin cited as examples of the district cutting superfluous expenses. According to Hankin, the Board went through the budget line by line in order to cut anything they felt they could cut in good conscience.
She explained that while she understood the plight of senior citizens in the community who are not reaping the benefits of the school system directly, she said that the effect that the famous school system has on keeping area property values high makes investing in education a sound financial decision for all members of the community, whether they have children in the system or not. She also pointed out that residents whose children went through the system previously benefited from much larger budget increases in the past, as large as eight percent, which were supported by previous generations in the community, whether or not those residents had children in the district at that time.
With $9 million cut from the budget in the last two years, without the cutting of any programs, Hankin explained that the District had exercised sufficient restraint to be in a stronger position financially than perhaps everyone present recognized. In response to audience questions, she also clarified that the District had no plans of offering retirement incentives, because teachers in certain areas (particularly in the sciences) were sufficiently difficult to replace that retirement incentives were not conducive to keeping the most talented and teachers on staff. “You end up losing great teachers,” she summarized.
Despite the contention over the budget, Monday’s meeting was a very happy time for many teachers and their families, as 22 teachers were awarded tenure; some of the teachers present were also graduates of Syosset High School.
In the monthly report of the Office of the Superintendant, Hankin reminded the community that the school district budget and Board of Education Elections will be held on May 18 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; voting will take place at all seven Syosset elementary schools. With two open seats, running for re-election are incumbents Dr. Marc W. Herman and Lana Ajemian, and Stephanie Avidon is a challenger.
The board voted on 39 resolutions, all of which passed. Included among the resolutions were the adoption of four policies: Student Records Policy and Procedures (revised), Purchasing Policy and Regulations (revised), Fixed Assets Policy, and the Publication of Administrative Regulations Policy (revised.) Copies of these policies are available for inspection at the Principal’s Office in all district schools. The district also voted to award bids to the lowest responsible bidder for many kinds of supplies including athletics supplies, awards and plaques, music supplies and art supplies. In appointments, the board voted to appoint a per diem substitute staff and a tutor staff. In addition, Patricia Rufo was appointed the Assistant Superintendent for Business.
Finally, in response to an audience question, it was announced that the Board plans to start posting the agenda and minutes of their meetings on the District’s website, a practice already undertaken in other nearby districts such as Jericho and Oceanside.