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NAACP: ‘Make Investment, Support Schools’

Westbury/New Cassel group hosting budget meeting tonight at Westbury Library

Outgoing Westbury School District Superintendent Dr. Constance Clark-Snead recently said another failed school budget would be “devastating” for the district.

The Westbury/New Cassel NAACP is rallying the community, which has a history of low voter turnouts, to support the proposed budget on May 15 – and they’re starting out by hosting an educational forum this evening at the Westbury Library at 7 p.m.

Clark-Snead stated at a February board of education meeting that cuts to accommodate the State’s 2 percent tax levy cap will be “drastic” not only for Westbury, but for all districts.

“It’s sad, and it’s not going to get any better. If we have two more years of zero, it’s going to be devastating for our district, and our children don’t deserve that,” said the superintendent, referring to the district’s previously failed budget last May.

The Westbury Board of Education has hosted a handful of public budget discussion meetings throughout January and February, informing residents and staff members on the three budget possibilities come May.

Option one comes in at $114,919,459, which at the current phase in the budget development, represents a 2.66 percent increase. The second option represents the 2 percent State-mandated cap at $111,754,933. The board will decide on either option one or two, or a combination of cuts from both, before the budget vote.

Option three would factor in a zero percent increase where the district would have to make approximately $4.5 million in cuts. The district would likely reduce its pre-k program to a half day and lose summer school and athletics altogether if the budget fails. Option one, if passed, would incorporate nearly $2.6 million in cuts, and option two would mean approximately $3.1 million in cuts.

“It’s very difficult to make these decisions because we have a lot of pride in the programs and all the work that has taken place in this district over the years, and to now have to scale back, it’s not an easy thing,” said Board President Dr. Pless Dickerson.

The NAACP will host members of the school board at tonight’s meeting, including the superintendent and assistant superintendent, as well as current and retired teachers and parents from the community.

Two community members opined in support of the budget at the Feb. 16 meeting, one being a parent and the other an art department chair in the district.

“We have a great department here in the district and it starts at a young age. Some of the concerns that I have are that if the kids don’t have art at the elementary level, there’s a good possibility that they may not get it at the middle school level, and that’s going to hurt us here at the high school and all the great things that we’ve done,” said Lisa Fernandez, art department chair.

Fernandez said that in reviewing certain State tests, she found many questions that correlate to terms taught in art classes, such as silhouettes and sequencing. She also provided a list of former students who have gone on to study art in college.

One parent said he has two children, one in the middle school and one in the elementary school. He explained how one of his children has made a lot of progress in the classroom after being abused at a young age, thanks to the district’s special education director, Dr. Jorge Santiago. His other daughter is involved in many extra curricular activities and athletics and he can’t see how either child would continue to progress with fewer programs available.

“As a parent, and a concerned parent, we’re going to rally and make this budget pass, I have no doubt,” he said.