On Monday, Feb. 25, prior to the regular school board meeting the Glen Cove Board of Education held the second and last public hearing on the possible sale of Coles School, and more than 60 residents and taxpayers attended. The board reviewed the presentation it had given on Feb. 11, and reminded the community that the board can only enter into a proposed contract with a potential buyer. Residents will then have the opportunity to vote, not just on the purchaser, but also on what will be done with the proceeds from the sale. A suggestion was made that the proceeds should be used for old repairs that need to be done on the other school buildings, but board member Dr. Rodger Silletti expressed opposition to that idea, and felt the money would be better spent to increase space at other schools, thus adding the possibility of reducing class size in the future. Board of Ed president Vito Abbondandolo stressed to the public that the voters do have the last say in the decision.
New interest in Coles was presented by Dominic DiPrisco, attorney for the Eden II School for Autism. The school presently rents space in a church in Plainview and has been looking for a school to buy. Mr. DiPrisco stated that Eden II could guarantee that the school would remain a school in perpetuity. He was told to contact Superintendent Mary Ellen Freeley to arrange a meeting to discuss Eden II's proposal.
Rose Waver, a 45-year Glen Cove resident, brought up the subject which had sparked much conversation at the first public hearing, the possibility of the Glen Cove library moving to Coles School. Her first argument was that the Coles building is very dear to the neighborhood, part of the neighborhood's history, and a beautiful piece of architecture. She also remarked that traffic in the location of the present library will soon be even more congested and dangerous than it already is when the new luxury apartments are built and occupied, and parking will be even scarcer. "There is lots of room in Coles, parking, an auditorium which can be rented out to generate some income," She added, "Please don't just sell to the highest bidder. Do we live in a democracy or plutocracy?"
Sally Zweiback, resident and former Glen Cove school teacher, asked the board to take its time in its deliberations, and to remember that "once it's gone, it's gone, and it is the last public space like it in the city." She reminded the board that "some years ago the district sold its stringed instruments when they needed some money, and the feeling was that 'we can always get them back.' Well, as you know, we never did and now we are one of the few districts in Nassau County that does not have a string section in the music department." She also spoke of the new role of the public library in the 21st century. She runs programs in libraries around the county and has seen how the library has become a focal point for young people to gather, students without computers at home to work on, and community members to hold various programs. She suggested that the board members take a trip to other libraries, such as Freeport or Westbury and see how the library has evolved into a rallying point for a community, and what an updated, enlarged library can do for its residents. She asked that the board take a long view and do "what you will never have the chance to do again."
Vincent Suozzi spoke about the transfer of property from the city to the school board back in 1950. Mr. Suozzi asked, "Did the school district pay the city for the property?" Mr. Abbondandola replied, "No." "Then if you don't need it as a school anymore, why don't you just give it back to the city? Why should we pay for it if you never did?" He sat down to loud applause.
Lorenzo Tedesco, a 50-year resident of Glen Cove fears that the sale is a "done deal". He is concerned about the possible need for the building in the future. Mr. Abbondandolo again stressed that the final say on any proposals the board makes rest with the voters.
John Maccarone, former Glen Cove city councilman questioned if there was truth to the statement that by law, the building must remain an educational facility, stating he would like to be an educated voter when the time comes to vote, and would like all the facts as to what the board is allowed to do as soon as possible. Counsel for the board stated that so far there have been no legal documents found that would support the idea that the building must be kept a school. "There are many deeds to many parcels involved in the Coles property, and the board has looked through at least 12 or 15 and found no restrictions." Mr. Maccarone also added his belief that a larger, enhanced library at Coles School is a wonderful idea, stating, "an enhanced library equals an enhanced community and an enhanced community equals an enhanced school district which in turn equals a rise in property values which would ultimately mean more money for the school district." He concluded by saying he does not want to see the building sold.
Miles Sibell, a Glen Cove taxpayer, asked that the members of the board individually think and let the public know what use of the building each feels would be most beneficial to the community. Mr. Sibell also read data regarding the relationship between a community's population and library size. "Syosset, for example, has 32,000 people and the library has 38,000 square feet. The town has a bond issue out, which, if approved, would enlarge the library to 50,000 square feet. Glen Cove has a population of more than 25,000 people and a 14,000 square foot library." He, too, remarked about the new role of the library in communities.
Lynn Lancaster was the only speaker who did not like the idea of the library being relocated at Coles. Regarding remarks about the library providing more services for Glen Cove's less privileged students who may not have computers and resources at home and would look to the library, she believed many of those students would not be able to get to Coles, and that the present library is better located.
John McKay, director of the Glen Cove library immediately addressed the issue of access, stating that the city has a bus designated for just that purpose. "As discussed with Mayor Holzkamp, no one would be denied access to the library whether or not they could get there. The mayor is committed to that."
The school board will be receiving a proposal from the City of Glen Cove by Friday, March 1. They will continue to accept and consider proposals on the disposition of Coles School.
Other School Board Business
Howard Robertson, head of the Education Foundation, reported on the two fundraisers his organization has held so far. The first, a golf outing, raised money for repairs to the Deasy School playground. The second was a "Murder Mystery Night" at the Metropolitan which is providing money for a teachers' special projects fund. The next golf outing is set for spring and will be raising money to renovate the other school playgrounds in the city.
Frank Riolo asked the board if transportation for high school students was included in the budget yet. He was told it was not, but reminded that the board has just had its first look at the budget, and has not even had a chance to discuss it yet. He then asked about the teachers' contract, which is up for renegotiations. Again, the board is not that far along in its study of the budget.
Stop and Shop made a donation of a computer to the school district.
Stop and Shop has an arrangement by which one customer wins a computer for him/herself and one for a designated school of choice. This is the second time Glen Cove has received this gift.
The High School Robotics team is being sponsored by the Photocircuits Corporation this year.
Board member Janet Bates Wilkins said state legislators in Albany should be lobbied regarding the amount of state aid the Glen Cove School District receives. She would like the board to get more information out to the public so that "Long Island's voice can be heard."
Permanent assignments were announced. Dan Smith has been named as assistant principal at the middle school and Joseph Hinton has been named principal at the high school. They are no longer interim positions.