Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 04 March 2011 00:00
Glen Cove School District Board President Ida McQuair opened Monday night’s meeting at Robert M. Finley Middle School by announcing that the search for superintendent has been concluded and they have decided to hire Dr. Joseph A. Laria, who has been the interim superintendent for the current school year. He will hold the position for the next three school years.
“The hiring of Dr. Laria will be very beneficial for the district, as he requires no health insurance or pension plan,” Ms. McQuair stated enthusiastically.
“I welcome the position with an open heart and gave it a lot of thought. I will explain my reasons when the employment becomes official. Just please know that I will always do the right thing for the children of this community,” Dr. Laria said.
Special congratulations and commendation was given to Finley Middle School Principal Anael Alston for being awarded a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University. Dr. Laria made mention of the new website that was launched last week. He said that, as is the case with anything new, there are always areas to tweak and improve, but a lot of work went into this site and he thanked everyone involved in the project. Any concerns can be addressed directly to him and he will make the Web master aware of them.
The board authorized the settlement of the action titled “Marren Mechanical, Inc. v. Glen Cove City School District” in the First District Court of Nassau County. Assistant Superintendent for Business Kevin Wurtz explained that this had been an ongoing dispute in which the party involved was hired by the school district and a disagreement about the scope of the contract arose.
The board authorized emergency repair to the electricity at Gribbin Elementary School; the building experienced a ground short on Feb. 11, resulting in complete loss of power. They obtained a generator and the school was running on that power until Saturday. The money for the repairs will come from the undesignated unreserved fund balance; without this fund balance, the cost of repairs could never be covered, Dr. Laria said.
“To say that an undesignated unreserved fund balance is the reason for cuts in funding is the height of folly,” Dr. Laria said.
The board accepted a bid from Bain Mechanical Services for replacement of the boiler at Gribbin Elementary in the amount of $376,452, as the lowest responsible bid. The Board accepted a bid from Proton Construction for reconstruction of the roof at Deasy Elementary in the amount of $296,000, and from Proton Construction for the Gribbin Elementary roof reconstruction in the amount of $538,000, both as the lowest responsible bid.
The board rejected all bids submitted on Dec. 14, 2010 for the kitchen hood and fire suppression upgrades at Connolly, Gribbin and Finley Middle School. The board approved the Ski Club’s trip to Vermont in mid-March.
After some debate, the Board voted unanimously on the formation of a Fine Arts Committee; the committee consists of volunteers from the district as well as from outside of the district, including some staff members and one board member.
Trustee Joel Sunshine, who was active in the formation of this committee, said, “There is a lot of talent in this community and these are volunteers who are willing to give their time and their vast experience to analyze our current program, take a look at what other schools are doing and come up with a written proposal on what should be done in our district.” He said that forming this committee was important since the position of Fine Arts Coordinator was lost last year, and these programs need an advocate to stay alive.
Trustee Dave Huggins said, “Having a Fine Arts Committee is all well and good, but no Fine Arts programs were cut last year, while athletics programs were. How about forming an Athletics Committee? If we don’t address athletics, more kids will be affected.”
Vice President Gail Nedbor-Gross suggested that more board members be on the committee and asked Dr. Laria for a complete listing of programs that were offered in the past that have been eliminated.
“This is an ad-hoc committee,” Mr. Sunshine clarified. “Fine Arts programs are going to be cut this year – there was a meeting about it a few weeks ago. An athletics committee would be great, too, but we have volunteers willing to commit time and energy to this. There really is no downside, because it is zero cost to the district. It should not be about politics when it comes to education, we should do it for the kids.”
Dr. Laria commended the board for engaging in civil discourse on the matter and said he would make arrangements for the committee to convene and assess the needs. He said he would support an Athletics Committee as well and offered to put out a notice asking for volunteers. The Board agreed that would be a good idea.
Dr. Laria then addressed some fiscal matters, stating that the first budget review will take place at next week’s meeting. He emphasized the gravity of the situation that the district faces.
“I can say in all sincerity that I have never experienced what we are about to experience; and this a crisis faced not only by Glen Cove, but all of Long Island, the state and throughout the country.
“I implore us to address these issues in a spirit of calm, a spirit of focus and a spirit of civil discourse. When the vote comes in May, we must come out of this together.”
As he said at the previous meeting, he reiterated that the cuts in this year’s budget are equivalent to cutting into “bone marrow” as “all the fat and bone” has been cut through in past budgets. He pointed out the necessity for proceeding in a methodical way, and then laid out some numbers.
In the process of creating a budget, he said they have created a rollover budget representing the current budget plus expected increases in salaries, health insurance and other costs for next year. This rollover budget would mean a 7.5 percent budget-to-budget increase, and 9.14 percent tax levy increase, which Dr. Laria said is obviously not realistic. Therefore, $3.6 million would need to be cut from the budget to come up with a 3 percent tax levy, and $3 million would have to be cut for a 4 percent tax levy increase. If next year’s budget were to go on contingency, $4.2 million would have to be cut from the budget.
“The cuts for a contingency budget are draconian,” Dr. Laria said. “These cuts we have to make are out of necessity, not by choice. We will have a lot of shared sacrifice, shared pain and shared responsibility. Now, this is not a message of doom and gloom – we will get through this. Let us prevail and keep hope alive.”
During the public comment period, a parent in the audience who said he has volunteered for the Fine Arts Committee said he was somewhat dismayed that several board members seemed to discourage the formation of this committee. He said he would gladly volunteer his time for any number of committees that affected his children.
Glenn Howard also addressed the discussion among the board members regarding the committee and said, “For a number of meetings now I have heard Dr. Laria speak about the need for coming together on issues. It is unacceptable to bash a board member for having a committee. If you want a committee, form one, but do not engage in childlike behavior.”