New Hyde Park/Garden City Park School Board Superintendent Robert Katulak, predicted at the last school board meeting, that the district would not have to cut programs or have any layoffs due to the economy.
He said, "The budget that we are putting forth to the school board and to the public, for approval, does not contain one position cut. That includes all of aides, that are currently working, all of the monitors, all of the teachers and all custodians, administrators and secretaries, and that budget is next to a miracle.
"If you listen throughout the entire county, almost every district has cuts. Through prudent investments and diligence and working and looking at each of the budget lines, we have been able to find the money that is a reduction from the state which is close to 11 percent reduction of the midyear reduction for next year as well as the freezing of the state aid.
"If the budget passes, we will be fine and we won't have to worry about those cuts for this year. To answer the questions regarding special education, "We are obligated to follow the IEP mandates on all classrooms. If a classroom is designated as a 12 to one class to one teacher, to one teacher aide, we must be in compliance; and that does not mean if there are three teacher aides in a classroom and we are then not in compliance, that does not mean that you are going to lose your job, absolutely not. We will be using you in another capacity to meet the needs of special needs children, where there might be an aide.
"We are trying to do what is fiscally responsible so that we can maintain programs such as Music, Discover and Math Enrichment and all of those good things that make the New Hyde Park/Garden City Park District different than anybody else and produce the stellar results that we produce.
"Right now we have third, fourth and fifth grade at the 90 percentile or better and the sixth grade of last year that has moved on at the 88 percentile which is very close to being at the 90 percentile. All of our math scores are at 90 or over. Our fourth grade science scores were at the 97 percentile.
"That doesn't happen without quality teachers, without quality teacher aides and a good program that is supported by the public. We need to keep in mind that we have many people who are on fixed incomes in our district so we want to make sure that our budget-to-budget increase is reasonable and that our tax rate is reasonable.
"So that is where we are now and we project that is where we will be when the budget vote comes forward preserving every position as well as every program."
At the Budget Community Input portion of the meeting, held at the beginning of the meeting, the first woman to speak said she hopes the administration and board will work to keep the programs at the school, and she said she was specifically concerned with the music program. She also said that she hopes there won't be any cut in classroom aides as they are a very inexpensive way to give help to the children.
The same resident also pointed out that when students go to high school they are required to type up their many reports and papers and in grammar school they don't have any typing courses that get them ready to do that and she said she felt that was important. Further, she said she also wanted to make sure that the children all were afforded proper time outdoor recess.
Another resident listed a number of volunteer positions she had been associated with in the school and she said her main concern was any cuts that might be in the special education department and to those aides that help them.
Still another resident wanted to know if there would be cuts in the specials education department and if there are, would they be consistent and she was told, as of now, that would not be the case.
The regular meeting then proceeded with an introduction and welcome by Hillside Grade School Principal Karen Olynk who introduced the winner of the Storytelling Festival, Ania Zolyniak, a fourth grader, who recited her story from memory, A Secret Science Project.
Next on the agenda was the introduction of internal claims auditor, Lauren Agunzo, of Nawrocki, Smith, LLP, who praised the district and assistant superintendent of business, Michael Frank and his staff, for his cooperation when they have to come and audit the books, required by law.
Math teacher Grace Quinlan was slated to explain the new math pilot program; however, she was ill, so Dian Zirilli-Mares, who was ill herself, took over for her and explained in great detail, with an overview projector, what the new program contained.
School Board President Patricia Rudd reported on a convention she attended in Washington, DC with more than 1,000 school board representatives. She said that New York had approximately 78 representatives, nine were from Long Island.
She then explained that her goal as a member of the committee that she was appointed to and that met in Washington was to keep the board informed and to further communicate with New York State Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand and to encourage them to support public education and sound school government.
At the convention she said she attended a pre-K convention explaining the importance of pre-K for every child. Rudd added, "My hope for this district is to have a "state- of-the-art" preschool are program housed within the district. an investment that pays for itself many times over. Children that participate in pre-K programs are far less likely to need costly instructional services down-the-road and they, far more likely to succeed both academically and socially.
"I then attended an orientation meeting and we received a briefing on what was being done on a federal level including Medicare reimbursement, education technology, green schools and nutrition in schools. The focus was on the education portion of the stimulus package, plus the financial situation in school districts.
"Finally, it looks like the new administration will reauthorize 'No Child Left Behind; She said that it appears now that the $70,000 for construction for K-12 has been cut as well as all monies for Title I. Everything that is left, so far is $212 increase for Special Education, which is good although it is only funded about 27 percent, but they are still working out the stimulus package."
Rudd continued, "Sewanhaka Central Schools will be getting a $51,000 Title One increase, but that has also been decreased. They were earmarked to get $553,000 for construction, but that, too, was cut and they will be getting $892,000 for SCS for special education and that includes New Hyde Park Memorial.
"So, almost all monies for education have been cut from the stimulation package."
She added, "Hopefully they listened a little bit to us and we will see what, if anything, we will get from the stimulus package."
Trustee David DelSanto said, "Just to get this good news out of the way, I will be running for re-election as trustee to the school board in the May 19 school board election to be held at the Manor Oaks Schools."
DelSanto then said he attended the Sewanhaka Music Festival, which includes the students from New Hyde Park Memorial High, and he said it was, "unbelievable."
He said, "Now for the 800 pound "Gorilla" that is sitting up there! The Sewanhaka budget is a "work in progress." He continued, "Right now we are going through many drafts trying to minimize what Albany cut. They have taken a very big ax to their state aid. They have cut $3.6 million out of their state aid. The Sewanhaka budget is very large. It is $148 million but from that we have to carve out $3.6 million. We will have to use a scalpel. The programs that are being considered are not critical to the education of our students. It does not cut sports, music, and visual arts. Where it does attack I will report at another date, because I don't want to say anything prematurely.
"However, I can tell you, with much certainty that one of the programs that will be going will be Driver's Education. It's a sad thing, but it has been subsidized by the school district and it is available on the outside. It is a very large expense to maintain, in the six figures; and it is available outside the school. Cutting this allows us to do away with vehicles, insurance and salaries.
"Further purchase of books will be put back to what the state will reimburse us for. I will report back to the board as this goes forward. The budget meeting was on Tuesday night, but with only one citizen present with the board. So, we need to hear your voice loud and clear.
"Last I will be meeting with North Hempstead Town Councilman Angelo Ferrara, Sewanhaka Superintendent Warren Meierdiercks and Principal Michael DeMartino. We will be looking at traffic control devices in and around Memorial High School, on Leonard Boulevard, Jasmine Avenue, Denton Avenue in an effort to improve the school district's safety. I will report back to you after that meeting."
Trustee Giarratani said she attended the BOCES budget meetings and they are trying to keep their tuition to an increase of 3.2 to 3.5 percent and they are giving great consideration to the children with special needs.
Giarratani also announced there would be an Education and Taxpayer Rally to be held on Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. to noon at Ellsworth Allen Park, on Motor Avenue, Farmingdale. She urged all residents to attend this important rally to fight against New York State Governor Paterson's proposed multimillion dollar education aid cuts to Long Island's schools.
The board then went through its routine business of announcing retirement teachers and resignation teachers and teachers who are on leave.
The board then approved polices recommended for adoption and read for the first time a series of polices that have been reviewed and will be approved, hopefully, at the next meeting.
Michelle Chambers Submits Physical Education Letter from State
The very long meeting finally ended, but not before Michelle Chambers submitted to the board a copy of a letter from the New York State Education Department addressing the issue of the importance of Physical Education in the schools and how it applies to overweight and obese children in the public schools.
The next meeting of the New Hyde Park/Garden City Park School Board will be a work session to be held on Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. at the Manor Oaks Schools followed by a board meeting on March 9 at 8 p.m. at the New Hyde Park Road School.