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Budget Woes Could = Bigger Classes

Parents voice concerns as board develops budget, battles state mandate

About a dozen parents urged the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school board to keep class sizes to a minimum and retain enrichment programs, during a recent budget hearing. 

One mother pointed out that the increased class sizes had caused a drastic, negative change on her daughter’s grades and confidence. 

“We have no control over the Common Core (curriculum) so we only have teacher selection and class size to help these children adjust to third-grade challenges,” she said. “It was decided to place teachers inexperienced in 3rd grade curriculum and give them 28 students to teach. So I ask the board, what are we going to do to fix (this)?”

Noreen Lowey, president of the Garden City Park PTA also addressed the Board. 

“It’s important to retain the current class sizes to allow our children the opportunity to master the topics introduced in class. We ask that you continue to develop creative budget ideas to offer our children the educational opportunities they need to be successful,” Lowey said. 

Mini Pothen noted that one of her main concerns was keeping enrichment, art and music programs, which both of her children have benefited greatly from. 

“I attribute a lot of my son’s success to the enrichment programs and I think these programs are really the star of the district. We really need to have a strong academic program and keep all these programs in place so we can meet the unique needs of our children,” Pothen said.

Trustee David Del Santo called for retaining cultural programs.  

 “I’m advocating that we keep those music and art programs because it rounds out the kids and gives them exposure to life,” he said. “If all they had was math and science, they would be really dull kids.” 

One parent had an issue with how much say parents really had in the decision making process. 

“People who have regular jobs are not included in this process unless you’re a board member. You can make your comments but it doesn’t mean it’s going to change anything. That’s an area we need to look at closer,” Frank Cienski said. 

Katulak: ‘Call On Our Leaders’

Superintendent Robert Katulak urged parents to call and write state leaders regarding a mandate that would require the school district to administer standardized tests on computers. The mandate requires the district to have computers for their largest class starting in the 2014-15 school year, a move that, according to board president Ernest Gentile, could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5, 000.  

“By insisting we spend money on the computer hardware to take this test, we will be sacrificing programs and staff to pay for the extra computers,” Katulak said. Katulak said that not only is this mandate financially chaotic, as the district is currently trying to cut $100,000 from its developing budget, but it doesn’t make educational sense.

“We’re also concerned as educators that this is not developmentally accurate. Third graders who have not been taught keyboarding skills or are not computer proficient are being expected to take a timed standardized test on these computers and that is not fair,” Katulak said. “We’d like to have the choice of taking the paper and pencil test.” 

Other Notes

Katulak noted that the district is currently working to improve safety and is working with different liaisons from Homeland Security, the Nassau County Police Department and other departments. In addition, each building is currently incorporating essential safety measures such as stricter entry and passage about the buildings, room numbers being posted on the exterior of classrooms and cutting shrubbery to under 3-feet for easier visibility.  

There is a shortened winter break due to Hurricane Sandy and district schools will be open Thursday, Feb. 21 and Friday, Feb. 22. 

 

Bongiorno To Retire

Board Vice President Joseph Bongiorno announced his retirement, and that he would not be running for reelection. “It’s been a wonderful six years, and I’ve got the opportunity to meet so many people. The kids we’re raising here are wonderful,” he said.

News

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say Sewanhaka High School will receive a camera on Covert Avenue, which spans the eastern stretch of the property. Tulip Avenue runs in front of the high school and was also considered. Cameras could begin operation in September.

The Village of New Hyde Park finished its Operation Main Street project just in time, because the town’s eligibility for federal funds is shrinking, officials announced last week.

“The qualifications revolve around money,” trustee Donald Barbieri said. “Like how much income is being earned by people in the area. I guess as seniors move on, you can’t buy an [expensive home] and it changed the demographic, shrinking our eligible area.”


Sports

New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud brightened the day for some patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center last week in New Hyde Park, posing for pictures and handing out gifts and autographs. The players hung out with the kids in the afternoon, playing video games and answering questions.

They also found the time to make the rounds, stopping by bedsides to spread some cheer. Mr. Met also joined the tour and was a big hit with the children, who peppered him with questions about everything from his four-fingered hand to the whereabouts of the missing Mrs. Met.

The Sewanhaka Indians football team has a season of change in store.

The Indians have moved up from Conference III to Conference II, due to an increase in enrollment, and are set to face teams that they have never seen before, according to head coach George Kasimatis.

“It is hard to gauge where we will be in this conference,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty as where we fit in.”


Calendar

Library Board Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Welcome Reception

Wednesday, Sept. 3

Herricks School Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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