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Budget Café Aromas Swirl

Schools could lose ninth period

Barring improving finances or sudden cost saving strategies, the West Hempstead high school and middle school will lose a ninth period and 10 to 12 staff members will lose their jobs, district officials said at a meeting last Tuesday. That would leave an eight-day period at the high school and middle school.

Seven tables in the West Hempstead Middle School cafeteria were filled with members of the community on Tuesday evening for a budget café addressing issues that were raised at the previous Feb. 6 cafe.

Superintendent of Schools John Hogan, Deputy Superintendent Richard Cunningham and Assistant Superintendent Ann Peluso answered questions ranging from the district eliminating ninth period, revenue, class sizes and transportation.

Everyone who attended received information gathered on Feb. 6, which among many issues addressed, stated that unless budgetary projections for 2012-13 improve or a sudden cost saving strategy comes to the forefront, an eight period day at the high school and middle school will take effect. As a result, the district estimates 10-13 staff member to be excessed, most of whom are on the secondary level.

“Middle school students will no longer take the foreign language survey course, and students will continue to earn one credit towards their high school foreign language requirement by grade eight,” said Peluso.  “Eighth grade students will no longer take critical writing as well.”

At the high school, more electives will need to be offered on alternating years or through a four-year rotation so that all students will have the opportunity to take them during their high school career.  Regular course offerings, including AP courses, will continue on their regular schedule, and reductions in staff will take place in the English, social studies, math, science, foreign language, business, art, music and physical education departments due to courses being offered over fewer periods and a decrease in high school enrollment.

A question was raised at the previous budget cafe on whether the district should consider having a K-8 district and sending students to other high schools, which the district rejected, stating: “New York State computes annual spending per student and non-resident tuitions for each school district.  West Hempstead’s are consistently among the lowest in Nassau County, and there are no neighboring districts that would take our entire student population.”

A primary question on Tuesday evening was what is the district doing to bring in money. Hogan explained the district is close to finalizing a deal with an educational institution that will lease approximately 40 percent of the Marian Delaney Building, and will remain active in discussing potential leases for other vacant space within the building with other interested parties.

Cunningham stated the district has lost over $300,000 in state aid, which he said was “completely unexpected.”

“We are also exploring other creative revenue-producing ideas such as leasing the roofs of our buildings to solar energy companies, and perhaps leasing parking spots to transportation providers,” Cunningham said.

The district responded to questions on how much money it has in reserves, outlining the following figures as of June 30, 2012: $182,229 in unemployment insurance with an estimated one year liability, $2,022,818 in the employee retirement contribution system (ERS) with an estimated two years of liability, $1,532,607 in employment benefit accrued liability with 44.9 percent of current liability, and a $2,207,548 fund balance, representing four percent of the budget as per state education law.

The student/teacher ratio was defined as 11-6, inclusive of special education teachers who are working with smaller class sizes.  The average general education class size for grades K-5 is 23 students, and the average class size in the secondary level is 26 students.

Addressing the possibility of closing the Chestnut Street School, the district estimated $500,000 in savings if it is shut down, and explained that two classrooms would be needed at the Cornwell Avenue School and four plus one self-contained special education classroom at the George Washington School, should Chestnut Street be closed.

The district anticipates a reduction of $500,000 in transportation costs, or approximately 12 percent for 2013-14, and rejected claims that transportation costs have increased 40 percent.  In 2012, the district set a goal to reduce the transportation budget by $1 million , which they reached.

“We will tighten our coordination of out-of-district routes with our surrounding school districts, and move to a more economical model of bidding and vehicle use that was proven to work this year,” the district stated in a response to questions raised at the February 6 budget cafe.

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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The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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