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Councilman Thomas Dwyer at Herricks to Discuss Illegal Apartments

Herricks English Teachers and Students Happy

With Unique English Scholars Program

At the last Herricks School Board meeting, the first order of business was to swear-in the student representatives and the alternatives  The student representatives are:  Meena Yo and Grant Seltzer Richman and the alternatives are:  Sheryl Bohan and Samuel Oh.

The board then heard an in-depth description of the English Scholars Program delivered by English Chairperson Victor Jaccarino and English teachers Alan Smerdijan, Denise Accardi, Tom Baier, Jon Lavas, Sarah Kammerdener plus students from the high school in the program.

Most of the students and the teachers, as well, involved in the English Scholars Program are extremely pleased with the program.  Chairperson Jaccarino said it is totally a volunteer program and is presented to students in grades 8-12.

Denise Accardi,  presented a slide show of how the program, that has been in operation for four years, works.  Then all of the teachers spoke about the attributes of the program and how it motivates students.  It was explained that each student chooses his/her own topic and at the end of the year they present, through a lot of research, the completion of what they have been working on for the year, be it a movie, a novel, poetry or short stories and it is something that the student is truly engaged in.  It was also explained that the teachers connected with the program are more like mentors than teachers.  

Further, if a student should, due to a strong workload, have to drop out of the program, they can without any problem go back into the program the next year.  The students and teachers alike are all thoroughly enthused with this unique program and they feel that it helps them on their path to college.

A parent in the audience said that the program had never been mentioned to him, prior to his children entering the eighth-grade, but it was established it is listed in the course catalog.  He also suggested that the program should be shown to every seventh-grader at the Middle School.  He said he felt more students would be involved if they could see what is about in an expo format.

The next item on the agenda was the introduction of North Hempstead Town Councilman Thomas Dwyer.  

Councilman Dwyer said, “We have always worked well with this school district.  We worked with them on traffic, but tonight I am here to discuss housing issues.

 “Herricks Superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth and several school board members came and talked to the town about these issues several months ago.

We notified Dr. Bierwirth that some anonymous letters had been sent to the town supervisor’s office several months ago regarding apartment overcrowding and housing overcrowding.  This is really unfair to the school district, the students in the district and to the taxpayers in the district, who are overburdened with students in the school that are not paying taxes in the district.”

Dwyer continued, “Dr. Bierwirth initially gave us a list of about 27 houses that were suspicious houses.  Of those 27 houses, all of them were inspected and some had issues and we have followed through on all but two that we are still working on.  Two-thirds of those houses already had rental registration with the town.  Any house that is a two-family or any house that is rented must be registered with the town in its rental registration program.  About four or five of the other houses have received violations and one of them took us probably three months to get into the house, inspect it and find there were some violations, but multiple families were not living in the houses.    

 “Issuing a violation is just the beginning of the process, the court proceedings that go on after that sometimes can take six months, a year or a year and a half, because a case can be adjourned once or twice.”  He said “we certainly are following through on all of these cases.  The relationship between Dr. Bierwirth and the town attorney’s office is very fluid and we have given him all the information we could possibly give regarding this situation.  The dialogue has been open and the town is here is serve the constituents of the town and in particular of this school district.  We have a fantastic relationship with this district and I love to come here.”

Dr. Bierwirth said, “We have issued 14 or 15 summons and the difficulty the town building department has is whether or not it can be established that someone actually has an apartment in a residence.  If someone registers a student in the district and produces a rental agreement and we pass that to the town and as long as it is signed by two parties so there is no further digging because there is actually something in writing that shows there is an apartment in that location.  What we don’t know which residences have a right to have apartments and which ones don’t.”

Dwyer added, “I think there is one issue that is important.  In the housing code in North Hempstead, and this is universal throughout the country because it is a federal regulation, families are allowed to live ‘family style’ with various generations, which means there is only one kitchen, no locks on the doors and that is allowed.  When our inspector goes into a house and sees locks on doors and partitions where there is no access to some parts of the house, that’s a violation.”

A resident in the audience said that she pays $15,000 a year, just on school taxes and at this time has no children in the district and she said she does not think it is fair that she has to support those living in a home with multiple families.

Councilman Dwyer said that when they inspect the homes with multiple families, they make sure that children are not sleeping in closets or basements and if there is a violation that needs to be corrected the town will get to it.

Another woman said that she is not too thrilled about paying taxes for those who are not paying taxes, yet still receive the same benefits.

Some residents went back and forth with Councilman Dwyer protesting to those taking advantage of the law and he said if anyone knows of any house that appears to be in violation to please contact him at his town office.

The meeting ended with the approval of a Middle School trip to Boston scheduled for 2011 and the approval of a high school trip to Spain at a cost not to exceed $3, 200 per student from April 14 to April 23,  paid for by the students.

The next regular school board meeting will be held on Nov. 4 at 7:15 p.m. at the Herricks Community Center, 999 Herricks Road, New Hyde Park.