Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00
The very long Herricks school board meeting, held after the board toured all its buildings, turned into a lot of complaints, due to the fact that residents are so frustrated with all the cuts the district was forced to make in order to maintain a reasonable budget.
First of all parents were not happy with the prospect of an additional aide in some of the elementary school classes in lieu of starting a new class. Both board president Christine Turner and superintendent Dr. John Bierwirth explained that in “this economic climate” 65 teachers had to be let go.
Some residents felt that class sizes should have been discussed more fully and perhaps there could have been other solutions.
Board president Christine Turner said, over and over, as she has in the past, they have had to squeeze every area in the district. She said, “This is not the same Herricks we once knew.”
She continued, “We have worked tirelessly for many hours with the superintendent, and the principals in each school to see what plan would be best and what would work.
“We have come up with a plan that will be the best for each school. In Denton School, however, we have added another class in Kindergarten.”
Dr. Bierwirth said, “In other classes, where there is one or two students over we have added an aide in that class. In such cases it would be irresponsible to add another whole class.
“However, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, Dr. Diedre Hayes, is watching the enrollment situation very carefully and if it should change she will come back to the board and decisions will be made based on her recommendations.”
Another resident said she heard that language immersion classes were being held to smaller amounts of students. Dr. Bierwirth said. “If someone is spreading that rumor, it simply isn’t true, because that is not happening.” He further pointed out that in all cases of immersion classes there are those students on the waiting list.
Further, it was commented, in relation to the immersion classes, that since it is a new program it will have to be monitored and as Dr. San Jain said, “Everything will have to be rethought in regards to all programs.”
Two members of the Albertson Little League were the next to speak and they said they had been informed that they would have to pay $30 an hour for the whole season to use the fields. In other words to use the high school fields the fee would be $90 for the entire season. However, it was established that Herricks (title for Jim Petricka) issued a corrected email stating that sport teams will be charged for the use of the fields but none will be charged as much as $2,500.
Dr. Bierwirth said that eventually, due to the dire straights of the district, all organizations will be charged for the use of either the fields or the buildings. Even the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts will probably have to pay for the use of the buildings in the future. The bottom line will be that it will have to be rethought.
It was pointed out that the situation is “not pretty” and will only become worse.
That is why the board will begin in the first and second meetings in October to work on next year’s budget.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Helen Costigan and Larry Tannenbaum, of Herricks law firm of Jaspan Schlesinger, submitted a page of numbers to represent how the tax cap levy will work in the district resulting ultimately in a $3,680,204 cut in the 2012-2013 budget.
Dr. Bierwirth said he would include the details in the September issue of Dateline.
A resident commented that since the tax cap is not good for the children in the district then why don’t the residents of the district protest against it to their respective legislators. He also wanted to know if other superintendents in other districts felt the same way.
Dr. Bierwirth said, “Last spring everyone came out against the tax cap and at that time Governor Andrew Cumo made the statement that he didn’t think he should interfere in the affairs of local government but at the same time he was imposing a 2 percent tax cap so he was perfectly prepared to interfere on the levy side but he wasn’t prepared to interfere on the side of striking all the expenses, so there would be less for school boards who would have to make all the bad decisions. For instance our retirement costs will go up by 33 percent in one year.”
Board president Turner said in theory it sounded good, but when instead it means residents will have to pay more and most do not understand that. As far as doing something about it many groups have been lobbying in Albany against this and to no avail.
Trustee James Gournaris said, “So the day that New York State Assemblywoman Michele Schimmel and Senator Jack Martins come to the district be sure to bring all your friends and neighbors to tell them how dissatisfied you are with this type of legislation and how it will be so wrong for the Herricks district.”
One trustee wanted to know if suing the state for this has ever been entertained. Dr. Bierwirth said that the state does not require Kindergarten or athletic groups so, “We would have a long way to fall.”
Superintendent Bierwirth, “We did not put this law out for the public since it is 60 pages, but it can be seen in my office at 999 Herricks Road, on the second floor. This is probably the largest unfunded mandate passed in the State of New York at the same time as the tax cap. What it states is that eventually, every teacher and principal will have a rating of from 0 to 100. Twenty points will come from the state based on their calculations student performance in the classes of the teachers. Twenty points will come from locally selected representatives, from Herricks, and 60 points will come from other areas with a certain matrix. What it will cost is that we will require training on an approved model and we will have to purchase large numbers of locally selected assessments. Not immediately because we have labor agreements that extend to the next three years.
“But if we have to test every student in say the third grades in every subject including music, this will add up very quickly. My collegues and I don’t have any idea of how much this will cost. We met with Senator Martins and he then wrote a great article explaining this. The plan will be posted on the website by September 10 which is part of the law. Our hope is that this will crash and burn by the time it is to be implemented.”
Dr. Bierwirth explained, “This past year before the budget I told the board that I could not accept the increase that had been negotiated previously and that I wanted it reduced, so we reduced it to a percent and a half. I approached the board several weeks ago and we reduced the remaining years to 1.75 percent in each of the remaining years and extending it for two years.”
The board then thanked Dr. Bierwirth for his consideration.
The board then approved a rental agreement for the Indian Culture Group for use of the Middle School on Saturdays for the annual rate of $36,500 and it was explained that they will open the building and it will also include Saturday recreation program.
The Young Indian Group has had an educational program in Herricks for many years.
The board then approved the donation of a piano from Sandra Baskin for use in the Herricks Music Department. The board also approved the use of an Elliptical Trainer exercise machineß from John McNeur to be placed in the high school fitness room.
The next regular meeting ended and the next meeting will be held at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Community Center, 999, Herricks Road, New Hyde Park.