Written by Michael Scro Friday, 08 March 2013 00:00
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.