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Superintendents Join To Restore Youth Service Programs

Long Island school district leaders call on Nassau County to restore $8 million in funding

Local school district superintendents on Tuesday, Oct. 2 called on Nassau County to restore youth and family programs that were cut or eliminated from the county budget on July 5. Representatives from Elmont, Great Neck, Long Beach, Massapequa, Mineola, Uniondale and Westbury protested the decision to slash nearly $8 million in program funding that went to counseling, tutoring, crisis intervention, after school programs, among other areas.

These programs were the victim of the ongoing tug-of-war between party lines in the county concerning borrowing and redistricting. Organizations across Nassau County, like the Gateway Youth Outreach in Elmont and Mineola Youth and Family Services in Mineola were blindsided when the cut came down three months ago.

The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) sent a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano and the entire county legislature on Sept. 28, in support of restoring the programs. NYSAN Executive Director Nora Niedzielski said the programs, “allow parents to work without worrying about their children’s health, development and safety and [the programs] reduce juvenile crime,” the letter read.

Local school and community leaders agreed. Coalition of Nassau County Youth Agencies President Peter Levy feels the programs were the victim of political struggles in the county.

“We cannot be used as pawns in political games,” he said. “School superintendents are well aware of the negative impact on their school communities due to the loss of vital services provided to their students and we appreciate their partnership in this campaign.”

According to GYO Director Pat Boyle, about 800 Elmont youths once attended the Gateway Youth Outreach Center, but county cuts made the center scale back to 100 students in 2012. The center opened in 1983 as EYO, but later changed to GYO in 1998.

“We’re left with a tremendous amount of latchkey kids,” said Al Harper, superintendent of the Elmont School District (ESD), which enrolls about 3,700 students. “Who knows where these children are?”

The ESD faced the possibility of a complete failed budget last June, after it failed at the polls on May 15. The district needed 60 percent of voter approval to pass the budget, which it attained on June 19.

“Elmont is a vibrant, working class community,” Harper said. “Parents sometimes put in long hours at work in order to pay bills and survive in this economy. Gateway Youth Outreach provides afterschool care for our children. Parents were left without afterschool childcare. This was very unfair to take away at the last minute. We need this type of support for our children.”

Activists, youth organizations and local community fixtures have been pleading for a restoration of funds since the summer, but this marks the first time school heads have banded together to force the issue. The educators were lobbying for a specific area or program, but had one common goal.

“I came here to support Mineola Youth and Family Services,” Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “To speak pragmatically, we understand that we all have to produce budgets. In our budgets we try to make sure we understand all the consequences of our reductions. In this case, 38 youth and family service programs in one pen stroke affects a lot of kids in a lot of communities. It is great to have another place for kids to go to when we can’t provide the service. There’s no dollar amount that will speak to the value of that as a society.”

Executive Director of Mineola Youth and Family Services Cristina Balbo is still working with local youth, without pay, on her own time, for the good of the children. She said, “Our agency is basically closed. However, I still volunteer my time with no pay, along with two or three volunteers from the agency to keep the clients safe.”

Balbo is hoping the funding gets restored. She recently met with Nassau County Legislator Rich Nicolello and State Senator Jack Martins to discuss the program cuts.

“Does anyone have an understanding that these agencies are not going to be around?” Balbo stated.

“To wipe out all of them, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Nagler stated.

News

Way before Home Depot or Ace Hardware came into existence, there were little mom-and-pop shops like Munder’s True Value on Hillside Avenue in Williston Park. The hardware store, which opened its doors in 1948, is somewhat of a suburban dinosaur having outlasted several other hardware stores in the area.

 

“My father, Charles, opened this store in 1948 after returning home from World War II,” said Bill Munder, who took over the store operation seven years ago. “His parents wanted to know his plans after he returned home from the marines and he decided to open this store on Hillside Avenue.”

The debate over New York State Common Core standards continues, with students from the Mineola School District showing a mild resistance to the exams.

 

According to the New York State Allies for Public Education, Mineola had some of the lowest numbers, with eight students opting out of the English Language Arts test. However, not a single Mineola student missed the math test. In East Williston, the opt out rates were 75 students in ELA and 60 in math.


Sports

The New York Cosmos hosted the Mineola Athletic Association’s Soccer Club recently for its penultimate fall 2014 home game. More than 140 members of the MAA soccer club and their families came out on a chilly October evening to show their love of the game. Twenty-two Mineola boys and girls had the honor of escorting the New York Cosmos and Ottawa Fury players onto the field in the traditional “Walk of Champions.”

 

The Mineola spirit must have inspired the home team, as spectators enjoyed the exciting 2-1 Cosmos victory, with the game-winning goal coming in stoppage time.


As a current member of the Mineola High School Varsity Soccer team, senior, Catherine Cunningham has been dominating the scoring for the Mustangs.  She has 12 goals and two assists in the last seven games. 

 

In her last week of play alone, she amassed six goals in just three games. As a captain for the last two years, Cunningham has been an All-Conference and All-Class player, leading her team to two victories so far this season. 


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