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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

Mineola Street Fair coordinators are canvassing the downtown area to enlist local businesses for the fourth annual Mineola Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event on Saturday, Sept. 14 at noon, with an Oct. 5 rain date. Opening ceremonies begin at 1 p.m.

 

“We’ve been walking the streets trying to get more businesses involved,” Chamber vice president and Piccola Bussola owner Tony Lubrano said. “It’s the same struggle every year but at the end, it all comes together.”

In a typical Long Island community packed with houses and backyards, there are a couple of acres of open land of community gardens where people are growing basil and dahlias and roses and cabbages—people like Terry Dunckey of Westbury and Peg Woerner of Great Neck, tending their small plots and helping to promote sustainable and organic practices.

East Meadow Farm, off Merrick Avenue, is owned by Nassau County and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Nassau County. Previously it was a family-owned farm that was purchased by the county through the Environment Bond Act Program, a $150 million program that called for, among several mandates, the preservation of 400 acres of open space. In 2009, CCE of Nassau was awarded the lease to the land and in January 2012 took possession of the property. East Meadow Farm is a place where we can get the best advice on how to make our gardens grow without harming the earth. Part of the CCE’s original proposal was the establishment of a farmer’s market and, now, the market is open two days a week, a place to purchase organic vegetables and flowers during the growing season.


Sports

Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.

“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”

Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.

The BU15 Mineola Revolution were crowned champions of the Roar at the Shore Tournament 2014 in West Islip on Aug. 10. After dropping the opener 2-0 against North Valley Stream, Mineola bounced back to beat Freeport Premiere 2-1.

The Revolution’s offense exploded in the third game as they beat West Islip 7-0. Mineola’s final game pitted them against Quickstrike FC, which entered the contest without a loss and within a point of winning the tournament.


Calendar

Zoning Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Mineola Village Meeting

Wednesday, Sept. 3

School Board Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



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