Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 17 September 2010 00:00
Mineola School District Superintendent Michael Nagler attended the most recent Mineola Board of Trustees meeting to clarify the school reconfiguration bond up for vote on Oct. 26. Nagler presented bond option two, which is a proposed $6.7 million bond to consolidate the school district.
If a successful bond referendum is not passed, the district will reconfigure the school district under reconfiguration option one. Option one consists of the closing of the Hampton Street School and Cross Street School with a pre-K-2 south model at the Willis Avenue School and a mirrored model at the Meadow Drive School but with a north jurisdiction.
Grades three and four would be at the Jackson Avenue School, with grades five through seven being at the middle school. Mineola High School would have an eighth through twelfth grade model under option one.
Bond option two is set under reconfiguration option three. This reconfiguration option would see three schools close.
Meadow Drive, Hampton and Cross Street would close under this configuration. The Willis Avenue School would have a pre-K-1 model and Jackson Avenue would be a grade two through four school. The middle school would hold fifth through seventh grade while the high school would use an option one configuration. Under option three, Hampton may be retained for the use as the district’s central office.
This model would see a full cluster, optimizing staff and class sizes and would showcase three-year transitions for students. According to Nagler, this is the most cost-effective option in terms of savings.
The downside to this option is that all north/south students of the dividing line (Jericho Turnpike) would be traveling, and a bond would need to be passed. Nagler stated at the July 22 meeting that if bond option two fails, the district could still pursue bond option one.
State and Federal aid is decreasing while costs such as pensions and health benefits, which are guaranteed, continue to rise according to Nagler. Mineola is looking at a 6.9 percent tax levy increase and a 5.5 percent spending increase should no action be taken. The proposed budget would approximately sit at $84,535,644.
“The [school] board is committed to try to deliver a 2.5-percent tax levy [increase] to the community in consecutive years,” Nagler said, which would necessitate a spending cut of $3.2 million. “Even closing schools, to get that 3.2 number, is difficult without cutting services.”
The district’s finance committee determined the cluster model would save over $42 million over 10 years. However, the administration’s assumed cost savings was cut by 10 percent since the option makes the most changes and takes the longest to complete.
Reconfiguring would leave the district free to rent out the other two schools “and leave an additional building for (district offices).” The buildings could be potential revenue sources as community centers.
Nagler said that there is a lot of interest in the buildings that could close and has spoken to three unnamed groups about possible rentals. “I’m confident that I will have renters in place for September 2011 and September 2012,” he said.
A cluster model would eliminate shared staff and what the Superintendent calls “bad” splits, or varying class sizes. “When you don’t control where students go in the zones, you will always end up with these odd numbers that necessitate another teacher,” Nagler said.
If the bond were to pass, 14 additional classrooms would be constructed in the existing second floor at Willis Avenue and eight more at Jackson. The extension at Jackson would be at the North side of the building.