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Mineola School Board Trustee to Propose Merger with Herricks SD

Thinks Merger Would Save $50 Million

The Mineola School District Board of Education is set to etch the next bond vote into stone for Feb. 8, 2011. The bond up for vote is a contingent bond and follows a previous bond that was voted down, which would have closed three schools. However, if one board member has his way, things could change.

School board trustee John McGrath said he would propose that the Mineola School District merge with the Herricks School District at the next meeting on Nov. 18. The merger would maintain the neighborhood elementary schools that so many district residents oppose closing and save more money, according to McGrath.

McGrath estimates that closing the middle school and high school would save $50 million, more than any of the current reconfiguration options and would leave the neighborhood schools untouched. Mineola students would attend Herricks Middle School and Herricks High School and some Herricks students could attend Mineola’s elementary schools under McGrath’s proposal.

McGrath said the $50 million figure doesn’t include excessing teachers from the elementary schools, but might include some high school teachers.

“Just using Mineola administrators, assuming you can get rid of an entire central office, all the administrators in the middle school and high school, coupled with all the support staff that goes along with those [positions] you’re going to save at least $50 million over the same ten-year period that we were talking about with this last bond that saved $42 million,” McGrath said in a phone interview.

McGrath said the Herricks School District could in fact have no interest in this, but in putting that aside, “you’re not going to need every teacher” if you merge the Mineola middle school and high school with Herricks’ respective schools.

McGrath and Trustee Irene Parrino voted ‘yes’ to table the accepting of the February bond vote until a later date at last weeks meeting. Trustee William Hornberger and Board VP Christine Napolitano voted no while Board President Terrance Hale voted yes. Hale said during the meeting that he voted yes due to the discrepancies in the documents provided by H2M, the school districts contractor.

McGrath stated that he has had no discussions with Herricks administrators about the proposal. According to McGrath’s findings, Herricks could absorb the middle and high school without any construction and without absorbing the Mineola School Districts professional staff.

“The presumption is that we’re not so big that the current staff at Herricks couldn’t handle adding our middle school and high school,” he said. “The savings might be a little less if [Herricks] has to take some of our administrators or support staff, but it won’t be that much less.”

McGrath thinks Herricks is at or above capacity and if that’s the case, some Herricks students could attend Mineola elementary schools. Both McGrath and Parrino have stated after the recent bond vote that the board should take a step back and decide whether or not the school district should be reconfigured at all.

“The voters just turned down a $6.7 million bond. If the residents turned down a $6.7 million bond, what makes [the board] think they’re going to pass a $6.1 million contingent bond?” McGrath said at last weeks meeting.

District Superintendent Michael Nagler stated last Thursday that, “Each bond is something to somebody. This one is, I think, a lot of what I hear from parents, this is what they want. They don’t want eighth grade in the high school and don’t want fifth grade in the middle school and that is what this contingent bond is delivering.”

The contingent bond would set the district under reconfiguration option two. Option two sees Hampton and Cross Street close, with a north/south jurisdiction at Meadow Drive (Pre K-2) and Willis Avenue (Pre K-2) respectively.

The middle school would see a six through eighth grade model. The high school would be set under a ninth through twelfth grade configuration.

This configuration keeps the middle school and high school as is and makes Jackson Avenue a three-year transition. However, the numbers in the north/south split would still be an issue.

This configuration would need two parts of the bond passed if the district were to use this model. A second part of a contingent bond cannot be voted on if the first part fails. The total bond cost would reach $6.1 million.

If the first part passes, the Jackson Avenue School would need eight additional classrooms, a multipurpose room and a bus loop at $4.4 million. The second part of the bond, if passed by voters, would see the Hampton Street School, with a four classroom addition, replace Willis Avenue as a Pre K-2 South configuration with an additional $1.7 million.

The Willis Avenue School would close if part B passes. If a building doesn’t close in September 2011, the district will be looking at a 7 percent tax levy on the budget, according to Nagler.

The bond will save the school district approximately $25 million over ten years if it passes. Nagler presented the bond that residents will vote on at last week’s meeting and stressed that in the end, if all bonds fail, the default option one will be the new district configuration.

Option one, like option two, sees two schools close but with a pre-k-2 north/south model at Meadow Drive and Willis Avenue respectively. 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.

Mineola residents have staunchly opposed option one, but didn’t want the configuration that was included in the bond vote on Oct. 26. Will residents be open to this bond? Will Hampton Street parents and supporters come out in droves to make sure part B passes when the bond is out to vote? Time will tell over the next three months.