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Talking Budget Gaps

Ways to cut an anticipated $937,515 revenue gap in next year’s school budget occupied the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education at their recent meeting.

Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of schools for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, outlined cutbacks in elementary school class size, reducing one fulltime position in the English as a Second Language (ESL) support program to a part-time positions, and reduction in athletic programs and some elementary co-curricular activities at the board’s March 12 meeting at the Oyster Bay High School Library.

The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings to set the budget for the 2013-14 school year in time for voter approval on May 21 (See Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot March 1.

 At earlier meetings, school district officials explained the estimated spending plan of $53,967,475 necessary to maintain existing school programs — a $2,440,071 increase, 4.74 percent over the current budget.     School officials noted that they anticipated a 3.06 percent increase in revenue, accounting for the $937,515 revenue gap.

In other business, the board voted to ask for voter approval for extending the district’s capital projects fund and to seek voter approval for as much as $1,720,000 in capital projects for the 2013-14 school year. Both ballot measures were discussed at the board’s previous meeting.

After outlining the cutbacks necessary, Harington announced that “we can meet the gap without cutting anything at the high school” other than limited cuts in the athletic programs. Some of the audience members broke out in applause in response.

Harrington detailed the specific reductions in class size at James H. Vernon Middle School, which would involve reducing the number of sections in grades four and six. Despite the reductions, she noted, class sizes at the two schools will continue to conform to the class size policy guidelines set by the board in the past.

In addition, Harrington detailed reductions recommended by the athletic department, including cutting two assistant junior varsity lacrosse coaches, two middle school lacrosse coaches, and one middle school football coach.

Furthermore, the athletic department recommended cutting the number of “yellow coats.” “Yellow coats” are staff members who wear yellow coats while monitoring the crowds and provide assistance at home games and meets. Yellow coats would be eliminated for middle school field hockey, track, and volleyball, and reduced for junior varsity boys and girls basketball and varsity football.

Other cost-saving measures include cutting the number of middle school athletic contests by 15, junior varsity by 19, and varsity by 42 to save on transportation and officiating.  Varsity wrestling, track, cross-country, and golf teams would also attend fewer invitationals.

“Is it really necessary to have the yellow coats?” Dr. Michael Castellano, a board member, asked.

“They are there as a back-up” in case problems arise, Harrington explained. They are mostly teachers who know the students and are able to deal with potential difficulties.

Jim Mattel, school board vice president, wondered if the Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety personnel, whose cars are commonly seen round town, might be called in to assist at sporting events and save on yellow coats.

“I never explored that,” Harrington said. “It’s certainly worth looking into.”

Jim Robinson, a school board member, remarked, “You have a responsibility for the decorum of the crowd,” but added that there haven’t been problems.

Castellano suggested that if crowd control is a problem, perhaps there shouldn’t be spectators at events.

Harrington also explained that at Vernon, they would cut back on co-curricular activities other than student council, Leaders’ Club, and intramural sports. In response to a question, from board member Maryann Santos, Harrington replied that such activities as the chess club and the art club would be cut.

There are other anticipated expenses relating to taxes and other issues, Harrington explained. By taking a “calculated risk” and not including them in the budget — because of indications that the district will ultimately not have to pay for them — the district would save $220,000.

At the next meeting, March 19, Harrington noted, the board will consider the issue of revenue.  She also explained that there is still hope that some state aid will be restored.

In other action, the board approved the hiring of a new science and technology learning supervisor, Janna Ostroff, for kindergarten through high school. “We are quite happy,” Harrington said, “to add her to our already amazing team.”

News

On Saturday, July 5, Building J on the Western Waterfront was opened to the public for a free concert of classical music played by talented youth in the Oyster Bay Music Festival. The acoustics in the large metal shed were lively as the backdrop of the Ida May, a wooden oyster dredge under construction, lent artisanal flavor to the rich stew of mostly sea-related musical selections. People sat on stacks and benches of freshly milled wood or stood in the cavernous space. They soaked in beautiful solos, duets and trios that combined voice, piano, flute, cello and violin. Frank M Flower & Sons provided fresh oysters that engaged the palate, and representatives from Steinway & Sons gave a quick overview of how their pianos are made, relating several aspects of their meticulous process to the construction of the Ida May.

Last week was one of Oyster Bay’s biggest, most anticipated summer events, the Italian American Society’s St. Rocco’s Festival. Returning to its usually spot in Fireman’s Field on Shore Avenue, the festival was filled with amusement rides, live music, and great food and company.

“We come every year to St. Rocco’s with friends,” said Laura Regan of East Norwich. “The rides and awesome food make it a lot of fun.”


Sports

Oakcliff’s intensive training program provided a high level of competition last weekend at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship in Oyster Bay.

This year, the teams selected for the event were highly ranked through the United States, and several of the competitors are past and current Oakcliff trainees, including Elizabeth Shaw, Kathryn Shiber, Madeline Gill, and Danielle Gallo.

A total of 11 members of St. Dominic Track Team (grades 1-8) recently medaled at the Nassau-Suffolk CYO Championship Finals at Mitchel Field. In the finals, the athletes competed against the finalists from all three regions, representing more than 2,500 athletes from 23 other parishes.

In addition to the student athletes’ success, the track coaches were honored as well. St. Dominic CYO Track coaches Phil Schade (grades 1-3), Julie and Mike Keffer (grades 4-6) and Rich Cameron (grades 7-8) were selected by peer coaches in their region for the NSCYO Team Sportsmanship Award. The Saint Dominic CYO track program, in its second year, has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with and the young runners are among the best on Long Island.


Calendar

OB Band Concerts

Wednesday, July 23

Music Under The Stars

Friday, July 25

Annual Chicken BBQ

Saturday, July 26



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com