The voices of the future proudly chanted an anthem about why Vernon School is "the best," to open the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District BOE meeting on March 3. The evening began with a musical presentation by the chorus, followed by several young flautists. These children provided firsthand examples of the benefits a school music program can have on their lives, and these are the very programs that are threatened during the current economic crisis.
Representatives from other programs that may experience cut-backs or elimination due to budget cuts also stepped up and talked about the significance of these classes. Pat Murray, teacher of the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade science classes discussed the advantages of having this program at Vernon. The students are taught skills such as observation, data recording and using digital cameras and microscopes, topics that cannot be covered quite as extensively in a regular classroom.
Joanne Loring, head of the Gifted and Talented Enrichment program, also explained to the public what benefits that program has for the students. Besides the popular "Atlantis" program in which 27 elementary students participate, there are 15 other enrichment classes available that foster challenges among the academically strong. Academic Intervention Services and Literacy Coach, Tracy Zambelli, also described the details of their programs and how they are crucial in providing the necessary assistance to students who need it.
A PowerPoint presentation by each elementary grade level and the special education department also informed the audience what goes on inside each classroom, with a focus on the use of technology.
Special Education teacher Kevin McCarthy remarked about the interesting format of the meeting and the enthusiasm of his colleagues, "It's these types of meetings that make me feel very proud to be part of this district. This district far exceeds any other. I'm proud of my colleagues and my students. We've come a long way in a short amount of time." President James Robinson agreed, "[For years we've been] putting tools and strategies together to measure results. You see the results every day."
The revised budget as of the March 3 meeting would keep the number of OBHS teaching positions the same (no reductions), and would restore the teacher for Atlantis at Vernon and the science-technology position at Roosevelt. Athletic supervision and special education are still areas subject to reduction. To meet the concerns of those who spoke out against it in prior workshop meetings, the proposed revenue generation will also be reduced, meaning parents will not incur a charge by attending music or athletic events. Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington proposed a $100,000 reduction in special education in hopes that Obama's Stimulus Plan will impact the district, which would better fund special education.
Current estimated revenue in state aid is $2,125,164; estimated other, $721,850; proposed revenue generation, $43,170; appropriated fund balance, $500,000 and appropriated ERS reserve, $100,000 adding up to $3,490,184. Certain one-time projects will have to be budgeted for, including the High School science wing roof replacement (no more than $170,000), administrative parking lot replacement (no more than $130,000), and the Roosevelt parking lot and fencework (no more than $525,000). The total Capital Reserve Projects amount to no more than $825,000.
More options that the district is exploring are restoring 1.0 Full Time Equivalent at Roosevelt, partially restoring co-curricular at the high school and Vernon, and restoring bowling, golf and the tournaments. If these programs are reinstated in the new budget, the increase would be 3.74 percent with a levy to levy of 4.03 percent. Mr. Robinson commented, "There are still some in our community who want the increase to be zero. We truly believe next year is going to be a lot worse than this year. As we develop the budget, we've gone under this premise. The impact... has been minimal to how it affects the child in the classroom. That's not going to happen anymore. Those are not solutions we are going to come up with as Oyster Bay alone. We truly have to maximize what we can. You have to develop what's going to work for the entire community."