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OB-EN Board, Budget Highlights and Student/Teacher Achievement

Student achievement and the teachers who helped them were recognized as the May 4 Oyster Bay-East Norwich School Board meeting began. Teacher John Andriaccio was nominated by OBEN graduate Jason Lim, a student at Harvard, as being a great teacher and was honored at the Harvard Club’s annual University Relations Lunch in April. Students who excelled in the Physics Olympics were honored: they include Claire Bouchard, Amanda Hayat, Joey Heaney, Nicolette Siringo, and Christina Smiros. Dr. Harrington congratulated new OBHS Physics Teacher Christopher Pietris who she recently hired for his work with the students.

 

They honored Karla Gasc and Paula Oyarce, ESL seniors who were finalists among many seniors around Long Island and were invited by Nassau BOCES to attend the “Angelo Del Toro Hispanic Institute in Albany.” In addition to spending an all-expenses paid weekend in Albany, they won two $500 scholarships for an essay they submitted.

Also honored were Danielle Aarons, Jen Capozzoli, Caitlin Madden and Meghan Trepal. They were awarded Third Place for their American Sign Language (ASL) song interpretation submitted in video to the Long Island Teachers Association. The ladies attended numerous board meetings to keep ASL in the school curriculum.

OBHS student Jillian Murray, who is going to China on a scholarship for a language immersion program in Mandarin Chinese, was also congratulated by the board.

Budget Review

Assistant Superintendent for Business Christopher Van Cott went over the budget which comes to $48,738,155 with an increase over last year of 2.89 percent. He reminded people that on May 15, the stadium will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for people to see the work that needs to be done. “The teams can’t even fit in the stadium. The money is there to do this,” he said. There will be renderings of the work and budget information available. The work is part of the referendum on Capital Projects that weeks to be done to maintain school property. The money, $1,430,000 is presently in the Capital Projects Reserve Fund and just needs voter approval to use it. The Fund Balance will be used to replenish the Capital Reserves for future needs.

He said that the estimated OBEN tax levy of 3.36 percent is lower than average across Long Island. The final figure will be set in August when the budget figures are all in.

If the vote fails (twice) the district would go on contingency and be forced to cut $1.3 million out of the budget through program and teacher cuts.

Three Bids Awarded for Work

The district has received three bids for work already approved and with existing funds for: the concrete sidewalks at the high school to be done by North Star Concrete, Inc. of Medford for $65,470. They awarded a bid for the partial roof replacement over the OBHS science wing to be done by Hygrade Insulators, Inc. of Phillipsburg, NJ for $123,100. They awarded the bid for the administration building parking lot to Saracino Construction, Corp. of Patchogue for $116,200.

Budget Brochure

Dr. Harrington thanked Christopher Van Cott for his work on the budget brochure mailed to district homes. She said, “It was transparent, and clear as possible, an incredible job. He also orchestrated and helped on the budget brochure. There are more details on the website.” She said if anyone wants further details, “We are only a phone call away (624-6500).”

Grace Searby commented that it would be helpful to see the figures for last year for comparison. Dr. Harrington said that they were all in the budget documents that were available at all board meetings and are still available. The line-by-line budgets are available at all three schools and at the administration building.

Endowment Fund Proposed

During the public comments, Laurie Kowalsky asked if the board would consider an Endowment Fund saying that the Elwood School District has one. It would be a not-for-profit entity with money raised by donations and fund raisers. It could be for enrichment such as visits to the DNA exhibit; extra books; videographics; green screens. A teacher would apply for a grant and an advisory board would grant the money. The board would give out the money for as long as it lasts. The fund would have a tax exempt status.

Board President James Robinson said they would put the suggestion on their agenda for discussion.

Superintendent’s Salary

Mr. Cope, a resident of Oyster Bay Cove, said he was dismayed at the raises Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington received last year. He said she received a 17 percent raise (in July 2009) and another 5 percent this year in January. He said it was “Beyond belief. The board didn’t act in a responsible manner,” in an economy where young parents are working two and three jobs; and have to drop off their children for day care since the mothers are working. He said, “The payroll is out of hand. How is it justified to give such raises to the superintendent?”

Board President James Robinson said those figures were incorrect. She received a 7 percent raise in 2009 and a 2.5 percent raise in 2010. He said Dr. Harrington has been decreasing the budget from year to year and increasing student performance. “We do the best we can in the best interests of the taxpayers and student performance – but not everyone agrees,” he said.

Parent Louis Cohen with his first child in Kindergarten said he has been at meetings since the beginning of the budget process. He said he understood Mr. Cope’s concerns as a young parent himself with two children, but he said, “the community at large who use the school district is very happy.” He was concerned that in relation to salaries, the district is losing a lot of staff to other districts including that now, the athletic director and supervisor of curriculum are leaving. Yes, Dawn Cerrone, OBEN athletic director has been “spirited away”, affirmed Tom Gould, media specialist. “She attended the OBEN schools. She is ‘true purple’ always willing to paint her face purple to show school spirit. She is a dynamo.” She was the first AD this reporter is aware of for at least the past 25 years.

As a parent, Mr. Cohen thanked the board for their decision making.

Board member Robin Dando said the new Locust Valley Superintendent of Schools is receiving $250,000 and Hewlet-Woodmere is paying theirs $265,000. “We have an unbelievable superintendent. We know she could get a job at $300,000 tomorrow,” she said.

Board member Keith Kowalsky said he has been on the board for seven years. “The budget has decreased every year. She is able to manage the funds well. She is one of the best superintendents on Long Island. She has saved thousands of dollars for the district. I don’t like paying taxes but this is the best money we’ve spent over seven years,” he said.

Donald Zoeller added, “When I moved here the real estate agent said ‘the school is not very good.’ That is bad for property values and it is a benefit to have a well regarded school district. In the last few years people say ‘I moved here because I want my kids to go to school here.’ There are pages and pages of help wanted ads for superintendents. We make reasonable expenditures but we do get outbid for really terrific people,” he said.

Dr. Harrington said she enjoyed working in this beautiful community where the parents are responsive, the community is responsive and it has the best children around. “That makes it special,” she said.

Regents Question

Parent Lauren Brady asked about the article in Newsday in regard to Regents Diplomas. Dr. Harrington complimented the article in the Enterprise Pilot for giving the full picture of the issue. “The class had double the number of special needs students; there were ESL students; drop outs; we were aware of the problems; it was a ‘blip’. One of the students received their high school diploma one year later. Of the rest of the class, 50 percent of those passing the Regents got the Advanced Regents Diploma,” Dr. Harrington said.

Student Absence Policy

Oyster Bay High School Principal Dennis O’Hara presented a report on the school policy about absence from class. He said he worked with the Shared Decision Making Team for feedback. The Site Based Team reviewed the policy which is up for adoption on June 1.

The aim is not to be punitive – but to get parents involved to know about their child’s absence from class. The total number of absences is 24 after which the student gets no credit for the class and can take no Regents. But the plan is to notify the parent early in the process. There will be phone calls by the teachers to the parents; meetings with the parent, teacher and guidance counselor; and then meetings with the assistant principal.

In the case of a student having a medical condition such as from mono, surgery or an auto accident they are not denied credit. There will be an appeals committee. It is possible that days might be restored so they can earn credit for a class.

Parents will be contacted after six, nine, 15, 20 and 24 and 25 absences to get them involved in helping the student.

Mr. O’Hara said, “We want to keep our hooks in the student and not give up. We want to give every reason to be engaged in classes and getting credit.”

He said they will evaluate the absences such as being late for first period rather than not attending the class. The staff knows where every student is in the school, as they sign in for guidance, library and classes.

Mr. O’Hara said a FAQ page will be included in the letter sent to parents.

He said students who receive home instruction get two hours per week of core subjects; four hours for social studies, four hours for math and the instruction continues when they return to school.

Ms. Dando said she scheduled an orthodontist appointment at 7:30 a.m. twice, but she learned that they were not excused absences and that her daughter lost what would have been a perfect attendance record. “She has perfect teeth,” she added.

The policy, as noted will be voted on at the June 1 meeting.

The district will vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 18 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Oyster Bay High School.