The Board of Education moved swiftly on Tuesday evening, June 1, finalizing $1,133,808 worth of cuts in the school budget and voting to adopt the reduced 2000-20001 school budget. The public will vote on this smaller budget on Tuesday, June 20.
The majority of the BOE supported Superintendent Albert Inserra's recommended cuts. These recommendations, detailed at the May 23 BOE meeting, were altered slightly at this meeting in response to strong community opposition (as well as some BOE disapproval) to cutting educators' slots. Thus, Dr. Inserra revised a few of his recommended reductions by proposing the restoration of the kindergarten educational assistants' full hours in the budget, maintaining the number of fifth grade classes at Guggenheim, and keeping four classes of fifth graders at Daly. He also pointed out that when it came to class size, "we have the most favorable class size in five years," citing averages like 18.9 students at Daly, 20.3 on average at Guggenheim, 19.4 for Manorhaven, and 19.9 on average at Sousa.
The reductions to the 2000-2001 school budget will therefore include cutting the purchase/lease of more portables, elimination of late busing, cuts in transportation and operation/maintenance funding, reduction of conferences and summer workshops (for teachers), fewer high school sections, cuts in clerical, paraprofessional, and custodial staff, reduction of Daly second grade classes from four to three, and reductions in technological equipment and software purchases.
The board members voted 5 to 1 in favor of adopting the reduced budget. Only BOE member Alan Baer was opposed; BOE member Nancy Cowles was on a trip and not present. Thus, the public will see a proposed school budget of $74,244,110 in contrast to the original budget of $75,377,918. It will be presented to the public for a vote on Tuesday, June 20. The election will be held in the Weber/Flower Hill Building all-purpose room; voters can cast their ballots between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The BOE also adopted a resolution stating that the budget will be available for review on June 6, at each of the school buildings.
Examining space problems and formulating strategies and solutions for September 2001, was the mission of a committee comprised of current and incoming BOE members, with Weber Principal Matt Sanzone and architect Ralph Ottiano. The board must work one year in advance to have solutions in place. BOE member Richard Sussman reported that it would cost $851,292 for three additional Manorhaven classrooms, $410,623 for two more Guggenheim rooms, and $3.1 million to reopen Salem. New classrooms at Weber, involving converting the multi-purpose room, totaled $303,109. Nevertheless, the committee concluded that these funds should not be incorporated into this year's budget since they hope to present a new long-term bond addressing these needs. Such a vote would probably need to occur around October 2000, they said. Mr. Sussman indicated that a small bond would be presented if "this date is reached with no long-term bond in place."
There was some disagreement, however, with several aspects of this approach. Principal Sanzone, for instance, detailed the almost-constant use of the multi-purpose room, living up to its name. "I'm against putting kids in spaces that were never designed for children," he remarked, referring to the idea of converting a custodial storage room into a new multi-purpose room. His remarks were met with applause from the half-filled auditorium. BOE member Alan Baer also disagreed with postponing action on resolving Web's space problems and instead advocated for taking steps to impact the school this fall. "We would have had to do it one year ago," Mr. Sussman responded. "But we could have portables by December," Mr. Baer countered. As of this time, the foreign language department does not have rooms, so teachers will have to shuttle throughout the buildings.
While these space issues have yet to be resolved, there will be no other internal renovations at Weber---included in the 2000-2001 budget---if the new budget passes. These renovations will be ready for the start of school in the fall. They include renovations of space for core team classrooms, and changes to the ground floor of Flower Hill to create classrooms.
Manorhaven PTA co-president Ellen Fox was one many who supported the budget cuts except for educational staff cuts. She also asked that the BOE add the Weber portables back into the budget, In fact, many visitors entreated the BOE to act rapidly to ameliorate Weber's urgent space needs. Retired foreign language teacher Elaine Berman reminded the BOE that the Weber foreign language department, once the recipient of a NYS award, was now an itinerant program, at risk of being weakened due to the space shortage.
The foreign language department at Schreiber High School is this year's winner of the James E. Allen Award sponsored by the NYS Foreign Language Teachers' Association. Dr. Inserra announced that this honor establishes that it is "considered the best foreign language department in NY State."
More good new was forthcoming. The high school's girls lacrosse team just won the title of Nassau County Champions. In addition, Schreiber student Craig Rubin is the new Singles Tennis Champion in Nassau County.