At its Jan. 18 meeting, the board of education alternated between good and bad news in varying degrees.
First, the bad news: The board reported that initial projections for the state budget show that state aid will decrease by $348,000, bringing the total amount of state aid to less than $5 million for the next school year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoff Gordon expressed his discontent with the state government's "declining contributions and continuing unfunded mandates."
Next, the good news: The board commended Schreiber High School's five Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists: Paul Winters, Pamela Arnett, Sarah Catanzaro, Jacob Fainzilberg and Zach Levine.
Community comments concentrated on the ventilation systems at Salem, with residents expressing concern about the installation of appropriate technology.
Local veterans applauded the board for agreeing to name the new wing of Weber Middle School after Maj. Douglas Jacobs, a Port Washington resident who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his service in the Second World War.
County Legislator Craig Johnson then reported that Nassau County is prepared to pledge $10,000 for the memorial rock and the plaque that will go with the naming.
Separately, Nassau County will also pledge $10,000 for any new scoreboards that the schools may need, Johnson said.
The board voted to hire a new auditing firm, R.S. Abrams & Co., with offices in Baldwin and Islandia. The contract with the previous auditing firm, Miller, Lilly & Pearce, expired June 30 and was not renewed. Board president Nancy Cowles said in an interview that
Miller, Lilly & Pearce had been the district's auditor for some time and the board had decided to invite proposals from other firms.
Miller, Lilly & Pearce was the auditor for the Roslyn school district and was chastised severely last month in an audit by state Comptroller
Alan Hevesi for its failure to uncover financial abuses there.
Officials of the firm, which audited more than 50 Long Island school districts, said in recent weeks that it was disbanding.
The last item was to accept a report from the environmental testing company H2M. A representative presented a detailed explanation of methane sensing and ventilation systems. He referred to various guidelines, including a set of proposed regulations not yet approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Using these guidelines, as well as others from the state, he noted that on one reading, a single volatile organic compound was significantly greater than calculated recommendations. He also reported on conversations with state officials in which the options of re-testing or ventilating were discussed. The state did not make any formal recommendations with regard to the volatile organic compound.
The representative explained that it was difficult to locate the source of the contamination because doing so would require a massive grid across the entire area, essentially an expensive game of ecological Battleship.
The New York State Department of Health recommended further testing, but the representative explained that extensive testing could cost more than simply installing an explosion-proof ventilation system in the school's crawlspace. He said such a system could exchange the air in the crawlspace six times per hour, or it could be hardwired to a sensor that would evacuate accumulated methane if dangerous levels were detected.
Board members questioned the representative extensively on the pricing, safety and necessity of the different systems and the wisdom of further testing. The board deferred a decision on the ventilation system to allow the district to contact the state environmental and health departments to see whether they could clarify the issues and determine the best path to take.