Jericho School District Hosts Financial Forum for Community Residents
By Mary Marks
Over the past several months, the financing of public schools has been an issue of much debate. Community residents and staff members are expressing concerns about the impact of Roslyn, public funding, failed budget votes, contingency budgets, increasing tax rates, state audits and Nassau County reassessments.
In order to increase dialogue with the community, the Jericho School District recently hosted a public finance forum on "Funding Strategies for a District of Excellence." This workshop was held on Tuesday evening, October 12, in the middle school library. The purpose of this meeting was to review the current financial status of the school district, and to gain the assistance of members of the school community as the Board of Education and District Administration set a course for our future. "Our community has a keen interest in the well-being of our schools," emphasized Jericho Superintendent of Schools Hank Grishman. "Given the many challenges facing our district, it is critical that our residents have a comprehensive understanding of the many factors that impact our budget. We are anxious to receive assistance and input from community members as we begin our budget development process for the 2005-2006 school year."
More than 75 residents, representing a cross-section of the community, attended the three-hour forum. Attendees included parents of current Jericho students, "empty-nesters" in the community, and local civic leaders. "The Board of Education and District Administration need to partner with our community to provide any and all information about our school budget so that everyone can feel comfortable when they step into the polling booth to vote," explained School Board President Hilari Cohen. "These financial forums are the perfect opportunity for all constituents to have their questions answered. In this way, we can continue to provide the quality education that makes us a leader nationwide."
Superintendent of Schools Hank Grishman and Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Joan Colvin detailed information about revenue permitted under current statute, changes that may potentially impact revenues, a five-year history of expenditures, and trends for the future. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Operations and Human Resources Ben Ciuffo outlined the enrollment growth that has substantially impacted district finances from 1995 to the present time. He also looked at enrollment projections through the year 2009. Grishman and Colvin then explained the impact that enrollment growth has had on district finances over the past nine years. They also projected the financial impact of continued growth on future budgets. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Anna Hunderfund overviewed our educational program, which highlighted both outstanding student achievement and the components of our comprehensive, "balanced" education that is available to all students in Jericho. After the initial presentation, six breakout groups had an opportunity to reflect and discuss the information presented, as well as react to the data and request additional information. Residents were encouraged to share opinions of their vision for the future and make suggestions to assist the district in accomplishing the desired goals. The meeting reconvened and facilitators shared feedback from each group.
The forum yielded extremely productive input from members of the community. "I think this was a very important meeting and it enlightened people about what the budget is all about," stated retired Jericho teacher and community member Bob Hoffman. "I'm a little disappointed that more people were not here; I hope the district will consider holding these meetings again at times when more senior citizens could participate. I think that anyone who understands what the Jericho School District produces in terms of kids, would overwhelmingly vote for any budget that was presented."
Resident Howard Teig voiced his approval of the evening as well. "I thought the information was very useful, it was a way of disseminating different points of view to the people who showed up," commented Teig. "It was good to hear school officials provide more information than you would normally hear when discussions of budget take place."
Lenore Sylvan, chairperson of the Jericho-Syosset-Woodbury Childcare Partnership and a Jericho "empty-nester," was equally pleased with the meeting. "There is an intense desire to incorporate the people, the community, in with the school and to explain the value of our district," said Sylvan. "Residents have a responsibility of supporting it and also continuing to make it better."
After an overwhelmingly positive response from program attendees, it was suggested that the forum be repeated during the day to provide an additional opportunity for other residents to participate and provide valuable input. "As an elected official, I feel that it is critical for the school board to accurately represent the residents of the district," commented Board Vice President Barbara Krieger. "The financial workshop was an excellent opportunity for us to hear how voters perceive our district's finances. I especially appreciated the suggestions residents offered for future exploration in terms of both program and financing. We had a wonderful turnout at the meeting and I hope we'll continue to see this strong involvement throughout our series of financial and budget workshops."
The financial forum will be repeated on Monday, Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. at the George A. Jackson Elementary School. Individuals interested in attending should RSVP to the Office of the Superintendent at 203-3600, ext. 3201.
1 Superintendent of Schools Hank Grishman asks for assistance and input from members of the school community as the Jericho Board of Education and District Administration set a course for the future.
2 Jericho Director of Educational Technology Mark Steinberger (R) facilitates a group, which includes community residents Bob Hoffman and Alisha Reiben.
3 More than 75 Jericho community residents attended a public finance forum on "Funding Strategies for a District of Excellence."