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Jericho School District Holds Budget Workshop #2

On Thurs, Jan. 25, Director of Pupil Personnel Services Edward Friedlander and Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Joan L. Colvin updated the Jericho Board of Education on the proposed budget for Special Needs Services, Co-Teaching, Health, Library, Media, Psychological and Social Work, Guidance, Co-Curricular Activities and Athletics.

Friedlander provided a general outline of recent projects that have either been completed or are currently in progress within the special education department: the revised 504 Policy and Procedural Manual; the integration of co-teaching into eighth grade and elementary schools; the expansion of technology services to special needs students; the development of a matrix for the CSE (Committee on Special Education) to consult when assigning aides to students; and the improved documentation of communication between consultation service providers and teachers.

Friedlander said that with the number of autistic and health-impaired students on the rise, Jericho plans to continue the expansion of co-teaching. He described how the co-teaching model benefits all students in that it “facilitates student-centered, individualized instruction through differentiation and flexible grouping; makes project-based instruction and assessment, including technology, a more feasible option; and provides a smaller student-teacher ratio.” Friedlander also noted that this inclusive approach enables “special education teachers to work alongside regular classroom teachers, eliminating the need to pull children out of class during critical instructional time. Data has shown that all kids benefit.”  

Not only is co-teaching beneficial for students and teachers alike, it is also more cost-effective than the traditional model, said Friedlander. He pointed out that instead of spending $316,000 to employ five elementary school aides spread over several subject areas in the Learning Center for a total of 1,600-2,000 hours, co-teaching costs $190,000 as it would only require an additional co-teacher and two aides within the regular classroom, and would eliminate the need for the Learning Center altogether. In high school, the total cost of classrooms without co-teaching is $301,000, whereas a classroom with co-teaching would cost $265,000.

Superintendent Henry L. Grishman acknowledged the benefits of co-teaching and personally thanked Friedlander for working toward the implementation of co-teaching throughout the district. Colvin also added, “We already have co-teaching in reading and English. Now we’re looking into implementing co-teaching in math, science and social studies. It has proven to be cost-effective as we’re able to reduce the number of support classes.”

Friedlander reported that the total amount of money needed to cover enrollments and tuition for out-of-district private school and BOCES students has been steadily decreasing. Estimated tuitions and services for out-of-district special needs students attending private school decreased from $904,000 in 2010-2011 to $626,000 in 2011-2012. Estimations for BOCES students decreased from $635,000 in 2010-2011 to $628,000 in 2011-2012.  For those attending public school, the amount increased from $690,000 in 2010-2011 to $818,000 in 2011-2012 due to the addition of three students.

Estimated expenses for contractual services for special needs children has increased from $3,043,913 to $3,191,820 due to an increase in out-of-district students who attend Solomon Schechter Day School and Long Island Lutheran High School, both of which are owned and operated by Jericho Union Free School District. Contractual services include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, diagnostic evaluations, to name a few. Friedlander explained, “We have to provide services to these students who attend these schools. We track every out-of-district child’s service and then we bill back his or her district.”

In Health Services, the overall amount proposed for 2011-2012 is $687,171.  Again, Friedlander pointed out that “we are required to provide health services for out-of-district students at Solomon Schechter and Long Island Lutheran.”

In Library and Media, the amount estimated for 2011-2012 is $1,197,191 as there will be one fewer librarian “at the middle school and high school levels, and we’ll be also be reducing one library aide at the elementary level.” This is a decrease from last year’s projected amount of $1,389,524.

In Psychology and Social Work, the amount of money budgeted has increased from $312,447 in 2010-2011 to $323,383 in 2011-2012 due to an increase in instructional salaries. Friedlander said that there had been a decrease in expenses in 2010-2011, but “that was due to having one [fewer] social worker at one of the elementary schools.”   

Friedlander was pleased to report that the “vast majority of our special needs youngsters are moving on to post-graduate education. We are producing qualified graduates. Our kids with special needs are holding their own and improving every year.” Last year, of the 44 special needs students who received Regents Diplomas, 33 of them went on to four-year colleges and 11 of them went on to two-year colleges.

In Guidance, the amount budgeted this year has decreased to $1,659,295 from $1,689,384.

In Co-Curricular Activities and Interscholastic Athletics, the amount budgeted is comparable to the amount budgeted last year.

In other news, the board approved the motion to begin phasing in electronic service at school board meetings. Such technology will increase transparency for the entire community by displaying the board’s monthly agenda online. The gross cost for this service is $17,000, 40 percent of which will be covered by BOCES aid.   

The public is encouraged to attend Budget Workshop #3 on Thursday, Feb. 10, at the middle school library at 7:30 p.m.