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Residents React to Westbury

Public Given Chance to Voice Concerns at BOE Meeting

Many Westbury residents took advantage of the public forum portion at the Westbury Board of Education’s action meeting on St. Patrick’s Day and offered their opinions on the proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year. 

Assistant Superintendent Mary Lagnado presented the proposed budget for the second time in as many weeks and the district provided copies of the PowerPoint presentation to all in attendance. Lagnado also explained her method for adjusting the budget as time goes on. 

“My projections are monthly. They’re projected to June 30, but items change continuously, because as you know, a budget is only a financial plan – it’s a projection,” said Lagnado.

One resident asked if any programs will suffer in the near future, and Lagnado said the district is hoping the State aid will increase. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Constance Clark-Snead said that the question was a difficult one to answer at this point in time, but she doesn’t think that programs will be impacted. She explained that unless the State removed the Universal Pre-K Grant, that particular grant-funded program wouldn’t be affected. As far as personnel, she said if cuts are made, class sizes will grow. 

Another resident inquired about attrition through retirement and Clark-Snead said the district is anticipating 10 retirees, which will save the district around a million dollars. 

“We really want to keep our classrooms intact,” said Clark-Snead, who noted that letters have been sent to staff regarding possible cuts. 

Another resident asked about the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money not being renewed and Lagnado said the current ARRA money was used for the pre-k program. Clark-Snead explained that the pre-k, kindergarten, special education services and reading coaches, as those areas that presented the greatest need for the funding in the district. 

Clark-Snead also provided her monthly report and highlighted a number of relevant district-wide issues. The report noted a Nassau County rally for school funding taking place on March 24 at 6 p.m. at Hofstra University’s Physical Fitness/Swim Center at 90 Fulton Ave. in Hempstead, urging parents and community members to attend. 

Clark-Snead also explained that as of 2011, the pre-k classes will be moved back to Dryden Street in order to eliminate the rental fee – a savings of $70,000. 

Also as of September, four of the kindergarten classes will be moved to Park Avenue, two second-grade classes will be moved to Drexel Avenue and two second-grade classes will be moved to Powells Lane. Clark-Snead noted that students will be chosen based on attendance zones and notification will begin in May. 

One resident had a concern about the dividing of students and Clark-Snead offered a response. 

“If we see a financial turn, we want to see all second-graders going to their neighborhood schools, and that will be more continuity and less of a shift for them. Contrary to what people may think, every school has a personality, but the basic program for both of the elementary schools are the same. I see it as being a move in a positive direction, and I think it’s going to make a difference in terms of student achievement,” said Clark-Snead, who noted a savings in transportation as well. 

The superintendent also responded to a resident’s idea of eliminating pre-k in the district.

 “I think it would be a disservice educationally not to have a full day program at the early childhood end. I think personally having that program has strengthened the academic background of our youngsters. We have a solid program and our children are doing exceptionally well, it’s just unfortunate that it’s limited,” said Clark-Snead, who suggested that anyone in the community could petition the State to help secure additional funding for early childhood education.

“Every piece of research supports the need for early childhood [education]. I firmly believe what we’re doing is right,” added Clark-Snead. 

Another resident inquired about off and on pre-k or looking into new ways of splitting time for pre-k and kindergarten students. 

“We have looked at going back to half day, but by the time students get to school, it’s time to go home, so the instructional program is lost. The children did just not make the strides,” said Clark-Snead.  

 Clark-Snead noted in her report that due to the length of the school calendar, students won’t have to make-up the two snow days marked on the calendar. 

The superintendent also said the district is working toward a partnership with Nassau Medical Center, which would offer outreach health services to families. The district and the hospital staff held one meeting in February and one in March. Clark-Snead said she is pleased that there is interest in working with Westbury Schools and families.