Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
My good friend Larry Kirton in an opinion piece published in the September 12, 2013, edition of the Westbury Times expressed his misgivings about the recently enforced bell schedule change at the Park Avenue school. Kirton went into detail about how the new change will function and the school board’s expectations from the change. He however expressed doubt that the results will materialize as intended, and opined that a seemingly unworkable breakfast program, coupled with the delay in the start of the instructional day will lower the probability of student success. In summary, Kirton believes it was more about saving teachers jobs which will eventually result in more negative consequences than it is worth.
I certainly understand Mr. Kirton’s concerns especially the likely disruption to working folk’s schedule, out of pocket cost for childcare etc., but I believe this arrangement is going to be a work in progress, subject to a few tweaks here and there until they get it right. What’s more, in fairness to the board, I believe this was mentioned at each of the proposed budget presentations during the months leading up to the school board election/budget vote in May of this year, and also published in the district’s newsletter - in fact this was part of team 516 platform, so it should not be such a surprise to the people who are affected. But this is what happens when we fail to participate in important forums concerning matters that impact our lives.
My recollection is that the main thrust behind the bell change decision has to do with the school board’s attempt to keep the budget within the 2 percent cap imposed by the state, and was one of the numbers of cost- cutting measures it considered as it looked ahead to a 2013-2014 budget with no increase in state funding.
I believe it was out of this “search for solutions” and not wanting to sacrifice academic programs or reduce teaching staff that the board decided to look at the transportation budget and consider staggering the start time between Park
Avenue and Dryden Street schools. Having a half day Kindergarten program was not an option for consideration and since Dryden Street has the split day kindergarten (A.M. and P.M.) the decision was made to start Park Avenue later and recycle the busses (19-20) from Dryden Street, thereby saving approximately $163, 000. This would allow the district to not having to cut music teachers, art teachers, reading teachers and librarians.
It is comforting to know that Westbury is not alone in resorting to bell change as a cost cutting measure in this era of 2 percent cap. Some of our neighbors have also staggered their start time and have cut and/or reduce their bus fleet.
Port Washington – savings: $412,000; Baldwin – savings: $20, 000- $30,000 Herricks- savings: $81, 000; Lawrence- savings: $200,000. Hewlett, Woodmere, Sag Harbor, and Center Moriches each reduce their fleet by one or more, thereby saving over $150,000.
So perhaps there are hidden fortunes behind what now appears to be folly. Let’s wait and see.
Addendum: I just returned from the school board action meeting of 9/19/13, and witnessed a capacity crowd in the middle school auditorium where the meeting was held; this following a similar turn out at the emergency PTA meeting at
Park Ave School the previous night. Notwithstanding what I’ve written above, I would not be surprised if the board reverses its decision, as speaker after speaker made impassioned pleas for it to do so. I only hope that the cautionary note expressed by board president Rodney Caines that it requires a super majority of 61percent vote to exceed the 2 percent cap mandated by the state, was heard by all in attendance, and that they are prepared to put up, or shut up when voting time comes around next year.