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School Board

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

A new, broader homework policy drafted by the Shoreham-Wading River board of education opened up a dialogue last month between parents and administrators over the best approach to after school assignments throughout the district.

Varying consequences for students who don’t do their homework and an overabundance of assignments over school holidays were main topics of discussion during Shoreham’s Oct. 24 board meeting, in which community members weighed in on a planned revision to the district’s current policy.

In response to a curriculum survey sent out by the district over the summer, parents requested that its guidelines for homework be expanded. While the original policy is merely two sentences on the educational validity of homework, the new two-page proposal aims to better accommodate for individual students and incorporates recognized best practices in the development of assignments.

New homework guidelines could include stricter
penalties, less work on vacations. Stock photo

“The process has certainly put a lens on homework,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Feedback from parents in the survey was a little mixed — the underlying theme was that homework is important but there should be consistencies across grade levels and considerations for home life. We tried to craft something that empowered the buildings to make practices come to life that make sense for students and families.” 

The newly drafted guidelines, titled Policy 8440, encourage teachers to consider students’ time constraints when assigning homework, which should be “appropriate to students’ age” and shouldn’t “take away too much time away from other home activities.”

“Homework should foster positive attitudes toward school and self, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as in school,” the draft policy states.

While it addresses that students should be accountable for all assignments, there are no strict consequences in place for when homework isn’t done, which prompted some parents to voice their concerns.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children,” said Jeannine Smith, a Shoreham parent with children in Wading River School and Miller Avenue School.

As an educator in an outside district, Smith supported the concept of taking recess away from students in the elementary and middle school who consistently don’t hand homework in.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children.”

— Jeannine Smith

“It’s the teacher’s job to make sure children are prepared in the future and if homework’s not important in the classroom, children get the message that there is no consequence,” she said.

Shoreham resident Erin Saunders-Morano agreed, saying she believes homework is ultimately the student’s responsibility and shouldn’t be seen as something that falls on the parents.

“As we get older, if you don’t do your job, there are consequences,” Morano said. “I think we should be raising the bar for our students, not lowering it. If students want recess, they should make sure they do their homework.”

But Alisa McMorris, a member of the district’s PTA council, protested the idea, saying students who are working hard all day deserve a break. She also pointed out that difficult and time-consuming projects should not be assigned over vacations.

“I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had projects due the day we get back from Christmas break and it makes me crazy,” McMorris said. “Our Christmas breaks now are doing these projects. Vacation is vacation.”

Michelle Gallucci, a Wading River resident and an English teacher at Smithtown High School East, commended the board for drafting a policy that gives teachers academic freedom based on the students they have in the classroom. She equated the importance of homework to sports practice.

“You can’t take a math class at 9 a.m. on a Monday and not do it again until 9 a.m. the next day,” she said. “You have to practice those skills and get better because your brain is a muscle. Just as students practice for hours after school to get ready for games, students also need intellectual practice.”

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

Voting will take place at Newfield High School May 16. The high school is located at 145 Marshall Drive. File photo

Three — one an incumbent — are vying for three seats on Middle Country’s board of education. Current trustees Debbie Parker and Daniel Hill are not seeking re-election.

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen P. Feldmann, a 46-year resident, said she strongly believes in the value of community service.

An active member of the PTA, the nine-year board member is also the chairperson of the Selden Centereach Youth Association; serves on the Middle Country Education Foundation; and has served or is continuing to serve on district committees such as the audit, anti-drug coalition, policy, legislative, PPS advisory council, safe schools and school business advisory boards.

She particularly enjoys her work on the business advisory board.

“It allows me to advocate for a clean and safe environment,” she said, through the Green Career Job Fair and e-waste collections.

She and her husband, Bill, who are both graduates of Newfield High School, do work via their solar equipment distribution company. They supply no-cost solar energy equipment to Habitat for Humanity and other not-for-profit groups.

A mother of two, she received formal recognition for her child advocacy work and community service, such as the NYS PTA Jenkins Award and the Distinguished Service Award, but said the best recognition comes when she is allowed to serve on the board of education.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Middle Country,” she said. “I want to continue my work supporting children and the school board.”

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips, a 17-year resident and stay-at-home mother of two, was in the accounting field for 12 years.

Phillips attended Briarcliffe College, obtaining an associate’s degree in graphic design in 2008.

She has been an active member of the PTA for many years, holding the position of treasurer, and is currently vice president at Stagecoach Elementary School and recording secretary at Selden Middle School, which she said gives her the skills needed to serve on the Middle Country board.

Phillips has chaired committees like homecoming, book fair and staff appreciation. She is also a recipient of the NYS PTA Jenkins Award, and is currently serving on the Middle Country legislative/community outreach committee, and has served on the interview committee.

“I have been advocating against high stakes testing for the last four years and want to continue my work on the board of education,” she said.

Ellie Estevez

Eliness Estevez

Eliness “Ellie” Estevez is a three-year resident and a senior at Newfield High School. The president of the mock trial team is also a member of the jazz choir, jazz band, pit orchestra, Tri-M Honor Society and leadership club, and is also a volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

A soon-to-be business major at Stern School of Business, Estevez looks to apply the knowledge she obtains of finance and management, to maintain fiscal responsibility.

“I want to continue to offer students opportunities for success and academic excellence,” she said. “As a Middle Country student, I offer the perspective of the students as the district moves toward greater success in the future.”


Budget breakdown

This year’s proposed budget of $243,590,487 for the Middle Country Central School District is a 1.21 percent increase from last year’s expenditures, with a tax levy increase of 1.929 percent. It would cost homeowners roughly $108.41 and is under the 2 percent cap.

“We look forward to continue offering our district-wide STEM programs — allowing students the opportunity to explore robotics, zSpace labs and 3D printing,” superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “These programs — along with our math literacy initiatives, music, arts and athletics programs — provide students with a well-rounded educational experience.”

There is $63,215,804 in proposed foundation aid. The district will look to expand upon AP and College Tie offerings, add lab space for eighth grade living environment, add math periods for students in sixth through eighth grades, increase K-5 literacy and continue the full-day, pre-K program.

By Victoria Espinoza

In the Northport-East Northport school district, change is coming.

Residents approved a $161 million budget on Tuesday night with 2,568 votes in favor to 687 against, ousted an incumbent from the school board and reduced the number of board of education members from nine to seven. The district clerk’s office said the latter change will go into effect next year. Trustees Regina Pisacani, Donna McNaughton and Jennifer Thompson will all be up for re-election next year, but only one of their three seats will be open.

Shawne Albero, left, hugs Allison Noonan after results are announced. Residents voted in Noonan but not Albero. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Shawne Albero, left, hugs Allison Noonan after results are announced. Residents voted in Noonan but not Albero. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport’s budget stayed within the 0.55 percent tax levy cap, and a separate proposition for $2 million in capital improvements, which was approved with 2,848 to 390 votes, will include many athletic facility upgrades for the coming year, including a new gym ceiling and field repairs.

Board President Andrew Rapiejko did not support the reduction in board members.

“It was not a board-supported proposition,” he said. “I think nine members is more representation. It’s a very large district and if you look at even right now, we just have one board member who’s from East Northport out of nine people.”

Armand D’Accordo, a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport, the group that introduced the idea for a smaller board, said he was pleased with the results.

“Clearly the nine-person board was not getting the job done,” he said. “Now we have an opportunity to break up the majority of incumbents that have been on the board for too long and get more independent and objective members. Most importantly, fewer members will provide more effective governance over the district and improve academic outcomes.”

Rapiejko and Trustee Lori McCue were both voted in for another term with 1,984 votes and 1,560 votes, respectively.

“I’m very grateful for the people who came out and supported me,” McCue said. She looks forward to finishing an energy performance contract with the district that aims to make it more energy-efficient.

Northport resident Allison Noonan came in first for the night, with 2,039 votes, and said she felt grateful and humbled by the results, and is excited to add a fresh voice and a fresh perspective to the board.

Incumbent Julia Binger came in fourth 1,543 votes and Shawne Albero collected 1,410 votes, so both fell shy in their bids for the board.

Superintendent Diana Todaro and Assistant Superintendent Francesco Ianni were both delighted the budget passed. File photo

Tuesday night was a success for school districts in the Huntington area, with all budgets approved, including Harborfields’ cap-piercing $82.8 million budget.

Throughout budget season, Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Human Resources Franceso Ianni had presented the board with several options for the 2016-17 budget. Some stayed within the 0.37 percent state–mandated tax levy cap, but did not offer programs the community had been asking for, like full-day kindergarten. Others included such programs but went above and beyond the cap. After much debate, the board adopted a nearly $83 million budget with a cap-busting 1.52 percent increase to the tax levy.

Among the costs in the budget are $600,000 for full-day kindergarten, $70,000 for a BOCES cultural arts program, $52,000 for a third-grade orchestra program and $120,000 for an additional special education teacher and two teaching assistants.

Harborfields residents have been vocal about wanting full-day kindergarten on the budget and one group, Fair Start: Harborfields Residents for Full-Day Kindergarten, traveled to Albany to seek help from state legislators on making it possible.

Rachael Risinger, a member of Fair Start, said she and the organization are elated to see a budget pass with full-day kindergarten on the menu.

“We are extremely thankful the Harborfields community came together to pass this year’s school budget,” she said in an email. “Kindergarten orientation was this week and we’ve heard from so many parents how excited their young kids are to go to full-day kindergarten starting in September. Now they will have the same fair start as every kindergarten student on Long Island.”

The district needed a 60 percent supermajority to override the cap in its budget, and with 2,099 votes in favor and 1,017 votes against, the supermajority was achieved.

Superintendent Diana Todaro said she is pleased with the outcome.

“It’s a budget that supports and meets the needs of all of our children, from kindergarten through the high school,” she said. “We just want to thank our community, parents, staff members and especially the board of education who supported us throughout this entire process.”

Ianni, who will be taking over for Todaro in 2017 as superintendent, said he is excited to work with the programs in this budget next year. “I’m very exited and pleased for the students and the community, [for] all the programs that we’re going to have,” he said. “I’m really excited [to go] into the new school year as the new superintendent in January, [with] these kinds of programs in place.”

Incumbent Hansen Lee and newcomer Colleen Wolcott were also voted in as school board members for the upcoming year, with 1,569 and 1,301 votes, respectively.

“I am extremely excited about the passing of this historic budget, and how the community came together for all of our kids,” Lee said. “[And] I am excited about my second term and [am] looking forward to more exciting things to come at Harborfields.”

Wolcott said she is eager to get started.

“I’m very excited to serve my community more than I have already been doing,” she said. “It is my honor. I’m excited to have a voice on the board of education and to work collaboratively with the district to make it better than it already is.”

Challengers Chris Kelly (1,001 votes), Marge Acosta (992 votes) and Joseph Savaglio (571 votes) fell short in their own bids.

Tuesday night was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, almost all of the school districts that had adopted budgets within their state-mandated caps on how much they could increase their tax levy had their voters stand behind those budgets. For those who pierced the cap, almost 78 percent of those budgets were approved — still a much larger approval rate than in previous years for such budgets. The approval rate for cap-busting budgets last year was about 61 percent.

“School districts managed to put together spending plans that in some cases restored educational programs and services, thanks to a large infusion of state aid,” NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a statement, referring to an increase in aid included in the state’s own budget that legislators recently approved. “The question is, will the state be able to sustain that commitment going forward?”

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Cold Spring Harbor
Residents approved the budget, 527 to 132, and a Proposition 2 regarding a capital reserve fund, 520 to 132. Vice President Amelia Walsh Brogan and Lizabeth Squicciarni, a member of the Citizen Faculty Association, a parent-teacher association at the CSH Junior/Senior High School, were elected to the school board with 469 and 455 votes, respectively. Lloyd Harbor resident George Schwertl fell short with 313 votes.

Commack
Commack voters approved the budget, with 1,837 to 536 votes. Hartman won with 1,703 votes while Verity received 1,167 votes to beat out challenger Hermer, who had 916.

Comsewogue
The Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association reports that the two incumbents who were running unopposed for re-election, Rob DeStefano and Francisca Alabau-Blatter, were returned to the school board with 895 and 785 votes, respectively. The district’s cap-compliant $87.2 million budget passed with more than 80 percent voter approval, with 828 votes in favor to 194 against.

Harborfields
Harborfields voters approved a cap-piercing $82.8 million budget at the polls tonight, the only one on the North Shore, 2,099 to 1,017. Incumbent Hansen Lee and Colleen Wolcott were elected to the board of education with 1,569 and 1,301 votes, respectively. Challengers Chris Kelly (1,001 votes), Marge Acosta (992 votes) and Joseph Savaglio (571 votes) fell short in their own bids.

Hauppauge
The $108 million budget passed, 1,066 to 363. A Proposition 2 regarding a capital reserve fund passed as well, 1,050 to 361. Rob Scarito, Gary Fortmeyer and David Barshay were all elected to the school board with 1,053 votes, 1,050 votes and 1,006 votes, respectively.

Huntington
According to results posted on the school district’s website, the community approved both a $123.1 million budget and a proposition to use almost $2.5 million of the district’s building improvement fund, or capital reserve, to update eight Huntington schools and make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Incumbents Bari Fehrs and Bill Dwyer were re-elected to the school board, while challenger Carmen Kasper fell short in her bid for one of the two seats.
Kasper said, “I am sorry to say I lost, but my desire to be involved with the schools and students has not been lost. There is always next time. I congratulate the two incumbents; I wish them the best.  We all work for the same cause: to improve education for our students.”
Dwyer said he looked forward to “continuing to work with the board and administration to expand our educational programs in a fiscally responsible manner.”
For her part, Fehrs noted the margin of approval: “I believe it shows a trust from the community that they are very supportive of our district and are confident in the way administration and the board of education are managing the education for the students in the district.”

Kings Park
Voters passed the budget, 1,544 to 615, and Prop 2, regarding vehicles, 1,603 to 544. Pam DeFord was re-elected with 1,629 votes, Dan Tew elected with 1,522 votes. Francis Braun and Juan Pablo Andrade fell short of their bids, with 554 and 293 votes, respectively.

Middle Country
Voters approved the budget with 1,924 votes in favor and 337 against. The elected school board trustees were Robert Feeney, Dawn Sharrock and Kristopher Oliva.

Miller Place
The community passed the budget, 1,064 to 236, and a Proposition 2 regarding the library, 1,153 to 141. Two school board trustees were elected, Johanna Testa (876 votes) and Noelle Dunlop (737 votes). Candidates Michael Unger and Michael Manspeizer fell short of board seats with 533 and 198 votes, respectively.

Mount Sinai
Residents approved the budget, 1,150 to 275.  On proposition 2, it passed with 1,266 votes in favor and 159 against. Lynn Jordan was re-elected to the school board with 726 votes, while Kerri Anderson won a seat with 733 votes.
“It shows that people have been satisfied with what I’ve been doing,” Jordan said. “It’s a true honor to serve and I love the work.”
Anderson said: “With my personal background in education and as a teacher, I’m hoping to bring some of my experience to help with Mount Sinai schools and things that we can maybe do differently to make it better.”
But Superintendent Gordon Brosdal was not as enthused: “I’m not so pleased with the turnout since we have 9,500 registered voters and annually we bring around 1,500 and we’re even a little below that. That’s a little disappointing when you have five good people running for the board.”

Northport-East Northport
Voters approved a $161 million budget (2,568 to 687 votes), a proposition on $2 million in capital improvements (2,848 to 390 votes), and a proposition reducing the amount of board members from nine to seven (1,881 to 1,294 votes). Allison Noonan (2,039 votes), Andrew Rapiejko (1,984 votes) and Lori McCue (1,560 votes) were elected to the school board while Julia Binger and Shawne Albero fell short of seats with 1,543 and 1,410 votes, respectively.

Port Jefferson
Incumbents Kathleen Brennan and Ellen Boehm ran unopposed for their third terms and were re-elected with 348 and 347 votes, respectively. Residents also approved a cap-compliant $41.4 million budget with 353 votes in favor and just 55 vote against.

Rocky Point
The school district proposed a $80.6 million budget that residents approved, 720-322, and a proposition on capital projects that was approved, 654-387. Susan Y. Sullivan was elected to the board of education with 823 votes.

Shoreham-Wading River
The school budget passed 855-545, according to results posted on the district website. Kimberly Roff and Michael Lewis were elected to the board of education with 957 and 792 votes, respectively. Richard Pluschau fell short, with 621 votes.

Smithtown
The $236 million budget passed 2,665 to 921.
Challenger Daniel Lynch defeated incumbent Theresa Knox with 2,171 votes to her 1,197, while Michael Saidens won the second available seat with 1,870 votes, compared to challengers Robert Foster (734 votes) and Robert Montana (657 votes).

Three Village
Voters approved a $198.8 million budget (2,603 to 997) and a Proposition 2 on transportation (2,154 to 1,404). Incumbent Jonathan Kornreich and Angelique Ragolia were elected with 2,401 votes and 2,379 votes, respectively. Andrea Fusco-Winslow missed her target, with just 1,314 votes.

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Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Higuera and Board of Education President Johanna Testa discuss the proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year during the Feb. 24 meeting. Photo by Alex Petroski

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Higuera presented her proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year. The proposed budget of $70,602,887 would be $596,007 higher than the budget for the current school year. All instructional and non-instructional programs from the current school year would remain intact.

“We expect some things might look a little bit different, but we’re not looking to eliminate any programs,” Higuera said following the presentation, which was made by school business official Colleen Card. “We’re not looking to eliminate any teams, any clubs; and we’re going to be able to maintain all of our programs from this year to next year.”

Though the budget would increase by a small amount, the school board unanimously approved a tax levy decrease of 0.14 percent on Feb. 24. That means that the district will have about $62,000 less revenue from tax dollars in 2016-17 compared to the current school year.

Despite less tax revenue, the proposed budget would be balanced by a $3.5 million fund balance and additional state aid thanks to a partial restoration of money lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which deducted about $13 million from funding to Miller Place since its inception several years ago. The adjustment deducted money from districts across New York State as a means to eliminate a deficit. Higuera’s proposed budget accounts for about $20.5 million in state aid.

The district will also benefit from a small amount of required retirement payments this year, Higuera said.

Johanna Testa, president of the board of education, heaped praise on the district’s administration after the presentation.

“Keeping all programs and being able to propose a budget that keeps all of our academic programs and increases our capital project funding when we’re in a negative tax levy cap, that’s really amazing,” Testa said.

The school board and administration will convene again on Mar. 2 for a budget workshop meeting at Miller Place High School. Budget adoption will take place on Mar. 30.

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Brigit DiPrimo is a new assistant principal at Comsewogue High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Comsewogue High School has completed its search for a new assistant principal.

The board of education approved Brigit DiPrimo for a four-year probationary period during a business meeting on Monday night, filling a gap caused by recent shifts in the administration.

“I’m thrilled; this feels like a home away from home,” DiPrimo said in an interview after the meeting. “I’m very excited to get started.”

The Three Village resident previously worked as a principal in Amagansett and before that was an assistant principal at W.S. Mount Elementary School in Stony Brook.

The Comsewogue school district has undergone several administrative changes this year, with the two part-time deans at the middle and high schools being replaced with full-time assistant principals, and DiPrimo’s arrival completes the shift in staff.

Board members had already chosen social studies teacher and former dean James Hilbert to become the new assistant principal at John F. Kennedy Middle School, joining the other assistant principal there, Theresa Etts. At the high school, DiPrimo will work alongside fellow assistant principal Jinu Mathews — the pair of them replacing longtime dean Bill Bodkin, who has retired, and Robert Pearl, an assistant principal and special education teacher who recently left to become principal at Norwood Elementary School.

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Mount Sinai school board Trustees Robert Sweeney, left, and Peter Van Middelem, right, are sworn in as board president and vice president, respectively. Photo by Erika Karp

The Mount Sinai school board has a new vice president this year.

At the district’s annual reorganization meeting on July 1, Peter Van Middelem, who just finished his first year on the board, was elected to the position in a 4-1 vote. Van Middelem, a retired New York City firefighter, succeeds former Vice President Donna Compagnone, whose term was up this year and decided not to seek re-election.

Van Middelem said his main objectives for the new year include keeping positive communications and relations with the community and the district’s teachers, seeing how new programs, such as Columbia University’s Teachers College Writing Project, which provides writing curriculum and professional development for teachers, is implemented, and keeping taps on the new full-day kindergarten program.

“I know that our emphasis right now is to make sure kindergarten is running and up to speed,” he said in a phone interview.

Van Middelem commended his predecessor for all of her work and stated that he had big shoes to fill as vice president.

Trustee Lynn Capobianco, who was re-elected to her second three-year term in May, cast the lone dissenting vote at the meeting. She said she couldn’t support Van Middelem as he allegedly did some political campaigning in his role as president of the Mount Sinai Lacrosse program. According to the Internal Revenue Service, 501(c)(3) organizations are “prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Lynn Capobianco takes her oath of office. Photo by Erika Karp
Lynn Capobianco takes her oath of office. Photo by Erika Karp

Capobianco said that in doing so Van Middelem jeopardized the tax-exempt status of the organization. According to an IRS database, Mt. Sinai Lacrosse Inc’s status had been automatically revoked in February 2013 for failing to file a return for three consecutive years. Van Middelem declined to comment on Capobianco’s concerns.

“I respect him greatly for the work he has done for that organization, but based on those issues I think the leadership comes into question,” Capobianco said.

While the board saw a change in its vice president, Robert Sweeney, who was elected to his second three-year term in 2014, is staying put as president. Board newcomer Mike Riggio was unable to make the first meeting and was sworn into his position at an earlier time.

Sweeney thanked the board for its vote and seemed to set the tone for the 2015-16 school year. He pointed out how the trustees were all wearing pins that read, “Respect public education.”

“This is an important statement that we are making about our teachers. … We respect them,” he said.

Sweeney continued to speak about the importance and need for public education.

“I wouldn’t be here and in my career without it,” he said.

Joe Sabia. File photo by Rohma Abbas

A former Northport-East Northport school board trustee is calling the group’s decision to shell out $935 a day for an interim assistant superintendent for human resources “absurd.”

The board voted on June 15 to appoint Lou Curra as its interim assistant superintendent for human resources from June 17 through Dec. 23, replacing former assistant superintendent Rosemarie Coletti, who resigned on June 30 to take another job. Curra didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday, but Joe Sabia, who served on the school board from 2011 to 2014, took to the microphone at a meeting on July 1 to tell board members he and others in the community felt that $935 a day was too high, and that the district should have hired someone from within.

“They think that you’re pushing the envelope too far against the homeowners — the taxpayers of this district — to bring in an interim,” he said.

School board members, however, countered that the appointment is not long-term and that the board needed to find someone with the right skill set to assist new Superintendent Robert Banzer.

“That is a per diem appointment with no vacation time, no sick time, no benefits,” Trustee Julia Binger told Sabia. “… And also we needed somebody who was very experienced, because we have a new superintendent on board, and we need to have somebody very solid who really understands human resources and collective bargaining and so on.”

Board President Andrew Rapiejko said that for human resources, this is the busiest time of the year.

“We are in the process of soliciting resumes for permanent person to take over that and hopefully we’ll have someone on board in relatively short order,” he said.

With costs rising all over, Sabia said taxpayers are struggling.

“You’re pushing people to the limit,” he said.

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