Budget approved with nearly 77 percent of the vote
By Jenni Culkin
The Rocky Point Union Free School District’s proposed $78.78 million 2015-16 school year budget was approved Tuesday with great support.
The spending plan, which increased by 2.46 percent from the current year, passed with 788 votes compared to 237 votes against.
The budget maintains just about all programs and activities. However, as the district was faced with a large increase in special education costs, administrators moved to decrease the district’s Striving for Higher Achievement at Rocky Point, known as SHARP, at the elementary level. While the after-school component of the program is eliminated, summer SHARP will continue and after-school extra help will still be offered.
Residents also re-elected incumbent school board Vice President Scott Reh to the board, while Ed Casswell was elected and will fill Trustee John Lessler’s seat. Lessler did not seek re-election. Reh received 670 votes and Casswell received 588. Unsuccessfully, Donna McCauley garnered 452 votes.
More than 40 people waited patiently for the election and budget results in the Rocky Point High School Auditorium on Tuesday evening.
Reh, the 48-year-old athletic director for Mount Sinai schools, has served on the board for five years. He said he will “advocate for transparency” and “try to give every student the opportunity to succeed” during his next term on the board.
“My plans are to continue working with the current board,” Reh said.
In a phone interview Wednesday morning, Casswell, 50, said he was excited to be part of the team. The Center Moriches High School principal said he will draw his attention to a capital improvements bond referendum the board is considering moving forward.
Some residents have voiced concerns over social media that the election of both candidates — who were endorsed by the district’s teachers union — creates a singular point of view on the school board, as all the trustees come from education backgrounds or deal with educators.
In a phone interview, McCauley, who ran last year as well, expressed a similar concern. She said she plans on asking the board to reconsider its candidacy requirements and enact stricter requirements for public entities endorsing candidates.
“I have nothing against [the teacher union], but it creates an unfair advantage,” she said.
While this is her last time running, she vowed to stick around.
“I will continue to be involved in any way that I am able,” she said.
But Casswell said that as a trustee he is a parent first and believes everyone is looking out for the kids.
“We’re working for the betterment of our children,” Casswell said. “Under that premise, I don’t’ think I have any concerns about excluding any groups of individuals.”
Erika Karp contributed reporting.