Not many residents attended the Board of Education meeting Monday night at Vanderbilt Elementary School, but the few that were there were vocal.
The hot topic was whether or not the district should cut summer school for elementary students, which is one of the proposed cuts for the 2011-12 school budget.
The first one to get up and speak was Sandra Thomas, who is a 38-year resident of the district.
"I am concerned that we're considering cutting summer school for elementary education students," she said. 'I was told that 1,200 kids are invited to attend summer school and only 450 attend. That's still 450 children who are being denied the opportunity to have academic intervention."
She added: "And if 1,200 students need summer school--and there are about 4,000 children in the elementary schools in the district, that's one-fourth of the kids. What are we doing that that many children need summer school? A building needs a strong foundation to have a strong house."
Thomas concluded: "I don't mind if we have to increase the budget to provide summer school, and my youngest child is 28. We pride ourselves in this district on our academic achievement. Let's not stop now."
Mary Rettaliata, the assistant superintendent for elementary education, responded; "For the past three years we've invited around 1,300 students to attend summer school. These students receive support services during the school year. Last year, only 402 students attended summer school. It's a four-week program, four days a week, for three and a half hours a day. And we had only a 76 percent attendance rate last summer. And this is for a $266,00o program. We value our summer school program and the suggestion to cut it was not an easy recommendation to make. But these are difficult times and this is an expensive program, especially considering the attendance rate. But we will continue to look into it."
Thomas replied: "Still, 402 kids--that's a lot of kids to go without support all summer. We can't write off the youngest. Two months off--the kids slide. Don't minimize and say it's only four days a week for four weeks. It's still a big deal."
Superintendent Sheldon Karnilow answered: "The program is over at the end of July and school doesn't start until September, so even with the summer school they still have the month of August off."
A few other women got up and reiterated what Thomas said and then resident Delfina Hennep spoke.
"My daughter went to summer school when she was younger,' she said. "Now she's 16. It helped her a lot. Sometimes they just need that little bit of time. We need to be proactive."
Resident Carol Deiches said: "I have two children with special needs. They are invited to summer school and they go. During the year my kids struggle to learn and the teachers really take the time to help them, but I don't want them to lose what they've learned over the summer. This is the best district. We need to continue to put education first. We need to think about these children and find some other way, something else to cut. Don't hurt these children."
What is the proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year? At the BOE meeting a few weeks ago at Otsego Elementary, Half Hollow Hills school administrators unveiled a $215.8 million budget for next year, a 3.8 percent increase, with an emphasis on avoiding the massive layoffs currently plaguing districts across Long Island.
Victor Manuel, assistant superintendent for finance and facilities, gave a presentation at that meeting and then again at this meeting Monday night, explaining exactly what was going to be cut and why.
They came up with budget reductions of close to $6 million from the original rollover amount. Teacher and administrator salaries are frozen, saving $3 million. Enrollment is down in the elementary schools, so because of that 14 teachers were excised, saving $1.3 million. Manuel emphasized that these teachers were not let go because of budgetary reasons, but because of decreased enrollment.
No teachers were let go because of budget cuts and no teachers were excised at the secondary school level. There were a number of retirements, saving the district $1.4 million for next year. Something had to get cut and they picked elementary summer school, saving $226,000.
Did you miss the first two budget meetings? Never fear.
Upcoming BOE meetings:
April 11 Adopt Budget 8 p.m. Chestnut Hill
April 12 9:30 a.m. High School East
April 13 7:30 p.m. High School West
May 3 9:30 a.m. Paumanok
May 3 7:30 p.m Forest Park
May 3 8:15 p.m. Chestnut Hill
May 4 9:30 a.m. Signal Hill
May 4 10:15 a.m. Vanderbilt
May 4 7:30 p.m. Otsego
May 4 8:15 p.m. Sunquam
May 11 9:30 a.m. Candlewood
May 11 10:15 a.m. West Hollow
MAY 17, 2011 HHH Budget Vote