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03/06/13 12:00pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River School Board at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board discussed Tuesday how it plans to plug a budget gap created by salary and health care cost increases coming in the 2013-14 school year.

During the school board’s regular meeting, Superintendent Steven Cohen estimated that expenditures will rise by 5.25 percent in his nearly $66 million preliminary spending plan, up about $3.3 million over the current school year.

The majority of those expenses, he said, will result from a 5.2 percent increase in salaries, up $1.6 million, and a 13 percent increase in benefits, up over $2.2 million. The total cost of salaries, Mr. Cohen projected, is $32.3 million — or 49 percent of his proposed budget — and nearly $18 million in benefits, which account for about 27 percent.

While Mr. Cohen said his preliminary spending plan maintains current programs and staff, he’s also allocated additional funds for more security measures, like guard salaries and benefits, cameras, vehicles and uniforms.

The district is considering using “one-shot” revenues to offset a tax levy spike, including $4 million from its fund balance, $1.5 million of prior year state aid and nearly $227,100 from the employee retirement system reserve, Mr. Cohen said.

Other options the school board has to reduce costs, he said, are to cut educational programs, lay off teachers and other staff and increase class sizes.

Most of the non-mandated programs that could be cut are high school programs, including interscholastic athletics, music, foreign language, school newspaper and science research, Mr. Cohen said.

“Obviously, we’re not recommending that we make these cuts, but what is important for us to recognize is these are the tough questions that the board and the community are going to have to consider because this where the money is if we’re not going to use money from the savings,” he said.

Under Mr. Cohen’s proposal, the tax levy increase will remain within the state’s limit, at 1.9 percent.

While a state law passed in 2010 caps year-to-year increases in the tax levy — the total amount the district collects from taxpayers — at 2 percent, the district is allowed to exceed the state’s mandate because certain expenses, such as pensions and capital costs, are exempt.

Although SWR is allowed to raise the tax levy to 2.29 percent without obtaining 60 percent voter approval, school board member Jack Costas wondered if the community understands that such a move isn’t an attempt to pierce the tax cap and will approve it in May.

“I have reservations going over 2 [percent],” Mr. Costas said. “It’s almost like a psychological barrier … I’d rather go to 2 [percent] and then just pull from the fund balance.”

School board members agreed to consider their options during future budget workshops to create a spending plan over its starting point of 1.9 percent, which Mr. Cohen said is nearly $190,700 less than the allowable tax levy increase.

Future budget workshops are scheduled as follows:

• March 12: transportation, districtwide expenses, facilities, debt service and transfers.

• March 19: special education, personnel services, health services, technology, curriculum and staff development.

• April 2: athletics and community programs.

• April 9: revenue budget and budget review.

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01/26/13 7:59am
SWR District, School Board, School Security

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Emma Stoll, 17, of Wading River, sitting next to Robert Rose at a Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting.

She couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

Emma Stoll, 17, had attended only a handful of school board meetings since she was sworn-in Nov. 20 as a student rep and nonvoting member of the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education. It didn’t take long for her to make her presence felt.

Almost paralyzed by nerves, this school athlete, ballerina and honors student from Wading River knew she had to stand up for her beliefs in the face of parents demanding school security guards be armed with guns about a month after the Newtown school shooting.

“I remember it vividly,” Emma recalled of that special board meeting on Jan. 10. “I was shaking a bit.”

“I know some parents are saying that they would feel more safe, but they’re not the ones in the school,” she said at the meeting, according to a News-Review report. “I don’t think that bringing more guns into the school is going to make me more safe.”

“And I would say it again,” Emma said in an interview Friday.

The senior believes her experience in extra-curricular activities prompted her to seek a seat on the school board, as well as have the courage to speak up in a crowd.

“I think it’s important that students get involved and have their say,” she said. “It’s easier when you have a seat at the table.”

Emma, who attended her last meeting Tuesday, is involved with varsity track, varsity tennis, yearbook club, the environmentalist group “Global Awareness,” the student art and literary magazine “Cymbals,” the math club “Mathletics,” and the National Honors Society.

She’s applied to 18 colleges and is hoping to get accepted into Cornell University because of its architecture program.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Board of Education?

A: [High School principal Dan Holtzman] said any student that is interested should apply. After taking an AP government and politics course, I decided I wanted to get to know the community better and thought [serving on the school board] would be the perfect opportunity. Three students applied. The district decided to split the term so that each student could have a chance.

Q: What are some of the challenges the district faces?

A: One thing I’ve wanted to address is the condition of the tennis courts. They are in terrible condition. They are deteriorating and the fences are rusty. Fixing them will not only be beneficial to students, but to the community as well, because many residents use the courts. Another big issue is recycling.

The school should have a better recycling program and I believe being on the board will help me achieve that goal. I think when you’re up there and you have the microphone, people listen to you.

Q: Why is having a student representative on the school board important? 

Do you have any advice for the incoming student reps?

A: Although I don’t have a vote, I have the opportunity to express ideas of a younger generation. I have the inside scoop and I believe the other board members appreciate that type of input … The next students should be aware of the school security issue. We’ve had intense meetings since the [Newtown shootings]. I had time to get used to the school board meetings before that. The next student will have to jump right into it.

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10/02/12 10:52pm
Shoreham-Wading River

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Voters sign in at Shoreham-Wading River High School Tuesday evening to vote on a $1.64 million tech and track proposition.

Shoreham-Wading River voters approved a $1.64 million proposition Tuesday to upgrade the district’s aging computer systems and make repairs to the high school track.

And after the results were accepted by the school board, a trustee announced she would be resigning due to conflicts between her work and the meeting schedules.

The Technology and Track Proposition was approved 837 votes to 243, according to election officials.

The work will be paid for using prior year state aid money, according to the district. Taxes will not be increased for district residents.

The largest part of the proposition will use $449,000 to pay for a districtwide wireless system and any necessary upgrades to conform with upcoming state-mandated testing requirements for the 2013-14 school year, which require laptops for students to use.

An additional $267,000 will be used to virtualize computer labs, $349,000 will pay for for classroom computing, as well as $105,000 for Smartboards for district classrooms and $86,000 for Microsoft software licensing.

School officials said that more than 70 percent of classroom computers are more than five years old and run obsolete versions of Windows — like Windows 95 or Windows XP — that are incapable of running the latest educational software or maintaining streaming video.

The resurfacing and subsurface repairs to the high school track, which has become cracked and faded, will cost $286,000.

School board president William McGrath thanked members of the technology committee for advising the board on the district’s needs, and specifically thanked students Keith Steinbrecher, a junior, and Matt Gladysz, a sophomore, who lobbied for the track repairs.

“All of the credit for this goes to you guys,” Dr. McGrath said while thanking the students.

School superintendent Steven Cohen said the district will submit a plan to the state for approval and then bid out the technology side of the proposition.

The high school track will be repaired next summer, he said.

Dr. McGrath said after the vote that turnout was lower for this proposition than previous votes, saying the rainy weather and October date might have kept residents at home.

Then, after the board accepted the vote, board member Marie Lindell announced that she would be stepping down from the board.

Ms. Lindell, a pilot who had missed board meetings for the previous two months, explained that her airline company went through a merger, and because of that her hours have been changed.

Before the merger, she was able to fly back into New York and make it to the meetings, but now she is flying on international flights, and will not be able to attend the meetings on Tuesdays, Ms. Lindell said.

She added that she was only able to attend this particular Tuesday night’s meeting because she took a vacation day, saying that she wanted to explain why she was unable to be on the board any longer.

“It’s not from lack of interest or lack of wanting to be here,” Ms. Lindell said.

Dr. McGrath called her a dedicated member of the board, and said after the meeting that the board was looking into what will be done to either fill Ms. Lindell’s vacant seat or wait until her term ends in June.

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10/02/12 10:00am

FILE PHOTO | Residents vote Tuesday on a $1.64 million technology and athletic facilities proposition.

Shoreham-Wading River School District residents go to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $1.64 million proposition to upgrade the district’s computer systems and make resurfacing repairs to the high school track.

Voting will be held at the high school auxiliary gym between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The district would use prior year state aid money to pay for the plan if voters approved the proposition, school officials said.

Taxes would not be increased for district residents.

According to a presentation by technology committee member Anthony DeLouise at last Monday’s school board meeting, if the measure is approved, about $449,000 would pay for a districtwide wireless system and any necessary upgrades to conform with upcoming state-mandated testing requirements for the 2013-14 school year.

More than 70 percent of classroom computers are more than five years old and run obsolete versions of Windows — like Windows 95 or Windows XP — that are incapable of running the latest educational software or maintaining streaming video, according to the presentation.

An additional $267,000 would be used to virtualize computer labs, $349,000 would pay for for classroom computing solutions,  $105,000 for Smartboards for classrooms and $86,000 for Microsoft software licensing.

The resurfacing and subsurface repairs to the high school track, the other part of the proposition, would cost $286,000, Mr. DeLouise added.

Students said the track is only narrowly passing inspection at local track meets and in addition to complaints from sports officials about faded lines, cracks and uneven surfaces, the condition of the track also presents a risk for injury.

“We can’t run too far into the first lane or we’ll twist our ankles,” said sophomore Matt Gladysz.

The results of the proposition vote will be announced at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Shoreham-Wading River High School library. Check back at riverheadnewsreview.com for coverage from the meeting.

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09/11/12 10:00am
09/11/2012 10:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney, left, and Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board will discuss updated plans for a proposition to improve district technology and make repairs to the high school track, as well as talk about how to add a voter-approved student member to the board at their meeting tonight, Tuesday.

The Riverhead school board will also hold a meeting Tuesday night to approve the board’s official goals for the 2012-13 school year, according to a meeting agenda.

The Shoreham-Wading River proposition would allow the district to spend more than $1.6 million in reserve funds to pay for upgraded computers, wireless internet connections, and laptops needed to comply with upcoming state testing regulations.

According to a June presentation, 77 percent of district computers are more than five years old, and run obsolete versions of Windows like Windows 95 or Windows XP. These operating systems are too old to be compatible with the latest teaching software, officials said.

The proposition would also pay for resurfacing and repairs at the cracked high school track. Both school officials and high school track team members have said county racing officials may not allow future track meets at the school if the repairs aren’t made.

Taxes would not be raised if the proposition is approved by voters on Oct. 2 because the funds will be pulled from district reserves.

The board will also discuss adding a non-voting member to its ranks. The proposition to add the position was approved by voters this spring.

The student board member will be a high school senior and will not be privy to executive sessions, or be able to vote in board decisions; the student board member can share student concerns to the board.

The meeting at Shoreham Wading River will be held at 8 p.m. in the Shoreham-Wading River High School Library.

The Riverhead school board will implement a series of goals for the upcoming school year at its meeting Tuesday night.

The board is planning to create a budget that will “provide adequate resources to maintain programs while keeping in mind taxpayers’ ability to pay” as well as look into cost-saving measures such as sharing services and “energy-efficient programs,” according to the meeting agenda.

The goals also include improving district test scores, and monitoring the construction work on the $78.3 million school bond approved by district voters last October.

The Riverhead school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Riverhead High School cafeteria.

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