The following letter was submitted to Newsday but we believe it was too large for their needs. It conveys our thoughts about the need for . On Monday there will be a budget work shop at the at 7 p.m. If you believe that board members should look for savings in order to provide educational opportunities to all our students, we encourage you to attend.
The prime focus of any board trustee should be to seek ways to expand educational opportunities for all our students. In the current rounds of budget development, in school districts throughout the state, the current buzz word is consolidation. In our opinion should begin within each and every district, first. As Board of Education Trustees for the Patchogue-Medford School District, we have offered a plan for internal district consolidation. This is necessary to fulfill our mission as trustees while living within a tax cap constrained budget and declining enrollment.
We recommend all districts first evaluate underutilized space. In Pat-Med this is spread across all schools. Our plan would realign our current K-5 elementary and 6-8 middle school structure, by returning sixth grade to the elementary schools, maximizing their spacial use. This consolidates empty space in the middle school. We have three middle schools. Enrollment at the 7-8 level could be consolidated into one school.
Our administration has estimated the savings for closing one of these schools at over $1,000,000. They are currently evaluating the options for closing a second school and we expect equal savings. There are trustees who believe a million dollars isn’t worth the ire of parents who have an emotional attachment to these buildings. This becomes the quandary for trustees throughout the state; look for resources for the children vs. parental challenges.
To those trustees we say, start to count every interaction between a student and a teacher as an opportunity to positively affect that child’s development. At the secondary level, a single teacher may have 5 classes with up to 30 students each. Since one million dollars will pay for 10-12 teachers, failure to make this money available will result in over 1,500 – 1,800 lost opportunities in the lives of our students.
It is our hope that districts across New York will see that consolidation begins at home. It is our further hope that districts will start attaching lost opportunity to every dollar of savings they fail to make available. Times are tough requiring tough choices, but Boards need to remember educational opportunity should take precedence in the budget making process.
William LaVelle and Brett Houdek
Trustees, Patchogue-Medford Board of Education
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