In a budget season that is looking to be tight, parents and students turned out to the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education meeting Wednesday to ask the board to use discretion when making cuts.
On the eve of the hockey state championships, a multitude of Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs hockey parents came to tell the board how much the children enjoy the team and when making cuts, please consider keeping the team a school-sanctioned sport.
“Please keep hockey as a school-recognized sport,” one mother said while addressing the board. “Let the junior varsity boys have the dream of qualifying for a school sport."
Mitchell Barber, father of player Jake Barber, spoke out about how much good the Bulldogs have done for the community, including the fundraiser that the team hosted for the Purple Heart Pups. He urged for that to continue.
“I am here to thank you," he said. "The Bulldogs boosts school spirit from all of the schools and have benefited the community. I am indebted to the board for all of the support."
In addition, the budget stayed in focus as audience members asked questions about how the changing times will affect it.
One attendee asked how the rising fuel costs would change the budget, if at all. The board said although it is looking into the issue, it is not sure how much difference it will make overall. Right now, the board said it spends about $1 million in fuel costs per year.
Eric Strezenec wanted to know if anyone in the school would consider taking a pay cut or if there will be a pay freeze across the board from administrators down to teachers in order to keep the jobs of the teachers and staff that are looking to be laid off at the end of the year.
“It’s hard to give anyone a pay raise when people are losing their jobs,” Strezenec said.
To that note, student Ross Shulman brought a suggestion to the board in order to save a few jobs as well: don’t hire as many substitutes.
“If substitutes get about $90 per day, that is $405,000 per year for handing out work or showing a movie,” he said. “Why are we spending $405,000 on babysitters and firing 13 teachers?”
Kiernan explained that Shulman brought up a very good point and that the board is looking in to spending less money on substitutes or coming up with alternatives for what to do with the students when teachers are absent.
“Everything is being looked at very seriously,” Kiernan said. “You raise a very good point. Thank you for sharing it."
Although the synthetic turf discussion took a backseat, John Pinto explained that he spent time on the phone with local legislatures and that there is legislation pending that could allow the district to use up to 60 percent of the accrued liability reserve to do any capital projects, including the turf.
Board member Jonathan Butler, who has been pushing for a resolve to the synthetic turf issue, suggested that the board allow the people decide how they want to pay for the fields if they choose to install them.
“We should ask the community if they want to use the accrued liability reserve. We should give the community an opportunity to decide if they want to use it instead of just using a bond referendum,” he said.
In other board news:
- The board took action to fight the new legislature that is coming into effect that changes the way sewage fees are measured. The new law will charge schools for the water used and not by how much water goes into the system. For schools that use a lot of water to garden and do field maintenance, the water used never hits the sewer and therefore, schools are being charged for more than what is going into the sewer. The CHSD will join more than 20 other districts to fight the law.
- The board decided to move graduation indoors for 2011 and secured a venue for the celebration. Mepham, Kennedy and Calhoun graduations will take place on June 26, 2011 at the Westbury Music Fair. “We are holding off on making an announcement because the student leaders from the schools are going to go to the site and see it. The students very much own the graduation,” said Henry Kiernan, superintendant of schools.