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Board of Education Makes Important Announcements:
Bond Issue, Advisory Committees, New Board Trustee, Early Childhood Center
At the Sept. 19, 2016 meeting of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education, Board President Barbara Berkowitz announced several important actions that the Board will be undertaking in the months ahead. These include: presenting a Capital Improvements Bond Issue to the voters; forming two, new Board of Education advisory committees--Citizens Advisory Committee and Financial Advisory Committee; holding a special election to replace resigning Board Trustee Monique Bloom; and establishing an Early Childhood Center at the north end of the district. Following are highlights from the meeting, including excerpts (in quotes) from Ms. Berkowitz's statements.
Capital Improvements Bond Issue - "There have been ongoing discussions for the last several years about the scope of the district's capital needs that cannot be funded through our budget, a budget which is seriously constrained by the tax cap. These necessary capital needs projects cannot be addressed through our capital reserves either. While we have been able to complete numerous projects throughout the district within our five-year Facilities Needs Plan, there are additional crucial projects which cannot be managed this way.
"Therefore, tonight I am announcing a Capital Improvements Bond Issue that we will put before the voters on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. We like to think of it as a Valentine's Day gift from the entire community to itself, as our schools are our most valuable commodity! Voting will take place from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., at the Baker School (for residents living north of the Long Island Railroad) and at South High School (for residents living south of the LIRR).
"The timing of this vote is necessary to take advantage of low-interest rates, as well as taking over the debt service of the current bond."
Board Vice President Lawrence Gross and Board Trustee Donald Ashkenase concurred on the importance of the debt service associated with a bond. Assistant Superintendent John Powell explained that debt service is an excludable expenditure governing the calculation of the annual tax cap percentage, which then raises the allowable tax cap.
In her report, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Prendergast spoke about the proposed Bond Issue saying that it "will address the critical health, safety, and security needs of the district's 10 school buildings and community facilities, and serve as an investment in our schools, sustaining Great Neck's tradition of excellence and helping our students remain competitive with their peers in similar districts. Items for consideration in the bond will include specific educational enhancements to our programs. Projects will preserve our school buildings for decades to come and will sustain the community's investment in its schools."
To help ensure meaningful projects to be addressed by the Bond Issue, Alfredo Cavallaro, director of facilities and operations, and Steve Challis, supervisor of facilities and operations, visited all buildings in the district and compiled a list of necessary projects which has been given to Mr. Powell. Dr. Prendergast is meeting with all building principals to hear about the projects that are of vital importance to them. The Board of Education Citizens Advisory Committee (see below) will also offer input for Bond Issue projects.
The Board and the superintendent will review all items being suggested and/or requested. The complete list of items to be included in the Bond Issue will be presented at a future time, prior to the Feb. 14 vote.
Board Advisory Committees - Ms. Berkowitz announced the establishment of two Board of Education advisory committees--Citizens Advisory Committee and Financial Advisory Committee.
She said, "Among its annual goals, the Board has looked for ways to increase parent and community participation in board matters. We began accomplishing this 10 years ago, when we started hosting annual dinners to foster dialogue regarding matters of importance, meeting with PTA/UPTC presidents, principals, assistant principals, other administrators, GNTA executive board, and high school student leaders. Additionally, at our executive sessions, we meet annually with PTA leaders from each elementary school, seeking their input.
"Two years ago, we conducted an online community survey. One question asked how the Board could 'encourage more residents to participate in matters affecting GNPS.' Responses to this question have led to the formation of the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Financial Advisory Committee.
"The Citizens Advisory Committee will be composed of: up to three parents of current pre-K to grade 12 students; up to three community members who do not have children currently attending our public schools; up to three current secondary school students; up to three current staff members (employees of the district must apply as staff members); superintendent of schools, or her designee; and one or two Board of Education members, one of whom will be the Board president who will chair the Committee. Meeting dates will be coordinated by the Board of Education member(s). Terms will be for one year, but staff and students may be selected for, or excused from, committee membership by the superintendent, based on the issue/issues being reviewed. Two agenda items to be addressed by the Citizens Advisory Committee have already been chosen: a discussion of proposed and desired capital and educational needs and projects for the district, and seeking ways to increase parent and community voter participation.
"The Financial Advisory Committee will be composed of: up to three parents of current pre-K to grade 12 students; up to three community members who do not have children currently attending our public schools; up to three current secondary school students; up to three current staff members (employees of the district must apply as staff members); assistant superintendent for business; and one or two Board of Education members, one of whom will be the Board vice president who will chair the Committee. Meeting dates will be coordinated by the Board of Education member(s). Terms will be for one year, but staff and students may be selected for, or excused from, committee membership by the superintendent, based on the issue/issues being reviewed.
Committee members may not serve on both committees during the same year.
Those who wish to participate on either Committee should read the Serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee and Serving on the Financial Advisory Committee documents, and submit their names, in writing, to Agnes Buckley, Board of Education secretary, Phipps Admin. Bldg., 345 Lakeville Rd. (516-441-4006), school days, between 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
"For the 2016-17 school year, names of candidates applying for the Citizens Advisory Committee should be received no later than Friday, Sept. 30. Names of candidates applying for the Financial Advisory Committee should be received no later than Friday, Oct. 28."
Board Trustee Bloom Resigns - "It is with deep regret that I announce the resignation of Board of Education Trustee Monique Bloom, effective Sept. 20, 2016," said Ms. Berkowitz.
Ms. Bloom's letter of resignation said, in part: "It is with great sadness that I tender my resignation from the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education. My corporate travel commitments have become, at this point, completely overwhelming and do not leave me with enough time to properly execute my responsibilities as a Board member. As I do not foresee this situation's potential improvement, I feel that I must resign my position so that the community might select someone who has more time flexibility, allowing for the completion of the immense amounts of weekly reading and attendance at the many meetings a committed trustee should attend."
Ms. Berkowitz, Mr. Gross, Mr. Ashkenase, and Board Trustee Susan Healy all expressed their gratitude to Ms. Bloom for her invaluable contributions to the Board of Education and their feelings of loss at her departure.
Mr. Gross and Ms. Berkowitz asked prospective candidates to reach out to current Board members to find out what is entailed to be a member of the Board of Education. Prospective candidates should also read Serving on the School Board.
The election to complete Ms. Bloom's term, which runs until May 2019, will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., at the Baker School (for residents living north of the LIRR) and at South High School (for residents living south of the LIRR). The Board will convene at the Phipps Admin. Bldg., at 10:30 p.m., on Dec. 6, to officially receive and announce the election results.
This special election, Ms. Berkowitz said, "will afford the community the opportunity to select the next Board of Education trustee."
Candidates seeking to run for Ms. Bloom's seat must obtain petition forms from Michele Domanick, district clerk, in the business office, Phipps Admin. Bldg, 345 Lakeville Rd. (516-441-4020). The business office is open school days, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Ms. Domanick will elaborate on the requirements of those who sign petitions. Petitions must be submitted no later than 5 p.m., on Monday, Nov. 7.
New York State law requires that Board members be citizens of the United States, be at least 18 years of age, and be able to read and write. Board members must also have been residents of the school district for at least one year prior to their election. All this is in accordance with State Law 2102.
Early Childhood Center - Ms. Berkowitz spoke of establishing a second Early Childhood Center to meet the needs of students living at the north end of the district. She said, "The Board is looking into creating an Early Childhood Center at the north end of town. This is a project that we have desired for several years, based on the success of the Early Childhood Center located in the Parkville School, at the south end of town. We are currently exploring the various ways that we can make this work for our community. We will keep you updated."