After the presentation Monday night by with the United Teachers of Northport, the Board of Education continued its line-by-line review of proposed 2011-2012 budget expenditures. The first 30 pages of the .
Special Ed, Reclassifications, and Transfers
There were a lot of questions asked by both Trustees and members of the public about the $14,632,292.03 budget earmarked for Special Education. Under particular scrutiny was BOCES services, with one line item called "Option 4" calling for a 269% increase, from $177,000 to $655,000.
In response to a question asked by Board VP Karen Wills, Director of Special Ed Christina Pulaski said there are 900 children in the district who are classified as special education students. The increase in the line item was not due to an expectation of more children needing services, but because of reclassifications from other line items.
Dr. Nina Dorata, a member of United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport, questioned the reclassifications, and asked if footnotes could be added to the budget for clarification. Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander said it would be time-consuming but could be done, and Superintendent Marylou McDermott said they would look into it.
SEPTA president-elect Tammie Topel, asked if the Board has to approve transfers. Molander said transfers happen throughout the year; Board members approve anything over $10,000; salary-related increases over $25,000 also require approval.
Summer School and Technology
The district is exploring the possibility of replacing the traditional summer school program with an online program sometime in the future. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Administration Matthew Nelson said that one of the options is a program called the Odyssey system, offered through Compass Learning. The district is looking at testing a pilot program this fall. The upcoming summer school session will still be face-to-face.
McDermott explained that most of the summer program is composed of 20 days. Excessive heat and family vacation plans contribute to a high rate of absentism – hence, the interest in exploring an online option. She emphasized that the idea of moving online was not financially-based. “I want to make sure that the needs of the students are being met. It’s about the efficacy.”
Dorata wanted to know if costs for the pilot program were included in the district's three-year technology plan. Nelson said that a technology plan is required by satisfy two federal mandates. Any subsequent changes could be added in an addendum.
Some audience members expressed frustration that one cohesive technology plan including all charges hasn’t been presented to the community. Carina Ranieri, former president of SEPTA said she feels as if she has to piecemeal the information together.
Dorata pointed out that the district’s plans to add netbooks for teaching staff wasn’t included in the original technology plan. Another resident, Joe Sabia, asked about the specific costs for those Netbooks. Nelson said a five year lease through BOCES would cost $175,000 for the first year, $115,000 thereafter.
In response to the comments, McDermott said she understood the community’s need to see the “big picture” and that the administration would continue to illuminate technology intentions in the future.
Nelson added that if the Board instructed him to separate every techonology item from the budget, he would do it.
Improving the Playing Fields
In response to a question that had come up at a previous Board meeting, Trustee Joe Gannon confirmed that the capital fund reserves could not be used to improve any of the playing fields. “We’d have to set up a new reserve for that.”
The next Board of Ed meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30 in the William Brosnan School cafeteria. Community members are invited to give their input on the proposed 2011-2012 budget at that time.
An earlier version of this story referred to Nina Dorata as a member of the United Teachers of Northport. Patch regrets the error.