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Northport BOE Rejects Busing Request

Trustees turn down Tim Farrell's request for transportation for his daughter to attend a private school.

Parent Tim Farrell's bid for the Board of Education to make ended on Monday with the Board's 7-1 vote rejecting his request for a bus for his daughter to attend a private school in Stony Brook. The Farrells live just outside the district's 15-mile policy limit.

Tammie Topel cast the dissenting vote and Jennifer Thompson abstained.

Since no other child in the district was attending the same school, the district would have had to spend more than $18,000 to provide transportation for Farrell’s daughter. The Farrells have said that since moving to the district three years ago, their daughter is not being challenged enough.

Superintendent Marylou McDermott had reached out to the Kings Park School District, which has other students going to the same school. would have cut the cost to the Northport district to $9384.97.

But at Monday’s meeting, District Counsel Carrie Ann Tondo said that under current Board policy, the Board does not have the authority to approve a centralized pick-up point outside the district.

After the vote was taken, Topel asked that the policy be reviewed, saying that the problem was the lack of a centralized pick-up point within the district, rather than the 15 mile limit.

Thompson, who chairs the district's policy committee, said she would review the policy with committee members. She noted that the last time the policy was reviewed was in 1981, "back when I was in grade school."

Farrell thanked the Board members for all the time and consideration they had given the matter, saying he appreciated their efforts.

Board VP Donna McNaughton thanked Farrell too, saying the issue had been a really difficult one for the Board. "It was a hard decision to say no."

John T October 08, 2011 at 03:01 AM
It is ubsurd that Farrell would even ask, time for parents to pay up for all the extras including sports in the school districts
Ken Wiebke October 08, 2011 at 04:32 AM
18 grand for one child's transportaion outside the district? That the matter was even considered demonstrates the board's profligate attitude toward the taxpayer. One suspects there must be incredible waste in the system. Six-figure do nothing administrators by the score gettting generous salary increases while basic supplies are unavailable comes to mind.
John T October 08, 2011 at 10:48 AM
I am entitled to have my kids bussed to their schools but I am fortuanate to be able to drive them there and back. Why can't the bus be an optional plan for parents, this could lessen your school tax which is ubsurd. Ken do you think that any school board stays committed to being a tax payer watch dog group you are terribly mistaken. The PTA and the teachers and the boards have too cozy of a relationship. I am willing to pay extra for my sons sports clubs etc., This is the way it should be, maybe one club per child on the arm of the taxpayer.
Wendi Stranieri October 08, 2011 at 04:09 PM
If he is sending his daughter to a private school because she is gifted (it sounds like this is her first year in private school), maybe he should think about applying to the Long Island School for the gifted in Huntington Station: it should be within the 15 mile radius. It is an excellent school; I know a child that attended through the 8th grade.
Jerry Hannon October 08, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Some commenters seem to be confusing their anger, at school tax levels or sunspots or whatever, with true causes and effects. Any BOE cannot simply refuse to consider a request, particularly when it is based in various interpretations of SED regulations or Education Law. A parent has a right to request, and the Northport BOE did the responsible thing by listening, by considering, and by adjudicating the matter. Their decision was rational and not at all surprising. As for those who think that parents should not be entitled to have their kids transported by a school district to private schools more distant, or to necessary more intensive service special education schools ever yet more distant, they should talk to their State Senator or Assemblyman; these are matters of State regulations and laws, and not simply free-form decisions by a BOE. Even the matter of how far, up to State-imposed limits, a parent may be entitled to have District transportation to local public schools, is a matter determined by the voters of a District, by public referendum, and not simply a decision by any BOE. So, please folks, how about a bit more light and less heat?
Chris F October 09, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Well put Jerry.
Scamp October 09, 2011 at 11:36 AM
if his child is so gifted have her do the International Baccalaureate Program at Northport, I'm sure that's a challenge!!
Dan Ciccone October 09, 2011 at 01:25 PM
As long as the route to a private school is within 15 miles of a child's home and the parents or guardians make a request to their home district for transportation on or before April 1st of each year their child will be attending a private school, that child, by NYS statute, MUST be provided with transportation at the local school district's expense. Frankly, I have lost patience with the angry, uninformed, if not dull-witted commentors that shoot from the hip at school administrators and Board trustees for following the laws that have been imposed by the legislative body in NYS. There are plenty of sources of information on these issues, but that would mean you have to take a little self initiaitve. It is unfortunate that this girl cannot attend the school of her choice, and I respect the tough decision of the Northport BOE. It was the only decision, the right decision. I also beleive that Scamp has made a good suggestion regarding the IB program.
Ken Wiebke October 09, 2011 at 02:14 PM
The school board's decision at least from the content of the article implies deep regret that the parent's request was denied ("It was a hard decision to say no.") It seems to me, moreover, some are trying to accommodate this and presumably future similar requests by manipulating or revising the existing regulation e.g. "Topel asked that the policy be reviewed, saying that the problem was the lack of a centralized pick-up point within the district, rather than the 15 mile limit" My criticism is not so much to denigrate one parent's attempt to take full advantage of what may be technically available but rather the board's approach. They seemed oblivious to the idea that such an expense is excessive and were apologetic they could not find a loophole. While pleased with the ultimate decision, the board's attitude as conveyed by the article is, to me, inconsistent with properly husbanding the district's limited resources.
Debbie Sullivan October 09, 2011 at 03:04 PM
The specific motion which the BOE voted down was for a centralized point within the district for the Farrell's daughter to be picked up. That would have been an exception for one student. What Ms. Topel is trying to do is to have the overall policy looked at to see if it's worth having one centralized pick-up point for schools in and around that 15-mile limit. Chaminade, for instance, is 22 miles so that wouldn't qualify. But for other schools, a centralized location would address future similar requests for transportation to other private schools -- not just Stony Brook -- with less cost to taxpayers.
John T October 09, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Debbie that's a great idea and it's a idea that saves money especially in the long run. But there is so much more to do when it comes to school taxes here on LI. Why should it cost twice as much to send a kid to a Public School and half to send to a Parochial School. There should be more consolidation of the services that each school district needs. Why are Superintendents of a school district asked to come back to run a district after they retire. What there are no eligible and qualified personel that are from that district to take over. It's all about boosting their pension. Teachers wearing political buttons when it was not permitted in school, they allowed them to wear Barack Obama buttons in school. Telling the kids to make sure their parents vote for the budget. I know I am off the subject but ........
Dan Ciccone October 09, 2011 at 09:46 PM
@ John T. You bring up a great question to be examined. The answer is simple: public school districts pick up the huge cost of transportation to private schools. As the story indicates, you could be spending thousands annually for one child. Additionally, the local district picks up the cost of many private school text books, and also healthcare contracts. And, of course, most private schools do not service classified Special Ed Students... a child with severe issues could cost a local school district in excess of $100k per year. Even special education children that can be educated within the local district schools will have tremendous costs associated with special services that could include one-on-one staffing needs. Then, of course, there are Academic Intervention Services (“AIS”). By law (mandate) children that are below grade level in academics, or at risk of falling below grade level must be given special help in order to bring their academic proficiency in line with the standards. This special help costs. Private schools simply do not hold onto kids that are struggling to compete… In other words, they ask them to leave and they return to local public school districts.
Dan Ciccone October 09, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Lastly, in most instances private school employees are not state employees and therefore their private school employer does not have to make a huge contribution to the state pension funds. Public school districts are mandated by law, to pay into the pension system. That contribution can vary from a small percentage of salaries, to a tremendous percentage of salaries. In recent years, it has been a crushing cost to public school in NYS. Are taxes out of control, absolutely. Is there a reason other than inept management that public schools are so costly to run – absolutely.
Jerry Hannon October 09, 2011 at 11:17 PM
In other words, Dan, trying to compare costs & services of a private school versus a public school is beyond the apples to oranges comparison, & is more like an apples to spark plug comparison. As to someone's throw-away line of teachers wearing "Obama buttons," or maybe "Romney buttons", or "Perry or "Paul buttons," I am not aware of any teachers within my own district wearing political buttons during the teaching day or on school property, and I wonder if that poster would provide verifiable and specific information about when and where this was done. It should be stopped, no matter who is being supported. As to cost reductions, I am on the public record as favoring consolidation of school districts on a County Basis (the US norm), but at least on a Town Basis if the ideal is not politically achievable on Long Island. As to superintendents retiring, and then going back to serve as interim Superintendent in some other district whose Superintendent resigned or retired, it is erroneous to think that there are a bunch of highly qualified people in the wings waiting to fill in. My own observation, based upon one incident, is that the "local candidate" is not always truly qualified, and may be too close to existing staff as kind of a "buddy complex," and may well lack the benefit of a diverse career with long experience in key district management roles in a diverse range of districts. Yes, consolidation would also help the quality-improvement objective.
Dan Ciccone October 10, 2011 at 01:32 AM
As you may know, Jerry, from my public position on district consolidations, I am not so sure the efficiencies that most people assume would really be achieved. That notwithstanding, that is just a hunch on my part as it is a guess, although an educated guess on your part. I am a strong supporter of BOE’s and central administrators rolling up their sleeves to conduct an in depth feasibility study of merging. Are their synergies and potential savings that would improve, or at least sustain, quality academic programs with greater financial efficiencies? There may be, or maybe not! There are issues if one district has a contract that pays teachers more than another that could actually raise salary expenses. Moreover, if there was a potential of cutting teaching staff in any merger, the teachers that would remain are the most senior, highest paid teachers. So, in the end, it just may not present a savings that would outweigh the goodwill value and cultural bond with schools recognized by communities in smaller districts – like Elwood. But as I said, no one can do any more than make uninformed assumptions because no district other than Elwood said they would be open to a study.
Dan Ciccone October 10, 2011 at 01:32 AM
As far as the Obama dig in the other post, the President’s platform on public education, as evidenced by the Race To The Top initiative, was the most aggressive move to reform education in decades. Reforms that promote more rigor and teacher accountability and less protection for inept teachers - reforms that NYSUT and teachers’ unions throughout the country are fighting.
Ken Wiebke October 10, 2011 at 02:38 AM
MR. CICCONE'S answer is accurate as far as it goes. I dare say even factoring out the costs of special education students the expenditure per student in public school remains considerably higher than most religious and private school tuition. Clearly if parents had the ability to spend even 40 percent of the cost per student (leaving 60 percent remaining for the government school) at the school of their choice I believe the educational levels in our district would probably improve and the expense at the very least would stabilize. National teacher's union propaganda and perhaps the self interest of existing well-paid administrative types has kept this reasonable solution from gaining traction. At some point I hope the taxpayer will catch on.
Nick Folger October 10, 2011 at 04:06 AM
What is the aggregate tax revenue from households who have their kids transported to private schools under the current policy of 15 miles? Does this equation show a profit to the school district? For those students that require special services due to handicaps etc. what is the state reimbursement for transportation costs (STAC reports)? The second equation is that less enrollment in the public school means less resources (teachers, support staff etc.) needed in the public system. What is the savings if the mileage was increased? I believe that certain instructional costs for special education students are reimbursable, at least in part, by NYS. I also understand that Smithtown's transportion policy is 20 miles with centralized in-district pick-up points. That policy keeps the transportation costs down while the revenue side is maximized. Folks, including the school board, tend to focus strictly on the cost side. What is the true out of pocket for the school district? Although I think that the district would never be able to cover the $18k cost in question, we need to consider the tax/state aid revenue side too; a better understanding of the transportation picture is needed. It is not only time for multiple school district consolidation but also time for professional governance that will do a thorough job in reviewing any decision. Why can't the school board make a decision without an attorney? Attorneys cost but bring no revenue! How much did this decision cost?
Dan Ciccone October 10, 2011 at 02:53 PM
First, there is this constant reference to private sector thinking that will save the education system and make it more affordable. Well, without argument, some private sector thinking, and strategic innovations could perhaps make improvements to the system. Of course, there are also some brilliant minds in academia that could make fruitful recommendations. When you remove the anger and frustrations of who is better to run the public education system as if it were a contest, it would be wise to follow the thinking of Einstein, who said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Continual improvement is fed by innovative thinking – period.
Dan Ciccone October 10, 2011 at 02:54 PM
As far as the revenue and profitability issues, let’s not take that out of context of break it down granularly to the revenue generated by every family. Are we to examine the ratio of property taxes paid by households with no children, versus households with 2 children in schools, or perhaps there is an older or smaller house with less of a tax obligation that has FIVE kids in school… If we do a cost benefit analysis on those freeloaders our corporate mindset would be to get them to move to New Jersey. I jest. Bottom line is any public system that relies on a tax base for revenue can never be a completely fair system when broken into individual components – the mantra is (and rightfully so) for the common good. The reason BOE’s confer with counsel is because there are statutes on top of statutes that govern a school districts ability to make day-to-day management decisions. That is why most districts have counsel working on an annual retainer – they do not charge by the question.
Dan Ciccone October 10, 2011 at 03:10 PM
You also have to recognize the ability for a private school to directly fundraise from alumni, etc. Tuition is not their only revenue source. If you look at that amazing student rec center on St. Anthony's campus - the one with the indoor football/soccer/lacrosse practice field and indoor track. The cost of that facility was largely defrayed by contributions, not tuition. That is just an example. So, my point is that general apples-to-apples comparisons are not as easily made as you may think. Although, the model I beleive you are describing is rational. Nevertheless, if you take out the cost of mandated special education services, transportation, and employer contributions to the pension systems, Etc. you would be amazed by the efficiencies achieved in public education - especially in comparison to private schools that do not have these mandates.
Free 2B Me October 10, 2011 at 04:43 PM
BTW... If the bus was only going to hold one child going to one location 15.5 miles from their home... could we spend less than $18,000!! A $20.00 cab ride would be $200 per week (both directions) and total $8,000 per year,
John T October 10, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Free2B, We need people like you to shake up the long winded. Very simple solution. Why do we have to pay for buses when we do not use them, why can't you opt out. Many pay for the buses and never use it. It should be the same way you pay for you lunch, with an account.
twocents October 10, 2011 at 05:58 PM
If dad was so concerned about kiddies going to this school, he should have stayed closer. Also if he can afford private tuition, he can afford a daily taxi ride rather then demand the taxpayers support his daughters ride. Even if he is working three jobs and the wife 2, he still should pay for his own transportation. As for his complaint that the daughter is not challenged enough, why not try homeschooling: these kids tend to do better as well. Furthermore, with a little more effort on his part maybe he could challenge the kid on his own. I tire of parental entitlement mentality.
Ken Wiebke October 10, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Can't blame the father for seeking the benefit of what may be available although several posts point to respectable alternatives. My initial post was the BOE seemed too eager to assist and that sort of attitude, to me, was a symptom of poor husbanding of resources. The thread pertaing to what is essentially a voucher program is proving interesting. Notwithstanding the many variables I'm convinced private schools give an equal or better educational product than the government monoply. The very mention of the use of a taxi service to solve this particular situation must horrify the administrators, but the fact is if the parents received the subsidy directly they would find innovative ways to solve this and other problems which the rule bound, litigation fearing, BOE cannot consider. All very interesting indeed.
Ken Wiebke October 10, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Mr. Ciccone is right to reference Albert Einstein There is no easy fix to the problems with our educational system. The lack of creativity and innovation is apparent in many classrooms, in part because teachers are faced with answering to administrators who have never taught and can't begin to understand the problems they face. In addition, we have to deal with helicopter parents who think they are protecting their children, but are instead enabling them to do less than their individual best. And, of course, there are just too many government mandates. Control of local schools should be just that - local.
John T October 10, 2011 at 09:03 PM
The teachers unions are way too powerful because of the PAC money they donate to political figures and parties. We need Campaign Finance Reform now. There are so many people with great intention that want to do the job of sorting out the probems here on LI and eveywhere else, but none could ever get elected. There should be a set amount of money to run a campaign for each candidate. Look at what Steve Bellone has done with all his money that the Democrtic party has given to him. They send very expensive campaign material to people belonging to other parties. This is the same way they will spend your tax money if elected. Get out and vote. Basically we are screwed because the only ones who vote are the older retired residents,"the fixed income people" or the ones who have kids in schools. The only way we can win is if the old people live longer.
Jerry Hannon October 11, 2011 at 01:51 AM
For the person who posted: "Why do we have to pay for buses when we do not use them, why can't you opt out. Many pay for the buses and never use it." If you want to change that, then you have to change State laws/regulations. Right now, districts are not allowed that discretion by the State, and that has nothing to do with whether it is right, or wrong. Only your State officials can change that, not your school district officials. Additionally, there are safety standards in transporting children, and I doubt that a taxi -- particularly the insecurity wrecks posing as taxis that I have been transported in on Long Island -- meets those safety standards. Moreover, my understanding, based upon a public comment I heard from District Counsel at a recent Elwood BOE meeting, is that parents cannot sign a waiver of safety regulations for their children when they receive services from a school district. In other words folks, it's really not as simple as some of you may intuitively feel, and reality trumps expectations seven days out of seven. And, frankly, we can all do without the rabid hyper-political comments that too many people are posting here.
Dan Ciccone October 11, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Because you a school district cannot tell parents to put a kid in the cab and then pick up the bill... Don't like that answer. Call your legistaltor, they wrote the law.
Dan Ciccone October 11, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I agree Ken, a very interesting thread. I believe the fear is that any alternative system would eventually lead to a wider gap in education between the have's and the have not's... If you look at the mandates, you could assume that they were initiated to protect the masses from disparity in public education, so an alternative model that potentially can threaten that principle of equity for all is usually shunned by the legislators. - just a thought.

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