Northport Schools Notebook

The Matinecock Court sewage treatment plant, 7-Eleven’s plans, the District’s External Audit Report, a letter from 531 teachers, and recognition for some special scouts at the Nov. 21 BOE meeting.

External Auditor’s Report Gives District an “Unqualified Opinion”

Peter Rodriguez, of Cullen & Danowski, discussed the district’s annual report which was filed with the state education department on Nov. 8, more than two weeks later than it was due but still within the 30-day grace period. The district received an “unqualified opinion,” which Rodriguez said was the highest allowed, with no material weaknesses or instances of non-compliance. PDFs of the letters and reports provided by the firm are attached.

However, the firm noted in its Sept. 30 letter that the records of the extra classroom activity funds “were not adequate to permit the application of adequate procedures to indicate whether all receipts were recorded.” The firm noted that faculty and central treasurer involvement was not always present, and that there were some clubs with deficit balances as of June 30, 2011. Extracurricular activities have come under review by Board members at past meetings.  

The report notes management's response to the findings: The District Treasurer met with the three central treasurers during the 2010-2011 school year to provide guidance and training, and will continue to monitor extra classroom activity funds during the current school year.

Audit Committee Member Larry Beck, a CPA, explained his reasons for being the lone member not to support the external auditor’s report, citing “scope limitations” involving his inability to receive certain information from the internal auditor and the School Board despite his requests. Beck said he had no choice but to assume that the information was material, and that, as a CPA, he couldn’t give his approval.

Beck pointedly asked if Rodriguez would be concerned if he were on an Audit Committee, and was denied information.

Rodriguez replied, “I would be suspicious of that.”

Beck also said he saw no mention in the audit letter of the fact that the district has been $10 million over budget for the past three years, and told Rodriguez he thought that was a missed opportunity for the firm to provide some guidance.

Audit Committee Chairperson Andrew Rapiejko took exception to Beck’s statements. “Any information that is appropriate was provided.”

Dr. Nina Dorata asked about reserves. Rodriguez said that all were properly created and that the firm used its best judgment in terms of determining that the level of reserve funds were reasonable and adequate. When Dorata asked specifically if any testing had been done, Rong Maio, another member of Cullen & Danowski, replied in the affirmative.

Board Expresses Concerns about Matinecock Court

Resident Margaret Granger asked if the district could petition Suffolk County opposing a variance for the placement of an onsite sewage treatment plant for the 155-unit affordable housing development. Granger cited the proximity to Northport High School and Pulaski Road School as well as the LIRR and a LIPA substation. 

Superintendent Marylou McDermott said Ingerman Smith will write an opposition letter on behalf of the district which will go to the Board this week for its review. “We are taking this very seriously.”

Granger asked if the letter could be posted on the district’s website, and if a petition would be possible.

President Stephen Waldenburg said the Board is not allowed to petition, but would check with legal counsel as to whether there’s a limit to how much information a district can provide residents so they, in turn, can get involved.  The Department of Health is accepting letters on the issue through Nov. 28.

Teachers Sign Morale Letter

Glen Buscareno and Megan Albin presented a letter signed by 531 teachers and teaching aides citing low morale.  “Northport’s current top-down management style does not allow for true collaboration, input and feedback from practitioners, or professional dialogue as part of a shared decision making process.” The letter mentions the recent distribution of personal computing devices to staff members  “about which there had been minimal discussion, no true faculty input and unclear expectations regarding their use.”  

In response, Waldenburg and UTN president Antoinette Blanck mutually agreed to open up the meeting between the Board and the Board-Teachers Relations committee to all UTN members as well as the public on Dec. 5 at 6:30 PM as a work session.  

Opposition to 7-Eleven

Waldenburg said several Trustees as well as legal counsel had attended the Nov. 17 Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals on the proposed building of a 7-Eleven on the site of the current Nocello’s restaurant on 25A. The public will be allowed to give its input at a future meeting, but Waldenburg said the Board had given information to district counsel including the number of walkers from nearby Northport Middle School. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”


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