Middle School Sports, Kindergarten on the Chopping Block

South Huntington schools face big changes in programs.

Middle school students would be offered after-school intramural sports as a replacement for a regular sports program, under a budget proposal outlined Wednesday night at the school board meeting.

Elimination of the sports program and the reduction of kindergarten to a half-day program are among several changes recommended by Superintendent Thomas Shea as the budget heads for a vote by the board next week, followed by a public hearing on May 8 and a vote by residents on May 15.

Shea said, "There’s been no mandate relief and there’s a tax cap." Referring to state politicians who voted to require a tax cap on schools and other government bodies, he said, "They lack the political will to do the mandate relief."

Numerous speakers stepped to the microphone at Wednesday's meeting to support their favorite programs while suggesting other programs were less important.

When students and others spoke on behalf of the dance program and trying to ensure classes would be saved, another speaker retorted, "It is ludicrous we are talking about dance when you’re talking about cutting kindergarten. I don’t know where your heads are at if that’s what we’re talking about."

One teacher who has been laid off four times by the district delivered an emotional plea for recognition of the personal pain inflicted by budget cuts, while others criticized or spoke up for unionized employees. Some wanted the teachers' union to commit to a hard salary freeze while others noted that their unions had already provided givebacks.

A parent looking to save programs from elimination asked, "Would all of these cuts be saved if there was a pay freeze? Why can’t we do this? We have to work together. We are in desperate times. And that means desperate measures.””

Other speakers suggested other ways to bring in revenue, including a public-private effort, grant writing, bake sales or selling off certain buildings or properties.

But it was the kindergarten issue that had the most response, with parents, teachers and board members all agreeing that cutting kindergarten could creat long-term losses in student achievement. 

Several parents expressed fears that their children would lose ground by having half-day kindergarten or wouldn't be prepared for state-mandated tests in fourth grade. Shea, along with board president Jim Kaden and other board members, concurred as they have previously, saying district students would suffer under the cuts.

One teacher asked, "If you remove half the education to save money, how can we possibly contnue to make yearly progress?"

A resident noted that, "We cannot fundraise to save kindergarten; we can fund raise to save sports. We cannot afford to lose full day kindergarten whereas with a sport…I’ts possible to save sports in other ways."

Kaden said the board had discussed fundraising for sports. "We talked to the Booster Club, and you could fund raise. It’s one thing to do it with contingency; it’s much more difficult to tell people to not only fund raise it this year and the next year and the next year."

Several people in the audience mentioned the district's reputation if it continued to cut back its programs, including kindergarten.

As the nearly five-hour workshop continued, some speakers criticized the board, which moved member Ed Nitkewicz to respond, ""I ask everyone who comes to the microphone to be careful about suggesting that anyone who serves on a school board does not care about the children...These are terribly difficult decisions we are faced with. Make any suggestions or statements you would like us to consider, but when you end your plea by adding that we do not care about the children, you lose your audience. Accusations like that should be thrown around as freely as manhole covers."

The half-day proposal includes converting 21 teaching positions from full time to part time. Afternoon day care would be available at parent expense.The cuts are designed to save $1,104,305.

Some changes in proposed cuts were made in the last week.They include:

Reducing teaching staff by 19.2 positions instead of 20.2, with  on the elementary level and 9.2 at the secondary level

Restore the golf, bowling and swimming teams

Restored several clerical and maintenance and buildings and ground positions.

Sports, Extracurricular Cuts

Middle school sports $180,158 Intramural program added -$31,000 Bowling, golf and swimming added -$29,000 Net Reduction $120,158

Patch will have more in the coming days on the school transportation issue.






Elaine March 31, 2012 at 12:15 AM
No Jim R. If you had really read all the things I said you would see that's NOT what I'm saying at all! The core subjects are what needs to come first and I never said the arts or sports were more important! What I said is that there are a lot of kids who need these programs to to be able to afford college!!! Many kids go to college on sports or art scholarships but that doesn't mean they major in those things!! My college roommate went to school on a full basketball scholarship but she majored in business! " Toe tapping " as you so put it is the way my friends daughter got money via scholarship to go to college but she is majoring in biology!! THAT IS REALITY CAPTAIN CLUELESS!
Elaine March 31, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Kathy, I totally respect your opinion but on this topic we'll just have to agree to disagree. I grew up in Smithtown and we always had music, art, and gym. It's inconceivable to me that my children not have it.
Long Time Res. March 31, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Anyone who attended Tuesday nights High School Sports Award Night should have been as amazed as I was to see the HUGE number of athletes that received an award for maintaining a 90 or above average. Maybe SPORTS should be a requirement, and 4th grade teachers that can't get kids to read at a 1st grade level should be cut...... just a thought.
Elaine March 31, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Jim Ryan, I can see your point regarding the importance of a given "art form" to one person vs. another and yes I have seen the cup stacker! It was amazing! But yes you are right in what we really need to be pushing for are the things that actually would save us a significant amount of money. I said in another statement that a dance teachers salary is small potatoes compared to this bussing fiasco. I mean $1,000,000 savings! Listening to that board on this topic infuriates me. That they think some kids can start school at 7 a.m. And others not get out until 4:30 p.m. Is insane! It will be dark when they get home in the winter and leave no time for after school activities. But no, they would rather do this than privatize. Maddening to say the least. I agree, I think the unions are destroying our schools and the BOE is not putting the kids first.
concerned parent March 31, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Cannot speak for all teams but I can tell you my daughter is a middle school student in her second year playing at the high school and her coaches have been vigilant about checking grades, class participation, attendance & gym participation. If you are not carrying your weight there are enforced consequences. Some teams even utilize a system where the kids must submit weekly progress reports where all teachers sign off that the student is prepared & participating. Kids know their teammates are counting on them.
Ron March 31, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Why so quick to blame 4th Grade teachers? Maybe it's the genetics of Long Time Residents.
Jim Ryan March 31, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Hey Ron, a not-so-educated man once told me something that applies to your very comment: "Jim-I am not a very well educated man and maybe you are but you lost any and all credibility you had with your unnecessary and sophomoric comment" Why don't ya try practicing what ya preach, buddy?
d March 31, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I would just like to say, please read the stats of educating and grades when a child takes dance, music and sports. As said above their grades are high and they achieve more. I never thought it was true until I saw it. Within the past 4 years we have had someone play at the grammies, lax players get scholarships to top schools. Many grads going for drama, and one even became a movie director. We have wonderful classes that give the kids a feel for what's out there, and what they can do with their life. Maybe we should have only core classes and call it a day! (of course te last part is a joke, as I know someone will take it seriously). oh and yes, to stay in jazz band, lacrosse, baseball etc your grades must be up, if you get in trouble in school, your out! and the coaches are on top of it.
Elaine March 31, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Donna, Thank you! We have graduates who are attending Julliard and while not all kids can achieve that as I'm sure some will point out, those students wouldn't be where they are if they didn't have these opportunities in high school. Another point I'd like to make is that there aren't too many colleges out there who accept students that are not "well rounded". Colleges and Universities expect these kids to " do it all" and by that I mean good grades in core subjects as well as seeing good SAT scores and other interests such as art, music, dance, or sports. They want well rounded students! And you're right, it has been proven many times over that kids who play music do better in math!
Robert T. March 31, 2012 at 04:14 AM
There was a group of people not too long ago who wanted to eliminate music and arts, they were called Communists.
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Elaine- Again, I'm not saying your kids or any kids can not have art, music, dance and sports...I think they are all great! I just don't think the community should pay for them...I think the parents should pay for whatever their kids want to participate in. The system we have today has proven to be unsustainable. Whenever we funnel our money through a government agency there is waste and fraud. If school was more basic, they would get less of our money, therefore there would be less waste and fraud which would mean more money in your pocket to put your child in whatever program they want to be in.
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Elaine - What is insane is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I just discovered that back in 2005 or so, they proposed this same crazy bus schedule. What do they just have a 7 year rotation of budgets that they parade before us?
Jon C. March 31, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Personally as a student I think that theres too many extreme opinions being created by people who don't actually have to deal with the consequences of anything that happens. First of all theres no concrete ultimatum that it's either dance or full day Kindergarten. The fact of the matter is half day Kindergarten would save a little over 1 million dollars whereas dance would save the dance teacher's salary which is likely not much more than a hundred thousand dollars or so. So you mathematically can't just cut dance and magically save Kindergarten. You'd have to start cutting more which would most likely come out of the arts. That sounds like a minor problem but it's really not. I understand that importance must be placed on the core subjects but those alone are not enough to get into college anymore. I got into Syracuse university, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Oneonta all on regular decision and it certainly wasn't on my GPA alone. I'm highly involved in the schools music programs. I've been in both band and orchestra, i've taken music theory courses, I've been in the jazz band and currently I'm in the pit for the schools musical. These are the kinds of extracurriculars that colleges are looking for. They frankly don't care how well you did on your chemistry regents exam. Especially the non SUNY schools. Not only do music and arts help kids get into college they also keep the less ambitious out of trouble. Some kids wouldn't come to school if not for their art or music class.
Kathy March 31, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Jon C. - We all know that what you have described is the current atmosphere...what I'm doing is having a theoretical discussion on what it should be, not what will ever realistically happen. Generally, you get a much better education at private schools than at public schools for less money. This system of public schools spending other people's money is not working...they don't care how much they spend because they think they have an unlimited supply. Well, the bank of taxpayer just closed and the system needs to be re-worked so that it is sustainable for the future. We can no longer afford the taxes, it's as simple as that. As I have stated many times...I think that all of these things are great, sports, art, music etc...but I don't think that the taxpayers should be paying for every different thing that kids want to participate in. I would be amenable to the schools teaching trades so that kids who don't like school could learn something that could get them a job without going to college. We really need that and so do those kids. As for the kids who wouldn't go to school without art or music, I certainly don't want to pay for an education for a kid who doesn't want to learn, so I have no problem with them not going to school...can I have some fries with that?
Jon C. April 01, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I am going to disagree with you, not because i believe your conclusion to be invalid but because your facts are completely wrong. For example, look at st anthonys.... yes they may not have budget problems, but the students there are no better off and their parents are paying copious amounts to send them there, in addition to taxes. Realistically the economic conditon we are faced with is a tough situation, but pointing fingers doesnt solve any problems. We as a district need to prioritize, and art and music programs should place relatively high on the list. Think about how many students are pursuing careers in those fields, then compare it to the number of students whos lives are going to be centered around KINDERGARTEN. Put bluntly, the fact of the matter is that high school students are more important.... if for no other reason than they are making decisons that affect their entire futures. Tl;dr : kindergarten is not more important than art or music. We all have to make concessions during tough times, dont make these youngsters concede their futures.
know_it_all April 01, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Kathy: There is a H.S. for kids who want to learn a trade and not goto college. It's called Wilson Tech and it's currently offered.
Robert W April 01, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Looking at seethroughny on April 30th 2009 (the last year available) Dr Shea's salary was $255,000. Today that salary is $331,000! Anybody else get a $76,000 raise in 3 years? Keep telling yourself it's for the kids!
know_it_all April 01, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Also, I think it's pretty clear that the teachers make way too much. Not only should they have a pay freeze, they should take some pay cuts. Whoever thinks teachers are underpaid should check out SHUFSD salaries. They make much much more than me, and I'm a professional with more than 20 years experience.
joey April 01, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Couldn't agree more. The reason we are in this budget mess is because of salaries/pension/benefits. Each year the budget goes up because of the teacher/staff obligations. No one wants to admit it but the unions are the budget problem. Public school teachers and admins. on LI do better then most and they are greedy and will not give back when the public taxpayer is hurting. How sad!
Kathy April 01, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Jon C. - St. Anthony's tuition is $8500/yr. The per student cost to education children in the South Huntington school district is $24,000/yr. Something is wrong with that. Again, I'm not arguing that kids shouldn't take art, music, dance or sports...I just don't think taxpayers should be paying for it given our economic condition. I know it seems like public school is free...but it's not...that $24,000 per student per year comes from us, the taxpayers and we can't afford it anymore.
Kathy April 01, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Right, but it's frowned upon and offered to "at risk" kids mostly...kids are told practically from kindergarden that they must go to college to get a job. Now almost every kids goes to college, so college is the new high school...if you want to stand out in the job market you need a master's degree. Kids who don't go to college are looked down upon so as a result we have a shortage of tradesmen. My plumber can't find someone apprentice with him, so when he retires, so does his company. This is a great job, with a decent salary for someone who isn't academically inclined, but it is discouraged. I just read an article that said alot of those stimulus projects went to Chinese companies because they can produce the steel faster than we can because we have a shortage of welders in the US.
Harry Newman April 02, 2012 at 12:23 PM
know_it_all I am no big fan of teachers but my friend who had to pay for his Bachelors and Masters, a cost of 80k just to apply for a job that starts at 4ok and takes ten years to reach 80k is not so lucky. I guess the pay off for him is that you put up with Parents who think they know what it takes to be a teacher and a society that trashes you at every chance to have a pension 30 years later. I would rather make as more money in the private sector and save on my own for retirement. just sayin...
Kathy April 02, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Ganush....teachers in private schools make less and have less benefits and pensions than public school teachers. Our public school teachers make very good money for 7 months of work. Check out http://seethroughny.net/ for exact salaries.
Jim R. April 02, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Elaine - getting into college by being an artist or athlete is different than receiving a scholarship for those talents. That is not the issue we have been arguing.
Harry Newman April 02, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Kathy I agree with you but if you didn't offer a pension and some kind of tenure we wouldn't have any teachers. Why? because it is expensive to get certified, very political and your under a microscope. Why do we as a society and community expect Teachers to go above and beyond with our most precious children and demand they are certified to the hill and then blame them for the State and or the BOE mis-management of Community Taxes.
Kathy April 02, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Ganush...I'm not blaming the teachers...I blame the union and the system the state has set up...it's a huge mess. As for getting certified..it's meaningless, we still have bad teachers, many of them. We need to be able to fire ineffective teachers, but we can't...that's the problem. That's what makes private schools better...they keep only the best teachers.
John April 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Why is it the non real estate taxpaying illegal imigrant student or anchor child student are never brought into this conversation. Their are probably 250 students that fit this description throughout all the grades. At $24,000 a student that's $6,000,000 a year in costs. Multiply that number by 13 (K-12) grade levels and you have a $78,000,000 price tag without factoring in inflation. That's more than this years budget. There is the your problem.
stan linden April 02, 2012 at 09:25 PM
How comwe Cold Spring Harbor has no financial issues. Could it be the lack of minority students and Special Ed and ESL programs. Lets face the real problems . Union contracts and federal mandates that we are paying for.Many minority families do not pay taxes but their landlords do.And they are paying low taxes since they never declare it as a business. Lets tax all the residential real estate in south huntington that is being rented out at commercial real estate tax levels. School taxes are for a family, not not multiple families living in a single family home.
Sheldon April 02, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Mr. Linden gets the booby prize. Take it further and wonder why none of our elected officials who advocate housing and public programs live in the districts dealing with the issues he names. One day South Huntington and Huntington will wake up and join together in demanding that these are Town issues that must be shared by the Town.
Jim R. April 03, 2012 at 01:01 AM
You can't bring up the illegals otherwise you'll be called a racist. Just keep on paying higher and higher taxes and celebrate the diversity. </sarcasm>


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