District debate shifts from budget to declining enrollment


The Advisory Task Force on Facilities grappled with issues of space and educational program with relocating sixth and ninth grade students.

Nelson Gomez, Editor-in-Chief

Residents of the Massapequa School District voted to pass the district’s budget proposal for the 2013–2014 school year with a 72 percent approval. This year’s budget comes after several years of program cuts and uncertainty brought on by a property tax levy cap instituted by the state in June 2011. Exceeding this cap would require a supermajority, with 60 percent of voters approving the budget.

In a mailing sent to Massapequa residents, the district stated that although the proposed budget would not exceed the tax levy cap, “all current programs and class size guidelines [will] remain intact” with no reductions in services. The Massapequa School District spends the ninth-least amount of money per student in Nassau County.

“The average district spends about 26,600 dollars per student; the median is 26,737 [dollars]. We spend about 3,500 dollars less per student less than the average district,” Deputy Superintendent Mr. Alan Adcock said. “We are running a very efficient school district.”

While the district can propose a budget that exceeds the 2.12 percent cap, doing so would be highly difficult to pass due to a lack of public support: a budget requiring a supermajority has only passed three times in the past 40 years in Massapequa.

A similar effort to reduce costs had been implemented last year, as the school district cut supplies and expenditures deemed unnecessary.
However, declining enrollment has also reduced the amount of educators and supplies needed to operate. Lower enrollment at the elementary level has made it such that moving sixth grade classes to Berner Middle School could be considered by the task force.

District administration, educators and residents have thus debated whether to close schools or move the sixth and ninth grades to Berner and Massapequa High School, respectively. The Board of Education opted to organize the Advisory Task Force on Facilities to help determine the best course of action.

The task force recommended that ninth grade students be moved around the 2021–2022 school year. Superintendent of Schools Mrs. Lucille Iconis, however, advised that the task force continue to research the matter.

“[This committee] needs more answers and they need more time,” Mrs. Iconis said.

Parents were largely concerned about the move of sixth graders in particular due to fears of an unfamiliar social environment and a more crowded building affecting the quality of education that sixth graders would receive.

The risk of bullying and introduction to harmful social activities were also discussed, as well as the idea that the current sixth grade curriculum would be compromised by such a move.

“Research now will tell us what could happen in five years, what’s going to happen in ten years,” Massapequa resident Eileen Tumminello said. “I just don’t see how moving the sixth grade into an already crowded school is going to help anything down the line.”

Educators, however, believe that moving sixth graders to the middle school would ultimately provide a higher quality education for students, while offering additional resources such as a dedicated staff that would meet with sixth graders regularly, accelerated classes, language classes and dozens of clubs.

“As a district, and as a community, we owe it to our sixth grade students to put them in a situation where they can learn best,” Birch Lane sixth grade educator Mr. Brian Mulcahy said. “Every sixth grade in this district has different numbers. We don’t give the same experiences for each student.”
The Board of Education did not accept the task force’s recommendation at this time, and no further action will be taken by the current board.

“What the board chooses to do in the future is really up to the board,” Mrs. Iconis said.

Hopefully members of the Massapequa community will soon be able to walk away with more answers than questions.

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