“I’m disappointed in this budget,” Stuyvesant Wainwright IV, a parent, said during the public hearing portion of Monday night’s Springs School budget meeting. “I feel like you sold out the school.” He spoke of the community forum on Feb. 11, when, he claimed, “70 percent of the community said to get rid of prekindergarten.”
Mr. Wainwright said he believed the board has “favored kindergarten through fifth grade at the expense of the middle school.” Because of budget constraints, the board has eliminated several teaching positions, restructured the sixth grade, and cut interscholastic middle school sports in conjunction with the East Hampton schools. It has also discontinued funding for the after-school program Project MOST.
“I don’t feel this budget reflects the wishes of the community,” Deb Foster, a former school board member and vocal attendee of its meetings, said. “This is where you guys are not serving the taxpayers or the students.”
Mary McPartland echoed those thoughts: “We rescued the elementary school,” she said. “We did not rescue the middle school.” She acknowledged that she has “very little skin left in the game,” as her son is a seventh grader, but she spoke passionately, as did Janice Varizi, another parent, about the importance of the sports programs that are being cut.
“It’s not only about Springs,” Ms. McPartland said. “The high school teams draw heavily from this district. How will it affect them?”
Ms. McPartland and Ms. Varizi said they are looking into starting a booster club, a common occurrence in other districts nationwide. Booster clubs are individual nonprofit organizations that can hold benefits to raise money for particular programs and then funnel that money to the school.
Also on Monday, John Foster, the school’s health teacher, gave a presentation on sex education, which is currently touched upon lightly in fifth grade with a film — one for boys and one for girls — and then not discussed again until eighth grade. Mr. Foster’s plan spreads out sex ed throughout the middle school, with individual topics of contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, hygiene, and sexual orientation, among others.
“A parent will have the right to allow their child to not attend,” he said.
“There needs to be a dialogue,” said Kathee Burke Gonzalez, the school board president. “You gave a tremendous presentation, but when you talk about teaching contraception in sixth grade, I go, ‘Whoa!’ It sounds, to me, like going a little too far.”
Ms. Gonzalez asked the crowd to “have patience” on Tuesday during the budget and board vote, since the district is reverting this year to paper ballots.
She also said there was a “tremendous turnout” for the meet-the-candidates night for potential superintendents on April 26. Also, 235 people applied for the job of assistant principal, a new position at the school. The field has been narrowed to eight candidates who will be interviewed by the board.
Ms. Gonzalez said she anticipates that the names of the new district superintendent and assistant principal will be announced at the June 11 school board meeting.