Springs School Revives Parent Committee

The board voted unanimously at its meeting on Monday night to reinstate a site-based planning committee

    Following concern expressed at last month’s meeting of the Springs School Board that not enough parents have been involved in decision making, the board voted unanimously at its meeting on Monday night to reinstate a site-based planning committee, which has been required by the New York State Education Department since 1994. The board also was updated by Thomas Primiano, the district treasurer, about the ways the district is likely to be impacted by the Affordable Care Act.

    John Finello, district superintendent, told the 10 parents and community members in attendance, that the site-based committee would include three administrators, two teachers, two PTA members, two community representatives, one of whom would be from the Latino community, a representative of Project MOST, the after-school program, and the district clerk.

     Eric Casale, the school principal, said a site-based committee had met last during the 2005-6 school year, and Timothy Frazier, a board member, noted that several local districts also had struggled to meet the regulation.

    Mr. Finello said the committee’s focus would be “all-encompassing,” with members having the opportunity to make recommendations “as to changes or courses of action they would like to see accomplished.” Mr. Frazier urged that issues related to limited space and growing enrollment be tackled, among other priorities. The committee, which will meet bimonthly, requires state approval, which Mr. Finello said he hoped to receive “within a few weeks.”

    But some parents wondered whether the committee would truly engender participation. “I encourage the board to have more than one member of the Latino community,” said Donna Sutton, a parent, noting that the school’s Latino population had swelled to more than half. “I urge you not to move forward by continuing to invite the usual suspects, people you know and are already comfortable working with.”

    With regard to health insurance, Mr. Priamiano told the board that beginning in January of 2015, part-time employees who work 30 hours a week (or 130 hours in a given month) will be required to receive coverage paid for by the district. The district now provides health coverage only for full-time employees.

    Teaching assistants, custodians, bus drivers, and other part-time employees are likely to be included, along with their dependents up to the age of 25. Their spouses will not be covered, however. In the coming months, the district will begin an analysis of how many additional part-time employees will qualify for coverage in order to help predict future costs.

    With budget talks looming for the coming year, John Grant, a board member, didn’t mince words: “We need to know the cost to the district.”

    In other topics at the meeting, Mr. Casale presented a monthly update on enrollment, reporting 725 students this month. Board members voted to increase the monthly housing allowance provided to Mr. Finello, who relocated to Springs upon accepting the part-time job as superintendent earlier this year. They had originally budgeted $3,000 a month; the allowance will now be $3,600 to cover utilities as well as rent.

    Frank Perry, an auditor with Rizzi, Schwarz and Taraskas, a Patchogue accounting firm, also presented recent findings. He said the district was in good financial shape, and made no significant recommendations.

    The next school board meeting is to take place on Monday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m.