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Students Pack Board Meeting, Defend Classes, Programs from Budget Cuts

Commack High School student groups organized speeches to show their support for continued funding of several honor societies, latin classes.

Commack High School students stepped up to the mic at Commack Board of Education meeting Thursday night to defend their beloved classes and programs from potential budget cuts. 

As school officials laid out their proposed plans under the  to cut three teaching assistants and 37.87 teachers from its staff – 17.24 from elementary schools, 10.1 from middle schools, 10.53 from the high school –it was the students who stole the spotlight at the mic. 

"I plan to continue studying Latin for the rest of my high school years. While I understand it's not finalized to be cut, we believe it's very vulnerable right now," said freshman Daniel Hosseinian. "We wanted to show you its support." 

He presented board trustees with a petition bearing more than 300 signatures in effort to show support for the school's Latin classes and Latin Honor Society, a group he was inducted into last week. 

Hosseinian was joined by junior Kayla Neville and other students from Commack's Latin Honor Society who verbally supported the program. The current Latin teacher ressigned, according to district spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch, which leaves students fearing the program is at risk of being cut.

"There has been no decision to eliminate Latin as a program. The current Latin teacher will not be with us next year, just because the teacher won't be here doesn't mean the program won't continue," said Adele Pecora-Dusanenko, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. 

But the Latin Honor Society was not the only student group concerned. Tri-M Music Honor Society students, led by their president Andrea Smith, stood together in pink, asking board trustees to reconsider cuts to the music program. 

Under the district's proposed 2012-13 budget, school officials recommend cutting 1.3 music teachers at the high school, 0.4 at the middle school. 

"It's especially important for the music department to have as many teachers as possible... If we continue to cut teachers back we will have singers teaching our violin players," a boy said. 

Students said fewer teachers would result in less lesson time, something that's become increasingly valuable as many can't afford to take private lessons. 

Both the Latin Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society will receive funding in 2012-13, according to the March 15 budget presentation. 

Katelyn Abshire, a third-grader at , spoke up in support of Commack's teachers. 

"I love everything about school, music, art, gym, intramurals in the morning, friends like student council and all things make a difference... Please do everything you can to keep these teachers that I love so much," Abshire said. 

Superintendent Donald James reiterated that the school board is in negotiations with all the school's bargaining units, including the teachers union, in hopes of preventing layoffs. James said he was "cautiously optimistic." 

James also said the district would be able to save 13 teaching positions if it proposed a 4.1 percent tax levy, the maximum allowable under Commack's tax cap, in response to questions at the March 26 community input meeting. 

The Commack Board of Education will hold an informal budget hearing on the overall budget 8 p.m. April 5 at . 

Taxxed April 02, 2012 at 12:29 AM
They are installing security cameras under a grant-can they now eliminate security guard positions and cars to reduce that $800+ line item?
Commack Daddy April 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
How do I feel about it? I assume you mean the Superintendent's raise/freeze? I think that it is awful. However, I think I've also made it clear that overall, I am OK with paying more in taxes to support the programs that my children want/like/need. I know you don't like that opinion and I hope on May 15th, I won't be alone, but if I am, well then that's what makes democracy such a great system. Like Commack Cares, I'm not one to speak in public, but am hoping that you are. Since you've said that you have already spoken at many budget hearings, I hope you follow your own lead and speak this Thursday.
TJ April 02, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Maybe they can install a traffic light with a red light camera in the parking lot of each school. Seems to be the new trend in Suffolk County to make money.
Jim Tampellini April 02, 2012 at 02:16 PM
The entire School Board needs to be replaced at the next election...despite their promises they have done nothing to make things better..all they have done is given both the Supt and Teacher's unwarranted and unaffordable increases in their contracts during this period of financial crisis.. They are perpetuating the system of entitlements and it this needs to be put to an end. The current Board is spineless and they do not have the guts to make the tough decisions that need to be made. They should all be voted out and replaced...
Michael April 02, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Agreed....voter apathy only perpetuates a flawed system.
Gregg April 02, 2012 at 04:17 PM
So we never heard back from Concerned Commakian. Are you going to raise our points at the BOE meeting on Thursday? Anyway, John, unfortunately you can't vote the BOE out at once. They have staggered terms and if I'm right, I think only Debbie Guber is up for re-election this year. Are you planning on running?
Jim Tampellini April 02, 2012 at 05:11 PM
It is unfortunate, so I guess it will have to be done one at a time. I may have to seriously consider running...
Michael April 02, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Hi John I was curious about that too, so I did a serach on the process. Here is the link. http://www.nyssba.org/index.php?category=leadership_dev&ref=RunningforBoard&src=gendocs
Scott April 02, 2012 at 06:43 PM
How do we confirm who's seat is up for election?
Michael April 02, 2012 at 06:44 PM
There is a flyer on the Commack website that says when members are up for reelection. This year its Debbie Guber, next year I believe its Jeff Egan
Taxxed April 02, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Next year Egan and Pennacchio are up. Pennacchio is a teacher/asst supt in a neighboring district.; Do you think that could have something to do with lucrative teacher contracts? Pennacchio won his last election, as I remember, because two people ran against him and thus split the votes of those against him. We cant let that happen again
Frustrated in Commack April 03, 2012 at 02:20 AM
State mandates increase. State aid decreases. Fair? Feasible? No, and we need to tell our legislators that in November! The cost of living and cost of anything does not decrease from yr to yr...I wish I knew, but how can anyone spend less yr to yr? Cutting some teachers due to enrollment decreases, nobody can argue that. But cutting teachers, programs, arts, music, sports for a few ya as someone suggested won't work, no matter how much better the economy gets, nobody is going to agree to pay more to add thing back.
Re April 03, 2012 at 03:02 AM
THE school district unions should take note of the following example set by the NYS unions .According to the 'SUNSHINE REVIEW' to balance the 2012 NY budget,The Civil Service Employees Association, the state's largest public-employee union representing 66,000 state workers,] made a deal with Gov. Cuomo that includes a three-year wage freeze, the first furloughs ever for state workers and an increase in the amount employees must pay toward their health insurance. The employee share of health care premiums would rise to between 12 percent and 16 percent based on the employee's salary. It also includes pay raises of 2 percent in the fourth and fifth years of the contract, which must be ratified by union members. If other unions in the state ratify deals with similar concessions, the state will save $73 million in FY2012, and as much as $1.6 billion over five years.[34] The union agreed to the plan to avoid the layoff of 9,800 state employees called for in the budget should public employee unions not make concession to save money.
susan r April 03, 2012 at 12:44 PM
You really should!!
Taxxed April 03, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Also note that the majority of state workers make far less in salary than LI teachers for working a full year. Commack teachers already pay approx 16% of their insurance, but it should be far more, 25-33%, so that cost increases are felt at the user level giving an incentive for more "shopping" to get better rates. If you are given something for almost free you tend to not care how much it costs and want it to remain a "Cadillac". I will be out of state for the next meeting, but would not have had a problem copying down all the questions on this post, telling the board where they came from, and asking for the answers- I hope someone fills in for me. use a pseudonym if you'd like they don't check your ID
Taxxed April 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Another suggestion would be to have one of our talented STUDENTS (hence learning experience and free) video the meetings and post them on the school website like many towns now do. If anyone wants to video and post on Youtube;I would watch
Michael April 03, 2012 at 01:47 PM
The meetings are as dry as toast to attend, so actually watching a video of one could put you into a coma.
Jim Tampellini April 03, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I certainly plan to attend the meeting on April 5.. I can't wait to see the line item budget that they promised.. although I still feel giving it out with only 2 weeks prior to the date for its adoption is part of an on overall strategy. They know by not disclosing it way in advance (like Northport and Hauppauge do) will limit the time people will have to review it and find the flaws, etc.. and correspondingly limits the amount of time there is to spread the word to the community about it...
Taxxed April 03, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Agreed to an extent, but it would still be nice to have access to video of what transpired. People who were unable to attend would then be able to see the original topic of this story, the Kids of Commack requesting of the people that be to not cut THEIR programs. I was inspired and am sure any who missed it and could view it would be too.
Michael April 03, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I dont know if I was inspired. I was hardly surprised that students wouldnt want to see things they love go away. Who wouldnt generally feel that way? In my humble opinion, that kind of action only serves to put the ball in the town's court and say "pass the budget", rather than perhaps providing an equitable solution for all involved.
Jim Tampellini April 03, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I agree with Michael. I also believe the kid's are very intelligent and if they were actually aware of the true facts underlying the financials and the ever increasing contracts etc..(instead of the self-serving propaganda the teacher's pump them with in school) that they might be a little upset with having been mislead, not to mention the Board's utter lack of fiscal restraint and flawed system.
Lorenzo April 03, 2012 at 04:41 PM
What's the answer then? Someone mentioned at the last meeting a "contract with the Kids" which sounded like a good idea. Put all the programs the kids now have in their contract and when it is time to negotiate other contracts you can throw the "we have a contract with the kids" line back at them. We can't give YOU A,B or C because we have a contract with the kids and don't have the funding for what you would like. And the kids would then have the right to strike!!
Anthony Zumpano April 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I concur that these meetings should be videotaped. Not everyone can attend them all (I made plans weeks ago for an event that prevents me from attending this Thursday, for example). The Patch recaps are definitely helpful (I can only imagine how in-the-dark people must have been before all the Internets were invented), but I'd like to be able to view the meeting in its entirety.
Michael April 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Ok Anthony. Ill send over a bucket of popcorn to enhance your viewing enjoyment!!! Fake butter or no? LOL
Michael April 03, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Thats a novel idea, but I can not see it having any effectiveness when its time to discuss the "business" of education.
Michael April 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I know what you mean by not disclosing. Take a look at the memo that I have linked here. Be especially in tune with the yellow highlighted area. Now, if you are a "CEO" and you know that upward pressure will continue to be applied to your costs for the forseeable future, wouldnt you act proactively to offset those known increases? Unfortunately, that never happens here. There is only a 12 month "viewfinder" in the district office when it comes to planning. http://www.nystrs.org/main/admbull/bull2012-1.pdf
Michael April 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
This is awesome too. Go to page nine of this presentation and take a look at where suffolk lands. http://www.nystrs.org/main/library/2011NYSTRS_Numbers.pdf
Anthony Zumpano April 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Tito's vodka does it best.
Michael April 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Cant do it. Not fair to watch it with dulled senses!!!!!
Jim Tampellini April 04, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Michael, those 2 sites were very informative. It's really incredible how badly this BOE has managed the District... We need to get this info. out to the taxpayers so they can see beyond the self-serving rhetoric being thrown at them by the Union, the Board etc.

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