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 .