Over the past week, the Herald Gazette has received a half-dozen calls from Glen Cove residents without children in the city’s school district who wished to voice their concern with or opposition to the school district’s proposed $84.6 million bond referendum to repair and renovate Glen Cove’s facilities.
Meanwhile, many parents remained firm in their position that the schools are in desperate need of repair.
Rick Smith, a Glen Cove resident and owner of The Piano Exchange on School Street, said that the bond is unnecessary and would hurt city residents.
After seeing all six of the district’s schools during the guided tours offered by the district, Smith said he concluded that funding is not being used properly.
“I’d like to see them spend money on education and teachers if they’re going to spend money at all,” he said. “I don’t think they’re spending the money in the right place. There are always things that need to be maintained, but this is an astronomical amount of money.”
Christopher Moll, who has a daughter in sixth grade at Finley Middle School, disagreed. “This has to get done because these buildings are old,” he said, “and it’s time to update them. You can’t make the changes and updates we need just by taxes — we need a bond. No school district makes these types of changes without a bond.”
Moll is a member of the group, Vote Yes March 12, spearheaded by former Board of Education vice president Maria Venuto. She said that every provision of the bond is necessary, but there is one which must take priority. “We have to deal with the safety things because of the climate of gun violence in schools,” she said. “That makes it very essential.”
Smith did not comment about safety, but added that he finds misleading the district’s assertion that the bond would cost $36.53 per month in taxes for residents with an average property value of $500,000. Many of Glen Cove’s homes are valued in the millions, he said, so many residents would see a higher tax increase. As a business owner, he also said that commercial properties would have to pay a higher tax rate, which he said he believes was ignored during the district’s bond discussions.
Peter Crisci and Christopher Stewart both rent in Glen Cove. They worry that a rise in property taxes could cause an increase in rent. While Crisci did not go on the school tours, he said, “I just can’t imagine that the schools would need that much repair. It sounds like they’re so bad that they shouldn’t be open.”
Rosemarie Chicvak, a mother of fourth- and fifth-graders at Landing Elementary School, argued, “We need the infrastructure of the schools to be fixed. We have 100-year-old schools that have Band-Aids on them . . . We’re looking for a roof. We’re looking for ceilings that aren’t falling down.”
When the Herald Gazette spoke with resident Jan Warner, she said that she had not yet decided on how she would vote, but was skeptical of the district’s intentions.
“I went on the tours with [district officials], and some of the things just didn’t make sense,” Warner said, explaining that most of what she was told seemed relatively inconsequential, such as the replacement of floor tiles and paint chipping off doors. She said she thought entirely replacing the doors in each classroom would be excessive, because the current doors could be improved instead.
Lia DiPaola Leone, the mother of a fourth-grader at Connolly Elementary School and a kindergartner at Gribbin Elementary, said she believes that security is of the utmost importance. “I hope that our students have a safer and more healthy place to be on a daily basis,” she said. “The learning environment needs to match the level of education that they’re getting through their hard-working teachers.”
In terms of what she would prefer the district to spend money on, Warner said, “There’s not one thing in this bond that’s directed toward the education of the kids.”
In response to comments about the lack of items on the bond that explicitly refer to education, both Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna and Board of Education President Gail Nedbor-Gross said that the renovations to the schools would have a positive effect on student learning, even though it may not be obvious at first glance.
“All of the projects will impact the educational environment,” Rianna said. “There’s plenty of research that supports [the importance of] learning in safe, secure environments.”
The bond vote will take place on March 12, and voters can cast their ballots at Glen Cove High School and Connolly Elementary School from 7 a.m.
to 9 p.m.