It was a bittersweet victory for Glen Cove City School District when the Board of Education approved its proposed $109 million budget for the 2022 to 2023 school year. However, the district’s lack of transparency and use of funds for Landing and Deasy elementary schools were questioned by some residents throughout the board’s meeting on April 13.
“I will tell you that this board and the boards that have been here for the last nine years have focused on transparency,” Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna said. “I think we have provided that time and time again.”
The tax levy for the upcoming school year’s budget will be raised 1.8-percent, $73,000,000. It’s a $1,400,000 increase from the current 2021 to 2022 1.6-percent tax levy.
Susan Jerzewski, of Glen Cove, pointed out that her school taxes were the highest she has had to pay, and she did not understand why it came at the taxpayers’ expense for the district to have a surplus for capital projects, such as the extensions.
“You're just taking our money from us too soon,” Jerzewski said. “And then you're putting it into a savings account.”
Former board member and Glen Cove resident, Gail Nedbor-Gross, questioned why the public was not involved during the planning of the proposition to extend schools and that the money should have been put towards science labs in the middle and high schools instead. For transparency, she added, the board should post their contracts online.
“The board in the past insisted on putting up the contracts for transparency purposes,” Nedbor-Gross said. “Not because it was mandated. It's because we wanted to show what is going on. So, the public knows.”
The majority of the funds for the extensions at Deasy and Landing elementary schools will come from the $7,500,000 that the district received through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act and American Rescue Plan. The plans are to add four classrooms, an elevator and bathrooms in each building. The district needs voter approval to transfer the funds saved in its capital reserve to cover construction costs.
Lia Leone, the board’s president, defended the proposition by saying that when Covid hit, every student was unable to be in the classroom as well as when school was hybrid because there was no space. And the buildings, she added, require repairs.
“We desperately need more space in our buildings,” Leone said. “We need our buildings to be renovated, we have floods, we have mold, we have all these other things that need to be taken care of.”
Glen Cove parent, Trish Telese, who supported the extension, said that after seeing the classroom sizes during parent-teacher conferences, she realized that the classrooms are “tiny” compared to other districts.
“If you really want to get a handle on this,” Telese said, “take a walk through another school district where the classroom sizes are larger and can really accommodate children.”
Jerzewski and Nedbor-Gross asked the district to justify its need for the money through the district’s reading and math scores.
“I think you need to start showing accomplishments and how we are comparing that with past years to justify the spending of this money and asking the taxpayers of Glen Cove to fund it,” Jerzewski said.
Leone countered that the district’s schools have been actively posting its students’ successes on their social media, website and app.
“There are pictures of their students doing project building [and] being scientists outside with clipboards,” Leon said. “They're really doing a lot of great things.”
Rianna noted that the district has been open to the public’s input by extending its hours to listen to any concerns from residents, and information has been made available on the website to view.
A presentation was held on March 16 of the current math and reading progress for elementary and middle school grade levels.
Telese noted that the district has helped her third-grade son flourish with his communication and technology skills.
“Our kids are thriving,” Telese said. “My son is thriving; he is writing beyond anything that I was doing in third grade.”
A budget meeting will be held at the next board meeting on May 4. The budget vote is on May 17.