Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

All inquiries should be addressed to the Larchmont Historical Society.

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Open Issues Resolved; School Budget Remains at 2.08% Tax Increase

Sandwiched between executive sessions to discuss collective bargaining and employment matters, the school board convened for a short public meeting on April 13 to hear Superintendent Paul Fried’s recommendations on a few open budgetary issues, including support for mainstreaming at Central School and for the district business office.

None of the recommendations will change the bottom line, however.  After a number of drafts with increasingly refined revenue projections and spending cuts, the budget remains at $122 million, representing a 1.22% increase over last year.  The tax increase is 2.08%. If adopted, this would be the smallest budget increase in recent history.

The budget will result in reductions of 52.8 employees, 10.3 of them teachers.  Because of retirement and attrition, however, the actual job loss is 43.4 employees, only 5.9 of them teachers.  Dr. Fried said the number of jobs lost may be even lower due to employee leaves.

Have You Voted Yet? Take the Poll:

If the vote were today, how would you vote on Mamaroneck’s school budget? As of April 7, the budget is $122M, up 1.22% from last year; the tax increase is 2.08%.

  • Yes (48%, 206 Votes)
  • No (47%, 202 Votes)
  • Undecided (5%, 19 Votes)
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Teacher Givebacks Appear Unlikely

There was no mention at the meeting of the proposal made by the teachers’ union at least a week ago, and neither Dr. Fried nor Mamaroneck Teachers Association President Ann Borsellino has been willing to comment publicly on the terms of the offer. (UPDATE:  the MTA and district issued clashing releases on the topic late Thursday afternoon.)

New Mainstreaming Plan at Central School Adds Staff But No Dollars

Dr. Fried reported that he and the school board had “listened well” to concerns raised by Central parents in the past weeks and at a meeting that morning attended by some 50 Central parents, former Central parents and teachers.  In the Central meeting, Dr. Fried and Central Principal Carol Houseknecht encouraged “flexibility and fluidity” in addressing mainstreaming.

Currently at Central, large class sizes result when 4-5 special education students are included in regular classes for activities such as art, music, library and physical education.  Class size in a number of grades at Central next year will be at the top of the board’s guidelines, even without the additional students.

Dr. Fried recommended that the board address the situation by employing a model similar to the one currently used at Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS).

At Central, all the students in a self-contained class currently mainstream at the same time into the art, music or other special classes, which serves both the students’ needs to socialize and the district’s contractual obligation to give the teacher a preparation  period.

At MAS, however, students in self-contained classes attend specials together as a class, which gives their teacher the contractual prep period.  Socialization needs are met by a more flexible approach, where 1-2 students at a time mainstream into regular classes for activities appropriate for them, whether academic lessons, morning meetings, additional specials or some other activity.

Dr. Fried reported that his recommended approach might require additional staffing to accommodate the additional special education music classes, but the other extra classes could probably be scheduled with current personnel.  This plan would not add to the budget because it would use funds freed up when a sharp-eyed parent noticed that Central needs only three teachers – not the four projected by the district – to cover classes for 75 students expected in that grade next year.

Board member Nancy Pierson asked Dr. Fried if he was comfortable with the plan educationally, even if mainstreaming 1-2 students would cause some classes to slightly exceed the guideline.   “I am comfortable with that,” Dr. Fried replied.

Ms. Pierson appeared satisfied and characterized the plan as “a great idea,” noting that her own daughter, now graduated, would have benefited from  “pre-teaching” in areas like music before mainstreaming.

Specifics of Business Office Support Undetermined, But No Money Added to Budget

Similarly, there was no net effect on the budget from the board’s determination to include a $50,000 line item to support Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein in the Business Office.  Next week, Ms. Rubinstein will present the board with suggested cuts in other areas to make up the difference.

Yet to be determined is what the support should look like:  an assistant business manager (which is a civil service position), a business official with administrative certification, or a consultant?   Someone to help with budget preparation, or a specialist in strategic thinking and long-term planning?

Although the board members initially disagreed about whether the position should be funded before it was determined exactly what type of person they were looking to hire, they ultimately decided it was appropriate to plan on hiring someone mid-year once the role has been defined.  “I don’t want to wait a year,” said Linnet Tse, the board president.

Community member Jon Sacks encouraged the board to move ahead, suggesting that additional assistance in the budget office would be “instrumental in driving savings.”  And, he argued, if the position were not implemented before the 2011-2012 budget process, the board would likely have to respond to charges that “you are replacing a teacher with this position.”

Ms. Rubinstein’s research indicated that nine other large Westchester school districts — including Chappaqua, Scarsdale and Katonah — have an assistant business manager.   Ms. Tse noted that Mamaroneck is the second-largest non-city school district in Westchester.

Dr. Fried recommended that board members and community members work with the new superintendent and Ms. Rubinstein to determine what the position should entail.

Donations Filling Budget Gaps?

Dr. Fried said parent groups have already begun fund raising to fill  gaps left by the recommended budget, which has reduced or eliminated various programs.  He noted that a group of PACE parents have raised $10,000 to make up for budget cuts that would have eliminated two of the six extracurricular PACE shows in the 2010-2011 school year.

Dr. Fried said he will be meeting with Athletic Director Bari Suman to bring forth criteria for determining the type of donations the district would accept to reinstate sports teams that have been cut. The district would not allow, for example, that only children of donors be included on a team. The criteria would also address issues of equity between boys and girls teams, said Dr. Fried.

Final Steps on Budget

Dr. Fried and Ms. Suman will present their recommendations at the next board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 7:30 pm in the Tiered Classroom.  At that meeting, the board will also adopt its budget and appoint Dr. Robert Shaps as the new superintendent, effective July 1, 2010.

The community will vote on the school budget on May 18.
Melany Gray volunteers with the PACE Parents Committee; her children attended Central School.

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11 comments to Open Issues Resolved; School Budget Remains at 2.08% Tax Increase

  • interesting

    Regarding the business office : there are 60 (sixty) clerical positions on the payroll and 1 position of trade-unionist, surely, out of these 61 individuals, efficiency gains can be realized to provide assistance in the business office ? If the District wishes to find out how, then it ought to meet up with the religious schools in the neigborhood and find out how they manage an admin to studen or admin to teaching staff ratio that is five times less than that of the public schools.

  • Helping all kids/schools

    Hopefully the flexibility will solve some of the overall issues with mainstreaming but it is still unfortunate and unfair that children at Central will still be placed in a scenario (class size over maximum for part of their day) that no child at ANY other elementary school in district will be placed in. Better but still unfair.

  • How many people are working as Secretaries, Teachers, Administrators that are over 75?
    If they retire, can’t new employees be hired at a lower cost. How much of a savings would occur if twenty individuals in this age group retired?

  • Cautious

    Perhaps we should consider waiting in terms a decision with regard to the Central School dilemma and the hiring of another staff member to assist Ms. Rubenstein until the new Superindentent arrives since he has achieved many cost efficiencies in the Hastings district. Curious, as well, how much Ms. Rubenstein earns (with salary and benefits).

    • Jonathan Sacks

      The recommendation at the board meeting was to wait until the new Superintendent arrives. The position needs to be vetted further with a full job description, agreement on objectives between the new Superintendent and the Board. Only ½ of the salary was to be allocated in this year’s budget giving ample time to properly fill it. As someone intimate with the issue, the inability of the school system to fully manage a $122mm enterprise is contributing to waste. Unlike other School Positions enhancing the business office through this staff addition will certainly generate a significant return on investment.

  • Concerned Parent

    I have decided, after reading all of the available material that I am willing to vote in favor of the 2010-11 Mamaroneck school budget even though my taxes will go up. However, this year I am demanding something in return for my money from the school board:
    An immediate no exceptions resolution that goes into effect at the beginning of next year requiring teachers at the Hommocks and the High school to post homework assignments nightly and all test/quiz /project grades, on-line so they are able to be accessed by parents and students alike. It is past time that our district steps into the 21st century.


    Concerned Parent, I am not willing to increase our budget this year because our economy is in a deflationary decline. Teachers do not deserve a 4% increase when the cost of living is decreasing.

    However, I think you are “right on the money” by expecting our community to step into the 21st century and prepare our students for the real world and college, by posting everything online. I am hoping that our new Superintendent can lead us in this new direction.

  • Long Time Larchmonter

    As a second generational Larchmonter since 1976, now raising two children within the school district I am appalled by the budget being put forward as a result of union concessions and the funds being spent to study a princeton program.

    The Mamaroneck Teachers Union needs to get back in touch with reality where not everyone receives a 5%+ increase on a YOY basis with a near minimal contribution to health care and pension costs. In most industries you are told what your contribution will be and if you don’t like it you may choose to move on to a different employer. The teachers union, administrators and the persons running the school all need to make sacrifices during these hard times especially if you ask people to reach into their pocket to pay additional tax levies.

    The Princeton plan being put forward is a waste of time which will further devalue our properties resulting in lower tax assessments and an additional tax burden relative to the value of the homes. This plan will cause great inconvenience to working parents (many of whom move here for neighborhood schools) and an added cost for transportation for both the schools and the parents.

    Longer term the writing on the wall is evident that persons living in the Larchmont/Mamaroneck community will begin to choose private schools or move elsewhere as they have the economic power of choice.

    If you do not act now to bring the teachers union back to reality this year or next year when the contract is up you will be facing a mass exodus the likes of which you may have never seen before.

    My wife & I along with our neighbors fully intend on voting no to the school budget this May unless the teachers share in the sacrifices. The tag line is always “children first” until you ask a teacher or administrator to make a sacrifice. That being said eliminating aids while it may go unnoticed as grave consequences to the children and teachers remaining in the class room.

    • Jonathan Sacks

      The Princeton Plan is NOT being studied. A Transportation study is being done to review efficiencies to see if there is an opportunity to reduce costs. One small segment (I believe under $3,000) will be spent to evaluate the Princeton plan impact on Transportation IF it was to happen. This is being done so the money will not be spent a second time IF the board decides to study the plan in total. There is no recommendation or budget on the table at this point to fund a Princeton plan study.

      Voting No on the budget will not bring the unions back to the table. Voting No will simply remove more teachers and reduce services even further. Another $1.2mm reduction in the budget is not responsible. The 2011 budget and beyond is where fundamental change must happen to create a sustainable school system.

      • Anon E Mous

        To: Mr. Sacks
        From: Mr. Jefferson
        Re: Voting no and then fixing the budget
        Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

  • Anon E Mous

    From: Laurence J. Peter

    To: Larchmont/Mamaroneck

    Memo: ‘There is no stigma attached to recognizing a bad decision in time to install a better one.’