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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.



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School Board Adopts $122M Budget, Appoints Superintendent

In contrast to the last half dozen budget sessions over the past three months, attendance was sparse on April 20 as the Mamaroneck School Board formally adopted the 2010-2011 budget and took other important steps in preparing for the future, including appointing a new superintendent.

Budget Adopted with No Changes in Numbers

The budget adopted is $122 million, up 1.22% from last year.  The tax increase will be 2.08%.

These numbers have not changed since the April 6 budget meeting, although what’s included has changed slightly.  The adopted budget includes $50,000 set aside for the board to hire an assistant business manager should it determine next year that such an addition would make sense.

Currently, Assistant Superintendent for Business Operations Meryl Rubinstein is responsible for all aspects of finance and compliance, including payroll, accounts payable and receivable, purchasing, investments, transportation, construction and school lunch, as well as preparing and administering a $120 million budget.  Ms. Rubinstein explained later that the $50,000 for the assistant was put together by shaving costs in several line items, including overtime in the business office.

Dr. Fried reminded the board and the community that adoption of the budget had followed “lots and lots of opportunity for community input,” with “different decisions” made along the way after hearing from the community about “what they could live with.”  Economic challenges have required reductions of 79 positions over the past two years, with the district moving from 897 positions in 2008-2009 to a projected 818 positions for 2010-2011.  Eighty percent of the staffing cuts have been non-instructional.

In preparing the budget, Dr. Fried said, he and his team constantly re-evaluated their assumptions.  As a result, some projected revenues went up and some expense projections went down.  “It wasn’t done by magic and wasn’t anything that was being withheld,” he explained.

The only public commentary on the budget came from community member Jonathan Sacks, who has been an outspoken and sometimes critical participant at the numerous budget meetings.

“I really endorse this budget,” he said, praising the board, Dr. Fried and his team for cutting costs while maintaining the level of quality education.  He also enthusiastically endorsed school board member Nancy Pierson, who is up for reelection.

One of Three New Administrators Hired

The board formally appointed Dr. Robert Shaps, currently superintendent of the Hastings-on-Hudson schools, as the next superintendent of the Mamaroneck schools, effective July 1.  “It’s an understatement,” said Dr. Shaps in his brief remarks, “to say that I’m thrilled by the opportunity.”

The Mamaroneck School Board appointed Dr. Robert Shaps as superintendent, effective July 1.

Dr. Fried, who will be retiring from the New York system and becoming the superintendent in Montville, New Jersey, reported that searches are underway to fill two other administrative positions.  A large number of resumes have already been received for the Chatsworth assistant principal position, said Dr. Fried, and a process is being set up to replace Mamaroneck High School Principal Mark Orfinger, who announced his retirement two weeks ago.

Time to Move Past Union Concession Offer

Dr. Fried briefly addressed the school board’s rejection of concessions offered by the teachers’ union.  They were “pleased” that the Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association (MTA) had come forward, he said. But the district felt that with less than one year to go before negotiations would begin on the teachers’ contract, accepting the concessions, which would have required extending the current contract another two years, was not in the district’s best interests.

Acknowledging that some people were upset by the resolution of the issue, Dr. Fried noted, “we need to move forward and work with the MTA.”  It’s time, he said, to “move into the next phase of the budget” – the budget vote — and contract negotiations.

Criteria for Restoring Athletic Teams

The approved budget cuts some athletic teams, but the district will accept private funds to restore some of the cuts, as long as the board approves the donations, as required by law. To help the board decide whether to accept donations, Dr. Fried and Athletic Director Bari Suman presented the board with some guidelines.

District teams currently are balanced by gender, with forty girls’ teams and forty boys’ teams. Dr. Fried suggested the board should seek to maintain that balance by using donated funds to restore teams in pairs, if possible.

Athletic Teams Cut in Adopted Budget

(cuts maintain 3 teams in each affected sports)

Girls Modified Field Hockey Boys Freshman Football
Girls Modified Volleyball Boys JV Soccer
Girls Modified Basketball Boys Freshman Basketball
Girls Modified Softball Boys Freshman Baseball

Dr. Fried did not think that the district’s obligations under the federal Title IX statutes would be impacted by restoring more teams for one gender than the other, but Ms. Suman and Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein will confirm with the district ‘s attorneys.

Dr. Fried noted that to reinstate a team, donated funds would need to cover all costs, including coaching salaries, uniforms, equipment, transportation and officials’ fees.  Potential donors can contact Ms. Suman for information about the costs involved for a particular team.

In addition, the funds would need to be received in time for the district to schedule games.  For fall sports, scheduling will need to be done very soon.

If a team is reestablished, noted Dr. Fried, the district would assume “complete jurisdiction” over the team,.  “It’s not a parent-run sport even if parents donate the dollars,” said Dr. Fried.

Moreover, to avoid any appearance of undue influence, Dr. Fried recommended that the names of individual donors not be shared with coaches and advisors.

These criteria will be posted on the district website, together with other procedures being developed by Ms. Rubinstein with the PTAs to facilitate parent donations.

Further Steps Towards the Future

At the conclusion of his budget presentation, Dr. Fried articulated several ways in which the district was preparing for the future.  Although placed at the bottom of his list, renegotiating contracts with the five bargaining units — all of which expire at the end of next year — has been the topic that has generated the most community buzz.

Work with a new forecasting model will allow greater ability to project budget data into the future, Dr Fried said.  A budget advisory committee and the potential assistant business manager will help the district to maximize resources, as will the transportation study that was recently approved.

That study will look for efficiencies in the transportation department under the current configuration of the district’s six schools, explained Dr. Fried, but it will also research transportation costs of a Princeton Plan, which would pair elementary schools so that the lower grades of both schools would attend one campus and the upper grades would attend the other.

A Princeton Plan is not being considered for the following year, noted Dr. Fried.  Before the board would consider such a change, Dr. Fried clarified, there would need to be a “far wider look” at how instruction would be impacted and what cost savings might be achieved, as well as lots of community input.

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25 comments to School Board Adopts $122M Budget, Appoints Superintendent

  • Anon E Mous

    Of course, we’re not Buffalo http://nypublicpayrollwatch.com/daily_updates/archives/2010/04/price_of_vanity.html or so we believe :-)

    Does the Larchmont Gazette have a copy of the new District Superintendent’s contract? Does the 2010-2011 School District Budget reflect cost savings from a new contract with containing a reduction in the Superintendent’s total comp?

    ‘I sometimes think we ought to bring a bill before Congress changing our national symbol from the eagle to the buffalo, because we are more like the buffalo than the eagle. The eagle is a powerful bird. It flies alone. It rises up into the sky with authority. It is master of all it surveys. The eagle is an individualist and was selected from among the rest of the birds to be our symbol. But the buffalo was never alone. It always ran in a herd with other buffaloes. And, friends, I call your attention that the buffaloes are gone from the open range, but the eagles are still soaring.’ – Norman Vincent Peale

  • Lauren

    I can’t believe they are spending money on the Princeton Plan study. I have talked to people from all four elementary schools and I have not heard one person who wants this plan. The study is a waste of money. They should first do a simple poll to find out if the community would support this plan regardless of the savings. Why don’t they get the PTA Presidents to call a meeting for a vote at each school? They do that for the budget every year. Have it at the same time.

    • Anon E Mous

      Once upon a time, Lauren, in the tri-municipalities, there was a proposal to double the amount of services delivered to residents and also cut their taxes in half. Almost everybody was in favor of that. Then plans were heard for a public hearing and then a vote could occur. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, the proposal disappeared like a genie in a mystical whiff of smoke :-)

      Now suppose this were the school plan: Two of the four elementary schools would work on the basis of the ‘Princeton Plan’ and attendance would be free. The other two of the four elementary schools would work on the basis of the current neighborhood proximity ‘plan’, but parents of students who chose those schools had to pay $25,000/year for each child they sent to one of those two schools. Parent’s choice. Everybody gets their way. So just how do you think that would affect ‘demand’ for the various elementary schools?

      Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. – Aaron Levenstein

    • 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.

  • Groundhog Day

    The biggest issue I have with spending money on analyzing a Princeton Plan is that we currently don’t seem to expend much time, effort, or money on reviewing/analyzing plans we currently have in place, which could save us far more money, take a lot less time and effort, and make a lot more sense than implementing a completely new plan.

    For instance:

    (i) MAS Reduced Class Sizes – expensive and (potentially) not effective long-term. 10 years ago the then Board and Superintendant decided to implement lower caps on MAS class sizes in order to address a concern that the large percentage of economically disadvantaged students in that school (currently 35%) were not performing as well as other students. I am fully supportive of helping these students; however, I do not have any evidence that this expensive program does help them long-term. Despite inquiry from various members of the community, I have yet to see or hear of any long-term benefit that these students have actually received. In fact, the Mamaroneck HS graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students for 2009 was only 59% (less than the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students in most Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and New Rochelle high schools). If this program is not giving the targeted students the desired benefit, how about analyzing another program/system that would (that might even cost less). According to the Board, the Princeton Plan would only “save” us 8 teaching positions (and we would incur busing expenses). Equalizing the class sizes (which could be done immediately and would be an effect of the Princeton Plan, anyway) would “save” us 5 to 6 teaching positions. It seems the current system is both failing the students it is purporting to help and wasting taxpayer money. I would be happy to be proven wrong, but to date I have not received any information/data to support the long-term benefits of this expense to the students it is supposed to be helping (which is unfortunate for both them and us). Why not analyze this further, actually help these students long-term, and possibly save the taxpayers money in the meantime?

    (ii) BOCES. A worthwhile program – if it works. I think it is wonderful that we provide this alternative to our students. As significantly more expense is incurred for these students, at numerous Board meetings citizens have asked for some accountability – e.g. what percentage of these students have completed the program and graduated? What percentage of these students have gone-on to work in their respective trade? Can we bring any of these programs “in-house” and reduce expenses. Apologies if I missed it (I am being sincere here, not sarcastic — DVRs aren’t a perfect technology and I have not seen 100% of every Board meeting), but I do not recall ever hearing anything more than “we will look into it”.

    (iii) Reserves. I believe at one Board meeting a Board member indicated that we were getting less than .5% on our reserves. I know that I am getting over 1.0% on my savings (major bank, not a CD, and a significantly lower balance than the reserves). This is over double what it appears the District is getting and could mean a significant amount of money.

    I appreciate that the Board is made-up of volunteers and appreciate their time, but we need first to understand and analyze the programs we have, prior to embarking on analyzing alternatives. If we need to hire an additional district employee to do just this, it would probably be well worth the money.

    I can’t tell you whether the Princeton Plan would be good or bad for our District, but if the main motivation of looking at it is to save money, I think there are many other alternatives that make a lot more sense and would, potentially, save us a lot more money, without incurring additional expenses and either creating administrative and practical issues that we do not currently have (e.g. busing, further congestion and additional pollution – people traveling further and potentially having children in different elementary schools, etc.)

    Someone needs to be tasked with analyzing whether District funds are being expended for the best and highest use and programs that are currently implemented need to be reviewed and tracked on a regular basis and revised or eliminated/replaced if they are not effective. Once this process is continually embedded in our budgeting process, then, perhaps, we can look at spending money on reviewing new programs.

    • let's see the data!

      The 59% graduation rate is very misleading as there are also populations of economically disadvantaged students at Central and Chatsworth. This data is meaningless without attachment to the student’s home grade school. The board has the ability (and an obligation) to assess the success of the very expensive program in place at MAS. It would probably take less than a day of work to tease out the data for the at-risk students and report that vs. all other students and the at-risk students of Chatsworth and Central. Interesting data would be graduation rates, performance at the Hommocks and the High School, acceptance to post HS studies, attendance rates, etc. I applaud your efforts to learn more about the effectiveness of the program at MAS. It may be that there are less costly initiatives…or equally costly but more effective initiatives. Or, possibly, the economically disadvantaged students at MAS are enjoying a much more positive result than those at the other schools and the Board needs to make decisions about treating all the children equally…so as not to favor one zip code over another. Until the data is made available, it is impossible to make any comment on the effectiveness of this 10 year policy.

      • Groundhog Day

        I couldn’t agree with you more, “let’s see the data.” Unfortunately, the only way I have been able to get any data is by researching it myself, and the only publicly available information I was able to get was the 59% graduation rate at MHS. Even if this statistic is misleading relative to the MAS student population (I would guess that it not 100% accurate, but based upon the significantly larger population of this group of students at MAS, I assume it is not too far off), it is still a ridiculously low graduation rate for that population of students and is not on par with most other Westchester high school graduation rates for this population of students (and I assume most of the other schools do not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on a program to help these students).

        Getting data from the Board/Supt. on any/all of these programs (MAS smaller class sizes, BOCES,reserves) would not only be appreciated, but would likely go a long way to making some good decisions going forward and getting more community support for the budget.

        • Anon E Mous

          Ask, and you might receive.

          See here for how to ask: http://www.dos.state.ny.us/coog/highlights.html

          ‘It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before.’ – Source Unknown

          • let's see the data

            If one uses a FOIL to request unusual data (data that is not readily available…such as the graduation rate for children who are economically disadvantaged and for children who are ESL[as one of the reasons for the smaller classes is to work with ESL chldren] from each of the 4 home grade schools) is the district obligated to give that information? Also…Groundhog day…if you ask for this information through a FOIL, you need to be very specific to request it for children who graduated from 5th grade at each of these schools as there is currently a significant population of children who are not educated in their home school, but in one of the other elementary schools. (For ex. there are many children who are classified as Special Education who participate in special education classes at MAS, Central, and Chatsworth.)Also, it might be difficult to follow children classified as ESL as I am not sure these children maintain this status once they obtain fluency.
            Good luck…I hope you report your findings here and we can learn something about how are district is serving these most fragile populations. Maybe we will even learn better ways to obtain even better results.

            • Anon E Mous

              Perhaps it’s time that our schools taught all residents about Open Governance Laws. Perhaps the Committee On Open Government (COOG) can assist.

              This is perhaps among the most important subjects we all should know, and the applicable laws change frequently.

              Start here, and go forth: ‘The law defines “record” as “any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the State Legislature, in any physical form whatsoever. . .” (section 86(4)). Thus it is clear that items such as tape recordings, microfilm and computer discs fall within the definition of “record.” An agency is not required to create a new record
              or provide information in response to questions to comply with the law. However, the courts have held that an agency must provide records in the form requested if it has the ability
              to do so. For instance, if records are accessible on paper or on a computer tape or disk, the public may choose to obtain
              them either way.’
              – NY COOG

              ‘Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both.’ — James Madison

  • Confused

    Anon e mous.
    I don’t understand you grade school Thoughts.

    I personally would like to see the best possible education for my children in a school that they can walk to.

    • Anon E Mous

      Confused U R.

      I want
      vs.
      I’m entitled.

      Feel free, to have
      school at home
      for your children,
      feel free to move
      closer to schools.
      Really, feel free.

      But you feel free
      to expect
      your wants
      to be
      freely
      provided
      to you
      by governments,
      i.e. your neighbors.

      While your wants
      may take food from
      your neighbor’s table
      or
      cause your neighbors
      to move.

      And then
      less
      would be
      be free.

      ‘I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.’ – John Cage

  • Redacted

    Quote: “I personally would like to see the best possible education for my children in a school that they can walk to.”

    I don’t want to paint with a broad brush here, and this is going off on a tangent to the article, but I live very close to Central School. . . there are a FEW kids who walk to school, but it seems that the vast majority are driven by their parents or nannies. . .
    I know that there are some valid reasons for this, but still, in this day and age when most of the people driving those kids would no doubt profess to be “for the environment”, it seems rather hypocritical to see the long line of cars waiting at 3pm. . . .

  • too far to walk

    Central is a terrible example to point out non-walkers. There are many children who live farther than the 2 mile line that the district is required to provide buses for but for some reason does not. My block is about 3 miles from the school and houses 7 children who attend Central. It is impossible for these children to walk 3 miles in each direction to and from school. Additionally, even if these kids could walk 3 miles to school, they shouldn’t cross Boston Post Road nor navigate their way across the Village Square parking lot (no cross guard there…only lots of cars)…

  • Anonymous

    If they had wanted better attendance at the meeting they should not have scheduled the Harlem Wizards for that night – there were at least 500 people there! I believe there was also another school/community conflict. Too bad.

  • Confused

    Anyone know what the status is for Grade school K programs, half day, modified, full day?
    As both my wife an I work it would be nice to know what the schedule will be.
    Also as a property owner it would be good to have our district on par with others.

    • K Program

      Dear Confused
      The K program for the district is not changed in this budget. It remains the modified scheduled we have always had — which works very well giving kids a more individualized learning opportunity on their “long days”. The classes have 2 early dismissal days, 2 regular long days and the entire class stays until 2:30 on Wednesday. Hope that helps

      Editor’s Note: the modified schedule is used for most students at Central, Chatsworth and Murray Elementary Schools. A full day schedule is in place at Mamaroneck Avenue School.

  • interesting

    There is no need to cut and paste the whole of previous comments on some of the topics in the article, but here are some quick references to past comments : 1. on the asst to the asst-super for business, can this be sourced out of 60 clerical positions still in the budget and 1 trade-unionist on the payroll; 2. on the budget advisory committee, those have been in place for several years and can we please see the output of their contributions ?; 3. on the avenues for the future, the Reserve history shows that in 4 years, the District has hoarded SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS and that this money should be put back into the taxpayers’ pockets.

  • Skeptical about Princeton Plan

    In my experience with our district, “study” the issue is a euphenism for talking about it at every Board meeting and finding a way to “market” it to the parent body, and at some times using coercive means threatening to do something that the community finds unacceptable, e.g. raising class sizes at the other elementary schools to an unacceptable level without looking at the other cost cutting measures. Many of these measures haver already been proposed at previous Board meetings, only to be ignored.

    While the Board highlights possible cost cutting measures, I believe that achieving more diverse demographics are the Board’s real motive, irrespective of whether the community values this at the cost of losing neighborhood schools.

  • Still Confused

    Still confused regarding K programs:
    it was my understanding that the modified program offers no monertary savings compared to the full day program. So why not full day K for all four schools?

    • Groundhog Day

      You are correct. We have been told by the Board and the Supt. that the modified program (in Central, Murray, and Chatsworth) offers no monetary savings compared to the full day program (at Mamaroneck Avenue) and that the Board would “study” this (see “Skeptical About Princeton Plan”, above). We have not heard anything since, which leads me to one of two conclusions: (i) there is a savings in the modified plan — at a minimum, the cost of additional supplies and, if the full day plan includes a full-time teacher’s aid, the incremental cost of an afternoon teacher’s aid and/or (ii) the Board has added this issue to the long list of other things they will get back to the community on, e.g. tracking of graduation rates and other statistics for BOCES students, the long-term effectiveness of the reduced class sizes at Mamaroneck Avenue School, etc.

      Once again, I am grateful that the Board members volunteer their time (and it is a significant amount of time), but there needs to be follow-up on all of these issues. It is not enough to acknowledge the questions from the community and then not respond to them. I don’t know how anyone can think it makes sense to “study” a Princeton Plan when we do not even have answers regarding the effectiveness or necessity of many of the programs we already have in place.

  • Remarkable

    I am shocked that with all the posts on this board – very strong opinions, debates and intelligent, intellectual arguments (including literary quotes from one particular poster) to read that not too many people actually showed up to the final budget hearings. Wonder if their had been less talk and more action by the citizens, what the outcome would have been?

    Just a thought….

  • agree with remarkable

    To Remarkable : maybe those commenters have noted that representations at budget meetings lead nowhere; suggestions from the community are mostly waved aside or not considered (compare the responses to community suggestions on the District website with the suggestions raised on blogs – I for one copy most of my suggestions into the District website right away). There has been a succession of community financial advisory boards nominated that either did not meet or did not report. Yet hopefully the vote at the poll will send the right message.

  • not shocked

    The final meeting was not designed to hear new input from community members, it was to adopt the supt’s final budget. Those in the community who have been following the budget were already aware of what that would entail. I don’t think attendance at the last of so many meetings is a reflection of community interest. And, as others have pointed out, there were other conflicts that night.
    I think the community has been very active and the Board has been very responsive. There are many items people still want (as easily seen above), but as the process came to an end it became clear that these things weren’t going to happen this year, or not in the budget that was adopted on April 20th. Now the community can decide if they can live with the budget as is or not, but speaking at the meeting on April 20 was not going to accomplish anything…

  • Kate

    Actually, simple Google will get you recent data on overall graduation rates:
    http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/irts/pressRelease/20100309/

    The graduation rate at MHS is 89% in 4 years, 95% in 5 years. The actual drop out rate is just 2%.

    Without reading all the fine print, I’m not sure how the survey is conducted – i.e. does it include students, such as those in some of the special ed programs who would not be expected to receive a formal diploma, how are students that move away or start after year 9 counted?, what about students who take longer than 4 years because of medical or psychological conditions…etc.