Board of Education Launches Year-Long Study to Consider Future Redistricting

Smithtown schools see declining kindergarten enrollment; fewer students could lead to closures or redistricting.

Smithown Central School District's New York Avenue building. (Patch file photo)
Smithown Central School District's New York Avenue building. (Patch file photo)
Smithtown school officials assured parents there will be "no immediate changes" changes in students' assigned schools for next fall, redistricting and further closures are possibilities in the future. 

"We do not anticipate a redistricting that would yield a significant savings for the 2014-15 budget cycle," said Theresa Knox, vice president of Smithtown's Board of Education on Tuesday night. 

Knox, also the board's Housing Committee chairperson, announced the district will launch a year-long demographics study to consider different options including redistricting or consolidating to save money. 

One possibility that's been discussed, according to Knox, is bringing sixth-grade students back to the elementary schools and closing one of Smithtown's three middle school buildings. 

Smithtown Central School District has been seeing declining enrollment in its kindergarten classes and overall student population for several years. 

According to the information provided to New York State Education Department, Smithown schools had 757 registered kindergarten students for the 2009-10 school year, which dropped to 653 by 2011-12 school year. As of Nov. 22, 2013, it has further dropped to 569 kindergarten students enrolled for the 2013-14 school year, according to figures provided by Superintendent Judith Elias. 

Similarly, Smithtown's overall student population has dropped from 10,862 in 2009-10 to a current total of 10,048 - a decline of roughly 7 percent over five years. 

Knox said by March the district's Housing Committee will be interviewing consultants to help loo over the demographics and determine the best course of action. 

"By June, we should know whether this reduction in the elementary population is holding and demographic experts and realtors expect we're going to see it fold,  or are we doing to see a bump," Knox said, as kindergarten registration for 2014-15 year is underway. 

Smithtown Board of Education unanimously voted to close Nesconset Elementary School in June 2012 in order to help the district's fiscally by providing roughly $1 million in savings. This changed some of the district's feeder patterns for elementary and middle school students. 

Jennifer Bradshaw, assistant superintendent of curriculum, suggested the district start by reaching out to Western Suffolk BOCES consultants and ABS Data Services in New Jersey. 

Tell us, what do you think of Smithtown school's potentially 

Elsie January 15, 2014 at 05:50 PM
Here we go again.
Cathy January 16, 2014 at 06:34 AM
I think it is a positive step in the right direction. If there are less students, why not consolidate and save the taxpayers a few dollars?
Harry January 16, 2014 at 06:37 AM
They don't know their ass from their elbows!
Jeanne January 16, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Now what happens in the next few years with the 2 high schools? And how much did the 2 brand new tracks and fields cost? No one knew there was decreasing enrollment before 2 brand new tracks and fields were installed?
frances king January 16, 2014 at 10:17 AM
How much are we going to pay a consultant for him or her to tell us what we already know. How many studies do we need? There is declining enrollment all over the island. So sure that there is a really smart person sitting in Central Office that can come up with a plan. The question is whether the Board of Education can make a decision that benefits the children and the entire smithtown community. We have seen how they operate and it is not pretty.
Harry January 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM
Cathy, What money are they saving? They closed Nesconset to save $800,000. That's 1/2% of the total budget. They need to cut salaries, benefits, pensions, etc. to all district employees. The superintendent makes more than the governor. NYC has ONE super. LI has somewhere around 113! Got to cut the fat.
mrfixit January 16, 2014 at 04:07 PM
Harry, when they close schools,staffing gets reduced. Teachers, custodial, buses, etc. It happened that way last year, it will happen again. Frances, they didn't pay a consultant last time. There was a Housing committee, volunteer, made up of parents, teachers, district personnel and more to make a recommendation to the BOE. In any case, no one decision "benefits the children and the entire smithtown community" We know from last time people will be upset. There is no "one size fits all" in this situation. Some people won't mind, some will be upset to bus their kids halfway across town. Unfortunately, it's a large district by LI standards and some will have to travel.
Harry January 16, 2014 at 04:25 PM
fixit, No kidding. There are no real savings though. If it was going to save 10% and our taxes went down, great. But it won't and they won't.
Elsie January 16, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Fixit - any reductions in staff would have happened even if Nesconset didn't close. Closing did not reduce staff, busing increased because distance from the home schools increased. Closing Nesconset saved more in the neighborhood of $300,000 with children spending more time on buses. St. James Elementary is extremely over crowded.
Sticks60 January 17, 2014 at 01:51 PM
Jeanne the field work was over half a million dollars. Mrfixit has it right with what ever is done someone will be unhappy. The day of a 20 student class room is long gone and some children will be on the bus long just like in the 1990's Harry with the Taylor laws not only will you not see salaries go down it is imposible to keep them from going up. Just look at the teachers, during the two years there was no contract 90% of them received step increases of over $3,600. On top of that we are getting buried in increased benefit costs. Elsie the busing cost increase was almost nothing because all students get a bus. With class consoidation I bet the savings are in the $800,000 range.
Harry January 17, 2014 at 04:02 PM
Sticks, That's exactly my point. There are no real savings so why do it!
john January 17, 2014 at 04:41 PM
Harry I agree we don't need all these superintendents on Long Island. We should have 2 school districts Suffolk and Nassau. In NYC kids that really want to learn has a lot more choices and get a better education
Hasyayoga January 18, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Okay, let’s look at this closely. The last Citizen’s Advisory was a Dog and Pony show and we all know it. Mr. Ehmann made a great diversion regarding his retirement package with that fiasco… (Savvy move) Waste of $ yearlong demographics study!! We have the data from the previous report (FOIL request) which looked at the declining enrollment for 10 years. Jen Bradshaw is a super nice person, but unfortunately, she can no longer smile, shrug her shoulders and say “we are looking into that, we know that’s an issue.” Of course there is going to be a closure, just look at the original report. Ms. Knox is not anticipating a closing for the 14/15 budget cycle? I think Dr. Annunziato was pretty clear that a closing/redistricting was necessary, not just for financial reasons, but for many reasons (Can we FOIL request his game plan?) Maybe that was part of the reason he left. I can’t imagine his frustration level with this nonsense. I see 6th grade back into the elementaries and Nesaquake poss closing. Class size will increase again. Inclusion students will rise from SCSDs “gray” policy of 9 students to the State’s Law of 14. SCSD has inclusion at elementary for 120 minutes of a special education a day w/CCSS really? (State required minimum, of course.). Perhaps declining enrollment is not due to birth rate, but the housing market. Why should a resident pay these taxes if they can receive Common Core State Standards in any district? Our Assessment failure rate should have Not been 50% people. We should have been a good 10% higher that some of the less affluent districts. What about our special education or struggling learners? Parent University didn’t address their issues, Ms. Elias has not addressed those issues, now we will close again and the Children’s Autism Program currently housed at Nesaquake will suffer, self-contained classes will suffer, and we all know that the current admins at NMS really care about those kids. That is why they flourish there. And the closing of Nesconset WAS NOT unanimous. FOIL redacted votes. There were a few NOs.
Elsie January 18, 2014 at 10:25 AM
State law is 12 Inclusion students. State sets no minimum, district is free to do whatever they want. There is inequality because at the secondary level there can be inclusion for every academic subject PLUS a study skills period. In the elementary it is only 120 minutes and there aren't pull out periods. The schools are so over crowded now there is no place to put students for small groups like in the secondary schools. Working at the back table does no good when children are ADD to begin with. Special education is a whole other joke. Try to get some information from them. You get totally shunted around. Hiring back of Dr. Clarke when she lost the district millions of dollars in reimbursements and was abusive to parents and staff. My grandchild is in an Inclusion class and every year it's the same thing. They can't say what school the class will be in so he's been moved 3 times and he's in 4th grade. What does that do for children who already have social issues. He has problems and we are aware of them but they say OK well you can leave him in his home school but then he has to be in resource room. So will look into that so he doesn't have to move around.
Harry January 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Elsie, I totally agree. The Smithtown special ed. dept. has deteriorated to almost nothing in the last decade. My youngest was diagnosed with "auditory processing disorder", she couldn't turn sounds into words, when she was two. She started Smithtown special ed. before she was three. She went to school year round, less two weeks in the summer. She'll graduate Nesaquake this year with a 4.15 GPA, playing lacrosse and field hockey. It's such a shame the cuts that they have made. We were lucky and wish you all the best with your grandchild.
Hasyayoga January 18, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Elsie-Thank you for the correction. I thought it was 14, but 12 is insane regardless. I believe, and will research, NYS Law is minimum of 120 minutes, but I may be mistaken. I was unaware that Dr. Clark lost the SCSD millions in reimbursements. Where can that information be located? I hope you are an active member in Smithtown SEPTA because they are working very hard to try to make changes and could use a dynamo like yourself. :)
Pam January 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM
@Elise- Yes please share the necessary info so I can FOIL the documents for research on the Dr. Clarke issue. @Hasyayoga- you are spot on. The district should be re creating the comprehensive housing report from 2008- the research that went into that document was impressive- all the district has to do is re gather the new data and formulate a plan according to the research that we can easily retrieve ourselves.
Elsie January 18, 2014 at 02:00 PM
The information is from other parents at SEPTA and people at some employees that I won't mention. There was a lawsuit because they tried to 2020a (? not sure what this is or if I got it quite right). She didn't get reimbursements from Medicaid. She also made abusive comments and gestures. I doubt the information is available because it was a personell matter. But she was on a paid leave and then they settled the lawsuit and let her come back. The previous superintendent started the procedure. Harry, I attend every SEPTA meeting but it is very divided in my opinion. (g) A school district may include integrated co-teaching services in its continuum of services. Integrated co-teaching services means the provision of specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided to a group of students with disabilities and nondisabled students. (1) The maximum number of students with disabilities receiving integrated co-teaching services in a class shall be determined in accordance with the students’ individual needs as recommended on their IEPs, provided that the number of students with disabilities in such classes shall not exceed 12 students, unless a variance is provided pursuant to subparagraph (i) or (ii) of this paragraph. (i) Variance by notification. A board of education or trustees of a school district may submit written notice to the commissioner to temporarily add one additional student with a disability to an integrated co-teaching class for the remainder of the school year, provided that at the start of classes in September of the current school year it is in compliance with the standards specified in this paragraph. Written notice to the commissioner shall be submitted on a form prescribed by the commissioner and shall sufficiently demonstrate educational justification and consistency with providing an appropriate education for all children affected. (ii) Variance with Commissioner approval. If the school district has enrolled one student with a disability beyond the maximum 12 students with disabilities in an integrated co-teaching services class pursuant to the procedures established in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph, and it determines there is a need to temporarily add one additional student to such class, the school district may submit to the commissioner for approval an application for a variance to enroll the one additional student in the same class for the remainder of the school year. The application to the commissioner shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner and shall sufficiently demonstrate educational justification and consistency with providing an appropriate education for all children affected. (2) School personnel assigned to each class shall minimally include a special education teacher and a general education teacher.
Hasyayoga January 18, 2014 at 03:51 PM
Elsie, thank you for the info. So its 12 students and 13 if a variance is approved. I still think that is a high number of students for one gen ed class and 120 min of sp. ed teacher per day...especially w/CCSS. As far as Dr. Clark, I have no knowledge of her leave due to personnel issues and staff interactions. I would assume that's confidential, but I am very interested in millions of dollars that were not reimbursed by Medicaid regardless of who was at the helm. It would seem to me that Mrs. Niles and Mr. Ehmann were also a part of that process. They have both retired. That is something the public would be interested in & can SCSD reapply for those reimbursements. Good to hear you attend every SEPTA meeting. All the PTAs are somewhat divided and sometimes frustrating...but its Principles before Personalities and SEPTA- I am sure- is glad you attend. Our struggling students need more advocates like you.
Pam January 18, 2014 at 09:43 PM
@Elise thank you- the information can be gained even if they redact it. It is easy to figure out the names they are redacting if you know the circumstances- just like when Steve Epstein was fired because of the millions in building aid projects. They should have fired his boss J Niles, but he was the patsy instead.


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