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Parents Address School Closing, Await Board of Ed Decision

Feeder patter questions dominate concerns of the parents.

More than 10 speakers made their way to the podium Wednesday night at Nesaquake Middle School to address numerous concerns involved with a possible school closing, the Citizens Advisory Committee report and redistricting. 

One topic focused on more than others were the possible changing of feeder patterns from elementary to middle schools. 

St. James resident Jill McDowell spoke against changing the current feeder parents, presenting a petition with 473 signatures of residents opposed to sending their St. James Elementary students to Great Hollow Middle School. 

"It seems as if you are bending over backwards in my opinion to keep Nesconset Elementary students together ... we want to keep the existing feeder patterns in place," she said. "If my now fourth-grade daughter goes to Great Hollow she will only know about 38 kids in a school population of 1,000. How is that fair?"

One parent questioned the districts motives for changing these patterns, suggesting the district is trying to get more general education students into Great Hollow Middle School to get off of the New York State Education improvement list.

“Is the true reason why this push for all of Mills Pond [Elementary] to go to Great Hollow to actually bump up the general [education] population of that school and raise the scores to get off the improvement list off the New York State reader?” said Heather McCormick of St. James. “I’m wondering if there was a hope that if we get more general ed scores that we’d get the school off the list.”

Superintendent Edward Ehmann said after the meeting that the state assess children in groups and two groups of children in Great Hollow Middle School – special education and English as a second language – just missed the standards. 

The superintendent repudiated McCormick's claims.

"The people's opinions on what the motive is, is their own. The bottom line is its declining enrollment, reduced revenue, consolidating housing to conserve program," Ehmann said after the meeting. "The idea that we would put other children in there just to change the demographic is totally inaccurate."

Theresa Knox, who served as President for the Nesconset PTA during past redistricting, said although she has ties to the school that could be closed that she was elected to make tough decisions for the betterment of the entire district. 

"This is a personally had decision but I've had to make other decisions that are difficult when we do a budget and cut things out," she said. 

Knox said after the meeting that she would like to hear more information on how the district will derive revenue from whatever building gets closed.  

Board President Gladys Waldron said she has enough information to make a decision now, but still has questions, specifically involving special education and transportation. While stating she has enough information to make a decision Waldron declined to provide her decision, stating she will wait until the board is also ready to do so. 

The board is set to come to a decision Feb. 28.

MPEparent February 18, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I refuse to get into individual arguments as I have previously said. Enjoy your vacation!
St James mom February 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I re-read and stand by what I said. I should've placed a comma after "stop saying that, it's creating animosity" I think we ALL can agree that in the short-term it is definitely better for the very small number of current Mills Pond students to return to their current feeder pattern. Who wants to break-up siblings, that's crazy, if it's avoidable!! As for the long-term there are different issues to look at down the road. Let's ask the district at what point they would seriously be considering closing a middle school. It's possible the long-term concerns can be dismissed as there won't be a 3rd middle school available, right??
3SJ February 18, 2012 at 03:26 PM
What the district SHOULD do is re-draw the entire district lines. IF we lose a middle school sooner than later, which is what we have been told, they will have to draw the lines anyway. Do it now!!
lawyer and mom February 19, 2012 at 03:12 AM
If Nesconset closes, which principal will be at MPE?
3SJ February 19, 2012 at 02:25 PM
If Nesconset closes, the Mills Pond principal will remain. The Nesconset principal will move to Smithtown elementary. The Smithtown el principal is retiring. I don't know what will happen if Mills Pond is the one to close
ABC123 February 19, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I went to Smithtown SD and have personally been the student that has gone through all of this before. The schools combined smack dab in the middle of my schooling. I went to Nesconset Elem, followed by 1 year at Great Hollow. After that year I went to 2 years in Smithtown Middle School, followed by one year at the 9th Grade Annex. Then 3 years at Smithtown High School. That is a significant amount of transition. Guess what happened? Nothing. Sure it took a week or two to adjust to learning a new school. Sure, some of my close friends were in different sections and as a result I rarely saw them in the bigger schools. We all did fine. Better than fine if you ask me. Many of us are lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. I did well enough to be able to purchase my own home in my mid-20s in the same school district. Now my first child will be attending Smithtown Schools next year. A few years after I graduated schools began reopening. Guess what? This students did well too. Kids are wonderful at adapting to new situations. They make new friends. It's not like all elementary students are friends with the same kids when they are in high school anyway. Further, they rarely see them once they enter college. Why not focus on the bigger issues. They are considering 8 periods instead of 9, reducing electives, larger class sizes for our elem students. These will have a much larger impact on our children's education.
3SJ February 19, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Yes, the children will adapt. I don't disagree with that. My issue is why bus children to a middle school miles away over 347 when there is one in their own backyard? There is plenty of room to keep feeding St. James residents to Nesaquake. Why separate siblings from each other already attending Nesaquake? I know plenty of families that will be in that situation. The children will already split if they go to Great Hollow by HS east and west, so split at the elementary level when they are more easily adaptable. Once they hit middle school, in my opinion, is when they meet their 'life friends'. I am speaking from my own personal experience. I went to a school district that implemented the Princeton Plan and I was moved all over also. I am still close with the friends I made in 6th grade. That is when most friendships are formed at a more mature level than just 'playdates' and birthday parties.
ABC123 February 19, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I lived in Nesconset and was bused to Smithtown High School, which was the Smithtown West building...so I was on the bus for about 45 minutes each way. Wasn't great, wasn't terrible. Most of my afternoons in middle school and high school were spent on the late buses due to sports and after school activities, so I suppose that would mostly affect those who come right home after school. There is no easy solution. The way the feeder plans are now, some kids are separated from their elem and middle school friends when they hit high school (I believe it is Branchbrook that goes to Great Hollow and then to West, when the rest of Great Hollow goes to East). If they change the patterns, different children while get split at different levels. So even if it stays the same, it's not ideal. Splitting siblings is a horrible idea. If you read the citizens advisory committee notes (and yes it's lengthy, about 215 pages) they are not recommending splitting siblings. They do need a better solution.
3SJ February 19, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I did read the entire report and spoke to Jennifer Bradshaw about the sibling issue. She said families will probably have the choice what school to attend. That being said, my chi,d would still split from his next door neighbor. Not ideal, but it would work. St James as a community would be split north and south into middle school. It will break up our community and children would not know some other children who live just on the other side of Woodlawn. Not a good situation no matter how it works out. I personally cannot see the justification for closing a school and causing this uproar for minimal savings in this huge deficit. More avenues need to be looked at which I don't think is happening.
Pam February 19, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Well said ABC123. It is the bigger issues that no one is paying attention to. Like why did we have17 million to 10 million left in reserves each and every year, even our contingency year of 2005/2006? If they needed the money they should of used it for the purposes stated, but if they didn't need it (which the surpluses prove) they never should have asked for it, thus our current budget would be much lower and we wouldn't be in this situation we find ourselves in now.
St James mom February 19, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I would agree with you Pam, there are much bigger issues with the taxes, reserves, budgets and teachers unions etc. however the school closing is the most immenent issue we face right now. Hopefully the communities eyes have been opened and we can begin to change those larger issues. Thankyou ABC123 for your well put points and I'm glad things did work out so well for you. I'm sure all those transitions were not always easy ones. Most of the children now will probably adapt and survive as well, although I know from my own children's differing personalities and abilities that for some it will pose a greater challenge. I think the biggest issues we complain about with this closure are 1) class sizes and maxing out schools in this area 2) the hypocrisy on how to move children and break them up (you don't hear of kids moving out of Nesconset to make more room for MP kids so their neighborhoods can remain intact) 3) unnecessary change in feeder pattern for those same kids and separating siblings ..the district won't commit that they'll give families choice 4) enrollment will level off in few yrs they can rezone the district appropriately to balance class sizes. It's not the best market, no guarantee to lease a closed building 5) fortunatley I graduated West before all the ridiculous closings and changes ABC123 speaks of, but as it has proven cyclical, how cost effective is it really to close schools, move kids all over the place only to open up again few yrs later?
scsddad February 20, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Ms Knoxs will do anything she can do to keep Nesconset open
MotherHubbard February 20, 2012 at 05:11 AM
MPE - email BOE @smithtown.k12.ny.us No problem, no need to go to the podium. Ask, state, opine, whatever you'd like. It is received and read.
MotherHubbard February 20, 2012 at 05:12 AM
How do you know that?
Parent February 20, 2012 at 05:45 AM
3SJ. Interesting how you think you know and post it here as if it were factual as which job a Principal is taking. Especially when job availability is unknown yet. Did you speak with the Principal and make a job offer of to which you have no authority? Because it is my opinion, that it is ispeculation and rumor. If I were you, I'd retract, clarify or better yet ask The Patch to remove all of this in its entirety.
Pam February 20, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Please read the most recent STA and SSAA contracts, there are many steps that must be followed for senority purposes on who has first dibs on the different positions that will need to be filled. Much of it has to do with LIFO. In other words you may have a great teacher or principal but if they are low man/woman on the totum pole they could very well loss their job entirely.There are between 14-17 items listed in the contract to decide who has the most senority to have the jobs, and not 1 items has anything to do with quality of teacher/administrator-only senority.
scsddad February 20, 2012 at 10:13 PM
SBNEParent I'm sure the principal from Nesconset checked the seniority list to see where she is on it. Then all she has to don is talk to the Principals ahead of her on the list and see what they are planning to do about transfers then she can figure out where she will go. It's not that hard to do there's not many Principals.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 05:29 AM
3SJ You may just get you wish. At the BOE work session last Thurs. night they spent the majority of the time talking about closing Mills Pond.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 05:32 AM
You should do a school district history lesson. Yes Mills pond was closed before so was Great Hollow & Nesaquake. But we also had several schools on the otherside of the district that were not only closed but sold. Which is why Accompset and Smithtown El have been overcrowded for years.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 05:40 AM
It is those improvements that make Mills Pond more rentable which is why the board is now thinking about closing Mills Pond.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Bottom line is we have 600 or so less elem. students then 6yr ago and it is projected that enrollment is still going down. Yes we do save money by closing a school. If nothing is rented out closing Nesconset would save more money. It have more capital projects that need to be done and it cost more to run it. But if we are able to rent out MPE then we would absolutely make more money. Closing a school gives some savings but renting a school brings revenue.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 06:03 AM
we can not fit all the middle school kids into two schools now, it might be possible a few years from now. You must realize however that if the district does close a school and redraw all the lines that many children will be moved in very small groups to new schools leading to the possibility that there could be a single 3rd grade boy or 1st grade girl being moved. Which is very different then 1/2 their school going or staying with them.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 06:42 AM
what are you talking about? the distance from MPE to GHMS is 3miles. The distance between MPE to NMS is 2.8miles. Really is the .2 miles really out of your backyard. I get that you don't want siblings split up but it happens everyday in our district for special education students.
mom44 February 21, 2012 at 07:01 AM
even with closing a school we still have a deficit. Oh and it does have something to do with the 600 less elementary student we have. what would you like to do instead cut reading labs at the HS (too late they already did) or should they destroy the music programs which are being slotted for huge and I mean huge cuts next year. Perhaps we should get rid of all sports? (oh thats right parents didn't like that either.) so we will gut it instead perhaps no JV or no MS sports. Or we could raise class sizes or go to an 8 period day or maybe we could get rid of busing. I don't want this either but we are at a point financially because of many reasons the financial aid fiasco, step up raises that have to end and lucritive past contracts and many more that we have to do this and much more. We need to look at the big picture and that would be maintaining the programs we offer that offer our children opportunities.
STM February 21, 2012 at 08:59 PM
At mom44. I keep hearing this argument that if Nesconset were to close and moved into 2 schools (instead of 100% gen ed into 1 school) there would be a single 3rd grade boy or girl the only one in that grade to move. Where is this? Of course no one would want that, understandably. Though if you're speaking of 1 child I'm sure the district could be approached to change that 1 child's school. I suppose then couldn't same thing happen if Mills Pond displaced into smaller sections as is planned to happen if that's the school to close. This whole thing makes no sense and seems VERY unfair either way to the Mills Pond children.
STM February 21, 2012 at 09:52 PM
To the other comment on middle school distance. There may not be much distance in mileage, however try driving middle country road and 347 at the peak times and you'll see a huge difference in time to get to the schools. Most parents woud not expect Nesconset families to commute all the way to Nesaquake if Great Hollow open, Mills Pond parents/students should not commute to GH while Nesaquake still open!
3SJ February 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM
You are right, SBNEParent....I based my reply with assumption and hearsay. I will stand corrected in saying I personally do not know who will be the principal at the school that is remaining open. It is an assumption that the school staying open would keep it's principal. I apologize for that comment.
Former LIer February 21, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I've read these with some interest. My grandchild is a special education student at one of the schools involved in closure. Her teacher has already told my son that almost none of the Nesconset teachers will be following their students because there will be very few openings in Mills Pond. He was also told by the Principal that Ms. Wild will be remaining principal at Mills Pond. It it a hard choice to make because they have to either take my granddaughter away from her friends and neighbors and send her to Mt. Pleasant or reduce her services to send her with her friends to Mills Pond.
scsddad February 23, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Is there a work session for the board about the school closing open to the public on Monday 2/27 at 5PM. I thought that's what I heard but I don't see anything on the district website
St James mom February 23, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Yes scsddad. I also heard the work session will be 2/27 5-6p. Assume it's not on website becasue of vacation week.

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