Parents of students at some Three Village elementary schools on Tuesday called for the school district to reverse its decision to cut two elementary school assistant principals, a decision made to help to bring it within the tax cap.
The plan would preserve one full-time elementary assistant principal at Arrowhead Elementary, where the majority of young students with special needs attend school. Setauket, Nassakeag, Minnesauke, and Mount would share two full-time assistant principals.
Angelique Ragolia, who has a child about to finish sixth grade at Minnesauke Elementary, said while she feels the school board has usually made wonderful decisions for the students, she questions whether this is one of those decisions.
"A lot of districts don’t have assistant principals," she said. "That’s why I don’t live in those districts. ... We’re different. We have administrators and teachers who care and go above and beyond. I think that above and beyond is going to be limited."
School board president John Diviney responded by saying the district "didn't have much of a choice" when it came to making cuts such as these versus preserving student programs. He drew a comparison to the private sector, where the economy has forced companies to do more with less.
"It is a change, but the challenge the district is going to have is to make these changes work and preserve what we have," he said. "This is just like the beginning of the changes that are going to be necessary."
Still, Geralyn Mueller, a parent of four and the PTA co-president at Nassakeag, questioned the abundance of administrators at the secondary level.
"We really need the rationale explained to us," she said. "These issues may impact our child’s academics."
Christine Gacovino, who volunteers her time at Nassakeag in various capacities, said the elimination of a full-time assistant principal there, along with reducing the hours of the school social workers, will negatively impact the anti-bullying program that Nassakeag has built.
"These efforts will inevitably suffer and the foundation we’ve built will surely be weakened," she said.
According to Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, the district actually has two elementary assistant principal positions that will soon become vacant, which will not be filled. One position is currently filled by an interim assistant principal who will not be retained, and the other is currently filled by an assistant principal who is headed to another district to accept a principal position.
Once the budget has been voted on – regardless of the actual result – the Board of Education could choose to allocate funds to restore the assistant principal positions, Carlson said.
"The board has the authority to do that, but it has to be within the budget," he said.