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Kirdahy, Westbrook Elementary Schools to Close

BOE announces decision to shutter two schools Thursday night.

It's official: The West Islip School District will close and elementary schools at the end of the school year. 

Thursday night's announcement at the monthly Board of Education meeting was long awaited, and drew mixed reactions from the hundreds of residents who gathered inside the auditorium.  

BOE President Steve Gellar presented the decision and said each trustee considered numerous factors in their individual evaluations including size, space, number of classrooms, marketability, location, traffic conditions, etc.

"I want to thank members of the public, who’ve taken such keen interest in this process," Gellar said.  "This has been a long and arduous process, which I know that we all wish hadn’t been necessary.  Unfortunately declining enrollment coupled with state’s economic crisis make it necessary.  I know that some people will be unhappy with the decision we make tonight but I’m confident that we’ll make the situation work."

The district will consolidate all elementary students into the four remaining schools: Oquenock, Bellew, Manetuck and Bayview.  The closure of the Kirdahy and Westbrook is expected to save the district between $2.4 million and $3.2 million.

"The students that get redistricted will be welcome by their new classmates, the PTAs will reach out to the incoming parents and the administration will do everything they can to help ease the transition," Gellar said.  "In short, we will pull together as a  community as we always do."

The decision to close any school was first made public at a in late October. Nearly 400 people attended at the hearing, at which Superintendent Rick Simon presented a slideshow that displayed several school closure options. The BOE eventually narrowed down all of the options and focused on two elementary schools.  

The next challenge for the district is to cut spending to bring down the 2012-13 projected school budget of $114.1 million, which is a 6.5 percent increase and nearly 11 percent tax levy hike from the current budget.  

"Deciding to close a school is a very emotional issue," Simon said.  "These are, in my opinion, the most challenging and difficult times that schools have faced.  We are working in an era where we are expected to improve the performance of our students, our teachers, our staff, ourselves.

He added, "And yet at the same time, we are facing economic realities that have us spending a great deal of time trying to figure out how to balance a budget and deciding what needs to be reduced or taken away."

Oquenuts February 11, 2012 at 12:19 AM
You know who else was there last night? Mr.Greg Sleter, the Regional Patch editor! It was also great to see that he, too, was posting on his twitter while the meeting was going on to update everyone! He posted: "Another blithering idiot at a public meeting. Geez." Wasn't that nice of him? There were only a few people who spoke, I wonder which West Islip resident he was referring to?
Irene February 11, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Pat I was wondering if you might know why a BOE meeting is scheduled for 8 PM on a school night? In all the years of raising my family this tactic has been the norm. I say tactic because 6 PM is better than 8 PM. By the time public input is scheduled to go on, half the town is tucked in bed for work the next morning and kids for school the next day. WI4life once said not too long ago that summer months are when major contracts are negotiated but no one is in attendance and so contracts go through without one degree of difficulty. Tactics it's all about tactics. BTW, PATCH is brand new to this community. Had Patch been around the past decade, I bet you more than half the garbage that BOE has pulled in the past would never happened because people would have been on here flipping out and raising hell. Now it's late in the game, the sins of the past are being visited on the children, but one thing is certain, there are more people reading the patch than posting on it. Rome wasn't built in a day you know, and our 6 million dollar shortfall took years of spending with abandon to get us here. Oh how I wish Patch were around for the past decade or so!
Gerry February 11, 2012 at 12:27 AM
If that is all school is to your children, Wise, you are lucky. For many of our WI students school is a safe place to go where they can forget they are battling cancer, a family memeber is gravely ill, their parents are going to court to fight over who gets custody of them, their father is stationed half a world away in the military, etc. To many, school is where they go to be normal and feel safe for a little while until they have to return home to bigger problems than a young child should ever have to deal with. So, yes, many children will transition fine, but for many it is a big deal to leave the safety of their school.
Catherine Artusa February 11, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Everyone keep in mind the budget sessions are starting Feb 28th In the past each session targets a different area. Usually you are only able to question the current topic and you can't ask budget questions in BOE meetings. There is only one session for class size. That meeting will tell us if everyone can fit in the 4 schools,if class sizes are too high, how many teachers we are losing and of course if it is true that we don't need trailers. It is always specific, for example Bayview first grade 2 sections of 22 students each class or maybe this year Bayview first grade 2 sections of 44 students each class. And anyone that is worried about trailers you should be more worried that we can't afford trailers and we will be in tents. lol
Gerry February 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I would bet he was referring to the same community member he wrote an editorial about when he was writing for the WI Tribune. An entire story about someone who, he felt, rambled on at BOE meetings - very professional.
Irene February 11, 2012 at 12:39 AM
@Oquenuts, I know you are telling the truth, I saw a bias before. You just forced me to take my comments elsewhere. I think I will be heading over to topix as Rich suggested a week or so ago. To all the people here who have been so focused and trying to fight the good battle for truth and justice, don't stop. It's when they are slinging mud and using ad hominem attacks to make you the bag guy, that you have them! Trust me!~
wiseol'owl February 11, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Irene I've never said parents should say Oh well move on. I suggest offering reassurance that friends will always be friends. The school can close but the friendships don't have to be broken.Wonderful thing about being a child today is that their world expands beyond the 2 or 3 blocks in their neighborhood. The majority of are active-very active. Ask most parents how they spend their weekends and I'll bet 7 out 10 are on the soccer fields all fall and spring. 5 out of 10 are at baseball or softball in spring. 5 out of 10 are on CYO basketball. They are VERY involved children. What I say is build up your childrens confidence that they will still see their friends for playdates as often as they would like, tell them that they will still see each other at the fields, attend events that are held at each others schools by PTA, many children go to OLL for religion ed. so they can be told that is another place they will see former schoolmate. What I am saying is certainly NOT an Oh well move on. And I have never said that this is not and should not be a disappointment or concern to parents. I am not the cold callious individual that posters would like to believe. It's is actually quite the opposite, My concern IS for how to help the children and my hope was that by trying to give ideas to their parents that it might help. And by trying to offer ideas regarding the BOE and telling people of what I've seen in the past I could try to help parents stop more damage from happening.
wiseol'owl February 11, 2012 at 01:16 AM
@ Gerry, You are right I am very lucky and very blessed that my children are able to look at home and to my family for the type of support you describe. I do realize all to well and sadly so that not all children feel as though they can turn to their parents for everything-children are very intune with emotion(more than we realize) and when they see mom and dad are sad because a family member is ill or a family member goes over seas with the armed forces they will speak will school staff. Children going through divorce will speak with school staff, children who get A's will share their accomplishments with school staff. Yes the school staff provides alot of comfort and security to a child who is in need. We are very fortunate in WI however that ALL of our schools have wonderful, supportive staffs. We are lucky that sooo many of our staff members are also community members so they do take a very special interest in the children. And if we are REAL LUCKY the district will be on board and come together to fight with the BOE and school Leaders to make the reforms needed to district finances to stop our community and children from losing to many of these valuable individuals. The staff may be relocated, but each building will have wonderful people who want to be the shoulder or the smile when any child needs it.
Rich February 11, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Actually Pat I said that our children will be traumatized by the closings, the overcowdind and the loss of friends and security. I feel that the community has been divided by this decision and between the disgruntled Elementary School parents and the disgruntled taxpayers (loss of 1.5 million dollars due not filing paperwork), the budget is in serious jeopardy of failing.
Concerned taxpayer February 11, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Can someone tell me where the Topix page is?
Rich February 11, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Once again wiseol'owl, do you feel that the BOE's can really justify all the trauma that they are causing. We have a $114+ million dollar budget deficit and by closing these two ES we will save between $2.4 -3 million dollars. Not a lot when you consider that this decision has divided the community. It will cause the ES class size to increase to approximately 29. It will decrease the teacher to student ratio and consequently decrease the academic quality of our ES program. It eliminate computer labs in the ES and possibly indoor playgrounds. It will force the Special Needs children to once again be moved to a new school with new staff. It will cause emotional trauma to many young children who are not quite ask"resilient" or as outgoing as some of the other children. It will cause us to loose two really excellent Elementary Schools and their staff. And finally it may also cause the budget to fail All this to save "maybe 3 million dollars of a $114 million dollar budget". This comes from the same BOE and superintendent who lost 1.5 million by forgetting to file paperwork. And the same people who increased the bonuses and perks for the superintendent. So when they are smug, condensending, roll their eyes, or insist that we "must move on". We can't move on because is this is not settled. The BOE can address unfair decision now or WHEN the budget fails in May but many people are not moving on..
Gerry February 11, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Yes, and we have to also be aware of where our children will now be receiving support services. The rooms that are being converted to regular classrooms are currently being used as speech, reading, resource rooms, etc. By using them as regular classrooms, we need to make sure the service providers are given adequate rooms to service our children, not pushed off into a storage room. A parent mentioned this at a BOE meeting a few weeks back and the board said they agreed. I do not see where they will have room to meet all of these needs, especially the support time for the integrated students. I was very surprised when Mr. Simon told a speaker last night that she was wrong about Westbrook being one of the biggest buildings. He told her that Bellew and Manetuck are the two largest. Westbrook is actually the largest after Bellew, even though Manetuck has one more classroom. Westbrook is actually 6,000 sq. feet larger than Oquenock. That is a lot of space that could be used for special education services. I have raised this concern with some in the district have not been thrilled with the answers I have gotten thus far. Parents of children who receive services - be sure to keep asking where your child will be receiving services in the fall.
Pat February 11, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Irene, The board meetings have always been at 8 and though 6 sounds like it would be a gd time it wouldn't. Let's be realistic people are just getting in from work if not later in the real world including I am sure many of the board members. Never mind sports, activities and somehow we fit in dinner. I work have 3 school aged children and find the time to go to meetings. If people are involved and want to support their schools they can find a way to attend a once a month meeting. There are no excuses. This has been the way it is for years. People only come out once in a while in controversy and then they settle back in to routine and things continue as usual. Meanwhile the people in power do what they want, the boards of past and present approve it and here we are in a mess. This has been the case and continues to be so. I don't know what has to happen in this district and across the country before people wake up. It is scary. I know the patch is new but it doesn't matter, people don't even attend PTA meetings in their own buildings, always the same faces no matter what it is. A lot of what people say on here is true, I don't dispute some of it, it just seems like a lot of words - what is going to change it. I don't know the answer. Nobody in power really seems to do the right thing for the whole, not just what they want.
SaveTheWestIslipSchools February 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Thank you everyone for pointing out the texting and eye rolling because I saw it and thought I may have been imagining things. Pat I couldn't agree with you more and after the meeting the other night I have certainly have more questions than answers. If perception is reality then the perception after this last meeting would be that the few posting here are most definitely the minority and that people just can't be bothered to stand up for their children. The thing that troubles me the most though is this.........if there was 1.5 mil lost to negligence why didn't ANYONE question the validity of that the other night? Not a single soul called out AnnMarie on the allegations of misleading the Westbrook constituents and what it might mean for her friends at Winkler realty which, in my honest opinion, is the root of why the Westbrook parents are having an issue with "moving on". There was one gentleman who brought up the new car allowance for Mr. Simon but that issue was completely sidestepped as they tried to make him out to be the local nut. Why are we so complacent as to not confront the board on these issues and what do we need to do to get those that care organized and on the same page? I certainly have some ideas but can't figure out how to get in touch with any of you other than on these pages.
Rich February 11, 2012 at 02:32 PM
As the eye rolls, the smug and dismissive behavior reveal, our BOE members feel empowered to do whatever they want even if it is not best for our children or our district. I have spoken at the BOE meetings and been dismissed like yesterday's trash. They won't listen to community, the don't really care what's best for the community. Like all politicians they only wake up and listen when you cut off the money and vote them out. The budget must be voted down until this disastrous division is reversed for the good our children and our schools. Vote NO on the budget and vote these non caring members out of office.
Kerry Langley February 11, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Their eye rolls and smug behavior is a learned tactic to try and turn the community off to speaking about the real issues and damage that has been done. It is a tactic usually taught at seminars and conferences for public officials to essentially duck questions and vaild points made by the public so they don’t have to answer them. It works. Not many people speak out of fear of being treated like this, or they do not want to bother because they will not get anywhere with their questions. Believe me, they know what they are doing!
Concerned taxpayer February 11, 2012 at 03:56 PM
That is fine that they "know what they are doing" Soon the will be texting and eye rolling from their kitchen tables and not as Board Members.If we stick together we will overcome this I promise you.
Kerry Langley February 11, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Let's hope there are many many more people reading the patch than actually commenting on it as myself (until recently) following all these comments and threads who actually agree and are willing to do anything they can to change this injustice to our children and community. Where there is will there is a way!!!
Concerned taxpayer February 12, 2012 at 03:21 AM
John in another post had this link up its on recalling a school board does anyone think this could be useful to us? http://www.ehow.com/how_5880864_recall-school-board-members.html
Rich February 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
And I also posted this at the Patch discussion, School Closures, Busing Changes Hot Topics At BOE Meeting. Since the BOE doesn't want to do what's right for our children, We must vote NO on the budget. When the BOE refuses to do what's right for our children, we must take the power from them. We are over 2000 strong. We represent all the elementary school children. All the parents whose kids go from Westbrook and Kirdahy, all parents of Special Needs kids, all the parents whose kids will be bused bused, redistricted, and overcrowded into classrooms, all the parents whose kids will have their academic experience diminished through higher treacher to student ratios, all the parents of the kids loosing computer labs and indoor playgrounds, all the parents that didn't appreciate the smug looks and the eye rolls of BOE me members when they attempted to speak, and all the parents who don't understand raises, perks, and bonuses for administrators while our ES program gets destroyed, and the parents that can't pay their own bills at home but a 1.5 million dollar loss for not submitting paperwork doesn't seem to alarm the BOE enough to discuss it. So when you tell the BOE that you are voting NO on their budget, and they roll their eyes and tell you how much you will loose if you do, turn back to them and ask them how? What will they do next, close an ES cafeteria, gym, or maybe another ES. Yes we are the ES Parents over 2000 strong, and we want the best education for our children.
Kerry Langley February 12, 2012 at 02:50 PM
This seems easy enough. I believe the taxpayers of this town are tired of the children suffering. The administration running this district are supposed to do the right thing, but go about their daily lives getting what they want while the cuts come from the bottom instead of from the top. The cuts should be made from the top ending the cuts to the children at this point. It is evident they are not concerned about the right thing to do, but what they can get away with doing. Not sure if it is lack of responsibility or lack of knowledge. Either way, it is not beneficial to this town to have this continue. The madness has to stop. We can't afford this, literally!
marceil February 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I have attended almost all the public BOE meetings this school year. I was there on Thursday and I did not notice texting, eye rolling, or disrespectful behavior on the part of the BOE. There were ongoing concerns raised by some community members about the ES school closings. One BOE response noted that the community members who felt a reasonable decision had been reached have stopped commenting. This makes sense - it is a district decision and not a battle with winners/losers, conspiracies and villains. At previous meetings – parents, residents and even current students have spoken on each option. Many who have spoken have shared that the ES’s are great and have also spoken on the value of the MS programs and the growth experience provided. My goal is to provide the children the opportunity to grow, learn and be prepared for success in their lives. WI will need to spend educational dollars on top academic programs, not on underutilized buildings. To be successful children need to be adaptable to new situations. The US Dept. of Labor estimates that today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljbI-363A2Q. Each year brings changes in classroom, teacher, and mix of students in each class – this can be positive - adaptability is key. There are costs that need to be evaluated/reformed going forward. To get anywhere, we need to put our focus on moving ahead.
Gerry February 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
If you did not notice this behavior, you clearly were not looking at the BOE members when the community was speaking. Mrs. LaRosa, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Zotto were using their phones the entire time community members were speaking. I cannot say for sure they were texting because I could not see thier screens, but their phones were in their hands and being used either to text or use the Internet. In addition, they, along with Mr. Geller looked bored and constantly looked away while people were speaking. If you noticed, most of the people who spoke Thursday night did so for the first time. This is because many people who have spoken in the past are tired of the way they are treated by the BOE memebers while they speak. People would rather write letters than speak because of the rude behavior of the BOE memebers. I understand it may be boring to sit up there and listen to everyone, but that is part of the job of being a BOE member, listening to the community. If they do not want to hear the beliefs of the people they represent they should not be sitting up there.
Wendy Regan February 12, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Gerry, Rich, Taxpayers, Anna, Irene, Jessica, Catherine, Kerry, Concerned, Save WIS, Oquenuts, Lauren, Pat and anyone else who wants a bell to go off (no pun intended). Please lookup 'Delphi Technique' on your internet browser. As you are reading, pick your bottom jaw up off the floor and listen for the.......... DING !
Catherine Artusa February 12, 2012 at 05:08 PM
@Marceil I am not going to argue with you on what you saw but to say they were not texting in incorrect. You may have not noticed it but they were 100% texting and regardless of the reasons it's inappropriate and not the place for it. As for the behavior of this Board it is the exact reason the community is divided and upset again regardless of the decisions. You can not treat people that way an expect that everyone will then have faith that you have the best interest of their children in mind. This was not a community decision, there are a lot of people that disagree. Yes we have to move on but so should they move on, grow up, and learn how to act as a member of the Board of Education. Sorry but the members of the community that felt this was a reasonable decision and have stopped commenting are in fact BOE members/relatives hiding under fake names or they have not been effected in decision.
Catherine Artusa February 12, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Wendy I am familiar with this, check out this. http://www.vlrc.org/articles/110.html http://www.nogw.com/documents/_07_defeating_delphi.pdf
Rich February 12, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Marcell, when you describe this as "positive" were you referring to the overcrowding, the redistricting of 5,6,7,8,or 9 year old, the loss of computer labs, the decrease in teacher to student ratios, the moving the Special Needs children to a new school, or was it possibly the loss of stability and safety by some of our youngest who are being forced from the only school that the they have only known? Maybe you can elaborate about the positives? Maybe with all these positives, the BOE can be persuaded to share some with the higher grades.
Rich February 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It's time for the BOE to unite our community and start the hard work of Saving All of Our Schools for All of Our Children. The community won't accept overcrowding, poor Teacher to Student ratios, loss of computer labs, shuffling around of our Special Needs Children, and the loss of a great Elementary School Program. Rather than closing two ES, their Teachers, and their staff, let's start the long term hard work of solving the budget crisis. Recoup the 1.5 million lost through negligence and insure that the error is not repeated. Trim from the top. We are top heavy with too many Administrators, administrative assistants, and supervisors, some have to be cut. Healthcare benefits for all must be adjusted. $30 co pays is a start, its the standard for many business. No no purchases or updates only fix or repair. If and only if cuts need to be made to the students, they MUST be made evenly across All grades 1-12. Never just one group of students. By spreading the cuts, the cuts are fair, balanced, not overly stressful to any one group.
Anna February 13, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Thanks, Wendy. I have seen this used quite a lot in this town. I never knew it had a name. Gerry and Catherine, I absolutely agree - well said. And I have witnessed their inappropriate behavior myself on many occasions. They cannot expect the respect of the community if they do not show it in kind.
Rich February 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Repost Unfortunately it's all up to our BOE now. If they want to work with the community to save our schools, we are ready to work with them. If they are unwilling to reverse this decision and insist on closing two ES, they will be putting passage of the school budget in jeopardy. Each year passing the school budget can be difficult. There are taxpayers who won't vote for any increase and Seniors who can no longer afford the increases. Now the BOE will be now be adding over 2000 digruntled ES parents to potential NO votes or NO SHOW votes. How are they going to get the ES parents to support the budget, when their children's schools have been closed, they are going to be packed 29 to a classroom, they've increased teacher to student ratios, elimatinated computer labs, may eliminate indoor playgrounds, may have put children in trailers, and broke a promise with the Special Needs children that the would graduate from Westbrook. Just how are they going to get the support of the ES parents when they totally stuck it to their kids???

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