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The Village News, Bellport's Paperless NewspaperOp-Ed

Normally, the phrase “Op-Ed” stands for “opposite the editorial page,” but here on Bellport.com, it stands for “Opinion-Editorial.” Our Op-Ed piece's express the opinion of a writer who is unaffiliated with Bellport.com and the writer is solely responsible for the content of the Op-Ed piece. Generally, our Op-Ed pieces are fewer than 1,000 words in length and they should be in good taste and not libelous. Our Editorial Board would be glad to consider your Op-Ed piece for publication.

 


   
May 1, 2018

South Country School District 2018/2019 Budget Vote

Op-Ed
by Cheryl A. Felice



The Board of Education and district administration proudly presents the 2018–2019 school budget for voter approval. Our budget vote comes as our district successfully completed the NYS Comptroller’s Audit. South Country is in good fiscal health. Our budget stays within the NYS Tax Cap and keeps spending down less than 2%.

The 2018-2019 budget is program driven; maintains low class size, our excellent staff, and supports our superior performing arts and athletic programs.

A significant achievement in this budget is the creation of a new Dual Language Magnet School at Brookhaven Elementary School. This program initiative is a true beacon for South Country as moving forward EVERY Kindergarten student will be offered the opportunity to attend the Dual Language program regardless of where they live in the district. Also, the program will expand to the higher grades as those students graduating from the Magnet School program progress throughout the district. This will prepare our students for enhanced educational and job opportunities that are second to none!

Another vigorous vision for South Country is the plan to create a Pre-Kindergarten Center at the South Haven School for the 2019-2020 school year, with the plan to include busing. Additional State Aid received will offset the renovation costs at the Pre-Kindergarten Center.

The 2018–2019 budget includes the much anticipated high school Cadet Core Program! The Cadet Core Program will supplement our very successful Career and Technology Education Placement Program already offered through BOCES. Here in South Country, we are providing a variety of career and educational pathways for all our students. This budget also maintains our successful Family Engagement Center for more supplemental learning.

The voters will also be asked to approve a separate resolution to improve our school building infrastructure, beginning with the Frank P. Long Intermediate School. The $2.42 million project to replace all windows and doors and alleviate and mitigate water drainage and vegetation away from the school is already set aside in the voter approved Capital Reserve Fund. The initiative to create the Capital Reserve Fund was approved by the community in the 2016-2017 school budget vote. This plan means there will be no tax increase to complete this important project and enhance the learning experience for grades 4 & 5.

However, a budget is more than structures and classrooms. In developing a spending plan, we must also be mindful of mental and wellness health issues that are prevalent with our students today. Challenges in and around our district created a need for our High School students to host a Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018. By approving the 2018-2019 budget, we will support our students by adding seven (7) more Teachers’ Assistants and a Behavioral Specialist to our professional staff and explore the possibility of adding a Public Relations specialist to help communicate everything that is positive in South Country.

As school districts across our country work to enhance security and safety measures within all school buildings, South Country is already on the forefront of this important measure. Security vestibules were previously planned for and completed in our High School, Middle School and Intermediate School. The 2018-2019 budget will provide necessary funding to construct these vestibules in all our elementary schools and maintains the Board of Education's #1 priority, safety.

Finally, since the district voted in favor of reducing the size of the Board of Education from nine (9) members to seven (7) members in the 2016-2017 budget vote; and voters were only required to elect one (1) Board of Education member; voters in South Country will also be asked to elect three (3) Board of Education members in an at-large race in the 2018–2019 election year. To complete the board reduction transition, the two (2) BOE positions with the highest numbers of votes will receive a 3-year term, while the BOE member with the third-highest votes, will earn a 2-year term.

Thank you for your time and remember, your vote is important. Cast your vote Tuesday, May 15, 2018 from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. at the Bellport Middle School on Kreamer St., in Bellport. For more information about the 2018-2019 budget vote, please visit the district website at www.southcountry.org.

Cheryl A. Felice
BOE President