North Rockland Transformation Meeting Brings Out Different Opinions

BY LAUREN KATE ROSENBLUM
Parent Mercedes expresses her upset with the board’s plan

At Tuesday’s monthly update on “NRCSD Transforming Our Future” Superintendent Ileana Eckert presented “’Plan B’ Attendance Lines and cost-containment.” Plan B differs from Plan A in several ways. Plan A took current middle school lines and simply dropped them down into the elementary school level. Plan B used the same transportation lines, as the bus company charges per-run versus per-mileage.

Plan B also has students from North Garnerville Elementary School (which will be closing), who live north of Route 202, attending West Haverstraw Elementary, while children living south of Route 202, will attend Thiells Elementary. Students attending Gerald Neary Elementary School, which is also closing, will be attending one of three K-3 schools, Thiells Elementary, West Haverstraw Elementary, and Stony Point Elementary.
Updated from the last meeting, in Plan B, children who are currently in grade five would stay in their current middle schools for sixth grade. This is to prevent that class from moving around so much, as if they were to be redistricted, some students would be seeing three schools in three years. The district is able to do this because the fifth grade class is relatively evenly split in each school.
Plan B will also utilize the popular idea of sister schools. This means that students will go to elementary schools together. Haverstraw, Farley and Willow Grove would become elementary schools for grads four through six. Eckert stated it was important to realize that fourth grade would not be coming into middle schools, but rather fifth and sixth grades would be reverting back to an elementary school model.
The estimated cost savings for the district are pretty high. The district is looking to lay off 27.2 full-time employees across the district leading to an estimated savings of $2,639,914. Next, the closing of the Annex building, Railroad Avenue School, and Gerald Neary Elementary, will lead to a $99,278 savings in utility costs and $58,803 in Xerox contracts and Transportation. It should be noted that Ganerville is not included in these figures because it will still be used by the district in other capacities, such as the location of the alternative program in the district.
Board President Deborah Gatti indicated that there has been interest expressed in leasing Gerald Neary, which would also bring in anticipated revenue. They are also exploring lease opportunities for Railroad Avenue. The Annex Building will likely be demolished in a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly fashion.
The total savings for the Annex are $902,000. For Railroad Avenue, the district will see a savings of $1,219,000. Between the closing of these two buildings there is an approximate savings of $2,121,000. Eckert indicated that all of these figures are estimated conservatively and are not final.
The public was given the opportunity to respond to the plan, and many were very angry. One parent who identified herself as Mercedes of Captain Shankey Drive, told the board she was not happy with plans to move her child to a different elementary school. She said unfortunately, “in this market, I can’t just say ‘screw it’ and leave,” so it is her hope that the board will hear her concerns. There was obvious concern expressed over loss of property value from redistricting, especially as the state has deemed West Haverstraw Elementary School and Willow Grove Middle School as schools in need of improvement.
Gatti responded to these concerns with, “The truth is the state is just nuts!” She pointed out to concerned parents that Clarkstown School District,

St. Peters Boy Scout Group 19 attended the meeting to earn their "Citizenship in the Community Badge.”

traditionally held in high regard, has two schools in need of improvement as well. She said the criteria for this classification needs to be put in perspective. The state’s criteria for needs improvement schools are such that English language learners are expected to be on grade level in one year. Gatti asked the public to think about whether they could move to a foreign country and be able to read and write fluently in that language in a year. She also expressed that at the current rate of state evaluations, soon no school will be in good standing.

Another parent, Elizabeth Luisi, said, “Our diversity is an asset…and the district is good enough for my kid.”
Also in attendance at the meeting was the St. Peters Boy Scout Group 19 from Haverstraw. Paul Stolz volunteered to organize this as an opportunity for the boys to receive their Citizenship in Community Badge. To get this, the boys must attend a public meeting and explore an issue that people have different points of view on. The young scouts certainly earned that badge on Tuesday.
The next steps for the board to take are refining and finalizing their plans and approving what they are going to do, as kindergarten registration is fast approaching. The next monthly transformation meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on January 3, at North Rockland High School, and will focus on Administrative Assignments.