State calls for regional high school plan

Roger Tilles of Great Neck, Long Island's representative

Roger Tilles of Great Neck, Long Island's representative to the state Board of Regents. (Oct. 25, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

ALBANY -- The state Department of Education is recommending creation of regional high schools to save money and boost educational standards for students.

The concept, presented for consideration to the Board of Regents at its meeting earlier this week, is geared toward upstate and rural areas, but might be applicable on Long Island, said Roger Tilles, the Island's representative on the board.

"Regional high schools are important for us to look at to ensure economic viability and, more importantly to me, academic equity," Tilles said. "While this is a concept meant for high schools in upper New York, we are looking at the potential use of regional high schools to mitigate academic inequality on Long Island."

The economic recession and declining school enrollment have "reduced educational opportunities" in some districts, department officials said in making their case. State aid has been stagnant for the past three years, forcing cuts in personnel and, in some cases, academic offerings. These financial concerns won't soon be alleviated, they said.

While many are reluctant to lose community schools, residents might be encouraged if such changes lead to greater educational offerings, officials said. Regional high schools would allow students greater opportunities in Advanced Placement and other college-level courses, as well as electives, foreign languages, internships, and career and technical training, the department found.

The proposal would allow three or more school districts to create a regional secondary program while maintaining their separate school district status.

The Education Department offers two models for this. In the host district model, one of the participating districts provides the regional secondary school for students from the surrounding participating districts. In the other model, BOCES operates the regional system. Each participating school district would pay tuition to the host district or to BOCES.

"For some of the districts we're looking at, it make a whole lot of sense," said Charles Szuberla Jr., the department's assistant commissioner for school operations.

Szuberla has reached out to school districts across the state and said he plans to meet with Long Island school officials within the next month.

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