Northport-East Northport schools interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore has shot back at critics of his plan to eliminate the district's head of visual arts, saying economic realities make it necessary.

"All through Long Island, districts . . . with quality art programs have AP [advanced placement] students who win scholarships just as much as this district does [but] do not have a chairperson or director only of art, because of economics," Caramore said at Monday's school board meeting.

"You could say that Northport's different, but [there's] one thing you're not different about, and that's the tax cap," he said of the state-imposed limit on spending growth.

StoryLIers: Don't ax visual arts department head

The $159.7 million budget proposal for 2015-2016 would eliminate the job of Julia Lang-Shapiro, who has declined to comment. She was paid $119,506 in 2012-2013, the most recent data available.

Caramore's proposal, which would increase the overall budget by 0.348 percent, would combine the roles of the district's music and arts directors into one position.

Residents packed the board meeting to deliver a petition with more than 1,000 signatures seeking a one-year moratorium on the cut. "Ninety percent of your revenue comes from taxpayers, and I hope that the board of education hears the voters," said Patricia Gardiner, a parent among more than 100 people who filled the room. " . . . We do not support the elimination of the arts chair."

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It did not sway Caramore, who took the six-month stint after former Superintendent Marylou McDermott left early to care for her mother. "The art program . . . thrives because of the quality of the teachers who teach the students, not because of the supervisor," he said.

Residents argued that students compete nationally and receive scholarships in both disciplines. Caramore said that will not change under his plan.

A few speakers praised Caramore for his work since January, which includes plans for a long-sought expansion to full-day kindergarten. "Caramore comes in -- in three months -- and [we have] full-day kindergarten, boilers, equipment being fixed, schools are getting back together, I think the morale is up at the unions, and all of this under two percent" tax cap, said Joe Sabia of Northport, a former school board member.