This week's top stories

1. All but four school budgets pass

William Floyd School High School polling site.

William Floyd School High School polling site. Credit: James Carbone

Voters approved school budgets in 116 Long Island districts on Tuesday, often by lopsided margins, with four budgets failing.

Three districts — Bridgehampton, Three Village and Wantagh — where budget votes failed had attempted to override the state tax cap. The budget for Northport-East Northport also failed, though that district was not seeking to override the cap.

Four Island districts, voting early on May 11 because of the Jewish holiday, already had approved their budgets.

Most voter participation was on-site, in contrast to last year's elections that were conducted by mail-in ballots as a precaution against COVID-19 infection.

"What we're seeing is some lower turnout, but also tremendous support in some districts," said Lorraine Deller, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.

Read the full story.

2. Smithtown district defends equity efforts

The eastern campus of Smithtown High School.

The eastern campus of Smithtown High School. Credit: Raychel Brightman

The Smithtown Central School District is defending its equity efforts after some in the community accused the district of being prejudicial against white children and laying the groundwork for socialism.

  • Parents and others in recent months have questioned the district's stance on "critical race theory" and "white privilege," topics that entered the national conversation following the killing of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in 2020.
  • School board members, top administrators and teachers union leaders said they had not adopted a goal or policy related to critical race theory and were not singling out white children.

Read the full story.

3. Lowest tax increases in years

Budget vote sign in Wantagh.

Budget vote sign in Wantagh. Credit: Howard Schnapp

School taxes across Long Island are slated to rise an average 1.38% next fiscal year — the lowest projected increase in five years and one of the lowest in a quarter-century, a Newsday analysis found.

  • School spending, meanwhile, will grow by an average 2.91%, to an Islandwide total of $13.75 billion, with millions of additional dollars earmarked for teacher salaries and COVID-19 protection.
  • Spending does not include hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money.

Read the full story.

4. Amityville teacher suspended

Amityville Memorial High School.

Amityville Memorial High School. Credit: Barry Sloan

An Amityville Memorial High School teacher allegedly heard making a racially insensitive comment toward Black players during a livestream of a school football game has been suspended with pay, district officials said.

  • The Amityville Board of Education voted to suspend the teacher, who was not identified, pending a hearing by a state arbitrator.
  • If the teacher, who is white, declines to go through the hearing process, he will be terminated, officials said.

Read the full story.

5. Students rally against hate

Herricks High School students rally.

Herricks High School students rally. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

More than 100 people rallied Saturday at Herricks High School in a student-organized demonstration against anti-Asian hate crimes that have surged during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The Asian American Cultural Club, which organized the event with the backing of other Herricks groups, including clubs representing Black, Latino, Muslim, Chinese and Korean students and cultural traditions.
  • David Xiang, 17, president of the Asian American Cultural Club, said the stand against anti-Asian hate was a message both for the wider community and Asian students themselves.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

Lindsey Cruz-Rosales of Westbury High School, Christopher Bingham of St....

Lindsey Cruz-Rosales of Westbury High School, Christopher Bingham of St. Mary's High School and Emily Zhang of General Douglas MacArthur High School are among Long Island's 2021 valedictorians. Credit: Westbury High School; St. Mary's High School; General Douglas MacArthur High School

  • Meet Long Island's 2021 high school valedictorians and salutatorians. They’re filmmakers, black belt martial artists, and more. See who's staying on LI and who’s going abroad.
  • Get answers to questions about how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and browse common FAFSA questions.
  • The School Mental Health Resource & Training Center provides mental health instruction and social emotional learning resources.

Round of applause

Lucas Randell.

Lucas Randell. Credit: Heather Salerno

A Garden City teen has been raising money for charities by making and selling reusable face masks that contain organic, sustainably harvested seaweed.

Lucas Randell, a sophomore at Chaminade High School in Mineola, has raised more than $1,400 since the fall through mask sales to benefit the nonprofit No Kid Hungry and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

The double-layered masks are made from SeaCell fiber, a material that is carbon neutral, biodegradable and manufactured using methods that save energy and resources.

Your questions answered

Have questions? Send them to ednews@newsday.com. Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.

Where can parents and children find more information about vaccinations for children ages 12-15 against COVID-19?

All individuals 12 years of age and older that reside in the United States are now eligible to receive the vaccine. According to the New York State Health Department, for individuals younger than the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must provide consent for vaccination.

A parent or legal guardian must provide verbal consent either while accompanying the minor to the vaccination appointment, or by phone at the time of the vaccination appointment. If the minor is 12-15 years old, they must arrive with a parent or guardian, or they need to bring another adult caregiver who has a signed designation from the parent or guardian and the parent/guardian must be available by phone.

Under the most recent guidance for ages 12-15, a federal health advisory committee endorsed use of only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 12.

In addition, Newsday is hosting a live guide for parents Friday that answers questions such as: With more venues opening to vaccinated New Yorkers, should parents consider vaccinating eligible children before school resumes in the fall? What about mask wearing, social distancing, and proof of vaccination? Long Island medical and education experts answer questions during a talk moderated by Newsday Associate Editor Joye Brown to be held Friday at noon. Register here.

— Find the latest education news at newsday.com/long-island/education. Joie Tyrrell can be reached at joie.tyrrell@newsday.com or on Twitter @JoieTyrrell.