6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Huntington High School.
The district proposes a $123,100,263 budget for 2016-17, a 2.25 percent increase from the current $120,394,737. The tax levy would increase 1.61 percent, from $101,990,551 to $103,629,655.
This increase is within the district’s tax-cap limit of 1.68 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family house would increase 0.99 percent, from $8,178 to $8,259.
The proposed budget includes a 1.25 percent contractual increase and a 0.63 percent step increase for teachers. It adds six teaching positions, primarily in grades 7-12, Superintendent James Polansky said. The spending plan also would add two research-focused AP Capstone electives, he said.
A proposition asks for authorization to spend $2.436 million from the district’s capital-reserve fund on infrastructure and building needs, including $1.585 million in improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other upgrades would include fire-rated doors at Flower Hills Primary, Jack Abrams STEM and Finley Middle School; electrical panel upgrade and foundation repairs at Huntington High School; a wireless clock system at Jack Abrams STEM; and a security vestibule at the entryway of Jefferson Primary School. Approval of the proposition would not have an effect on taxes, officials said.
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Incumbents Bill Dwyer and Bari Fehrs and candidate Carmen Kasper are running for two at-large seats. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Dwyer, 51, is an account manager for a Hauppauge-based computer company and has lived in the district for 21 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University, and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has three children, one in college and one a recent college graduate — both of whom are Huntington High School graduates — and one who is a senior at Huntington High. He has been president of Huntington Village Lacrosse for four years. Dwyer was elected to the school board in 2008 and 2013.
ISSUES: Dwyer said he would push for the district to continue introducing new educational programs, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). He said the absence of computer programming courses, even before high school, is a problem. “To best prepare our students for life beyond Huntington High School, I have been a vocal proponent of adding computer programming offerings to our curricula and I will continue to do so,” Dwyer said. He said it’s also critical for board members to maintain good working relationships with staff. He said it’s important “to do our best to listen to their needs, maintain morale. Happy teachers are effective teachers. Happy staff are effective staff. I think we’ve done a nice job of creating a good environment in our district.”
BACKGROUND: Fehrs, 51, is an office manager for a private medical practice and has lived in the district for 26 years. She attended SUNY Cortland and received a bachelor’s degree in communication from the New York Institute of Technology. She is on the school board’s policy committee and has served on several other committees, including Safety, Shared Decision Making and Health & Nutrition. She was president of the district’s PTA Council from 2010-2013, and is a past president of the Finley Middle School and Southdown Primary School PTAs. She is a Booster Club board member and coach with the Huntington Sports League. She has three children, two attending Huntington High School and one a graduate of the school. She was elected to the board in 2013.
ISSUES: Fehrs said the district faces two primary challenges: maintaining strong academic offerings under the limitation of the state-mandated tax cap and the “flawed” Common Core State Standards initiative and teacher evaluation system. Fehrs said she would continue to push for budgets that offer a wide array of electives and Advanced Placement courses, along with programs in the arts, robotics and athletics. To achieve those goals while staying within the district’s tax cap, Fehr said the board must be “keeping an eye on spending constantly, assessing where things can be taken from in one area if we need to expand in another, and be creative with resources within the district.” She said it’s important that the board continues “making our voices heard” on Common Core issues. “I’m all for setting a high bar for learning,” Fehr said. “But it’s got to be done in a way in which the tools and resources are fully vetted before they’re expected to work.”
BACKGROUND: Kasper, 68, retired last June after 14 years as the Huntington school district’s director of world languages, English as a Second Language and dual-language programs. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting from the Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal in Peru. She took teaching certification courses at SUNY Old Westbury, received a master’s degree in science in education from Hofstra University, and obtained a certification in educational administration from LIU Brentwood. She also has taught English, kindergarten, and first, second and seventh grades in Peru. A district resident for 10 years, she has worked as a bilingual resource specialist at Western Suffolk BOCES, as a Spanish teacher at Eastern Suffolk BOCES and as a BOCES regional summer school coordinator.
ISSUES: Kasper said the district must raise student scores on tests aligned with Common Core. In her candidate response form, Kasper said she would support continued efforts to upgrade teacher training so instructors can help students succeed under the Common Core’s “revamped” standards. “They need to know how to prepare lessons that follow the new standards and they need to write the curriculum that follows those standards,” she wrote. “The district has done a masterful job writing and managing numerous grants that have permitted our district to offer teacher training and instructional coaches to all grade levels.” If elected, Kasper said she would get committees together to research and pursue funding to help pay for professional grant writers so teachers get the training they need to help students succeed.