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Northport-East Northport school board forwards budget with kindergarten but no arts leader

Dr. Thomas Caramore, Northport's interim superintedent is shown

Dr. Thomas Caramore, Northport's interim superintedent is shown on Feb. 9, 2015. Credit: Johnny Milano

The Northport-East Northport school board has formally recommended a $159.7 million 2015-16 budget, adding full-day kindergarten and eliminating the arts chairperson post.

Julia Lang-Shapiro, the district chairwoman for the visual arts, has declined throughout the process to comment on the prospect of having her job eliminated.

The budget-to-budget increase is $554,343, or 0.3 percent. The tax levy increase would be 1.3 percent.

Residents will be able to participate in a public hearing May 11 and vote on the budget May 19.

Northport parents and community members have turned out in force for this year's budget discussions, fighting for -- and winning -- full-day kindergarten, for which the district will receive $575,000 in targeted state aid.

The budget includes a total of $12.6 million in state aid.

Many also packed the budget discussions to oppose plans to eliminate the two separate music and art department heads for the district. The two positions will be rolled into one, overseen by music department head Izzet Mergen, who has seniority.

In a show of support for Lang-Shapiro, Northport residents came to meetings sporting yellow clothing and delivered a petition with more than 1,000 signatures seeking a moratorium on the elimination.

Dozens of parents and current and former students spoke to the board about the role she has played in helping students win scholarships and competitions and get into key art classes, and how she inspired their creativity.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore has said the district will maintain its dedication to the arts and music programs. He said critics of the cut are wrong and that the elimination of Lang-Shapiro's position will bring Northport in line with most districts across Long Island that have only one chairperson for the arts and music.

The district's rainy day reserve fund is $6.38 million, or 3.99 percent of the total 2015-16 budget -- just below the state's 4 percent limit.

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