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Shoreham-Wading River district defunds 2018 senior class trip

The district paid nearly $153,000 for the four-day

The district paid nearly $153,000 for the four-day trip in early March to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., seen on June 13, 2016. Credit: TNS / Dewayne Bevil

Leaders of the Shoreham-Wading River school district, facing a backlash for paying nearly $153,000 for the senior class trip to Disney World, are defunding next year’s trip.

A statement from interim Superintendent Neil Lederer, posted on the district’s website, said $40,000 in the proposed 2017-18 budget that had been allocated for the Class of 2018’s trip “will be redistributed . . . to fund other initiatives.”

The money shift came after “much discussion and debate over the district’s funding of the 2017 senior class trip,” Lederer’s statement said. “We have engaged students, parents and residents in these conversations and have listened to each valued and unique perspective.”

Lederer and school board president John Zukowski did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

“They’re getting such pressure,” board member Jack Costas said in an interview. He said he believes board members and administrators were worried the community would “vote ‘no’ for the budget in protest.”

“This was by consensus. We’ve been communicating with each other,” Costas said. He said the conversations occurred in text messages, emails and meetings with school officials.

Residents across the state are slated to vote on proposed district budgets and board candidates on May 16.

Newsday reported last week that the district paid nearly $153,000 for the four-day trip in early March, covering airfare and hotels. The district said 181 seniors, who paid $200 each, went to Disney World.

By comparison, the district spent $9,270 on the trip in 2016, with students paying $930 each and raising funds to cover remaining costs.

The controversy arose last summer after the district’s lawyer stated that field trips should be paid for by the district, not students, Lederer has said. Students rallied to preserve the trip, and Lederer said he recommended to board members that it continue.

With the district picking up more of the tab, 80 percent of the class signed up, escalating the cost.

Lederer’s statement on the website, in reference to the proposed budget, said, “The creation of the budget is an inclusive and fluid process as demonstrated by the open dialogue we shared on this topic and the receptive nature of the district, which prompted this budgetary shift.”

The interim superintendent, at an April 5 board meeting, took responsibility for the decision to pay for the March trip, saying, “If you’re going to look at anybody for making poor judgment, in going forward with the present, the trip that occurred this year, in this academic year, then it would be me.”

Students at that time had explained the trip’s educational aspects in a slideshow that highlighted amusements at the theme park’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

After that meeting, Lederer said $40,000 in the proposed budget was to fund the senior class trip in 2018, an amount that would cover about 100 students. He said no trips had been approved and that his successor would likely make the call.

The school board on April 18 approved the hiring of Gerard W. Poole as the district’s new superintendent, effective July 1. Poole currently is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Freeport school district.

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