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Career, technical program at William Floyd

Richard Jennings of Deer Park, who works for

Richard Jennings of Deer Park, who works for Main Line Electric, installs new wiring and an exit sign in the new culinary wing of William Floyd High School, which will be abandoning its BOCES program in favor of bringing career and technology education in-house. (Aug. 13, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

The William Floyd school district is opening its own Career and Technical Education Program this year, turning away from Eastern Suffolk BOCES to save money, officials said.

The district is finishing a new wing at the high school -- funded by a $35 million grant -- to accommodate cosmetology, carpentry and culinary classes, which will start in September. Automotive and nursing assistant courses will be added in 2013-2014.

Officials said they were reluctant to stop sending students to BOCES, but felt they didn't have a choice.

"We tried to keep it alive and honor kids' requests, but it was becoming prohibitive," said Gordon Brosdal, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction and administration.

This is the largest building project at the district since 1999, when it added William Floyd Middle School in addition to a new library, fine arts wing and gym to the high school. That project, funded by a $120 million bond, also allowed for additions at the elementary school level.

Eastern Suffolk BOCES provided career and technical education courses to 2,252 mainstream students in 2006-2007 compared with 1,731 students last school year, marking a 23 percent drop. The group serves 51 school districts in Brookhaven, Islip and the five East End towns.

Gary Bixhorn, the organization's chief operating officer, said it formed a committee last school year to search for ways to bring costs down. The group is expected to deliver its findings in late fall.

"We want to look and see if there are different ways we can offer the programs," he said, including providing some classes on school grounds, cutting transportation costs.

William Floyd spent $1.45 million sending 141 students to BOCES in the 2006-2007 school year. The program cost $10,272 per student at the time, officials said.

The price rose annually, reaching $11,583 in 2010-2011. William Floyd started limiting the number of students who could participate starting in 2008-2009, when the per-child cost hit $10,977.

School districts within the Eastern Suffolk BOCES region receive anywhere from 25 percent to 49 percent state reimbursement for each student. William Floyd recouped 45 percent of its costs.

The district's new CTE program will cost roughly $500,000 next school year for salaries, benefits and supplies and will accommodate at least 90 students in its first year, officials said. When the program expands the following year -- it is expected to double in size -- the costs still are expected to be well below what BOCES would have charged, Brosdal said.

Officials at William Floyd said it was hard hit by state aid cuts. Around 238 full- and part-time positions were eliminated since 2010, including more than 100 teachers.

The district trimmed numerous music, sports, extracurriculars and other programs, eliminating even the high school play until it was restored through fundraising.

"They took money away from us and we had to find ways to fill the gaps," said Dave Beggins, assistant superintendent for business.

BOCES will continue to provide special education programs, data processing and other services for the district, he said.

The new wing was funded by a $35 million EXCEL grant. The money also paid for the renovation of existing classroom space within the high school to support the CTE program.

Officials at Western Suffolk BOCES say they've served roughly the same number of career and technical education students at Wilson Tech campuses during the last several years, working with 1,416 mainstream students in 2006-2007 and 1,177 last school year.

The number dipped to 1,046 in 2009-2010 but jumped to 1,246 the following school year.

"We are doing as much as we can to hold the costs down for our school districts," Western Suffolk BOCES spokeswoman Susan Smith said.

Of the 18 districts Western Suffolk BOCES serves, the average state reimbursement was 28 percent per student for the 2011-2012 school year, when tuition was $10,700. It will hold steady this coming school year.

Enrollment at the Nassau BOCES Joseph M. Barry Career and Technical Education Center has risen from 1,290 three years ago to more than 1,400 for the 2012-13 school year, a spokeswoman said. Officials attributed their success to solid programs and steady costs. They said the current cost is $11,746 per student but did not provide previous figures.

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