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Residents oppose elimination of Northport-East Northport visual arts department head

Hundreds of community members, including those wearing yellow

Hundreds of community members, including those wearing yellow in support of teacher Julia Lang-Shapiro, pack the Northport-East Northport board meeting on Monday March 16, 2015. Credit: Valeria Bauman

Residents have come out in force against the Northport-East Northport school board's plan to eliminate the district's head of visual arts.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Caramore's 2015-2016 budget proposal would eliminate the job of Julia Lang-Shapiro, who said Tuesday she could not comment. Lang-Shapiro made $119,506 in 2012-2013, the most recent data available.

Izzet Mergen, director of music education, would oversee both programs.

"The art program isn't a number," Callum Hutchinson, a 17-year-old aspiring photographer at Northport High, said at the Monday meeting attended by about 200 people. "Ms. Lang-Shapiro isn't just there for the faculty; she's there for every student in every classroom."

Hutchinson credited Lang-Shapiro for helping him land scholarships at three art schools, including $100,000 to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Caramore said declining enrollment is driving staffing changes. The district had 6,355 students in 2010, and is projecting 5,583 in the next school year, he said.

"It's never easy to eliminate positions," he said. "It's not a reduction in the emphasis the district is placing on arts and music in the district."

Caramore's $159.7 million budget proposal would increase spending by 0.348 percent, unusually low for the district. Parents and the teachers union have praised his draft proposal's controlled spending and expansion of kindergarten.

District officials are waiting to learn how much state aid it will receive before finalizing the budget.

Trustee Stephen V. Waldenburg Jr., said Monday that he is troubled at the prospect of Lang-Shapiro's removal. "Northport has been known throughout the state [for arts] and has been held up to other districts as a model to emulate."

Caramore said art and music would remain strong under one leader.

His plan, as introduced, would create all-day kindergarten and cut nine positions. Teachers union president Antoinette Blanck said the changes would have minimal impact on her members because some would be covered by attrition and others would go to part-time status.

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