EWSD budget cuts tech, boosts athletics

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The East Williston Board of Education’s budget workshop last Wednesday night revealed a projected decrease in the school district’s technology budget and projected increases in the district’s athletics and pupil personnel services budgets as part of the school district’s tentative 2014-15 budget of $52.14 million.

At the outset of the workshop, East Williston Assistant Superintendent for Business Jacqueline Pirro said growth in the district’s tax base and budget efficiencies “have enabled the district to enhance our academic program and maintain co-curricular offerings to our students.”

The projected budget will be a 2.22 percent increase over the current $54.38 million with a tax levy increase of 2.31 percent, which school officials said was within  the state-mandate tax cap calculation.

David Casamento, East Williston director of science and technology, said the projected 2014-15 technology budget would be $736,695, down from the 2013-14 budget of $747,708, with a 16 percent in cost reductions for the Wheatley School and 7 percent for the Willets Road School. 

He said the largest increases are expected for costs of wireless access, the purchase of 150 Chromebooks for eighth grade Wheatley School students and iPads for all sixth and seventh grade students. 

“The volume of our wireless use here is growing exponentially,” he said, adding that usage is now at a level of 1,100 hits per minute.

The cost of 2014-15 broadband service for Internet and phone is projected at $85,000 He said an upgrade of wireless access capacity might be needed eventually, along with an outside entity for data storage. He said he is exploring Cloud storage solutions for the district’s future needs

“We have so much stuff being stored, we need more storage space,” Casamento said.

Technology costs of $20,245 at the North Side School are anticipated to include purchase of 15 laptop computers and a cart for them, three document cameras and three replacement projectors and the Brain Pop software program. Districtwide software costs of $25,675 will include iPad applications and Apple licenses. 

BOCES instructional costs are projected at $274,097 and BOCES administrative costs are anticipated to be $300,200.

He said he is working on a three-year technology plan he plans to present to the school board in April or May. He said beyond planned purchase of Chromebooks and iPads, the district is also considering the purchase of additional computers based on state testing requirements.

“We may be going to a computerized testing model in New York. It’s anybody’s guess,” Casamento said.

Tom Fitzpatrick, East Williston athletic director, said the 2014-15 athletics budget would rise to $832,918 from $800,626 with the biggest single increase in BOCES services, which are projected to increase to $71,482 in 2014-15 compared to $61,386 in the current budget.

Fitzpatrick said 604 of the district’s 888 students participated on various teams during the spring and fall of 2013 and the winter of 2013-14.

He said he understood that academic pressures prompted some students to drop out of athletic activities, but urged parents to encourage their children to keep coming out for sports teams.

“You should not let them drop out. You should force them to participate,” Fitzpatrick said, smiling.

Clare Hayes, outgoing district director of pupil personnel services, projected a year-to-year increase in the district budget to $93,220 from $92,854. She projected a year-to-year decrease in special education program costs to $76,425 from $76,782 and an increase in English as a second language to $5,239 from $3,704.

For outside special education services and tuitions, Hayes projected a year-to-year increase of approximately $1 million to $2.5 million from $2.41 million. Outside placements are expected to drop to 19 students from 22 students.

Proposed grant-funded salaries for 2014-15 could include one special education teacher, 2.2 teaching assistants, one testing coordinator and partial salaries for a special education chair, a life-skills teacher and a social studies teacher.

She said a part-time teacher would be hired at the North Side School for math instruction.

“For some students, the Common Core has really rocked their world. So for those students we’re doing a smaller class in math,” Hayes said

Of 22 Wheatley special education students who graduated in 2013, Hayes said 15 earned advanced Regents diplomas and 17 were attending four-year colleges.

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