The Mamaroneck School Board Meeting on Tuesday covered a broad array of topics. Nancy Pierson offered a brief synopsis of the Community Engagement Meeting held on February 10. One hundred thirty members of the community attended, including Assemblyman George Latimer.
Dr. Robert I. Shaps, Superintendent of Mamaroneck Public Schools, presented the 2011-12 budget using numbers analogous to the current budget to illustrate a gap of over 4 million dollars. This is above the 2.2% increase permitted under the tax cap, and state mandated increases such as a 14% increase in healthcare and contractually mandated salary increases.
Ms. Pierson said that during small group discussions, the community expressed the desire to maintain ” the lowest possible tax rate achievable through efficiency,” while maintaining a commitment to academic excellence. Additional community priorities were to develop a multi-year budget outlook, to maintain learning opportunities and support for all students, to work with unions to develop sustainable contracts, and to maintain budget transparency and efficiency.
Superintendent Shaps updated community members on the search for a Mamaroneck High School Principal. Since the search committee has not found a qualified and exceptional candidate, he said, ” we will be posting the position internally in the district.” In the next ten days, said Dr. Shaps “we hope to invite community members, faculty and students to participate in the interview process.”
Dr. Mark Levy from the Larchmont-Mamamroneck Community Counseling Center offered a heartfelt and emotional plea: “please do everything you can to restore the cuts of the last two years.” He eloquently outlined the integral services that the center provides for the community. Some of the services he mentioned were crisis intervention, parent support groups and life skills youth advocacy groups for Hommick’s sixth and seventh graders. Dr. Levy said “the counseling center provides a safety network for the kids in the community and helps them navigate the waters of adolescence.” Dr. Levy reached out to parents and said: “Feel free to call us. Our door is open.”
Mamaroneck School Board President Rick Marsico asked Dr. Levy “What trends are you seeing (among kids and families in the community)and are they financially related? Dr. Levy poignantly responded “Our community is a tale of two cities. In one, life goes on and they are dealing with the normal concerns of life, another section of the community is quietly in distress.”
He spoke about the challenges that the center is facing in trying to maintain the quality of service in light of the fact that over the past two years its budget has been cut by 50%. He explained that the center is running at “over $100,000 deficit.”
One of the board members suggested “Could you put together numbers? Could you quantify the results?” and Dr. Levy emotionally responded “Stats do not capture results. We have missed a lot of tragedies.”
The last order of the evening was a report given by Debbie Manetta, Director of Public Information, about the prospect of developing a district Facebook page. She explained that “facebook could be an integral part of communication’s strategy. People use facebook in their daily lives. We should communicate with them on their terms.” Some of the benefits she offered as examples of facebook’s values were the ability to tell the district’s story, publicize events, offer curriculum news, reach out to alumni and share students’ achievements.
“As opposed to our web site which is static,” said Manetta, “Facebook is in their face.”