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Story - Education

Apr 7, 2010 10:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor students rally for school budget

Apr 7, 2010 10:56 AM

While Sag Harbor School District officials ponder ways to meet the district’s spending needs for the next school year, a student-led movement is working to rally community support for the proposed 2010-11 budget, despite the nearly 10-percent tax increase it calls for.

On the last day before classes let out for spring break, with the halls and classrooms buzzing with news of the administration’s warnings about layoffs and program cuts that would be necessary if taxpayers reject the budget, Max Moyer, a senior at Pierson High School, and more than 75 other students gathered in the cafeteria to organize their own effort to make the cuts unnecessary. Dubbing the youthful effort S.O.S., for Save Our School, Mr. Moyer and the other students have pledged to take their plea to the community in hopes of strengthening the resolve of School Board members to approve the spending necessary to maintain status quo at the school.

He said he was inspired to rally his fellow students after seeing one of his teachers in tears after being informed that his job would be eliminated if the school district is forced to adopt an austerity budget.

“It’s about preserving our education,” the young Mr. Moyer said this week. “We cannot lose these teachers, or our sports teams. I’d rather they took away our desks. I will sit on the floor before I let teachers lose their jobs.”

He said he told the other students to picture what the college application process would be like if an austerity budget forced the school to drop extracurricular activities and elective educational programs like music and theater. “Imagine being a student trying to explain to a college that they had three study halls their senior year because more classes weren’t offered, or that they couldn’t play field hockey because the school had to cut its sports programs,” he said. “Imagine what the school would look like next year with no sports teams.”

Facing the need to make enormous spending cuts, several Long Island school districts have announced hundreds of layoffs among faculty and staff in recent weeks. Sag Harbor officials say they could be next.

The School Board has proposed a $30.5 million budget for the 2010-11 school year, a 4-percent spending increase that would require a 9.8-percent tax hike for district residents. Administrators have trimmed nearly $2 million from the initial spending plan, but if voters reject it, Superintendent Dr. John Gratto has said another $1.3 million would have to be cut from the budget, reductions that would only be possible through the elimination of staff and educational and extracurricular offerings. Dr. Gratto has asked the five unions that represent the district’s employees if they would accept a pay freeze in 2010-11, which would save the schools $1.2 million and reduce the necessary tax increase to less than 5 percent.

The fledgling initiative by the students will focus on bringing the community out to support the budget. The young people of SOS will voice their plea to the School Board on Monday, April 12.

“I’m not saying the teachers should accept pay freezes, or that the board shouldn’t be trying to find a way to cut more. I’m just saying that someone needs to do something,” the teen said. “We don’t advocate for [the teachers’ union], and we’re not advocating for the board. We’re advocating for our education.”

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What everyone needs here is a dose of reality. When Mr. Moyer has to pay a school tax bill each year, he will understand.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 9, 10 11:05 PM
Or maybe he'll grow up believing that children are our future and he'll gladly pay the taxes that finance the education of our future doctors, nurses, firefighters, business owners and community leaders.

Congrats to you, Max. You are displaying great courage and real fortitude. Your education is important and you are right to fight for it! Don't listen to grumpy old people, but do you what you feel is right.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 11, 10 7:56 PM
Give the young man credit. Go back and read the stories on 27East over the years. Go back to a April 1, 2008 article by Oliver Peterson. The Board members said they loved the 2008/2009 budget. The Board members said the administration did everything the board asked in the budget. The Board president called it a "watershed" accomplishment. They were happy because spending was under their 2% imposed spending cap and tax rates went up little because the Board decided to use surplus to keep the ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Apr 10, 10 12:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
You sound like an employee of the district. If not, why would someone from Springs even care?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 10, 10 9:44 PM
Here we go again. Budget time and the teachers again are getting the students all upset about something that might not even happen. The teachers need to worry more about teaching the students then getting them upset about something that might not even happen. In Sag Harbor we have very selfish teachers who think about themselves before the students. If the current teachers are unhappy with the way things are going leave and let some young, creative teachers come in. As for hohum123 I think ...more
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Apr 10, 10 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
nellie and favaunt...the reason hohum123 cares so much is because he is the former business manager and the author of the budget that has been a disaster for the Sag Harbor School District...the New York State Department of Education has written a scathing report on the finances of the district under his watch...he has run huge operating deficits wherever he has worked and made budget transfers to coverup his budget shortfalls without ever notifying the government representatives he was responsible ...more
By truth in sag (2), Sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 8:14 AM
2 members liked this comment
Truth In Sag....I am actually someone who is thinking about a Springs student going to Sag Harbor. Sag Harbor has already come to Springs and made a pitch for taking Springs students at a price less than East Hampton is charging. I want the quality of education to be what it has been in Sag Harbor so the Springs kids get what the Sag harbor superintendent bragged about when he was here. Some people on these threads are obsessed with policitcs, you must be one of the Board of Education members ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Apr 11, 10 11:55 AM
2 members liked this comment
Hohum, you have hit the nail on the head. The folks on this board are so warped by their right wing mindset that they attack kids and teachers. Look to the school board members when placing budget blames, not teachers and kids. We need to abolish local school boards who are overwhelmed by folks who serve because they have the time do so and without thought or qualification. We went through the same stuff in Tuckahoe and we are still paying for the mistakes of school board incompetence!

As ...more
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 11, 10 8:03 PM
I read "Truth in Sag Harbor's" comment and had to sign up to respond by saying I have first hand knowledge of the history in the Sag Harbor School District and the former administrator that "Truth in Sag Harbor" refers to. That person was a wonderful and dedicated employee. I know this administrator did everything asked of him and more. I believe if you ask any of the other administrators in Sag Harbor or the teachers they will tell you the same thing. His history, as I have researched it, ...more
By khnoway (9), sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 1:03 PM
I just received a call from someone who was able to identify me from my post. They told me who "Truth in Sag" is believed to be. You should be ashamed of yourself "Truth in Sag". Always the destructive individual who has put the knife in the back of more than a few people. Keep it up, every one is on to you. Hey, I think you know what I mean.
By khnoway (9), sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 1:58 PM
Hey khnoway...you are a little too transparent...my kid brought home a letter from the New York State Dept. of Education which says it all...not personal destruction not my opinion but theirs dated March 19, 2010...."significant operating deficits for the last two years and a net 3 year deficit of $ 3,235,205 that was 11.34% of the operating budget"...and that was the good news...his reputation is well known and he has been a disaster everywhere...always one step ahead and out before it hits the ...more
By truth in sag (2), Sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 3:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't think you have any kids. And based on the person who called me earlier no letters went home to kids. Actually, I was told the reporters from the school magazine received the letter you are referring to and those reporters actually have a problem with how the students have been treated by the current school administration and Board. I am told the letter is about the surplus the BOE agreed to use to keep tax rates down and themselves in office. When surplus is used it creates budgets ...more
By khnoway (9), sag harbor on Apr 11, 10 4:17 PM
I am nothing less than amazed at how many people are against students and educators. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 11, 10 7:59 PM
i think that everyone who comments on this article should get the facts before assuming things.
By spiltpea (1), sag harbor on Apr 12, 10 11:27 AM
Doesn't anyone find it strange that the administration is trying to force teachers into accepting a pay freeze before the budget has even put up for a vote? Even if it is voted it down, that does not mean that the district will automatically be pushed into an austerity budget. It seems to me that the Board and the Superintendent are preying on the public's fears by discussing these things in the press. Was anyone aware that teachers in Sag Harbor School district don't even have vision plan...in ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Apr 12, 10 1:59 PM
pstevens is correct. Put the budget to a vote. I'm sure the BOE will blame everyone under the sun, including the superintendent they forced into retirement and her staff, for budgets they embraced and demanded. The only Board member to not get re-elected over the last four years was the Board member who never supported spending caps, and tax rate caps, and everything artifcial the current board members have done to keep themselves in office. Just ask the former president of the Board who is ...more
By khnoway (9), sag harbor on Apr 12, 10 4:07 PM
Short of some state mandates here and there, it's ALWAYS the School Board's fault (and credit) because they are the elected officials. They make policy ALONE. No one else, teachers, the superintendent, or the budget mananger make policy. They can propose and carry out. that's it.

What Sag Harbor, like all school districts, needs is for 4 people to sit on that board and realize they spend too much and get too little.
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Apr 13, 10 10:18 PM