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Sep 1, 2009 4:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach still has not endorsed high school district study

Sep 1, 2009 4:44 PM

The Westhampton Beach School Board has kept mum on whether or not it will support a study that examines the pros and cons of creating a centralized high school district.

After spending the summer mulling the resolution, which has already been approved by four of Westhampton Beach’s sending districts, School Board members plan to make a public statement regarding their decision during their next meeting on Monday, September 14, said Westhampton Beach Superintendant Lynn Schwartz.

“There was a lot of discussion over the summer,” he said, declining to hint what the board would announce.

The limited meeting schedule during the summer months has delayed action on the matter, according to School Board member Beecher Halsey.

“This is not something you do without deliberation and research,” he said, also declining to say what the board would announce on September 14. “You’ll have to wait and see.”

Meanwhile, School Board Vice President Jim Hulme said the board has not yet determined if a vote will take place at that meeting. He said he and fellow board members spent the summer examining the potential financial and economic impacts of the centralized high school proposal.

The Remsenburg/Speonk, Quogue, East Quogue and East Moriches school boards all signed off on similar resolutions over the summer. Westhampton Beach is the only district that has not yet done so, despite encouragement from New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle to make a decision as soon as possible.

Westhampton Beach must adopt the resolution for the proposed study to go forward. The study is expected cost between $50,000 and $100,000, Mr. Schwartz said. Mr. LaValle previously said the school districts would share the cost of the study.

The Tuckahoe School District, the fifth district that sends some of its students to Westhampton Beach High School, does not have to sign off on the resolution. Tuckahoe Superintendant Linda Rozzi said in July that her district still wants to give its students the option of attending Westhampton Beach or Southampton high schools.

Last year, Mr. LaValle asked Westhampton Beach and its sending districts to agree to examine the idea of creating a centralized high school district. The goal of the proposed study would be to examine the benefits, if any, of making Westhampton Beach High School the only high school option for students in the Remsenburg/Speonk, East Moriches, Quogue and East Quogue school districts.

Currently, Remsenburg/Speonk students can now choose between Eastport South Manor and Westhampton Beach high schools, while East Moriches students can choose between Eastport South Manor, Center Moriches and Westhampton Beach high schools.

Mr. Schwartz noted that Westhampton Beach now receives virtually all Remsenburg/Speonk students. Quogue and East Quogue send their students exclusively to the Westhampton Beach High School. This school year, 16 of the 133 Tuckahoe students are enrolled in Westhampton Beach High School.

Sending districts currently pay the Westhampton Beach School District about $18,000 per student, per year, in tuition fees. If a centralized high school district is created, the taxpayers in the sending districts would pay a “high school tax” on top of the regular school district tax, the latter of which will still be levied to fund their respective elementary schools.

The Remsenburg/Speonk, Quogue and East Quogue school districts also send their middle school age students to Westhampton Beach Middle School. Even if a centralized high school district was created, those three districts will most likely still have to pay tuition for their middle school students, Mr. Schwartz said. That detail still “remains problematic,” he added.

If it is ever approved, a centralized high school district would also create separate school board and members could hail from the Remsenburg/Speonk, East Moriches, Quogue, East Quogue and Westhampton Beach school districts. Right now, only those living within the boundaries of the Westhampton Beach School District can sit on the school board. Each of the sending districts, as well as Westhampton Beach, would still retain separate school boards that would oversee their respective middle and elementary schools.

Abolishing tuition will thin the coffers of Westhampton Beach School District, a possibility that Mr. Schwartz pointed out when discussing the issue this week. However, he said he did not know how much Westhampton Beach stands to lose if a centralized high school district was created.

“We believe Westhampton Beach would not at all benefit financially,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Officials representing Westhampton Beach’s sending districts said potential savings fueled their decision to participate in the study.

“We are looking for ways to be more efficient,” said East Moriches School Board President Gary Grunseich.

Remsenburg/Speonk Superintendent Katherine M. Salomone said her School Board agreed to participate in the study because members are also curious if such a system would save their taxpayers money.

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"Abolishing tuition will thin the coffers of Westhampton Beach School District, a possibility that Mr. Schwartz pointed out when discussing the issue this week...
We believe Westhampton Beach would not at all benefit financially,” Mr. Schwartz said.

We have no business spending money on a study when the fundamental concept is to shift the tax burden to Westhampton School District residents.

People bought homes in their respective districts and the price was, in part, dictated ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 10, 09 10:11 PM