The Syosset Board of Education heard a proposal from Johnson Controls, an energy savings company, regarding a $16 million project to upgrade the energy efficiency of the district.
The two-year project, which would not fall under the two percent tax levy cap, would entail replacing old or inefficient boilers, replacing approximately 11,000 light fixtures with energy efficient ones, installing occupancy sensors that would automatically shut lights off in unoccupied rooms, install generators, and offer remote access to operate the school's heating system via the web.
According to Johnson Controls, the system would pay for itself within about 18 years with savings and rebates. In the first full year, the savings and rebates would amount to about $859,000, with an annual operational savings of $70,000.
Trustee Chris DiFilippo asked for clarification on security of the company's future, to which representatives said the backup company would be Cardinal Controls, as well as asking whether or not boilers would be serviceable rather than replaceable. Reps specified that though it is recommended they replace them, the overall plan could be tailored to fit the needs and budget of the district. Should rebates or savings not meet the estimates of the company, Johnson Controls would have to make up the difference and pay the district, said Johnson Controls in response to both Board President Michael Cohen and Vice President April Neuendorf's questions for clarification on rebates and savings guarantees.
Superintendent Carole Hankin defended the project, saying the district could not continue to be responsible for damaged and flat roofs and 50-year-old boilers. She added the "mass hysteria" that ensues when students need to be shipped to other schools when the heat doesn't work, referencing the post-hurricane days, is an indicator of the need for such an overall project.
Trustee Josh Lafazan pointed out the option of doing an ESCO (energy supplies company) rather than an energy conservation project. He specified that a more immediate payback would be realized rather than the 18-year payback of the Johnson Controls project.
The board approved pool and library repairs and plans to vote on the full project at the next meeting.
District Facebook Page
Lafazan motioned that a district Facebook page be created in light of Hurricane Sandy. While he praised the timely decisions of the district on school closings, he said a Facebook page would be another quick way to update the community on closings and emergency situations.
The board agreed to consider it, though they brought up several concerns with running such a page.
"We don't need a kid logging on and saying 'Syosset sucks,'" joked Trustee Alan Resnick, saying there would be a need for someone to monitor the page.
Trustee Stephanie Avidon agreed, adding that in many cases, running social media is a full time job and that although she liked the idea, someone would need to be elected to run the page.
The concern for getting information to the masses was also brought up in DiFilippo's motion for access and potential to reevaluate the district's emergency plan. Board members commended and defended the communication between them and the district during the hurricane, but DiFilippo specified he wanted to look at the plan itself and see if there was any room for improvement.
"I think two heads are better than one and I'm only offering help and thinking nine other people could help," said DiFilippo. The plan is reviewed annually and board members agreed they could return to the discussion when the plan is up for review.
Finance Subcommittees Discussed
DiFilippo motioned that the board create a subcommittee on finance to get feedback from the community on financial concerns. The committee, according to DeFilippo, would be taking a "major step toward acknowledging community opinions."
Lafazan encouraged an affirmative ballot so that more community involvement would be encouraged. Resnick asked the motion be delayed until a later meeting so that more information could be absorbed on the matter.
Board Awaits Fios Presentation
Lafazan moved that the district go into an agreement with MSG Varsity. Saying that it had been well over two months since their presentation and that Fios would not offer the same exposure, he argued the district should end their wait for a Fios presentation and finally vote on the matter.
Trustees reiterated their arguments that as long as athletic personnel were open to taking time to work with MSG, they would be open to allowing the project.
Hankin specified that Fios was scheduled to give presentation in January, and Cohen added that people would want to hear what Fios had to say.
District Groups to Have Their Say
The board agreed to encourage DiFilippo's motion that various district groups be welcomed to speak at board meetings in the future. He said that on a voluntary basis, PTA, student councils, and other groups could report to board meetings on their interests and concerns about the district.
All agreed the idea was reasonable and that as long as it wasn't a requirement, they would love to hear from school groups. Resnick added that the groups could be limited to middle and high school students and that they should follow the rules of audience to the public.
Audience to the Public
Parents asked for more security measures to be taken in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown Elementary. Head to the full story here.
Paul Pipia also asked that his calls to the district be returned and said he wanted to "publicly renew his request" to get a call or meeting.
Frederick Gang, after commending the board on the change in meeting policy to make speaking time four minutes during audience to the public, brought up the policy of dealing with oversized classes, referencing an approval at the Nov. 5 board meeting to create additional classes and how it fell three weeks past the Oct. 15 deadline. A meeting was held Oct. 15, but no discussion was held.
Hankin specified that the split classes went into effect soon after Oct. 15, despite their Nov. 5 approval. She also said there was "a lot of emotion" in the decision and the situation was unique in that an exact date could not be determined.
"When you try to please the masses, it's often a difficult thing," she said, concluding that they would make a recommendation for the board to confirm it, but would not wait any longer to put it into action.
Cohen added that he and Neuendorf had gone to speak with parents and teachers involved to see the comfort level in the change, adding, "If the dates didn't jive with the policy, well the kids were just more important and it made a class just a little easier to learn in."
Trustee Marc Herman asked that Cohen clarify why Cohen and Neuendorf went to the school alone, saying, "I don't understand why two people out of nine go alone to a school without any of us knowing."
Cohen insisted the act was not a conspiracy, but Herman said he hoped it would not happen again. The discussion escalated, concluding when Cohen said the Newtown tragedy should put the night's arguing into perspective.