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Concerns Arise on TA Futures; Moving Up Stays at Tilles

Syosset BOE discusses MSG Varsity partnership, teaching assistants, middle school moving up ceremonies.

Here are the highlights from Monday night's Syosset Board of Education meeting at South Woods Middle School. Check out the attached PDF of the agenda to follow along.

MSG Makes Their Case

After a renewed interest in collaboration with MSG Varsity, representatives from the high school-centric broadcasting company fielded questions from board members.

"We've been proud to do Syosset coverage…We've really enjoyed our relationship with the district," said Jennifer Ostrager, MSG's Vice President of High School Partnerships. Syosset students have been involved with the company, reporting from the Empire State Games, and Syosset teams have been featured on MSG at away games.

"I'm a four year member of the radio station [WKWZ]," said Syosset High School senior Daniel Budick. "I know that MSG Varsity would not only benefit the radio station, but further enhance the experience of being part of the radio station."

In addition to covering sports and clubs, students have the opportunity to get involved in media programs for hands on experience in sports journalism.

"What better than to have forensics club, mock trial club covered," said Syosset High School senior Jake Asman, who was featured by MSG for his coverage of last year's Empire State Games. "It's not all about lacrosse winning the county championship. It's everything, really."

Board members questioned contractual issues, financial issues, and the company's ability to give each club a fair share of the limelight. Fios had been called to make a presentation but was unable to attend the meeting. Representatives will have the chance to present at the next meeting.

Concerns Arise Over Teaching Assistants' Futures

During the audience to the public, Martin Ugell reiterated the concern he expressed at the September meeting over the future of Syosset's teaching assistants.

According to Ugell, the husband of a Syosset district TA, the CSEA was advised that the district had begun a legal process during the 2012-13 school year to fire 144 teaching assistants within the district. The last budget season created a looming feeling that the TAs would be excessed in the next school year.

"…Please alleviate the concerns of these wonderful hardworking women and assure them that they will have their jobs through 2014," he pleaded. Ugell, after an exchange over being told to sit down when his allotted speaking time was up, later returned to the microphone. Referring to when Superintendent Carole Hankin said TAs should speak with their union representatives for any issue with contracts, Udell argued that unless the contract wouldn't be honored, there would be no reason to contact a union rep.

Another resident, Martin Geduldig, referred to tutors and consultants that were being hired in the district as ominous and that the "group of dedicated, bright, caring women who support families, pay mortgages, and rely on health insurance benefits" deserved to know whether or not they would be working next year.

Hankin repeated her statement from September, insisting there had been no discussions regarding the 2013-14 budget. Explaining further, she said for the 2012-13 school year, faculty and staff bargaining groups were agreeing to salary freezes to help keep the budget under the two percent tax levy cap. The TA's group originally said they would not agree to the freeze. It was then that a list was apparently drawn up of TAs that would have to be let go. The group later agreed to the salary freeze, so the budget allowed for all TAs to keep their jobs for the 2012-13 year.

Hankin said that though the firing of the TAs was a possibility when the budget was being drawn up, it was for the 2012-13 school year, not 2013-14. Since the TAs agreed to the salary freeze, none would be let go this year. As for next year, the board maintained that the budget has not yet been discussed.

"No one's been cut for this year…Nobody wants to see a TA let go and hopefully that will never be the case," said board president Michael Cohen. "We're doing our best. Please have a little faith that no one's going to stick it to anyone."

Moving Up Ceremonies Remain at Tilles Center

The board voted to keep the moving up ceremonies for Thompson Middle School and South Woods Middle School at the Tilles Center for the 2013 ceremony. However, the board agreed to consider different venue options.

"The current cost is $24,000," said trustee Christopher DiFilippo, who added that when his daughter was a part of the ceremonies, he saw major safety concerns in the lobby of the center and with many people exiting the premises.

"My parents did not get to see [my daughter] graduate…because they were outside on the grass because my mother was ready to faint because it was so hot," said resident Ellen Sorge. "Three years later my middle child graduated at the Tilles Center and it was a wonderful change."

"The reality is there is a cap," said resident Fred Gang, encouraging the board to give another venue a chance. "It may be a trade off…as to whether it is some after school activity that goes or the graduation."

The board voted to authorize the service contract that keeps this year's ceremony at the Tilles Center while agreeing to weigh other options. In addition, trustee Josh Lafazan asked for information to be provided on the costs of busing to and from ceremonies as another aspect to the final cost.


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