Million Dollar Bleacher$


Million Dollar Law Suits

HVAC Not Important Anymore?

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Sound familiar?

Same story, different year, different district.

Bleachers were budgeted and voted on as above. Now it's $1 million.

Analysis: Long Island's annual school spending hits record $36,105 per student 

By John Hildebrand and Michael R. Ebert
September 2, 2023 5:31 am 

School spending will hit a record $36,105 per student on Long Island this school year, a Newsday analysis shows, amid growing questions about whether money is effectively directed toward boosting academic achievement. 

That average cost per student is up nearly 6% from last year, Newsday found. Expanded spending reflected both inflationary pressures and a major infusion of state financial aid totaling more than $770 million for this region alone. 

Statewide, the average per pupil was $31,950. 

Expenditures for the great majority of the Island's 124 school districts ranged from $25,000 to $50,000 per student, according to Newsday's review. For a handful of the smallest systems, spending levels are far higher — for example, $175,377 per-pupil on Fire Island, $160,228 in Quogue and $104,528 in Bridgehampton. 


Per-student spending on Long Island will rise to more than $36,000 this school year, driven by inflationary pressures and record hikes in state financial aid. Statewide costs will average more than $31,000 per-pupil, amid growing questions over whether the money is effectively directed toward boosting academic achievement. Achievement is mixed, with superior results on advanced exams taken in high schools across the state, but mediocre at best on federal survey tests given in fourth and eighth grades. 

Overall, the Island is one of the highest-spending regions in a high-spending state, studies show. New York ranked No. 1 among states last year in per-student expenditures in a survey by the National Education Association, a teacher-union organization. NEA's calculations pegged New York's per-student expenditures at $31,299, with Vermont ranked a distant second at $26,771 and New Jersey third, at $25,024. 

For its analysis, Newsday drew on 2023-24 data from school budgets and projected enrollments for 668 districts statewide, including 121 on the Island. Figures are compiled annually in "Property Tax Report Cards" by the state's Department of Education. This is a common method of calculating per-pupil costs, though some government agencies use more complex systems. 

As costs rise, growing numbers of fiscal and academic experts ask whether this translates into better student performance. School representatives on the Island said the answer isyes, while some critics say differently. 

"I do believe we're getting good return on our investment in public education," Bob Vecchio, president of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, said in a recent phone interview. 

In some respects, New York does do relatively well, results show. Last year, the state ranked second nationwide, and only slightly behind first-place Massachusetts, in the percentage of graduating high school seniors who passed at least one Advanced Placement test. 

New York had ranked as low as eighth among states in 2019

AP's program sponsors college-level coursework and exams in high schools. It is sponsored by a private group, College Board, headquartered in Manhattan. 

On the Island, dozens of districts, including Jericho, Manhasset, East Williston and Herricks, led the state in achievement on passage of AP tests and also on International Baccalaureate exams that are sponsored by a Swiss-based organization of the same name. Regionwide, more than 85,000 such tests were taken in 2022. 

"The rigor of those courses really prepares students for college," Vecchio said. 

Vecchio added that the Island's schools generally exceed state averages on tests and high school graduation rates. 

However, state achievement by some other measures appears mediocre at best. A prime example can be found in scores collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal program that compares results of state-by-state sample testing in math and reading every two years. 

New York drops below Massachusetts 

In 2022, New York ranked 46th among states in fourth-grade math, 23rd in eighth-grade math, 31st in fourth-grade reading, and ninth in eighth-grade reading. In those same subjects, rival Massachusetts ranked either first or second in every category. 

Massachusetts' rise in national standings goes back to the 1990s, when the state made sweeping changes in its testing and learning standards, influenced by standards used in NAEP's program. In August 2022, the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education took another step toward high standards by raising passing scores on a 10th grade English exam required for graduation. 

Three months earlier, New York State opted for a different approach. The Board of Regents, which sets much of the state's education policy, approved a temporary rules change allowing local school superintendents to grant waivers to students, so they can earn graduation credit on Regents exams with scores as low as 50. The traditional passing score is 65.

State authorities in Albany justified the waivers as an effort to level the playing field for students facing wide variations in school conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, some independent advocacy groups contended that New York had watered-down standards. 

Critical groups included The Education Trust-New York, a Manhattan-based organization that focuses on the educational needs of minority students who are impoverished. The organization's deputy director, Jeff Smink, told Newsday that NAEP data and other test results signaled a need for this state to maintain academic rigor. 

"This is particularly concerning when neighboring states such as Massachusetts have recently increased the rigor of their exit exam system, while New York moves in the opposite direction," Smink said in a written statement. 

In response, JP O'Hare, a spokesman for New York's education department, said his agency relied on multiple sources to measure students' learning that included NAEP scores, but also extending to teacher interactions, classroom assessments and state tests. 

"Our strategy is informed by the premise that no single test score, on its own, can fully or accurately depict what a student knows and can do," O'Hare said in statement. 

Critics: State makes it hard to track progress

Another sore point with critics is the state's latest effort to revise "cut" scores that determine which students achieve proficiency level on state tests. The state's scoring system sets four different levels of achievement for students, with the top two levels considered proficient or 

beyond. Among tests affected are those in English and math administered each year to hundreds of thousands of students in grades 3-8. 

The state has revised cutoff levels frequently in the past, and many outside experts have complained that this makes it nearly impossible to track students' progress from year to year. 

"New York spends more money to educate its students than any other place in the world, while measures of student achievement continue to decline and many are slipping through the accountability framework," said one researcher, Emily D'Vertola. She is an education analyst for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank in the Albany area. 

The latest move to revise the state's scoring system was announced in March at a Regents meeting in Albany. A state consultant, Marianne Perie, told Regents that the revamped scoring levels would reflect a "new normal" in terms of student achievement. Perie is director of assessment research and innovation at WestEd, a San Francisco-based private consulting firm. 

D'Vertola contended, on the other hand, that cutoff score adjustments can potentially lead to artificial increases in numbers of students deemed proficient. 

"In fact, it can create the impression that student achievement is improving, while kids may not actually be mastering skills," D'Vertola stated in a research article. 

Zach Warner, the state's assistant education commissioner for assessments, told Newsday that results of the new scoring, which was applied to tests administered in the spring, would not be announced until sometime this fall. Until then, he said, it would not be known whether greater numbers of students have been designated as proficient. 

Warner noted that the latest tests were based on revised state learning guidelines known as "Next Generation" standards. Those guidelines replaced "Common Core" standards, which were phased out beginning in 2017, after they became unpopular with many parents and educators. 

"So you can't really say this is harder, this is easier, because it's measuring different content standards," Warner said. 

View the most August 29, 2023 school board meeting here:

Old Tricks

The Port Jefferson School Board moved public comment to the end of the August 29 meeting -- and it's a very long agenda.

Hardly transparent and community minded

A Message from the Port Jefferson Civic Association

August 29, 2023

Port Jeff Civic Association

Dear Neighbors,

One of the members alerted me to the fact that tonight the Board of Education will have a work session at 7pm, followed by a business meeting at 7:30pm in the large
room at Scraggy Hill - Elementary School. 

Today the board is going to discuss among other things authorization for nearly $1,000,000 to install new bleachers on the High School Athletic Field. The school has budgeted $600,000 for bleachers in the 2022-2023 budget, but has not acted on it. The new quote returned at $1 Million. The school proposes to use funds initially allocated for the pool to upgrade the bleachers.

Those who have an opinion on the expenditures and other business by the Board of Education are encouraged to attend.

$1,000,000 Bleachers 

The following appeared as a letter to the editor in the Port Times Record

Million dollar bleachers? 

Is the Port Jefferson School District spending unnecessarily, yet again? 

The Board of Education on July 11 learned that bids to replace present high school bleachers and press booths came in much higher than the $561,000 allocated in the 2022-23 budget. According to the superintendent of schools [Jessica Schmettan] the bids indicated a cost of “just under a million dollars” for bleachers, with significantly fewer seats than the present ones. 

The present bleachers seat 1,000 but the replacements will seat less than 600. Doing the math, this works out to spending over $1,600 per person on a bleacher bench. The superintendent confirmed in an email that the present bleachers are structurally safe, evident also by the fact that they remain in use. They are not, however, compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) code. 

Given this huge price tag for a total bleacher replacement, consideration should be given to modifying our present bleachers to make them ADAcompliant. 

Only the first row would need modification. According to posted information, describing how other school districts faced with this issue addressed it, with the addition of some ramps, guard rails and removal of enough bench area to accommodate 10 wheelchairs in just the first row, we can meet ADA standards, retain the present 1,000-person seating capacity and likely stay well below the initially budgeted amount — and certainly way below the million dollar expense for all new bleachers. Extra handrails could also be installed as an option on upper rows of bleachers for additional safety. 

The press booth can simply remain as is and need not be enhanced. 

The Board of Education will be discussing the bleachers at their Aug. 29 meeting. Surely there are more important priorities in our school buildings than spending a million dollars on all new bleachers if the present ones just need some modifications to meet ADA code. 

Installing a new HVAC system in the high school could be one of them. 

Port Jefferson residents are very generous in supporting their schools. Hopefully the school board will in turn show respect for the taxpayers by avoiding more unnecessary or excessive spending.