Thanks to restored state funding, it now appears that Martha Kennelly will not return to New Suffolk School in September and will instead continue as director of the Mideast Suffolk Teacher Center, which provides professional development, technology training and resources to Suffolk County schools.
It appears 99 percent certain that will be the case, New Suffolk Superintendent Robert Feger told school board members at their Tuesday night meeting.
Ms. Kennelly has been a teacher on special assignment with MESTRACT since 2004, but had the program been eliminated, her status would have enabled her to return to New Suffolk as a teacher. That would have resulted in the district having to fire one of its three teachers.
“I think [this situation] helps everybody,” Ms. Kennelly said Wednesday. With a tight job market, she would not have wanted any of the three New Suffolk teachers to lose a position, she said.
As for the continuation of the MESTRACT program, “Anything we can do to help is what we’re here to do,” Ms. Kennelly said of the assistance she and her staff render to school districts throughout the county.
Ms. Kennelly was recently honored for exceptional leadership and service to the educational community with an award from Phi Delta Kappa, the Professional Education Association at Stony Brook University.
With the restoration of MESTRACT funding, New Suffolk will be saving money it had allocated in its new budget and that will roll over to its fund balance for the 2012-13 budget, Mr. Feger said.
FEGER: TAX CAP WON’T WORK
Mr. Feger told board members Tuesday night he thinks the 2 percent tax increase cap likely to be imposed by New York State on next year’s local budgets won’t work.
“Eventually the state is going to have to take over most of the funding” of school districts, Mr. Feger said. By giving individual districts the freedom to override the 2 percent cap, the result will be that poorer districts will get poorer and richer districts will get richer, he said.
Although New Suffolk taxpayers got a tax reduction of more than 20 percent for the 2011-12 school year and will save some money in the new fiscal year thanks to restored MESTRACT funds, the entrance of just two unanticipated students in any school year could send the district’s budget soaring over the 2 percent tax cap, he said.
That happened last fall, when one high-needs special education student entered the district and some other unanticipated costs hit after the budget had been passed. It forced the board to pass a special resolution adding $159,000 to the 2010-11 budget.
Because those costs were essentially a one-time hit, the board was able to present a budget for 2011-12 that rolled back spending by 23 percent.
At the faculty’s request, New Suffolk has switched health insurance providers from the New York State Health Insurance Program to East End Health Insurance, which will cost the district less and provide improved benefits for the teachers. East End Health Insurance has served other East End districts effectively, Mr. Feger said.