Oysterponds school board to hold special meeting tonight

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08/02/2012 10:00 AM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Oysterponds school board president Dorothy-Dean Thomas, center, with board members Deborah Dumont, right, and Thom Gray. The Board of Education has rescheduled its secondary school contract vote to Sept. 4.

The Oysterponds Board of Education will hold a special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in the Orient elementary school.

The public vote on Oysterponds’ five-year secondary school contract with Greenport has been pushed back to the day after Labor Day since Oysterponds missed a deadline to publish the legal notice.

School officials were expected to set an Aug. 20 referendum on continuing the two school districts’ long-running agreement, in which East Marion and Orient students move to Greenport for grades 7-12. But after the Oysterponds district missed the legal notice publishing deadline earlier this month, Orient and East Marion residents will now be asked to approve the contract on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Oysterponds board president Dorothy-Dean Thomas said Tuesday that since the district failed to publish referendum details 45 days prior to the proposed August vote, as required by state law, Sept. 4 was the first date available after placing the legal notice in the July 19 issue of The Suffolk Times.

The secondary contract issue has spurred a contentious debate within the community over the past few years.

In 2010, a lame-duck Oysterponds Board of Education extended the original three-year contract between the districts — set to expire in June 2012 — by two years. But just two months later, a new school board voted to delete the two-year extension and lop one year off the original three-year agreement.

Greenport then took Oysterponds to court. Last June, the state ruled in favor of Oysterponds and found the extended agreement was not valid because a long-term contract must be approved by voters. Secondary school tuition has since been determined by the Seneca Falls rate, a state formula that establishes the highest tuition rate a district can charge for nonresident students.

Although state education law requires the sending school district to hold a public referendum on secondary school contracts with terms longer than two years, the Oysterponds board agreed earlier this year to allow residents to vote on any secondary school contract regardless of length. No such vote is needed in Greenport.

The proposed tuition costs for sending East Marion and Orient secondary school students will be $14,200 per student next year, about the same as Oysterponds currently pays. Special education tuition will be about $61,000 per student, a drop of nearly $3,000 from the current rate.

Residents will be able to review the proposed contract about a week before the vote.

Although the legal notice has been published, the school board is expected to formally amend its referendum resolution setting the Sept. 4 contract vote during tonight’s meeting.

Scroll down to review tonight’s special meeting agenda.

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Oysterponds BOE Special Meeting Agenda, Aug. 2, 2012