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New Suffolk school waiting on settlement agreement to be final

04/12/2018 10:02 AM |

The New Suffolk Board of Education is hoping to cancel next Tuesday’s public vote on tuitioning elementary students to another school.

Board president Tony Dill said at Tuesday night’s meeting that he and teacher Martha Kennelly recently signed an agreement that would allow the historic red schoolhouse to remain open for the 2018-19 school year.

After a settlement agreement is signed, it takes seven days for it to be ratified by legal counsel, Mr. Dill said, so if everything goes as planned, it will take effect today, Thursday, April 12. A special Board of Education meeting has been scheduled for Friday and the only item on the agenda is cancellation of the public vote set for April 17.

Mr. Dill added that the terms of the agreement are to remain confidential and neither he nor Ms. Kennelly can comment on it.

“However, I can say that as a result of the conclusion of this process it is our full expectation that the school will be in operation here next fall,” Mr. Dill said. “That we’re pretty certain of.”

The pending agreement came less than two months after the school board set the public vote on sending the district’s elementary students elsewhere. The decision came after the State Education Department ordered the district to reinstate Ms. Kennelly to classroom duties with $300,000 in back pay. Her job had been cut in 2015. She currently earns $119,485 annually working offsite developing curriculum.

The agreement was reached with the assistance of BOCES mediator Terri McSweeney, Mr. Dill said last month. The mediation resulted from a petition from the public asking the board to explore that as a possible solution.

Should something occur before Thursday that causes the agreement to fall through, the public vote will proceed. At a special meeting on March 27, the school board announced that it had decided to tuition students in pre-K through grade 6 to Southold if the New Suffolk school were to close.

District students in grades 7-12 are already tuitioned to Southold.

Resident Clarissa Roussan asked if there were any chance that secondary students could be sent to the Mattituck-Cutchogue school district in the future instead of Southold. Mr. Dill replied that, based on the financial packages each school offered, Southold was the more feasible option.

“Southold has an attractive financial package compared to Mattituck,” he said. “They give us a lot of concessions and eliminate a lot of additional charges … That’s the way it stands right now. We’re doing what we think is in the best interest of the students and taxpayers.”

Mr. Dill added that the proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year is not yet finalized, but will be presented to the community at another special meeting on Tuesday, April 24.

“It’s pretty clear to me that whatever the final details are it will fall well within the tax cap limit,” he said.

New Suffolk principal Chris Gallagher also discussed the state of the school’s security at Tuesday’s meeting, noting that discussions with multiple districts have been ongoing since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Currently, all doors to the school are locked while school is in session, Mr. Gallagher said. A video camera is set up outside the main entrance so the school secretary can see who is trying to gain access to the school. The district wants to add an intercom next year so the secretary can also communicate with people outside the building without having to open the door, he said.

“I would not say we’re the safest school in the country, but I wouldn’t say we’re the most dangerous,” Mr. Gallagher said. “We have a reasonable level of safety here.”

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