New Suffolk students won’t be attending Mattituck

TIM KELLY PHOTO | A New Suffolk student returns home from Southold High School Monday. Southold educates New Suffolk secondary students, although some parents are asking that Mattituck become the receiving district.

New Suffolk secondary students bound for Mattituck? Don’t count on it.
That is, unless Mattituck makes a major switch in its policy on accepting out-of-district students on a tuition basis.
That was the word from New Suffolk Superintendent Robert Feger at the Nov. 9 school board when several New Suffolk parents inquired about ending the district’s relationship with Southold, where New Suffolk students complete grades 7-12.
New Suffolk and Oysterponds are the North Fork’s only K-6 districts. After sixth grade, East Marion and Orient students move on to Greenport, also under a tuition agreement.
Geographically, Mattituck might appear to be the logical choice, Mr. Feger said. He added that under Mattituck’s existing policy, New Suffolk’s school taxes would rise substantially.
New Suffolk currently pays Southold $17,000 per student per year. That includes special education students whose needs can be met within the Southold district. Mattituck charges more initially, but its special education costs are fixed, whether or not a special education student’s needs can only be met elsewhere. Southold can afford to take the New Suffolk students without extra charges because the district is experiencing declining enrollments, Mr. Feger said. Some Mattituck junior and senior high school classes are near capacity and adding students could force costly staff increases, he said.
Under New Suffolk’s policy, a secondary school student can opt to go to Mattituck only if he or she has specific ties to that district, such as having been a Mattituck student for at least two years before moving to New Suffolk or having a parent who teaches in Mattituck. And any costs for that student’s education beyond what Southold charges must be borne by the parents.
When the issue was last debated, in 2008, Mattituck Superintendent James McKenna said his district retains the right to end a tuition agreement for any student prior to graduation.
“Leave yourself an out; that’s what our policy is about,” he said at the time.
In a recent interview, Mr. McKenna said the district is reviewing its policy on tuition students. He added that any changes must benefit Mattituck and Cutchogue residents.
Unless policy changes parallels New Suffolk’s agreement with Southold, “It’s a no-brainer,” Mr. Feger said. Otherwise it’s financially prohibitive. As it now stands, a deal with Mattituck would “bankrupt” the tiny district, he told the parents.
On another topic, a parent asked about extending the district’s pre-kindergarten program, now offered three mornings a week. Two parents said they thought their children would benefit from coming to school at least five mornings a week, if not for a full school day.
Mr. Feger said that hasn’t been considered, but will be discussed with the district’s three faculty members.
A change there would also cost more, the superintendent explained. One staffer now works part-time as a teacher and part-time as a teacher’s aide. Expanding the pre-K program could increase her teaching hours and with it her salary.
“You can’t holler at me when it comes to teacher costs,” he told parents.
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