Technology, communication top concerns for Oysterponds residents

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Where will future Oysterponds students go for secondary schooling? The district recently asked community members for their input.

Two topics, students learning new technology and improving communication between the Oysterponds district and the community, were the top concerns local residents identified during recent roundtable discussions with school board members, school officials said Tuesday.

Twenty-two people out of the district’s 130 families participated in the meetings, which the school board scheduled to solicit community feedback on how it should proceed with negotiating a secondary school contract. In addition, 32 families responded to surveys mailed to them last month.

School board vice president Dorothy-Dean Thomas attributed the low turnout to the fact that 50 percent of East Marion and Orient families are seasonal residents and said the district didn’t have access to their other mailing addresses.

Ms. Thomas said she’s working with the county to obtain those addresses and also plans interview recent high school graduates and seventh-graders who have moved on from Oysterponds to Greenport. This information, she added, will be used to help guide the school board when it begins negotiating its secondary school contract.

A detailed report of the school board’s findings, called “Vision for the Contract Process,” will be available on the district’s website next week, Ms. Thomas said.

In April, the district is expected to announce whether it will continue to send its junior and senior high school students to Greenport or seek an arrangement with another local district.

Martha Tuthill, a parent of an Oysterponds sixth-grader whose three other children currently attend school in Greenport, said she’s concerned about what would happen if the school board decided not to renew its current secondary school arrangement.

“Although the choice of going to an outside district may please some people — and maybe a good choice from some students — I want to remind you that it’s going to hurt the students that are already there,” Ms. Tuthill said. “Taking away just a couple of kids’ tuition, you’re taking away the opportunity for an AP class and other educational benefits.”

School board president Deborah Dumont has said Oysterponds students currently enrolled in Greenport schools will be allowed to continue their education there, even if the board approves a contract with a different district. In 2009, the board agreed to give parents a choice if the district decided to change high schools.

Ms. Dumont declined to name the school districts that have expressed interest in the Oysterponds secondary school contract.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board appointed Ms. Thomas, Jeffrey Demarest and Linda Goldsmith to the board’s secondary school contract committee.

“It’s going to come down to money,” Ms. Goldsmith said. “Unfortunately, with the 2 percent tax cap, this whole thing is going to come down to money.”

The secondary school contract isn’t the only deal Oysterponds is ironing out. Ms. Dumont said the school board has reached an impasse with its teachers over a new contract.

“As a board, we want to be able to provide the best packages to our teachers of salaries and benefits,” Ms. Dumont said. “But, like all districts, we must balance the needs of our faculty against the current economic constraints.”

The teachers’ contract expired June 30, 2011. After failing to strike a deal nearly six months later, the matter is now being mediated through the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, Ms. Dumont said.

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