Educational, infrastructure – and field – improvements sited as essential
New Central High School District Superintendent John DeTommaso articulated the district’s case to roughly 100 attendees at its monthly meeting on why a $49.864 million bond was needed to help ensure a sound educational future for tomorrow’s students as it helps increase the value of homes in the district.
The bond would be paid in part over 15 years by New York State Building aid in the amount of $26.984 million, or 53.9%, with a $250,000 grant from Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg put into the mix.
Residents would be asked to pay $8.67 per month, or $104.04 per year, over the life of the bond. A savings of $700,000 was estimated by constructing dual gas and oil lines into each building to enable the buildings to use either gas or oil, depending on market rates.
The vote for the new bond is scheduled to take place on Monday, December 2. According to the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District website, voting locations and hours are the same as previous school votes. They are as follows: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at the Shore Road School; 7 a.m.-9 p.m. at the Norman J. Levy Lakeside School; 6 a.m.-9 p.m. at the Newbridge Road School; and 2-10 p.m. at the Harold D. Fayette School. Still, another school board meeting will take place on Monday, October 7, to help further educate the community on the impact the bond will have on the residents.
“We’ll get a lot of bang for the buck to help a lot of kids, but it will also increase the property values of homes,” Mr. DeTommaso said of the bond during his presentation. “It’s a balance between what the students need and what the community needs,” he added.
He presented a history of the development of the schools within the district, noting that Mepham was built in 1936, Merrick Avenue and Jerusalem Avenue school s were built in 1953, Brookside, Grand Avenue and Calhoun were built in 1957, and the “youngster,” Kennedy, was built in 1966.
“The district has not seen a bond issue since Kennedy was constructed in 1966,” Mr. DeTommaso said. He reminded attendees that Mepham was built during the Works Progress Administration, a work relief project begun in 1935 during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term in office.
All the basic infrastructure in is desperate need of replacement or upgrade, he said. He said that while past efforts to repair the buildings had proven to be effective, “We can’t band-aid” it anymore, “it is not cost-effective,” he continued.
Using the marketing slogan “Better ideas for a better future,” he focused on three concentrations: Efficient buildings, Improved resources and Smart financing.
During public comments the bond issue appeared to turn into a referendum on synthetic turf once again, to the dismay of many.
While generally all those who commented showed support for the bond, John Kovelle told the board there was no basis for purchasing new synthetic fields because they would prove to be too costly to maintain. They would require, among many things, large amounts of detergent for the five school fields that would be upgraded to synthetic turf, and that antibiotics would need to be applied to the fields because body fluids, and bird and dog excrement could create petri dishes of disease. He noted there had been an uptick in MRSA (methicillin-resistant antibiotics) in high school and college athletes, moving Anthony Calamusa, long a proponent of synthetic turf, to cry out that MRSA had been traced to locker rooms and not synthetic turf.
Ted Tanenbaum, a former Central High School District member, told the board that he perceived installing the synthetic turf as amounting to ‘keeping up with the Jonese” because all the surrounding school districts now had them. He also pointed out that no field has been proven to last 15 years, and there were no provisions in the 15-year life of the bond to replace them when they needed replacing.
He added that fields get very hot In the summer, becoming almost unbearable to play on, and that a water coolant solution to apply water from underneath the field could cool it. It would just be too costly to construct, and wasn’t provided in any contingency, he said.
Bob Pizzamenti, a member of the Kennedy Sports Boosters, implored the board to remember that the bond is an investment in education that also increases home values, and asked the board how important the turf issue was to the rest of the educational value inherent in the rest of the bond.
Ross Tourney pointed out to the board that athletics are indeed part of overall education, and if classrooms were to be upgraded or rebuilt, then the fields had to be considered classrooms too, to be upgraded to improve the overall educational experience.
Another attendee agreed: fields are an extension of the classroom and could not be decoupled from the bond issue.
Ironically, John Pinto, a resident who has been a thorn in the side of the board for many years for his outspoken criticism of the board for not considering synthetic fields earlier – even being censured while serving on the board – could hold a decisive card in the election. He belongs to a large contingent of residents in favor of the synthetic turf who may be needed to swing the vote in the direction many on the board would like to see it go.