The Work of LTFPC Committee

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We were each members of the Long-Term Facilities Planning Committee (LTFPC), which helped develop the bond proposal that will be up for approval on December 3rd. We are writing to explain the process behind the proposal’s development, to highlight some of its key components, and to dispel some misconceptions that have circulated in the community.
Superintendent Cardillo convened the LTFPC in February 2013. Membership was open to all Manhasset residents and no one was turned down from serving. The committee ultimately represented a diverse cross-section of the community, including both long-time and newer residents, and residents with school age children and without. The committee members had a broad range of professional expertise.
Over the course of five evenings in the winter and spring, we toured Shelter Rock, Munsey Park, and the high school/middle school complex. Some of those nights focused on infrastructural issues, such as boilers and roofs. Other nights were focused on programmatic areas such a science and the arts. After three additional nights of deliberations, we were asked to independently rank all the various possible projects. Neither the administration nor the Board exercised any influence over the proceedings.
What emerged was a strong, unanimous consensus about the district’s most pressing needs. Many of these are not glamorous: Munsey Park’s roof needs repair and the school’s exterior lighting is inadequate; at Shelter Rock the playgrounds need to be resurfaced, the bathrooms need to be renovated, and the exterior lighting is inadequate. At the high school, a crawl space needs to be ventilated. The district also needs a new telephone system. In total, the committee recommended approximately $2.6 million in infrastructural repairs.
A second theme that emerged is that our district’s science classrooms are out-of-date and too small to accommodate our growing student population. Many have little or no storage area. Most of the labs have not been updated in many years and many do not meet modern curriculum needs. The spaces are inadequate for laboratory experiments—this is especially problematic given that regents, honors, and AP classes have all moved to require increased scientific experimentation. A renovated chemical storage area would provide an increased level of safety when transporting chemicals to and from the secure location for daily use in the classrooms. We proposed approximately $3.5 million in renovations to the science classrooms at all of the schools.
A third theme that emerged is that our space to nurture students in music and the arts is grossly inadequate. Students take band, chorus, and orchestra in small, makeshift spaces with terrible acoustics and little or no storage area. The art classrooms are also too small and are completely inappropriate for our advanced placement offerings. At the high school level, it was clear that we need more space, not just better space. In this regard, it’s important to remember that our buildings are already overextended. Since 1997, the district’s population has risen from 2,492 to 3,366 students.
In our view, the only practical and cost-effective way to create the needed extra space is to convert the now-obsolete bus garage into administrative offices, thereby freeing up space in the high school complex. The total cost of renovating the music and arts classrooms at the three schools is approximately $7 million. It will cost approximately an additional $3 million to convert the bus garage.
A final theme that emerged is that the Munsey Park cafeteria is inadequate for the school’s population. The serving area is cramped, and because the cafeteria is overextended, students are forced to wait in the hallway on long, slow-moving lines and are rushed to eat. Some students are required to take lunch as late as 1:45, which is near the end of the school day. We proposed to renovate the cafeteria and create a new flow. This project would cost approximately $2.3 million.
We find it impossible to regard these investments as optional. They are necessary to maintain safe environments for our children, and to equip our science and arts classrooms to meet modern curricular needs. Make no mistake, districts that fail to make such investments descend into mediocrity.
Some readers have asked whether this is a way to evade the tax cap. It is not. Rather it is, by law, the primary way to fund large-scale, long-term capital projects. Generally, such projects cannot be funded out of annual operating budgets. Furthermore, it’s practically difficult to include, for example, a new line for capital expenditures without offsetting cuts in personnel and programming and maintain a flat budget. Many of the items in this bond cannot be avoided. Roofs will need to be repaired, and that must be paid for one way or another.
Bonds are the routine way to avoid this dilemma. Just last year, our neighbors in the Bellmore-Merrick, Roslyn, and North Shore districts approved bonds of $45 million, $40.3 million and $19.6 million respectively.
Over the next two months, our committee will work with the District and the Community Education Committee of the SCA to educate the community about the scope of work being proposed. One useful resource is the webpage, accessible through the Board’s link on the District website, dedicated to long-term facilities planning. The District will be holding walk throughs for interested community members. Each of us welcomes questions.
It’s vitally important that this vote be governed by facts, not fear mongering and ad hominem attacks. An anonymous group, referring to itself as the MPSA, has circulated several inaccurate emails. Following one of these emails, a member of our committee wrote to the community to explain that the project to which the MPSA objected—an aquatic center—had been resoundingly rejected by the committee. Though this was true, and though Superintendent Cardillo explained so at a public Board meeting, the group subsequently circulated an email referring to our colleague as disingenuous and repeated its concerns about the aquatic center. Given Mr. Cardillo’s public explanation, in our view this second email must be viewed as purposefully misleading.
Our schools are our children’s second home. The district collectively is a source of civic pride and, not insubstantially, buoys our property values. These children, buildings and programs demand our support and reasoned discourse governed by facts.
We look forward to the dialogue over the coming weeks and the vote on Dec. 3.
John Anderson
Andrew Baranello
Paul Baumgarten
Erika Craven
Molly DePietro
Shauna Devardo
Pat Downey
James Gavin
Mike Hastava
Blaine Klusky
Kim Kuester
Missy Leder
Evan Mandery
Nick Pappas
John Walter

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