Parents living in the Sachem School District who send their children to private school are upset to learn that the district is considering shrinking its transportation radius from 25 miles to 15.
Parents received a letter from the district's associate superintendent, Bruce Singer, stating that a possible referendum could be placed on the budget vote this year to roll back its busing to only the state required minimum of 15 miles.
The idea was put forth at the January 2 session of the Board of Education as a cost-saving measure against next year's $22 million shortfall. If the proposition is placed on the ballot and passes, Sachem will no longer provide transportation to students attending Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset, St. Anthony's High School in Huntington and Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead.
Now some of those parents are speaking out, and plan to attend tonight's board meeting to offer public comment.
"I realize the district is trying to do what's best for everybody, but is it really doing what's best for our kids that are in private school?" asked Frank Faber, whose daughter is a junior at St. Anthony's. "They already receive taxes from us and we don't ask for it back; the only thing we ask for is transportation."
Charlie Kutch has a daughter and son who both attend St. Anthony's. He also received the letter and stated in an email to Patch that he believes the district lacks foresight.
"The Sachem School District is again trying to target what they think is a group that they can walk over, namely students attending Catholic schools," Kutch stated. "Sachem would save a minimal amount of money in the short term but if they burden families enough and force us to move our kids to Sachem schools they will incur the cost of educating these students."
"I honestly think that in today's economy, there will be a lot parents that put their kids back in the public schools," Faber said in agreement with Kutch. The measure will affect approximately 80 students attending those schools. Faber said that in a conversation with Stephen Shadbolt, the transportation supervisor, it was estimated that transportation costs roughly $2,000 per student, which would translate to a savings of about $160,000 to the district.
However, Faber said it doesn't factor that Sachem receives roughly $21,000 in state aid for each student that lives in the district. Minus the $2,000 for transportation, $19,000 is free and clear if a student attends private school. That $19,000 would now be needed to educate the student if he or she returns to public school.
"Now you're going to have to spend that on my kid," Faber said. "And you're going to have to raise all the taxes in the Sachem school district to make up for that."
Faber said his daughter is aware of the proposal and is very upset by it.
"My child chose to go to private school and we did whatever we could to make that happen," Faber said. "It's not that we're privileged. And it doesn't mean that we're better than anyone else. And every year that the school budget comes up I vote it up. I don't want any kids left behind as far as an education's concerned and all I'm asking for is transportation."
As for Kutch, he's imploring other impacted parent's to attend tonight's Board of Education meeting so their message can be heard by "fair-thinking residents."
The transportation savings is just one of many creative ways the board is attempting to reduce its deficit without significantly raising taxes. Other ideas include closing and consolidating school buildings, combining varsity programs between North and East and the sale of its administrative building at 245 Union Avenue in Holbrook. The board meetings are held every Wednesday at its annex building attached to Samoset Middle School at 7:30 p.m.