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Nov 28, 2012 10:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe School Community Split On Exclusivity Deal

Nov 28, 2012 10:29 AM

Tuckahoe School parents, teachers and officials on Monday night discussed whether or not to agree to a one-year exclusivity deal with Southampton School District in exchange for lower tuition rates while the districts undergo a joint merger feasibility study.

If the deal is made, Tuckahoe would have to send all of its ninth-graders to Southampton High School for the 2013-14 school year, which could save Tuckahoe approximately $600,000, according to board members. Students currently can choose to matriculate to either Southampton High School or Westhampton Beach High School, and Tuckahoe pays the cost of tuition directly to the host school district.

Originally, Southampton officials asked Tuckahoe to make a decision by Friday, but Tuckahoe board members decided to wait until after their December 10 meeting to respond in order to give the community a chance to comment further.

On Monday, those who spoke were split about what to do. Some expressed outrage at the possibility of losing Westhampton Beach as a choice for their students and took issue with Southampton’s proposal, some saying it seems “mobster-ish.” Others said they understood the need to make the deal to save money.

Tuckahoe Board Vice Chairman Robert Grisnik said the board is between a rock and a hard place. “This is a very hard discussion, especially for me to make, being on the board all of these years,” he said in a soft voice. “This is a decision we have to make, and I don’t want to do it.”

If the Tuckahoe board agrees to the one-year exclusivity deal, tuition will decrease from an expected $22,695 for each student who attends Southampton High School, and $76,212 for a special needs student, to approximately $19,700 and $57,000, respectively. These rates are lower than Westhampton Beach High School’s estimated tuition: $19,901 for each student and $61,700 for each special needs student. According to Tuckahoe School Superintendent Chris Dyer, Westhampton Beach officials said they would not be able to match Southampton’s proposed rates.

Southampton officials have said that because they would know how many students to expect, they could better prepare the district’s budget and pare down the tuition rate. Southampton’s reduction in price would save Tuckahoe School an estimated $600,000, which would go toward other expenses such as teacher retirement and benefits.

Some parents see the difference in price between the exclusive tuition rates and the regular tuition rates at Westhampton Beach as insignificant and would rather keep Westhampton Beach High School as an option.

“As Americans, we like choice,” said Tuckahoe parent Craig Ferrantino. “It would be a big disservice to the district and to all of us here with kids.”

Others said something needs to be done to alleviate the financial burden on Tuckahoe School, but that Southampton School officials have strong-armed Tuckahoe into a bad position.

“Southampton wants a response by Friday? The response is ‘Go to hell!’” said Tuckahoe resident David D’Agostino. “This is Stockholm syndrome. Southampton has been holding Tuckahoe hostage for years and years. To save the school a couple of thousand dollars and grant them exclusivity? That’s insanity.”

Mr. Dyer said that exclusivity with the Southampton School District is the only logical choice, since 101 of Tuckahoe School’s 365 high school students attend Southampton High School. Only 49 attend Westhampton Beach.

He also stressed the importance that the school needs to save money where it can, citing unfunded state mandates, dropping assessed values, and salaries and benefits as major pressures on the district. He said agreeing to the one-year contract would likely be the best bet financially. “We do not have an easy choice, unless something changes with the property tax or some great benefactor deposits a lot of money,” he said. “We have cut 20 percent of our staff over the last three years, and we’re moving in the direction of 40 [students] per classroom. We have to look at how to save $600,000 here and $600,000 there.”

“As much as I love choice and loved the way it’s been, it is not going back to that,” said Tuckahoe resident Sean Hattrick. “If we don’t do something like this in the short term, the end game comes sooner, which is—nobody is ever going to Westhampton Beach. If we buy ourselves time, maybe the problem will somehow fix itself. It will only get worse faster if we don’t do this. We’ve got to be careful not to demonize Southampton. We’re related to them.”

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I would not want my kids going to a school that no longer honors kids for their academic achievements! Hey, twistedsister, kids should be seen and not heard, huh? What century are you living in? Backward!
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Nov 29, 12 2:17 PM
I completely agree with the first post! The comment is not an insult. It was totally inappropriate to have that kind of a display at a board meeting. The school has difficult decisions to make about the budget and the future of the school for all students who are currently attending Tuckahoe. If there is a way they can save $600,000, they are going to have to take it. I personally do not want to see more programs cut at Tuckahoe so that some students can choose to go to a high school three towns ...more
By tuckahoemom (19), Southampton on Nov 29, 12 10:37 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By flyonawall, Southampton on Nov 30, 12 6:32 AM
For years and years WHB has charged Tuckahoe significantly LESS to tuition our students to their school. Their rates have literally saved hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to Southampton and now, all of a sudden, having the choice of a less expensive school is to blame for Tuckahoe losing TA's and programs? Please explain that twisted logic. All Southampton has agreed to do is to lower their rates to about the same that WHB has been charging all along. And since when is allowing a child ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 30, 12 7:59 AM
I was certainly not placing blame on one thing for losing TAs and programs. There is no twisted logic as you suggest. If the school can save money by making this choice then they may have to do it.
By tuckahoemom (19), Southampton on Nov 30, 12 11:56 AM
And if the school could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by granting an exclusive to WHB, would you support it?
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 30, 12 12:26 PM