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Jun 26, 2013 10:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Students Could Be Pulled From Westhampton Beach District If Merger Advances

Jul 1, 2013 11:05 AM
Parents, administrators and Board of Education members in Tuckahoe are unhappy with part of a proposed merger that, if approved, will pull all of the district’s students from Westhampton Beach High School and force them to attend the Southampton High School starting as early as September 2014.

The agreement was one of four assurances approved by both the Tuckahoe and Southampton school boards this month, the final step before the results of a proposed merger study involving the two districts can be sent to New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King Jr. for review.

On Monday night, Tuckahoe Board of Education members approved the assurances, 2-1, with Dr. Daniel Crough and Harald Steudte approving, and Robert Grisnik dissenting. Still, all three board members said they were unhappy about the decision, explaining that their hand was being forced by their district’s dire financial situation and the demands of the Southampton Board of Education.

Board members stated that Tuckahoe would be bankrupt within two years if it does not merge with Southampton, a move that will force the estimated 40 tuition students expected to be enrolled at Westhampton Beach next school year to switch to Southampton High School. Prior to graduation, 51 Tuckahoe tuition students attended Westhampton Beach High School. There will be 28 students enrolled in the school in fall 2014.

The Southampton Board of Education unanimously approved the measure on June 18.

“I think it is important that our community hears that we have been doing our due diligence for the past six months,” Dr. Crough said. “We have been working as hard as we can for our community, and the best we have to offer after six months of work is this plan—and that is a disappointment to all members of the Tuckahoe board.”

Talks about consolidation and shared services have long been a topic between the two districts, especially in light of the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap, increasing financial pressures due to properties being removed from the tax rolls, and other state mandates. Last year, the two joined several East End districts to file a joint application with the Department of State for a $200,000 grant to finance an efficiency study, which would have looked at the possibility of merging all or some of the districts. The application was not approved and Tuckahoe, which only has a K-8 school, and Southampton, which has an elementary, middle and high school, decided to pursue their own study last summer, splitting the $70,000 fee.

Another cause for Tuckahoe’s financial troubles are the rising tuition costs it must pay to educate its high school-age students. Last year, the district paid approximately $22,000 for each student who attended Southampton High School, and $76,212 for every special needs student. For those students attending Westhampton Beach, the district shelled out $19,000 per student, $61,000 for every special needs student.

In December, Tuckahoe signed an exclusivity agreement with Southampton, meaning that all future Tuckahoe students would attend Southampton High School at a reduced rate. Southampton agreed to lower the fees to $19,700 for students, and $57,000 for special education students. That agreement is expected to save Tuckahoe approximately $600,000 during the 2013-14 school year alone. Under that deal, Tuckahoe students already attending Westhampton Beach were able to stay in the district.

But if the merger is ultimately approved, the approximately 40 students expected to be enrolled at Westhampton Beach High School next September—including 31 of whom would be entering their junior or senior years in 2014 when the merger would take place—would be forced to enroll at Southampton High School. According to Dr. Crough, the assurance also includes special education students who would be placed in Southampton schools unless the district cannot offer a specific program for the student. Special education students will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Tuckahoe has 587 students—382 are in the elementary school, and 205 are high school tuition students. Of those students, 89 attend Southampton High School and 51 are enrolled at Westhampton Beach. The remaining 65 students attend private high schools or BOCES.

Under the approved assurances, which are also being sent to the state education commissioner’s office, both districts agree to allow a representative from the other district to sit in on executive session meetings as an observer. Also, the Tuckahoe School will retain its name, and all out-of-district tuition students will be pulled back to Southampton unless they require services not offered by the district. Teachers from both schools will be combined into one staff list for tenure and seniority purposes.

According to Dr. J. Richard Boyes, superintendent of schools for Southampton, the decision to not allow students to attend Westhampton Beach if the merger is approved will save the Southampton School District an anticipated $1 million in tuition fees. According to Dr. Boyes, with Tuckahoe students a part of Southampton, it would fall on Southampton to pay the estimated $1 million in annual tuition fees to allow the students to attend Westhampton Beach. The district can save that money, Dr. Boyes said, by educating the students in-house.

“I am sympathetic to the fact that the Tuckahoe board is concerned for those students who are already at Westhampton,” Dr. Boyes said. “I understand that, but, at the same time, there is a financial consideration, and if that money can be used to hold down taxes or put in our reserves, then the Southampton board said that is very important, and Tuckahoe agrees with that.”

On Monday night, Mr. Grisnik said his main concern is for the soon-to-be-dislocated students. While he understands concessions are necessary for the merger to work, he said they should not come at the expense of the students. He added that while he agrees with the other three assurances, students enrolled at Westhampton Beach High School should be allowed to finish their education there, a sentiment echoed by the other two Tuckahoe board members.

“We all agree that something has to be done within the school district,” Mr. Grisnik said on Monday. “But this is not in keeping with what I am on this school board for, and that is to keep the children first and to give them an education that will prepare them for the future.”

One option, according to Mr. Grisnik, is for the Tuckahoe district to use reserve funds to fund the tuition payments to Westhampton Beach for the enrolled students. That option, he said, will be explored by board members in the future.

Now, all three school districts have to wait for the merger to be approved. The study, which is being sent to Albany this week, is expected to be approved or denied by the commissioner by the end of August. If approved, it will be up to the districts to take action. According to Dr. Boyes, several public meetings will be held in the fall, culminating in a public referendum on the proposal by December. If approved, the schools would officially merge on July 1, 2014, for the 2014-15 school year.

Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said if the merger is ultimately approved, something should be done for the tuition students attending his high school. He added that students who are forced to change schools so late in their high school careers could end up paying a price with their education.

“To me, the larger issue is doing what is right for the students,” Mr. Radday said. “These kids chose a high school and, in doing so, planned to graduate from that school. It does impact these students as they proceed through their academic careers and apply to colleges.”

Mr. Radday, who had not heard of the change when reached earlier this week, said he hopes the districts will reconsider their stance and allow the those students now attending Westhampton Beach to graduate as Hurricanes.

One parent, David D’Agostino, said he is outraged by the decision made by Tuckahoe board members, adding that if students cannot stay in Westhampton Beach, then Tuckahoe should abandon plans to merge with Southampton. Mr. D’Agostino, whose son is a freshman at Westhampton Beach, said he will move into the Westhampton Beach School District so his son can continue his education where he started.

“It is terrible news,” he said. “It is a slap in the face and they lied to us. They misled us and they should drop the merger. We and other people moved to this district specifically because of that option, and we are going to be forced to move out of the district in order to keep our children in what we consider a superior school.”

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Dan Crough broke his promise to the students of Westhampton Beach from Tuckahoe. Time and again he reiterated his "commitment" to our WHB students and yesterday he voted to break that commitment. The money that it would cost to keep WHB students in place is less than 2 percent of the budget for a merged district.

It should be noted that Dan Crough had a child at SH when he voted to grant an exclusive and he will have 2 children attending SHHS next year.

SHHS has played Tuckahoe ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jun 26, 13 10:35 AM
Are you surprised Dan Crough broke his promise? I'm not at all. He's made a career in the Tuckahoe Board breaking his promises. Has he ever made a promise he kept? He promised repeatedly to the parents who favored the better quality education at Westhampton that he would support an even handed negotiations with the two schools to obtain the most cost effective offer?

Dan Crough did not even ask Westhampton for an offer on the same basis as the offer given by Southampton which they accepted ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jun 27, 13 5:02 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Wonkster Blogging (2), Southampton on Jun 27, 13 10:40 AM
I don't believe this is a done deal- as parents we could petition to NYSED- the money could be allocated to allow students to remain. Dan Crough needs to be held to his assurances which he gave to the Westhampton Beach students, my son, Alex being one of them.
This is breach of fuducuary responsibility as a board member. I applaud Mr. Grisnick for standing up for the student's best interest.
By purrazz@optonline.net (6), Southampton on Jun 28, 13 10:07 PM
Now you know how Springs School district feels about East Hampton High School...and their tuition is even higher than Southampton's!
By ShelleyB (28), East Hampton on Jun 26, 13 1:56 PM
The truly sad thing for those paying the taxes is that the consolidation is at least 10 years overdue. If it weren't for taxes paid by the seasonal residents and the golf courses, in my opinion, it is unlikely that this boutique school district would have stayed alive as long as it did. I understand that the golf courses won big reductions in their school taxes and that is what has forced the change.

This has been a classic case of ignoring obvious efficiencies because it's other people's ...more
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Jun 26, 13 2:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
so true and so glad to hear someone point that out - if it was not for the seasonal residents (and I've been "seasonal" since 1970), these schools could not exist.
By AFB (31), NYC/SH on Jun 26, 13 4:56 PM
That may well be that the district's should consolidate. As the parent of a WHB tuckahoe student, my son needs to be allowed to complete his HS where we voted to have the choice. The interesting thing is that no one seems to be looking at the numbers- It costs less to educate the students at WHB, even with the "discount" Southampton gave- why not have all the students attend WHB then if we are looking for economies of scale? The board bought 2 pieces of property- they could sell them and use the ...more
By purrazz@optonline.net (6), Southampton on Jun 28, 13 10:14 PM
Every member of the Tuckahoe Board expressed their sincere, undying commitment to ensuring that the kids currently at WHB from Tuckahoe could stay there. When it came down to actually standing by their word, only Bob Grisnik had the decency to do so.

SHHS is toying with the lives of children attending WHB to save 2% of their budget, even after having been granted an exclusive for all students starting this year? That is the height of arrogance and dismissiveness. They should be ashamed. ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 26, 13 2:55 PM
And let us not forget that for the 2013/14 school year, Tuckahoe taxpayers will still be paying tuition for Tuckahoe students attending SHHS.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 26, 13 2:57 PM
Why doesn't the Westhampton school district foot the cost of keeping these students in its high school? Why on earth should that money come out of the Southampton district's budget, potentially negatively impacting current Southampton students. This way of thinking may be why Tuckahoe finds itself in its current financial situation.
By nancyloo (13), Southampton on Jun 26, 13 3:19 PM
Nancyloo, perhaps you are unaware of the fact that Tuckahoe residents have paid tens of millions of tuition dollars to Southampton HS, even those of us whose children do not attend that school. Were it not for the Tuckahoe taxpayers SHHS would have gone bankrupt years ago. Your tax rate in Southampton is 1/3 what we pay and now you're worried about the tax impact of less than 2% of the nearly 60 million dollar budget after the merger? You are probably also unaware that WHBHS charged from 13 to ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jun 26, 13 5:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
David, you should organize the progressive parents in the Tuckahoe District to stop this merger that was obviously not done above Board and in good faith. You basically have two snake oil salesmen in the Tuckahoe Board who will promise anything just to get what they want and what they want has been very clear from the start!

Initiate citizen's talks with WHBHS and make public the lower offer that Westhampton has been willing to give and present it to the parents of Tuckahoe including the ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jun 27, 13 5:31 AM
At least we now know what the official stance of the Southampton Town Government via the Southampton CAC is. Being Progressive is about doing what is best for the group as a whole. In fact, the entire US education system is run in a Progressive way. It's odd to see so called Progressives tantrum about an education system created wholly by themselves. Public school system in America is broken. If you don't like it, hand it over to the thinkers.
By Wonkster Blogging (2), Southampton on Jun 27, 13 10:30 AM
Wonkster, perhaps you'd like to address the actual details of this story and the comments made instead of a rant about the entire public school system.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jun 27, 13 11:28 AM
Observant, I exposed the underhanded deal on this long ago, when it first went down. I attempted to organize parents. This is a link to a viewpoint I wrote in this paper http://olive.pressnewsgroup.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Search&Key=SPE/2012/12/20/17/Ar01704.xml&CollName=SPE_APA3&DOCID=278875&PageLabelPrint=A17&Skin=SouthamptonA&AW=1372336082705&sPublication=SPE&sPublication=SPM&sPublication=SPW&sPublication=EHP&sQuery=david%20d%27agostino&sSorting=%2553%2563%256f%2572%2565%252c%2564%2565%2573%2563&sDateFrom=%2530%2531%252f%2530%2531%252f%2532%2530%2530%2538&sDateTo=%2530%2536%252f%2530%2531%252f%2532%2530%2531%2533&RefineQueryView=&StartFrom=15&ViewMode=HTML

Now ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jun 27, 13 8:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hi David- I know you have done much to bring light to this issue- I have been in touch with NYSED today and am waiting on some information back from them- would like to get in touch with you....
By purrazz@optonline.net (6), Southampton on Jun 28, 13 10:00 PM
Linda, you should just stick to making mosaics instead.
By Wonkster Blogging (2), Southampton on Jul 2, 13 6:45 AM
Wonkster, Personal attacks from anonymous posters on people who have identified themeselves is the height of cowardice and not helpful to anyone. Try sticking to the facts at hand.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jul 2, 13 1:35 PM

Wonkster, you typify many Tuckahoe parents who have repeatedly supported incompetent Tuckahoe school boards that have resulted in the virtual bankruptcy of Tuckahoe, not only financially but its academic program itself. You respond to legitimate complaints of Tuckahoe taxpayers who support the school with irrelevant and nonsensical ad hominems.

We know your type well, which is why a lot of us will flee Tuckahoe unfortunately.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jul 2, 13 9:33 PM
Students should not be pulled out, they should be allowed to graduate from the high school started at. Imagine to start your senior year in a different school, where you know NOBODY! Do money always have to come first! The merger is what it is for all future Highschool Tuckahoe Students, but for the current Westhampton Beach students from Tuckahoe it is a HUGE deal. So upsetting...!
By foreverstudent (1), Southampton on Jul 2, 13 12:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why do students even have a choice to go to Westhampton when Southampon is right down thw road? Time to consolidate this bloated school with Southampton.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 10, 13 7:42 AM
So they can get a better education.
By user.name (46), the jungle on Jul 10, 13 7:57 AM

Chief, why should a Tuckahoe taxpayer be forced to send his children to attend a terrible and documented inferior school down the road instead of a documented superior school a little farther down the road that charges less significantly less, especially for special ed?

Tuckahoe doesn't provide a high school education (There is a god), ergo, the taxpayer should be free to choose the more superior education for his children especially if it is cheaper. That is not rocket science, just ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jul 10, 13 9:40 AM