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Oct 9, 2013 10:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Parents Concerned Over Future Of District

Oct 9, 2013 11:46 AM

A week after a heated Southampton School Board meeting, complete with name-calling, parents of children in the Tuckahoe School District said they were concerned about the future if a proposed merger of the two districts fails to move forward this month.

This week, Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said most parents he has talked to have expressed surprise over the comments, noting that he has always felt that Tuckahoe and Southampton were a shared community. However, he said that some of the feelings expressed last week—including one Southampton woman who called the Tuckahoe district a “cesspool”—represent a select few, and that most Southampton residents, whether they support the merger or not, have no ill will toward the elementary school district.

“We believe we are a part of the same community,” Mr. Dyer said at a Tuckahoe School Board meeting on Monday night. “We keep working together, and we are very much in support of what Southampton does, and we try to make sure that their message and our message are similar. We share the same kids—our kids play on the same athletic teams. So I think that is why there was a little surprise.”

Even so, at the Tuckahoe meeting on Monday night, a handful of parents began questioning officials on what will happen if the merger is voted down. Nicole Hadix, the mother of an eighth-grader, wanted to know what the high school options for her son will be next year.

“While I understand this merger and everything, if this merger does not happen, where is my son going to high school?” she asked. “I need to know what Plan B is.”

Board members did not have many answers, saying the merger is the main priority right now. Board President Bob Grisnik said the district will address the “what if” questions after the vote if they have to.

According to Mr. Dyer, the decision to move forward with the merger was forced by the financial situation of his district. Mr. Dyer estimates that due to the state-mandated 2-percent cap on tax levy increases, the district will have exhausted all of its reserve funds by the 2015-16 school year.

If the merger is approved, Southampton taxpayers can expect to see an increase of roughly 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in their annual property tax rate, which would be about 8.7 percent. That would translate to paying $105 more a year on a house assessed at $500,000, according to early estimates. Meanwhile, Tuckahoe’s property tax rate would be slashed by $4.82—nearly two-thirds of the current rate—saving the owner of a house similarly assessed at $500,000 more than $2,400 in annual property taxes.

But even though Southampton taxes are expected to go up, district officials have warned that if the merger fails, the Southampton School District will face the possibility of losing all of its students from Tuckahoe—and the roughly $3 million of annual tuition revenue from Tuckahoe that goes with it. That could force massive cuts at all three Southampton schools and might prompt the district to raise the tax rate to compensate, school officials have said.

The next step in the merger will be the first public vote, scheduled for October 29. Southampton and Tuckahoe residents will be asked to cast a vote on the proposition through straw votes in each of their own districts. If either district fails to approve the merger, it will fail, and it will be back to the drawing board for Tuckahoe.

This week, Mr. Dyer said that to date, the district has been as positive as possible about the merger, but that if it fails, there are several money-saving options available. The first, he said, would be for the district to start offering high school classes.

Although the district will not be equipped to run a full high school by next September, it could hold the ninth-graders at Tuckahoe for the 2014-14 school year. The move, Mr. Dyer said, has been considered in the past and is plausible. Next year, he added, there will be 45 Tuckahoe students entering high school, and the district would save upward of $1 million by educating them for another year.

“That wasn’t really our first choice, because we want the students to have a holistic high school experience,” Mr. Dyer explained. “We want them to participate in the clubs and activities they want to be a part of. That is why we are also exploring less expensive high schools.”

Other high school possibilities include Westhampton Beach, Hampton Bays or Sag Harbor.

The other option, Mr. Dyer said, is to possibly become a union free school district—Tuckahoe is currently a common school district—and create a charter high school. Although it would take a few years to create the new school, and a high school staff would have to be hired, down the line costs would level out, as the district would no longer be making tuition payments.

“Our preferred option is the merger,” Mr. Dyer said. “While we have contemplated the high school in the past, we have been invested now for about nine months, so we are really hopeful.”

Regardless of the merger, parents are upset about some of the comments made last week. One mother, Cindy Beeker, said there was no reason to insult the school or the students.

“This is a safe school with a sound education,” Ms. Beeker said. “The comments made last week were totally false. This school is certainly not a ‘cesspool,’ like that woman said, and she should retract her statement. She was talking about our school, talking about our children, and talking about our community.”

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We are ONE community. We are the doctors and nurses, teachers and custodians, dentists and plumbers, electricians and lawyers, landscape artists and landscapers, tile and brick layers, administrators and local business owners, bankers and tellers, stay at home parents and traveling sales men and women etc., etc., etc., who ALL care and contribute to this town we ALL call OUR collective home. We are Southampton and if we want a better educational institution for our children than we should all come ...more
By photo friend (31), southampton on Oct 9, 13 5:15 PM
The school board better start considering their options now. I know a lot of folks in Southampton who resent Tuckahoe. Don't know why, but they do. They do not consider the 2 districts to be one "community" and they're looking out for themselves, which means they're voting no.
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Oct 9, 13 5:35 PM
People "resent" Tuckhoe? I think they resent a 25% rise in their taxes when Tuckahoe gets a 65% reduction. And, the if you take away all the emotional arguments, Tuckahoe does not present any real reason why Southampton should take on the burden of the Tuckahoe School. For those who talk about neighborhood and community, it's been pointed out by the BOE of Tuckahoe that they want to "preserve their identity" and, at the same time, they want Southampton to pay for it. This is an ill advised ...more
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Oct 10, 13 8:15 AM
Localcitizen has just proved my point.
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Oct 10, 13 8:57 AM
If Southampton were to lose Tuckahoe students tuition,
I would imagine taxes would go up to cover the loss. Not sure if
any numbers have been revealed to discuss that at all.
By Kgrigo1 (1), Southampton on Oct 10, 13 10:20 PM
Where exactly will all those students go then? Surely Westhampton doesn't want all of them. Nor do their parents want them bussed all that way either. Sounds like bully threats to me.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Oct 10, 13 10:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
As a feeder district, Westhampton would LOVE to take the students. In fact, had they been offered a formal seat at the table, they would have come in at a better rate than Southampton.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Oct 11, 13 9:52 AM
Westhampton would certainly be happy to accommodate all of the Tuckahoe students. In fact, in recent years, the majority of Tuckahoe student chose to attend WHBHS.
By coach (4), Westhampton Beach on Oct 11, 13 11:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
the only bullying i see done was southamptons board of ed when tuckahoe was forced to send there kids to shs this year. i for one would love to still have the opportunity for my child to have attended whbhs and wouldnt mind at all the commute knowing she was recieving a better education at a school that didnt rake tuckahoe over the coals with there tuition costs.
By kmh (12), southampton on Oct 11, 13 12:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
KMH, you are correct and, as a parent of a Westhampton High student from Tuckahoe, I also wish your child had the choice. I have another child in Tuckahoe 7th grade and, beacuse we also want her to attend WHB, we are moving to that district, regardless of the outcome of the merger, because this board cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of our kids.

This entire push for a merger was a give away to SHHS in return for what? Forcing our kids into a lower performng high school that ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 11, 13 2:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Tuckahoe residents want a choice for their education. Unfortunately 99 percent of us have no choice for education. Send your kids to Southampton High school the closest district to you. Otherwise move to WHB and live in their district. It is time we close these little districts and give the taxpayer a break.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 13, 13 12:54 PM
Once again, Chief, it is evident that you cannot help but speak without knowing the facts. Firstly, there is a choice because Tuckaheo has no high school. Secondly, for over ten years, Tuckahoe tax payers have saved millions of dollars in tuition fees for sending high school kids to WHB which charged up to 30% less per child.

If you were really concerned about taxpayers in Tuckahoe, why did not you never complain that SHHS was charging such exhorbitant fees? Why do you not demand that ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Oct 13, 13 1:06 PM
They have a choice for a high school its called Southampton. If this country really wants to save money give people the choice of private or Catholic school. That would save millions. We won't do that because we need to support unions, and the incestuous hiring practices. Choice of education is what will advance children not this shell game we call public education. We have intelligent advanced children who are stuck in inner city schools because of no choice. If saving money and efficiency is a ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 14, 13 9:07 AM
Again, Chief, you intentionally ignore the facts - WHB has saved the Tuckahoe taxpayer MILLIONS for ten years. You just like to spew your right wing rhetoric, and, like so many of your cult, you could care less about facts.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Oct 14, 13 10:44 AM
When they combine southamptons expenses with Tuckahoes and cut costs at Southampton it will be more efficient. Move to WHB if you like it so much
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 14, 13 11:22 AM
For someone so distrustful of the government and public schools, you sure are gullible, Chief.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 14, 13 9:00 PM