South Huntington school leaders laid out their plans and aspirations for the district’s future Wednesday night to audiences at Walt Whitman High School and on Facebook Live.
Their ambitious plans rely on voters approving a bond totaling $115 million that would pay for changes aimed at enhancing academics, improving infrastructure and upgrading safety and security.
They were not shy about their goals. Nick Ciappetta, school board president, said that if approved, the plan would make South Huntington “the premier district on Long Island.”
Ciappetta, Dr. David Bennardo, school superintendent, and Dr. Joseph Centamore, assistant superintendent for business and district operations, took turns outlining different aspects of the plan.
Informing their plans is a determination to give every school building a share of the improvements, from changes in academics at Whitman to prepare students for new careers of the future to improving parking at Maplewood and Stimson schools.
Behind many of the plans is the desire to develop a sense of achievement and higher goals throughout the district, or, as Bennardo put it, “we want them thinking about being at Hofstra, Cornell, Vassar or Delaware.” Part of the plan is cosmetic—branding all schools with common themes and colors. But most run deeper, with the availability of STREAM–science, technology, research, engineering, art and math–programs at every school to educate students for the future .
The emphasis is on looking forward and making changes to make the district stand out to taxpayers, parents, students and future homebuyers looking for excellent school districts.
Some of the proposals include:
Security and safety: A ‘welcome center’ that would serve as a secure entrance to Whitman’s facilities, replacing the small guard shack; improved locking systems and vestibules at every school to protect students.
A shift in athletic facilities, significant improvements of the fields and pressbox and putting softball and softball fields together in one location, creating outdoor courts for basketball and other sports and improvements in locker rooms.
Streaming radio, to train students and provide information about school activities, and a TV studio.
More arts programs, with a conservatory added to a rebuilt teen center, to performance arts spaces.
A program to teach life skills to special education students, and privately funded center that teaches parents how to access information for education and services.
Expanded life/health programs
Air conditioning at each school, which is the second proposition on the ballot in October, to replace piecemeal air conditioning that has been required for many classrooms for students claiming a medical condition.
Elimination of portable classrooms
“Why shouldn’t we be the best district on Long Island?” Ciappetta asked, acknowledging that the bond requires more money and a long commitment to work.
The three took questions from the audience, including one about making changes in the proposal. They noted that the plans would be locked in once the bond passes–the district cannot change them and must proceed as outlined.
Called Vision 2020: The Future Starts Now, the work could start by next summer if approved.
The bond vote is scheduled for Oct. 7, from noon to 9 p.m. The bond is broken into two parts: one for $85,969,597 and the other for $28,830,902, for air conditioning. The second proposition cannot be approved unless the first one passes.
Before that, there will be two more presentations, on Sept. 12 at the regular Board of Education meeting at the District Office at 60 Weston St., and the other Sept. 25 in a public hearing at another board meeting at Walt Whitman High School.
Bennardo said he and his colleagues is eager to meet with any community organization that has questions about the propositions.
The average cost to the homeowner with a $3,300 assessed value and house of approximately $500,000 would be $117 a year, per year, additional throughout the seven-year scope of the work, the district said.