Nearly two hours into the March 8 Lynbrook Board of Education meeting, the rows of chairs in the High School cafeteria stood mostly vacant. Two months earlier, those seats were nearly filled when the board unveiled a new $28.9 million bond proposal to modernize the high school.
Despite some initial buzz over the bond — which would upgrade science classrooms; renovate the auditorium; create rooms for chorus, band and orchestra as well as a new classroom for the Career Development program; and add a school store where students could learn business skills — the subject was not even broached until the end of the meeting. Parent Teacher Association Co-presidents Jennifer Denker and Charmaine Sorbara started the dialogue when they addressed the board, citing their confusion over the status of a potential vote.
In his response, board President William Belmont’s tone ranged from hopeful to frustrated as he noted the public’s apparent apathy over the bond, which the vacant chairs seemed to confirm.
A larger bond initiative, for $46 million, was voted down last March. “After it went down, somebody came in with a petition with all kinds of signatures on it, saying all of these people would have voted yes,” Belmont recalled. “‘Put it up and we’ll vote yes.’ Where are all those people who signed that petition? It would be nice to see those people come up and say, ‘I’m gonna push to make that happen.’”
On Jan. 11, the board proposed the new bond. Some students and parents expressed disappointment in its plans for the auditorium. Last year’s bond had promised a 646-seat performance center to replace the current outdated auditorium, but it was cut out of the new proposal due to its cost.
Then, at last month’s meeting, two local businessmen urged the board to consider the bond’s onerous tax implications. Trustees say they have been stunned by the absence of any positive feedback.
“There’s no buzz,” said Heather Hanson, the board secretary. “… What is it going to take? Why is this community hanging on to this relic of a building? That silence really gave me pause.”
Belmont said that if the trustees sense that the bond is something district residents really want, and if it is in students’ best interests, he wants to go forward with it. Several trustees are wary about the impact of another potential bond failure.
“We know that yes votes are out there,” said Ellen Marcus, the board’s vice president, “but when you see that we’re not going to get a huge outcry now of, ‘Yeah, we want this,’ we need to hear that. Because otherwise, we might not put it out there again.”
Trustee Robert Paskoff said the board had not ruled out scheduling another vote. “I don’t think it’s dead in the water,” he said. “I think we’re still in the process of discussing it. It’s not like we’ve decided to not put it up. I think we’re still discussing, and we’re still throwing out different ideas.”
Lynbrook resident Sean Murray said there had been some confusion among parents. He told the board that he was under the impression that trustees had presented the bond because they intended to gather taxpayer feedback and then go forward with a vote. He urged them to proceed.
“I can’t let this die,” Murray said. “I’ve got little ones, and they can’t be going to this building in 15 years looking like this.”
Belmont said that the board had done all it could to promote the proposal, and that he hoped more people would start showing up to fill the empty seats at board meetings and express their support for the measure.
“Maybe this meeting is a catalyst,” he said. “Maybe the right people are in the room to say, ‘Wow, it’s important to be heard.’”
The next board meeting is scheduled for April 20, at 7:30 p.m., in the high school cafeteria.