Under the shadow of last month’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and adults were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Lawrence School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jeremy Feder presented the preliminary operating budget for the 2018-19 school year at the March 12 Board of Education meeting.
The tentative fiscal plan is 102.44 million, a 1.65 percent increase over the current $100.78 million fiscal plan. The tax-cap increase is 0 percent and the tax levy — the amount of money collected through property taxes — is expected to be $86.15 million.
Pedersen said that the budget is built on what she called “three pillars” — “safety and security, educational excellence and fiscal responsibility.” “Safety and security are always in the forefront of the decisions we make,” she said, about protecting the 2,713 students that attend school in the district’s four buildings, including the middle school that also house Lawrence Elementary School.
A $4 million capital improvement plan funds the security improvements that includes cameras at all district schools (the high school is the first phase), having one-button lockdown for emergencies and lockdown strobe lights.
The perimeter of the buildings is being secured by having what are known as man traps — a small space with two sets of interlocking doors. The first set of doors must close before the second set opens — and shifting security guard booth placement. There will also be Vape detectors in the bathrooms.
“We toured other schools and really researched on our own the best products and ideas out there,” Feder said, “and even pushed companies that currently aren’t doing anything to do more for us to enhance our technology.”
Pedersen said that work is being at the high school and then will be done at the other buildings. “Securing the perimeter is critically important,” she said. “Sometimes we look like we are being less friendly, but there has to be certain procedures for visitors coming in the building. That is just the times we live in.”
A Mandarin Chinese language elective is planned for next school year at the high school. The blended educational program would start in ninth grade and would include a culture component and a teacher based in Beijing.
The district is looking into partnering with Nassau BOCES Barry Tech as the career technical education programs is considering housing its certified nursing assistant program at the high school. Pedersen said it would be a two-year sequence. The district is also aiming to add enough Chrome books for all the students to use in the academic subjects.
She said that the district is transitioning to be in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law that reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the country’s national education law — a commitment to equal opportunity for all students.
A grant from My Brother’s Keeper will support a mentoring program for at-risk boys. The federal public-private partnership seeks to promote intervention by community leaders in the lives of young men of color.
The board will meet to adopt the budget and present the property tax report card on April 16 in the cafeteria of Lawrence Middle School, at 195 Broadway, at 8 p.m. A budget hearing is scheduled for May 1 at the same venue and time. Voting on the budget is May 15 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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