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Proposed 2016-17 School Budget

On Tuesday, May 17, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the E.M. Baker School and the William A. Shine-South High School, qualified residents of the school district may vote on the following:
--2016-17 School District Budget (Proposition No. 1).
--Authorization to use Capital Reserve Fund (Proposition No. 2).
--Change in election method for Board of Education seats (Proposition No. 3).
--2016-17 Public Library Budget (Proposition No. 4).
--One Board of Education Seat (Trustee Monique Bloom is seeking reelection).

2016-17 School District Budget - After extensive public discussion and input, during a lengthy and open process that started in our schools, the Board of Education has adopted the Proposed School Budget in the amount of $219,147,365 for the 2016-17 school year. The increase over this year's budget is 1.13 percent. The increase in the amount to be raised by real property tax is 0.17 percent. Anticipated increases in revenue, including about $1.58 million in appropriated fund balance and reserves, and $591,927 in state aid, account for the difference between the tax-levy increase and the overall budget increase. This additional revenue will allow the school district to preserve instructional programs, with some cuts being made in operational areas that do not directly affect instruction. Board President Barbara Berkowitz said, "We are fortunate that we reside in a community that values education and supports the school district budget. To stay within the extremely low tax cap imposed upon us by New York State, far below the 2 percent originally instituted, we thoroughly reviewed our operations and made cuts where possible. Nevertheless, we are maintaining our excellent instructional program as well as small class size. While the quality of the Great Neck Public Schools continues to be a hallmark of this community, we are always cognizant of our fiduciary responsibility to all of our residents." Dr. Teresa Prendergast, superintendent of schools, said, "We remain committed to being a premier school district and delivering a high quality, twenty-first century education. We are allocating resources prudently in recognition of the challenges posed in this fiscal climate, and we are pursuing efficiencies in all areas of the district."

Capital Reserve Fund - The second proposition on the ballot is the authorization to use the capital reserve fund that was created a year ago. In the 2015 election, voters gave the district permission to create a $19 million fund to finance facilities projects over the next 10 years. This fund will use surplus money from the district's general fund and existing reserves, so it will not affect property taxes. In accordance with state law, the district now needs the community's permission to start spending the money on capital improvements.

Board Elections - The third proposition on the ballot is a change to the way Board of Education trustees are elected. After the May 17 election, vacancies on the Board will be filled by election of candidates to specific seats, repealing the current at-large method of election.

New York State's Property Tax Cap - The 2016-17 school year is the fifth in which school districts must abide by New York State's tax-cap legislation. This law requires districts to limit tax-levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. However, multiple factors affect the actual limit, which is why it is so low for 2016-17. John Powell, assistant superintendent for business, said, "According to the State's formula, the allowed increase in our tax levy for the 2016-17 school year is 0.17 percent. The calculation incorporates changes to the tax base, the rate of inflation, payments in lieu of taxes, debt payments, capital project expenditures, transportation equipment purchases, and pension increases above a certain percentage."

Spending Cuts & Revenue Increases - With such a small allowable tax-levy increase, the district was forced to make cuts to balance the 2016-17 budget. Contractual salary increases, hikes in health-insurance premiums, and other planned expenditures would have required a tax levy increase greater than the allowable 0.17 percent. The district will appropriate $1.58 million in fund balance and reserves, which are unspent funds from prior years, and will rely upon other increases in revenue. For example, other school districts pay tuition for their students to attend special programs in Great Neck. Board Trustee Monique Bloom said, "There are a finite number of dollars. We know the number we have to work with and need to make adjustments to programs, either additive or accretive, based on the instructional priorities of the school district. We're doing our best, with the reduced resources that have been legislated upon us, to simultaneously maintain our high standard of education and move forward into the modern age."

Validation of Fiscal Practices - Annual, external audits of public school districts are required by New York State. The certified public accounting firm of Cullen & Danowski, LLP, reports favorably on Great Neck's management of finances, emphasizing a strong financial position, wise investments, an internal control system of checks and balances, and procedures that are supported by Board policies. In addition, Great Neck is one of only seven school districts, and 21 public entities overall, in New York State to earn a rating of "Aaa" from Moody's Investors Service. This rating means that its financial obligations are judged by Moody's to be of the highest quality, and subject to the lowest level of credit risk.

For More Information - Copies of the 2016-17 Proposed Budget are available at the Phipps Administration Building, 345 Lakeville Rd. Reference copies can be found in the schools and public libraries. The Proposed Budget is also on the district Web site ( On May 17, registered voters who live north of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) may vote at the E. M. Baker School. Those who live south of the LIRR may vote at the William A. Shine-South High School. For details about the budget, capital reserve fund, voter registration, absentee ballots, and voting, please call (516) 441-4020.


Envirothon Winners


A team of South High School students--Katelyn Chang, Angela Chi, Allan Lee, Angelina Wang, and Ann Zhang--was named Nassau County and overall Long Island winners in the recent Long Island Regional Envirothon Competition. The team will now compete in the New York State tournament at the end of May. The current issue or subject area of this year's competition was invasive species. The South High team chose Hydrilla, a water weed that can be a nuisance for boaters and the environment. Team member Ann Zhang explained that the team approached the problem with a threefold solution. They used carps as a biological control, then they used two different kinds of herbicides. She said that the team "definitely learned to communicate teamwork skills. It took a lot of time to try to patch these ideas together." South High faculty advisors for Envirothon are science teachers Abby-Jo Brighton and Andrew Tuomey. Envirothon is an environmental studies program for high school students. Its learning objective correlates to the NYS Learning Standards. The program is based on five subject areas: aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife, and the current issue, invasive species. The current issue changes annually. On the day of the competition, students rotate between subject stations and answer questions as a team. Each subject area test is made up of 25 multiple-choice questions. Many of the questions are hands-on, involving the use of equipment, maps, and/or audio-visual devices. A sixth category, the oral presentation, is devoted to the current issue. Students were given an environmental scenario, posted on the Envirothon Web site in February. They were required to prepare a solution as a team and present their results to a panel. The Nassau and Suffolk County Soil & Water Conservation Districts coordinate the Long Island Regional Envirothon in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation


North Middle Art Show & Concert

North Middle School's Art Show and Grade 7 and 8 Spring Concert will take place on Thursday, May 12. The Art Show begins at 7 p.m.; the Concert at 7:30 p.m.

Art Show - The annual school-wide Art Show will have its Opening just before the start of the Concert. It will also be open to the public during school hours on Friday, May 13, and Monday, May 16. The Show will feature the work of Art 6, Art 7, 3D Experience, Studio Art 8, and Art Foundation 9 (the first in the high school sequences of art courses). Many two- and three-dimensional pieces will be on display, utilizing a variety of materials. Art teachers are Elaine Brendel, department head, Kristin Kirleis, and Sherry Teich.

Concert - The Seventh- and Eighth-Grade Spring Instrumental and Choral Concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. The Band will perform "Around the World in 80 Measures" and "In the Mood." The Chorus will be performing "Give My Regards to Broadway," "In My Life," "Home Sweet Home," and "Truly Brave." The Orchestra will perform "Symphony No 9," from the New World, and "The Theme from the Pink Panther." The Band and Orchestra will then combine to play "Take Five" and "Egmont Overture." To close the event, the Chorus will join the instrumental groups and all will perform "The Main Theme" from The Phantom of the Opera, and "Viva la Vida." The Band and Orchestra are under the direction of Matthew Trinkwald, department head. The Chorus is under the direction of Arielle Murdocco.


Students To Perform at Lincoln Center


Five talented music students from South Middle School have been selected to perform at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center "Young Ensembles Concert" on Thursday, May 26, at 11 a.m. Pianists Eugene Hong and Benjamin Rossen will perform Wolfgang A. Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K.448 (First Movement). The ensemble of Christiana Claus, flute; Michelle Foo, oboe; and Jeffrey Ma, oboe will perform Johann Joseph Fux's Sinfonia in F Major for Flute, Oboe and Keyboard (IV. Allegro). These musicians are students of Alan Schwartz, South Middle music department chair. Mr. Schwartz spoke about this kind of music, "Chamber music is pure collaboration, teaching our students to listen to each other's ideas and direction. The teacher's role is purely to act as a moderator. The students are the ones who deserve the credit for their product. They must learn the art of self-assessment, self-reflection, and compromise in order to achieve the highest level of mastery." This marks the eighth year in a row that South Middle students have been selected for the prestigious Young Ensembles Concert. Out of the many submissions from the tri-state area, only eight chamber music groups were selected to perform. The Young Ensembles Program is an opportunity for advanced middle school musicians to perform among selected chamber ensembles and to receive coaching from professional musicians involved with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Chamber ensembles considered for this opportunity spend numerous hours preparing a chamber piece, recording it, and submitting an application through their school's music department.


GNPS/TV April Programs

Current programs on Great Neck Public Schools Television (GNPS/TV) are: GNPS/TV Spotlight, South Middle Cultural Heritage Celebration, and Student Filmmakers Showcase. Programs can be viewed in the incorporated villages of Great Neck on Cablevision Channel 75 and on Verizon Channel 32. GNPS/TV programs are also available on demand, 24/7, on the school district Web site,
(click on the GNPS/TV logo near the top of the main page), or by going directly to Program highlights follow. Show times are for Cablevision and Verizon viewing.

GNPS/TV Spotlight - GNPS/TV Spotlight features school news, sports, and events in a lively, magazine-format. This edition of Spotlight focuses on South High School. Stories include: Rebel Wars Event, Music Fundraiser, Chess Club, Stage Crew, Fashion Show, Cultural Heritage, and more. Spotlight was filmed, edited, and produced entirely by South High students. Anchors are Haley Raphael and Lauren Reiss. Spotlight airs at 8 a.m., and at 12, 4, and 8 p.m.

South Middle Cultural Heritage Celebration - South Middle School's 12th Annual Cultural Heritage Celebration was a wonderful night where students, their families, and their teachers shared the unique sights, sounds, and tastes of their cultures. The evening began with Cultural Table Displays that included food, artifacts, and music, and followed with a show featuring spectacular cultural performances from the Greek "Zorba Dance" to traditional Korean percussion music. All profits from the event, as well as a food drive that ran during the week, were donated to the Interfaith Nutrition Network, a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and shelter for Long Islanders in need. The program airs at 9 a.m., and at 1, 5, and 9 p.m.

Student Filmmakers Showcase - GNPS Student Filmmakers Showcase is a new program this school year that highlights short films produced, edited, and directed by middle and high school students. View a variety of films and styles, including public service announcements, documentaries, fictional films, and more. Robert Zahn, district educational cable TV producer/director, is the show's host. This show airs at 11 a.m., and at 3, 7, and 11 p.m.

GNPS/TV Programming - GNPS/TV programming reflects the offerings of the Great Neck Public Schools and the achievements of its students and staff. Programs are student-produced. For further information, please contact Robert Zahn, district educational cable TV producer/director, by phone at (516) 441-4676, or by e-mail at


Board Commends South High Students


One-hundred five South High School students were recently recognized by the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education for contributing to the quality of life at their school. Student honorees, in alphabetical order, are: Elora Aclin, Jared Ahmed, Tooba Alwani, Salvatore Angelaras, Jonathan Arevalo, Emily Bae, Aram Baghdassarian, Christopher Barulic, Nicholas Belitsis, Rachel Brenner, Daniel Bronstein, Gracia Bualuti, Audrey Chan, Brandyn Chan, Stephanie Chang, Steven Chasen, Brandon Chen, Emily Cheung, Angela Chi, Kelley Chiu, Victoria Chiu, Catherine Choi, Regina Chow, Jack Doremus, Abigail Efrem, Josselyn Fuentes, Joshua Go, Samuel Go, John Gould, Kelly Gragossian, Jennifer Guo, Isabella Harnick, Caroline Hong, Jillian Horowitz, Zhengkuan Huang, Christyn Hung, Haena Kang, Azim M. Keshwani, Daniel Kiernan, Ji Won Kim, Lance Kim, Nayoung Kim, David Kimmel, Lily Kimmel, Jenna Kolodny, Danielle Kraes, Adam Krieger, Ramya Kumar, Ryan Lang, Jonathan Lee, Joshua Lee, Jacqueline Liao, Vivian Lim, Fion Ma, Amanda Madenberg, Isabella Malfi, Maximilian Manicone, Julia Mashall, Joseph Mazurkiewicz, William Miecuna, Allyson Mittler, Alec Molina, Ryan Motchkavitz, Emma Motelson, Sean Na, Annabelle Ng, Samantha Ng, Jundong Pan, Tina Pavlovich, Jonathan Perlman, Lauren Perlman, Jahong Pu, Haley Raphael, Haley Roach, Abraham Rosloff, Casey Sanders, Dylan Sanders, Jonathan Schindler, Ashley Schulman, Diana Serpas, Robin Shum, Madison Solomon, Sydney Someck, Avery Strongin, Yujia Su, Christine Suh, Celina Sun, Alison Tair, Kirkpatrick Townsend, Annie Transport, Christine Vissichelli, Jessica Vissichelli, Shrinath Viswanathan, Elizabeth Voigt, Alison Walker, David West, Gabriella Wong, Kimberly Wong, Giovanni Xu, Belinda Yin, Hyerin Yoon, Hanna Zaretsky, Amanda Zeitlin, Boyang (John) Zhang, and Josephine Zheng. Joining the honorees were Board of Education members (Vice President Lawrence Gross and Trustees Donald Ashkenase and Susan Healy), and school and district administrators. Unable to attend: Board President Barbara Berkowitz and Trustee Monique Bloom.