By Tessa Raebeck
The Sag Harbor School District announced late Wednesday, August 27, that its prekindergarten program, which has operated under SCOPE since its inception in 2010, would move under the full control and supervision of the district starting this year.
“Our board of education and administration believe this is a positive change for the district, and one that will enable us to provide a wonderful pre-k opportunity in Sag Harbor for years to come,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Assistant Principal Donna Denon said in a letter to families that day.
For the past school year of 2013-14, the program had 30 students and the contractual expenses were $80,730. The projected expenses for 2014-15, which will see 25 students in the pre-k, under SCOPE would have been approximately $110,000. According to Sag Harbor School Board member Sandi Kruel under the district, the approximate cost to run the pre-k with one teacher and an aide would be approximately $115,000. However, Ms. Kruel said the district intends to move an existing aide from the elementary school into the pre-k and not replace that position meaning the district will see a potential savings of almost $40,000.
SCOPE partners with school districts across Long Island to provide educational services, such as SAT/PSAT/ACT preparatory courses, summer child care programs, school board training and professional development programs for teachers.
While operating the preschool in cooperation with SCOPE, the school district was required to assign a district liaison to SCOPE and provide space, custodial services and amenities like a photocopier to the program.
SCOPE was responsible for recruiting, screening, hiring and paying all teachers and teachers assistants, providing staff training, purchasing consumable materials for the program, conducting student evaluations, maintaining student performance and attendance records, providing children with a daily snack, providing program supervision and maintaining appropriate insurance coverage for the program.
The school district will now be solely responsible for its preschool, a decision that seems to be largely technical.
According to School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi, the school attorneys reviewed the current contract with SCOPE in July and recommended the district become a New York State-approved universal prekindergarten program in order to continue operating under a service contract arrangement with SCOPE.
“This designation would be the only way we could contract out a taxpayer funded prekindergarten program through SCOPE,” Ms. Buscemi said in an email. “This recommendation was based on a shift by the state over time in its policy of contracting out core instruction to outside vendors.”
The district applied for a portion of $340 million in competitive grant funding that became available for a statewide universal full-day prekindergarten program. In August, the New York State Department of Education informed Sag Harbor that it had not been awarded any of the grant money.
“Since Sag Harbor UFSD did not receive approval for New York State funding, our prekindergarten program could not be considered a universal prekindergarten program,” Ms. Buscemi added.
The elementary school administrators said the district is “committed to maintaining this successful, tuition-free, early childhood learning experience in our district.”
No longer in partnership with SCOPE services, the Sag Harbor pre-k program began the 2014-15 school year on Wednesday, September 3, with a “Meet and Greet” for students and parents in the pre-k classroom and the Pierson Middle School. The first full day for students is Thursday, September 4.
“It is with great enthusiasm that we begin the 2014-15 school year knowing the Sag Harbor School District is stronger with our own prekindergarten program adding to a high quality educational experience for all children,” said Mr. Malone and Ms. Denon.