Some parents in the Tuckahoe School District are upset about the prospect of losing Westhampton Beach High School as an option of where to send their children once they graduate from the eighth grade, thanks to a pending arrangement with the Southampton School District.
In December, Tuckahoe School officials agreed to a one-year exclusivity deal with Southampton High School that will save almost $600,000 in tuition costs, despite Tuckahoe’s nearly 20-year history of sending some high school-age children to Westhampton Beach High School. Tuckahoe does not have a high school; its high school-age students had been able to attend Southampton or Westhampton Beach, with Tuckahoe paying the tuition.
Under the agreement, in return for Tuckahoe sending all of its ninth-graders to Southampton High School, Southampton officials pared down the tuition rate for general students by 15 percent and 25 percent for special education students. The reduction will help to alleviate the possibility of Tuckahoe incurring $1 million in debt by the 2013-14 school year.
The deal is a short-term solution to the district’s growing financial troubles while the school undergoes a merger feasibility study with the Southampton School District, and will affect only those going into the ninth grade for the 2013-14 school year, according to school officials.
But some parents said they were considering moving out of Tuckahoe and into the Westhampton Beach School District so their kids could attend Westhampton Beach High School in case the deal is extended in coming years, or a merger between the two districts takes place, ending a tuition arrangement with Westhampton Beach.
Westhampton Beach School Superintendent Michael Radday said that while he understands Tuckahoe’s need to save money, he and others in the district are disappointed to lose Tuckahoe students, and that the loss will also be a financial one—approximately $200,000 in tuition payments for Westhampton Beach.
“Certainly not having any new Tuckahoe students join us in 2013-14 will have an impact on our tuition revenue,” he said. “It’s something that we need to plan for as we develop our budget going forward.”
According to Mr. Radday, his district has offered Tuckahoe students “a world-class education for many years at a much lower tuition rate than Southampton.”
Some parents have questioned Tuckahoe’s decision, saying the board is giving in to the district that has unfairly charged them for so many years and leaving Westhampton Beach in the dust.
Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said that he and Mr. Radday did speak about exclusivity between the two districts, but the best discount Mr. Radday could offer—$500 per student—did not provide the economic advantages Tuckahoe needs. Mr. Radday said the projected tuition rates for the 2013-14 school year are $19,750 for a general student and $59,504 for a special education student.
“I never saw it as a probable outcome,” Mr. Radday said.
Westhampton Beach High School takes tuition students from five districts: Tuckahoe, Quogue, East Quogue, Remsenburg-Speonk, and East Moriches.
Currently, there are 52 Tuckahoe students enrolled at Westhampton Beach High School, and 95 at Southampton High School. This spring, 45 students are expected to graduate from Tuckahoe School—one of the largest graduating classes in years, according to Mr. Dyer.
While Tuckahoe is only one of five feeder districts to Westhampton Beach, Mr. Radday said there will be a definite impact, not just financially but for the Westhampton Beach school community. “They contribute positively in the classroom, in our music and art programs, and in athletics and extracurricular activities,” he said. “We are disappointed that they will not be part of our school community and feel badly that they are losing an outstanding option for their high school education.”
The parents who are upset say it is the loss of that option that makes them fume.
“When we moved out here, we had the choice of two schools—that was a selling point of coming out to Shinnecock Hills,” said Craig Ferrantino who has a sixth-grader in Tuckahoe School and a 10th-grader in Westhampton Beach High School. He said his family chose Westhampton Beach because of its academics and may consider moving if his children can no longer attend.
“I don’t know where it all went wrong. I can’t understand why the writing wasn’t on the wall,” he said about the exclusivity deal. “This is a one-year Band-Aid for an open wound.”
David D’Agostino, who has a son at Westhampton Beach and a daughter at Tuckahoe, said the $600,000 Tuckahoe will save from the exclusivity deal is a “drop in the bucket,” and there could have been another way to save money.