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May 7, 2019 2:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Day Care Center Blames Transparency Issues For Southampton School Board's Decision To Reject Funding Proposition

The Southampton Day Care Center.
May 7, 2019 3:52 PM

The nonprofit Southampton Day Care Center tried but failed to add a proposition to the Southampton School District’s May 21 budget ballot seeking funding, with officials there saying a lack of transparency by the district administration caused the proposal for $75,000 to help offset budget shortfalls to be voted down.

The center, the only nonprofit day care in Southampton, needed to submit a petition to the school district in order for the Board of Education to review the proposition, as is the policy for all proposition requests, before it could be put to voters. A petition was filed with 115 signatures on March 27, but it was several days past the deadline.

However, the deadline was actually not as consequential as day care directors were led to believe—because the School Board voted to reject the request and had that power regardless of the deadline, District Clerk Amy Pierson said.

Once it was voted down, day care directors claimed that the text of the school policy, which gives two different deadlines for different propositions, was unclear, and they weren’t sure which deadline applied to them. They pointed fingers at district officials for not clarifying the information.

But district officials countered that the day care did not make enough of an effort to retrieve the correct information. Ms. Pierson said that she was never asked what the day care proposition deadline would be.

Propositions needed to be submitted either 30 days or 60 days prior to the annual school vote on May 21, depending on the type of proposition, and the 60-day deadline applied to the day care, she said.

On April 2, the School Board rejected, in a 5-1 vote, placing a proposition on the ballot for $75,000 in taxpayer money for scholarships, teacher salaries and an emergency fund to help keep the day care afloat as its enrollment numbers decline.

Board members said before they voted that they did not feel comfortable asking residents to help fund a day care whose children mostly lived in other school districts.

Board President Donald King’s mother, Alice, was one of the day care’s founders in 1986, when it originally operated as “Fountain of Youth” at the Community Baptist Church of Southampton. Mr. King spoke about the history of the center and the role it played in his upbringing as a preface to the board’s vote.

“It is an important function in this community,” he said at the meeting. “So this is not the easiest discussion for any of us.”

Prior to the board’s discussion, several members of the day care—teachers, volunteers and directors—spoke to the board about the importance of the center, hoping that the proposition would get approved.

The board’s resolution, which Mr. King read out loud, listed three reasons why the proposal was rejected: it was not within the exclusive province of the board, it was forbidden by law, and it was submitted after the 60-day deadline.

Bob Kandell, the day care’s board president of 10 years, said he was confused about why the proposal fell under all three of those reasons. The school district’s attorney, Michael Vigliotta, of Nesconset-based Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz, PLLC, who wrote the resolution, did not provide an interpretation of the text when asked and told Ms. Pierson that it explains itself.

“We’re the only nonprofit day care center in Southampton Town, the majority of our pupils are minorities, and all we were asking was to be put on a proposition, which could be voted for or against, leaving it up to the community to get additional funding,” Mr. Kandell said recently.

Despite the misunderstanding, the day care plans to submit a petition again next year.

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