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Modified Sports Unrestored in Eastchester Schools

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the appropriate number of students the middle school modified sports program serves, as well as programs still under discussion by the board.

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Among the parents packing the room at the Eastchester Board of Education meeting Tuesday night were Eastchester Police Chief Timothy Bonci, Eastchester Town Attorney Lou Reda and Eastchester Town Board member Fred Salanitro.

"We are here for the same reason these folks are here," Bonci said. "We are all members of the sports club and we do not want to see the end of modified sports teams."

On the list of items slated to be cut from the $73.2 million budget is the modified sports teams, which costs under $150,000 each year to run and represents 0.03 percent of the total budget.

Since the budget season began, the Eastchester Board of Education has cut four full-time staff members, one guidance counselor, six teaching assistants, one youth counselor and two teachers among other staff positions.

Programs such as varsity hockey and co-curricular activities, previously on the chopping block, are under discussion to be restored due to restructuring.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Terranova reassured worried parents that the cuts in staff and teachers would not in fact cause an increase in class sizes in the elementary school levels. Terranova presented numbers that reflected the highest number of students per class projected to be approximately 26 students in some classes above third grade.

But there was no mention of restoration of the modified sports program at the middle school, which serves more than 300 students each year by most estimates.

Retired Eastchester Police Department member Anthony Cesarini has four sons attending school in the district.

Cesarini said that in his experience as a police officer, kids playing sports have fewer problems with law enforcement.

"I am here to ask this board to please let our kids play on the modified sports teams," Cesarini said. "The savings is minimal, and the impact of cutting the program is devastating."

Board member Willa Brody said the district was at a critical juncture, caught between the 2 percent budget caps and unfunded state mandates.

"It is a difficult year, and it is going to hurt," Brody said. "I can only imagine how bad it will be next year."

Eastchester Board of Education President Paul Doyle urged parents to get out and support the budget with their votes, fearing residents would incorrectly believe going out and voting was not necessary as a result of the state imposed tax cap.

"If we fail to pass the budget, we are mandated to use the same dollar amount as we did for this year's budget," Doyle said. "If that should happen instead of having $2 million in cuts in staff and services we would be facing $4 million of cuts."

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