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Parents Blast Hauppauge School Supe Over Placement of Homeless Students

Superintendent responds to parents’ concerns that the placement will crowd Forest Brook, create disruptions in classes.

Forest Brook Elementary (Patch file photo)
Forest Brook Elementary (Patch file photo)

After a shelter for homeless families opened this summer within the borders of the Hauppauge school district, a decision by the school superintendent to place all of the shelter’s elementary-age students into Forest Brook has parents on edge.

At a nearly four-hour public school board meeting on Tuesday, dozens of angry Forest Brook parents grilled superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss over her decision.

Among the parents' concerns is overcrowding at the school, which parents already described as full to the brim. But Sullivan-Kriss said there were exactly 10 students from the shelter placed in the school at the moment, and said Forest Brook was the best-equipped school to handle the new students.

“I own that decision and I did it because, in terms of class size and in terms of the supports that are available to students in that school, it was the most appropriate school in which to place our children. That decision was my decision and was not made with any pressure from anybody,” Sullivan-Kriss said, adding that some homeless students have also been placed in Hauppauge’s secondary level schools.

Initially, she said, she was informed by Suffolk County officials in July that there would be triple that number of students seeking schooling in Hauppauge. It is uncertain how long each student would need to be educated in Hauppauge – they could be there for a few weeks, a few months, a few years. It is also uncertain how many more students could flow in during the course of the school year through the shelter, the location of which is confidential as it is protected by a 1987 federal law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. In fact, Sullivan-Kriss said she would likely not be able to answer many of the parents’ questions simply because the McKinney-Vento law prevents most information about the homeless shelters and the families residing there from being publicly released.

After parents tied the issue of the homeless students’ placement to large class sizes, trustee Ann Macaluso said she would be willing to discuss the class size policy at an upcoming meeting of the board’s policy committee. Currently the school district caps enrollment in the primary levels at 26 students per class, a number that Sullivan-Kriss said has not been breached this year.

Parents also said they fear that the flow of transient students in and out of their classrooms would cause disruptions for the other students, who are often working together on projects and lessons in consistent groups.

“It’s very disruptive,” said Lawrence Crafa, a six-year resident with two children in the school. “Why should we deal with it all year long? All the elementary schools should deal with the same issue.”

Jennifer Salvaggio, a lifelong Hauppauge resident with two children at Forest Brook, said she was concerned over the consistency of the classroom atmosphere.

“Every time you change a child, you change the dynamic of the classroom. Whether it’s in or out, it’s constantly changing,” Salvaggio said. “These kids have more behavior problems. They require more resources. So why are we not spreading it through all the schools?”

Michael Buscarino, an eight-year resident, wanted the superintendent to “tell us that you’re going to utilize the entire district as a resource for these children” rather than “concentrating this uncertain fluctuation to one school.”

Sullivan-Kriss said she could not make any plans to set in stone, saying she would look at the flow of additional students on a case-by-case basis.

“I have heard you,” she said. “I will do my best. But I have to say on a case-by-case basis because I can’t say which child will come to us next.”

Matthew Giordano, principal of Forest Brook, said he had visited the classrooms into which the homeless students had been placed and talked with the teachers. “It is business as usual,” he said, adding that the classrooms would continue to be monitored.

Some parents raised concerns over whether the same vaccination rules that apply to their children would also apply to the students from the shelter, how the new students’ assessments would be handled, whether the school’s code of conduct – including disciplinary actions such as suspensions – would apply to all students, and whether the district is being reimbursed for the cost of educating those students who are residing in the shelter.

Among the administration’s responses:

- The homeless children have a liaison from the shelter who works with the school district to obtain the students’ immunization records, and from that point works with the families to get the students either vaccinated or exempted for religious reasons.

- Schools have 30 days to assess the students’ proficiency levels in, for instance, reading and math, to assign to them the appropriate classes and resources.

- The code of conduct does apply to all students in the district.

- The school does get reimbursements for each homeless child who becomes a student in the district, which does come close to the per-pupil cost of education.

Although the issue of the homeless students had been discussed over the summer at a school board meeting, some parents said they felt the school had excluded the community from the discussion and said they lost confidence in their school district officials.

“Everyone from Forest Brook feels that were cheated and lied to and it was done underhanded and last minute,” Crafa said. “If we had known about this before the first day of school, we wouldn’t be as angry.”

Sullivan-Kriss responded to these concerns by reassuring the community that she was being truthful even though by law there is much information that cannot be disclosed.

“You use words like, ‘I’m lying, I’m evasive.’ I’m not lying to you,” she said. “I told you from the get-go that I might not be able to satisfy your questions. I will look at it on a case-by-case basis and I will do what I believe is the right thing to do.”
We Heart Long Island October 12, 2013 at 02:13 PM
@mike - spoken like a true coward.
Blork October 15, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Well, Mike, not that 5,300 sq ft houses for $570k in upscale neighborhoods are so bad either ;o) Why pay $1.2mil for the same thing on Long Island to watch it slide towards 3rd worldism?
Howard E. Knispel December 03, 2013 at 12:37 PM
This is, by far, the most racist comment thread I have read on Patch. I really feel sorry for the people in our community knowing that there are people like this living amongst us. I would expect these kind of comments from a KKK rally in Georgia, but here on Long Island? Shame.
Blork December 08, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Hey Howie you jerk -- it's not racism. Look at central islip, brentwood and the rest. Notice something, you imbecile? all black. i know. coincidence. or they've been put down by the white man. underprivileged. disenfranchised. whatever. you're an idiot. enjoy your ghetto-to-come, fool. you're the racist. you hate yourself because you're white. you hate success. just send half your riches to the irs and you'll feel better. and as for georgia, they wouldn't put up with a commie fool like you.
Blork December 08, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Hey Howie you idiot -- how many homeless you have living with you? want the shelter on your corner, you jerk? you putz? you moron? why don't you move to wyandanch and be a do-gooder over their instead of helping destroy what's left of the nice neighborhoods, you obama-loving creep!
Blork December 08, 2013 at 08:04 PM
ahhh -- howie's a lawyer. some limousine liberal no doubt. know's what the rest of us should really think. here to bless the world by imposing his twisted, self-destructive mores on us confederates. what a jerk. i bet he's dirty. i'm sure he's done something wrong and i'll find it and post it here. i'll put one of my research analysts at work on it tomorrow and see what we can find!
We Heart Long Island January 12, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Keep hiding behind your keyboard, coward.
We Heart Long Island January 13, 2014 at 11:36 PM
The only good thing about mike's comments are they expose him for what he is. Is mom making meatloaf tonight?
We Heart Long Island February 05, 2014 at 09:53 AM
You heard wrong. Clean your ears out jerky.
We Heart Long Island February 05, 2014 at 12:29 PM
Oh, I misunderstood, I thought you were talking about some homeless kids in Hauppauge.
We Heart Long Island February 05, 2014 at 01:21 PM
I'm giving away free snow all week.
We Heart Long Island February 05, 2014 at 03:47 PM
WOW A whole $1,000. Jackpot.
We Heart Long Island February 05, 2014 at 04:39 PM
I can't. My YouTube says it's spam. Spam Spam Spam Spam.
Howard E. Knispel February 08, 2014 at 12:27 PM
I haven't looked at this thread in a while but I was wondering, Blork, dig up any dirt yet. Yes I am a lawyer. My father was a maintenance man and WW2 vet who served in the Pacific. I am the first person in my family to go to college, put myself through Law School. Limousine Liberal? I don't think so. I do more than my share of pro-bono legal work. If there was a shelter on my block I would not be concerned. Call me all the names you want. I realize the truth stings. You are a racist. Your own words betray you. But I truly feel sorry for you. You are misguided. Let me know if you come up with something. Incidentally, I am not ashamed of my name. Obviously you are.
Anthony saporito February 10, 2014 at 06:17 PM
Hello everyone joined the patch back in October but haven't gotten to post anything yet. This story caught the attention of my eye the most out of its high profile issue. I just want to say my opinion on this issue. This is a major problem bc you are having dis functional families moving in. And I know that for a fact bc I went to the shelter to volunteer and check everything out. All the families and kids I met in there were very rude, disrespectful and what I said before are dis functional people. None of them work and are all on well fare. I understand if a family has hit hard times but they are not even attempting to try. The kids are very misbehaved sadly and don't know right from wrong. They don't absolutely belong in Hauppauge or any town of smithtown school district. What happens is they distrupt the continuity of learning and severly impact the other students around them. Would like to hear some feedback. Thanks
Anthony saporito February 10, 2014 at 07:30 PM
Also, would like to comment on other people's comments. I would like to start with Mike and Blork. You guys need to understand that other's opinions matter in this Patch. You need to be a little bit more sensible to the people that comment and actually take time out bc they care about the issue. As for Denise and Howie you guys have good knowledge on the topic and don't get to caught up in the moment. But as far as agreeing I have to go with Blork and Mike. They might come off a little to "bigotry" but have very solid information, knowledge and facts. Blork is 100% correct with the statement about Brentwood and Central Islip. They are not the best town's and the demographics of that area display the true facts. They are not the most well off and just stating the facts you don't want that type of culture or element in your town's or schools. Mike you talk like a true patriot that was a WW2 veteran that faced hardships during war. I could understand if you were a vet but your not so u need to slightly tone down your comments just a bit. But I have to agree with your comments on Denise, We Heart and Howie. You guys speak very, very liberal (especially Denise). And that goes for Blork and Mike too. Try to keep politics out of it. And Denise you said you used to live in Hauppauge a long time ago so I think that you really shouldn't be commenting on the area if you haven't been living here. Hope everyone wasn't offended just wanted to share my opinion.
We Heart Long Island February 10, 2014 at 07:41 PM
@Anthony saporito- Here's some feedback. You're a tool. Come back when you get a clue. BTW, In Hauppauge over 60 years. Guess I'm qualified.
Anthony saporito February 10, 2014 at 07:52 PM
@We Heart good for you for living here for 60 years, I've lived here 38 years. I guess I am not qualified. And here's your feedback your the immature tool. Your the one who doesn't have a clue b/c I guess you don't see what's on your door step. Brentwood and CI. Hauppauge is a beautiful place to live but has seen slight change the past several years because of these shelters. It brings the value of your real estate and town down. And I wan't trying to fight or side with anyone, I gave my opinion on an issue that is important. But you want to start something that I don't understand why you want to pick a fight. Please come up with something a little more intelligent next time. Thanks
We Heart Long Island February 10, 2014 at 08:53 PM
I didn't pick a fight. You asked for an opinion. That's my opinion. Get lost racist.
Anthony saporito February 10, 2014 at 08:59 PM
You know what I was trying to be as nice as possible on this. You deserve your ripping from Mike and Blork. Your like an immature child. You sound like an uneducated stay at home mom that just cleaned her house for 60 years and never new anything about anybody. All you did was comment, criticize and made dumb opinions about people. And I said nothing racist on this. Those 2 are right you are a gut renching communist lib freak. And I am independent and for me to say that is pretty hard b/c I see both sides. You on the other hand is just completely stupid
We Heart Long Island February 10, 2014 at 09:04 PM
I new you would say that. lol
Anthony saporito February 10, 2014 at 09:11 PM
B/C u know u are one. lol
Denise A February 11, 2014 at 11:47 AM
Anthony, please know I am not offended by you, and appreciate your objectivity. You are correct, I do not live in Hauppauge any longer. I do however will always consider it home. I grew up there, went to all the schools, and so did my children. I have not been away long, and have many of my lifetime friends still there. I wish all there the very best. this subject is open to many different opinions, and there is validity in all.
Anthony saporito February 11, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Thank you Denise at least your respectful and you too have good arguments. We'll put
Lisa M. February 12, 2014 at 11:14 PM
Hi my name is Lisa and a long time resident of Hauppauge. I love iT. My son ScotT graduated from Hauppauge high school and loveD iT. Everyone needs to chill ouT. My husband is a milK man and loves Hauppauge. Lets all get along on this. My friend GarY used to be on this but got to ouT of hand and couldn't take iT.
Blork February 26, 2014 at 10:58 AM
About halfway through college I was thinking of switching majors towards a law track. I told my dad I was considering becoming a criminal attorney; he told me to stop being redundant.
Blork February 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Anthony -- you're an intelligent guy. The Hauppauge libs will leave once they've helped destroy the town and will move on to help destroy another; that's what libs do. Wealth, safety, law and order frighten them.
Blork February 26, 2014 at 11:04 AM
And the libs always employ the methods they claim to loathe as they spew stereotypes. I, for one, must be sitting on my porch swing, porch fridge full of cheap beer, old cars in my front yard, no teeth, Confederate flag flying from my rusty pick-up. No one is as intolerant as she who claims tolerance; they are all hypocrites. I, on the other hand, do not claim to tolerate those who facilitate destruction; I do not suffer fools well.
Anthony saporito March 11, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Your absolutely right Blork. I experienced 1st hand today. These lib freaks want to build another homeless shelter in the Town of Smithtown Township. This is the wealthiest township in suffolk county and they want to move this trash into this town. That really annoyed me. Yea Obama's slogan coming in was Change. Guess what he can shove that change up his ass. The people in this town like it just the way it is no change, no minorities moving in. They'll ruin it in a second.
Anthony saporito March 11, 2014 at 09:25 PM
Also, the way the country is heading have you people ever noticed at major sporting events or any exclusive restaurant that everyone is white?? I just want to let you know that if the Caucasian race continues to go down the economy will guarantee crash and we'll be in a depression forever.

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