UPDATE: Tonight's special school board meeting has been canceled, according to Malverne Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund.
When a person logs onto Facebook, that user has the ability to connect with millions of people around the globe, but recently, the social networking site has become an effective tool for bringing the small, square-mile sized community of Malverne even closer together.
For the second time in this year alone, Malverne residents are using Facebook to rally their neighbors to demand change on the local level. Following in the path of the that one local man created on Facebook in January to galvanize residents to pressure the local utility to improve their tap water, another group has formed in the past 24 hours with a focus on Malverne schools.
Malvernite Don Pupke created the "I Love Malverne But Want Better Schools!" group on the social networking site on Sunday and has already attracted close to 80 residents. The purpose of the group is " to try to improve the Malverne School District," he says.
Pupke "intends to bring the Malverne Facebook Community together to shed light on the operation, budget and news related to the Malverne Schools and to share opinions in a forum that is fair, and respectful and, hopefully, educational. "
In only a day, the discussion has taken off, with residents sharing information regarding unfunded state and federal mandates, staff salaries and the 2011-2012 budget.Their biggest concern was encouraging residents to attend to a special Board of Education meeting that had been scheduled for Monday night in the district's central office, which has since been canceled.
Pupke said he learned that the school board called the meeting for the sole purpose of extending Malverne Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund's contract.
According to 2010-2011 data from the New York State Department of Education, last year Hunderfund earned a salary of $234,090, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a bill that could dramatically lower what Hunderfund and other superintendents earn going forward.
The proposed caps would limit those working in larger districts from earning more than $175,000 per year, while school chiefs in smaller districts would be capped at $125,000. Each cap would be applied prospectively as contracts expire, and local communities would have the ability to vote on overriding the salary cap, limited only to specific contract. They would weigh in on this when they go to the polls in the spring to vote on the school budget.
However, if the superintendent's contract was extended before the legislation passed, he would have been entitled to that contractual agreement and the taxpayers would have no say until after his contract expired, said school board member Gina Genti.
"This act of hubris by the board is completely contrary to and out of phase with the goals and objectives of Governor Cuomo's admirable efforts to cap superintendents' salaries throughout the state," Pupke wrote to the members of the group.
He also accused the school board of trying to keep the meeting "under wraps" by not posting a notice about it until Friday afternoon.
"The clear intent is to keep this act secret from the taxpayers of the district," he said. "This proposal is being considered at a time when the district is planning to lay-off...employees, because there isn't enough money to pay them!"
According to a, close to 20 educators and 15 non-certified personnel could be eliminated next year.
Pupke's message urged residents to call the administrative office to voice their opposition to the proposed contract extension and to attend a meeting that had been scheduled for tonight in the central office building located on the corner of Wicks Lane and Ocean Avenue. While any discussion pertaining to personnel would have been done behind closed doors, in "executive session," if the board had taken action on any proposal they would have been required to open that portion of the meeting to the public.
It looks as if the calls may have worked.
As of 3 p.m. Monday, the meeting was canceled, according to Dr. Hunderfund, who told Patch that the school board made the decision to call it off.
"We're moving forward with working on the budget," Hunderfund said.