By Joe Anuta
In the struggle against major budget cuts to the city Department of Education, a defiant Community Education Council District 24 boasted small victories at a meeting last week.
The council, which covers western Queens neighborhoods like Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood, covers the most-crowded schools in the city, according to several lawmakers.
In one case, kindergarten classes at a Middle Village school had reached capacity for next year and many prospective students would have had to travel outside the neighborhood to attend class — a prospect the council did not like.
“There were various plans to cap the kindergarten enrollmentï»¿ and send the students to another school, but we didn’t feel that was a good way to go,” said Nick Comaianni, president of CEC 24. Instead the council and the principal of PS 49, at 79-15 Penelope Ave., came up with a solution to keep all the kids.
“It was a tough call on the principal, but in this case it was very important to the parents and the community even though they will be overcrowded,” Comaianni said.
The plan would not be affected by the large budget cuts proposed by the mayor, according to Comaianni.
To fix the problem, the school’s Parent-Teacher Association gave up its room to help make space for roughly 50 extra students in the incoming kindergarten class, Comaianni said.
The board and Anthony Lombardi, principal of the school, had to collapse other grades to make room for the additional kids. So third -and fourth-grade class sizes at the school will be bigger and take up fewer classrooms.
In addition, Lombardi agreed to hire an additional teacher, which made a substantial cut into his budget.
“The principal was a great help — he has to be given proper credit,” Comaianni said. “It was quite an accomplishment. It’s been something we have been working on for months, so it was good to come to a resolution.”
And budgets were another hot topic during the meeting.
The council passed a resolution condemning the mayor’s proposed budget cuts.
The resolution said the mayor has a $3 billion surplus in his budget and that the extra money could go toward preventing layoffs.
But Mark La Vorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has said on several occasions that the roughly $3 billion is not a surplus and has already been allocated for next year’s budget.
In addition, he said education constitutes the largest portion of the budget and was slashed the least, but still must face cuts like every other area.
To compound the problem, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature reached a deal on the state budget Sunday, and according to the mayor it shortchanged New York City, meaning even deeper cuts will likely appear in the city’s budget.
But that was little comfort to Comaianni.
“You cannot cut kids like Sanitation. Education is one area that you never cut unless it’s something to do with unnecessary spending,” Comaianni said. “Kids will only get an education one time in their lives. If you’re going to cut something and it will have effects for three or four years, that’s an entire high school period.”
But even with the cuts hanging over the heads of the roughly 300 parents who attended, the council had another small piece of good news.
The city Department of Transportation completed installing two crosswalks and a stop sign at PS 128, according to Comaianni, and the department will be looking into other traffic-related inquiries around PS 58, 153 and 229.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.