Several issues were discussed at the Monday, Sept. 28 Board of Education meeting, including the rehabilitation of the middle school's gymnasium roof and several issues related to the technology program throughout the district, as well as the expenditure of funds to promote the new bond issue.
While Ad Hoc Chairman John Sullivan was focusing on the reduction of the new bond figure from the 1997 bond and was explaining how the committee had tried to include the needs of the buildings themselves, the curriculum, and the children, one resident in particular was focused on another issue related to the new bond. Resident Joseph Calamari, once a candidate for the School Board himself, having thrown his hat into the ring independently and without the backing of the POA system, stated his objections to the Board of Education's engagement of a public relations firm to draft newsletters, create a video, and develop a professional campaign to promote the new bond.
Calamari, also a law professor at St. John's University, said, "What would you say if I told you that the contract [with the PR firm] is illegal?" Wishing to go on to other business, the Board attempted to avert the discussion, but Calamari made it clear that he was not only implying that a lawsuit might ensue, but that he himself was considering bringing forth a suit against the district for using tax dollars to pay the public relations firm. Sullivan explained, and Michael Conti also stated in a recent interview with Garden City Life , that school districts across Long Island routinely employ the services of this firm to help them provide information to the voters before a bond issue. Newsletters are produced and mailed to every home in the district and their guidance in developing other initiatives can be invaluable in reaching those who do not attend meetings or follow current events in community newspapers.
While the threat of a lawsuit against the Board of Education cast a shadow over the meeting, Board President Linda Leone was able to remain positive as she encouraged residents to provide questions and comments regarding specific issues in the new bond during the Board's review time of the plan, from Oct. 1 through Oct. 19. Sullivan also commented that "One of the things we hope is that this bond stands on its own. I believe that you'll have enough detail to compare the two." Despite assurances that comparisons could easily be made between the 1997 bond and the 1998 bond, he had denied requests made to have information distributed comparing the two.
Citizens had plenty of questions about the construction on the gym roof at Garden City Middle School. According to the Board of Education, the repairs to the leaking roof and buckled gym floor [a result of the leaks], (which were to begin on Labor Day according to Sullivan in an interview with Garden City Life prior to school's opening), were delayed because the district was awaiting the approval of the State Education Department. The Board then awarded a construction bid to the lowest bidder, Dillon Construction Corp. for an amount of $159,080. Work will be conducted in the after school and should take about four weeks, according to the board.
The Board of Education also authorized Board President Leone to execute a contract with the New York State School Boards Association for superintendent search services. Superintendent Dr. Lee Wilson announced at the conclusion of last year's academic school year that he does not intend to renew his contract with Garden City next year, so the district will need to begin searching for a replacement as soon as possible.
Presented to the Board of Education during the meeting was a report on the upgrading of the district's computers by Dr. Rita Melikian, director of technology. According to Melikian, the district is following a projected five-year plan that involves upgrading computers as much as possible while still saving money.
Melikian presented the following mission statement, "The Garden City Education Community is dedicated to preparing our students to successfully compete, communicate, and contribute in an ever-changing global society by creating a technology-rich environment that enhances, extends and facilitates lifelong learning. To this end, our staff and students will become knowledgeable and intelligent users of current and emerging technologies by incorporating these tools into the teaching/learning environment and creating meaningful and engaging learning experiences."
In the K-1 schools, the goal listed is to "use technology to create age appropriate curriculum based projects" by beginning to use "word processing functions to write and manipulate text." The staff "will be trained in using word processors as an effective writing tool" and students "will create simple text, journal entries, and stories." The teachers will "use WP to generate lessons, to communicate with parents, record comments, and perform many other functions."
At the elementary schools (grades 2-5), the goal is the same as stated for the primaries and the activities are the same with the addition of the ability to "import images, graphics and words from other sources, check spelling and grammar" and the students will be expected to "create polished documents." Staff development and administrative tasks remain the same at the 2-5 schools as the K-1.
In this section of "Technology Skills Scope and Sequence for K-12" there is nothing listed for grades 6-8, a point of concern for many middle school parents.
For the high school the activities expand to include "create tables and charts, add headers, footers, and page numbers." All of the projects listed are the same as for the young children and the staff development and administrative tasks are listed as the same. The final outcome for high school seniors recorded in the report is the ability to "produce word processed documents that have been drafted, revised and edited electronically and which incorporate graphic images."
Dr. Melikian noted that after leasing computers for three years, the district will be able to buy each computer for $1.
Each grade level will incorporate computers, word processing and Internet skills into the curriculum and all teachers have begun training that allows them to include the technology in their lesson plans.
"I think it's coming along well," Melikian said. "The parents are enthusiastic and want us to move as fast as possible to get computers to all the classrooms."
While some parents can't wait for the computers, others voiced concerns about how they would be implemented into the curriculum. Marj Kulesa commented, "It has to be interdisciplinary. It should be a multi-faceted approach."