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Common Core Conflict

Recent board of ed presentation stokes emotions

Governor Andrew Cuomo may have recently announced the members of the Common Core Implementation Panel, which will undertake an immediate and comprehensive review of the rollout of the Common Core standards in New York State, but it hasn’t assuaged the concerns of Garden City parents. The Garden City Board of Education recently opened up to the public what wound up being a two-hour plus work session having to do with Common Core on Tuesday, Feb. 4. With roughly 40 to 50 people in attendance, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Teresa Prendergast gave a thorough Common Core presentation complete with slides and handouts as a means of offering clarity on this highly controversial and complex state standards initiative.

With criteria for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics at the heart of Common Core, Dr. Prendergast not only gave a detailed explanation of these learning standards and examples of questions on the exams, but also dispelled a number of misconceptions. One of the primary misunderstandings is the idea that New York State and not Garden City Public Schools, is in charge of the curricula.

“Standards are nothing really new here that we haven’t done before here in Garden City in prior years,” she explained. “As far as ELA goes, the state is asking school districts to look at reading, writing, thinking and listening and looking at writing in all content areas as well as the use of appropriate language. I’ve heard people say that grammar and vocabulary are ignored in the Common Core and that’s absolutely not true.”

Prendergast, who was formerly a certified math teacher, also went over the mathematics portion of Common Core testing, which has proved to be a source of frustration to parents trying to help their children study due to the problem-solving methodology used. It’s a process the assistant superintendent defended.

“The process by which you understand the instruction and how the mathematics unfolds is critical, particularly at the younger levels because that builds the foundation for the upper middle school and high school mathematics,” she explained. “Without that foundation, things start to fall apart.”

When Prendergast finished, members of the board weighed in.

“I think the best thing to educate parents about is that Common Core is not bad. Anytime you’re raising standards to have your children perform at a higher level and introduce them to more rigorous curriculum and vocabulary, that’s not bad,” said Board President Barbara Trapasso. “It’s the whole thing about the implementation and the testing. So it’s not Common Core but the way the State Education Department has decided to implement its test information.”

“Speaking for myself, we on the school board really feel in the middle. We are required as a school district to comply with the state mandates. We get no money under tax cap regulation but nonetheless, we have to spend the money. We are a long ways along the road and I don’t think anyone would question whether Garden City graduates are college or career-ready. I believe that’s the reason most of us live here,” said Trustee Robert Martin. “We face two directions as a school board—we’re trying to explain to the community that we have to comply and doing our best. On the other hand, we look at Albany and our legislators and complained loud and long to them about the inequities and the issues that are involved that we think penalize our school district and our students.”

When the meeting was opened up to citizens' questions or comments of the presentation, reactions from parents became very pointed and barbed. Particular criticism was aimed at the effectiveness of Common Core.

“I know you guys can’t opt out, I’d like to find out if we can apply for a waiver. But we can opt out as individuals and I will be doing that because I think it’s a superfluous test and doesn’t add any advantage to our children as you already alluded to on standardized tests. So it’s redundant and it’s taking time away from what we should be doing, which is educating our kids,” said Sam Meyers, a father of four.

Other parents were disturbed at how pressure was affecting students.

“My 11-year-old son came home with an 85 on a math test that he spent 15 hours with a tutor preparing for. His sixth-grade teacher publicly hung up the test scores and humiliated the low scores in that classroom. My son threw up in the driveway and apologized to me for getting an 85 on the math test,” said teary parent Jackie Straus. “My kindergarten student is looking ahead at what happens in the sixth grade. Four months into his instruction I’ve heard, ‘I’m not safe in my school.’ ‘ I hate Garden City.’ ‘[Superintendent] Dr. Feirsen hates my brother, so why should I be good?’ That is the reality of the Common Core in some households. It goes deeper than not understanding the math.”

News

The Senior Center Expansion and Rehabilitation Project took a major step forward this month when the Garden City Board of Trustees unanimously voted in a special meeting to accept the gift of the model house from the Doubleday Court Development on Franklin Avenue. Project developers, The Engel Burman Group, graciously donated the house to the

Incorporated Village of Garden City. The one-story structure was originally built to serve as a model and sales office for the Franklin Avenue project.

 

“We are glad to have The Engel Burman Group as part of our village and thank them for this most generous gift. We look forward to providing a state-of-the art facility for our seniors in Garden City,” Mayor John Watras said. 

Department headed by former assistant director

The Garden City Public School District is excited to welcome Lynette Abruzzo as its new director of Pupil Personnel Services (PPS). The position was vacated by Catherine Wheeler, who retired this summer. Abruzzo began working in the district earlier this year in January as the assistant director of PPS. 

 

“I look forward to supporting the students here. To support their growth, help prepare them so that they have all the tools they need to be successful when they leave here. To be successful in their life and maximize their potential,” Abruzzo said of her plans for the new position. 


Sports

Dance Conservatory Program

 

The Garden City Recreation Department’s Dance Conservatory Program is pleased to announce the start of registration for its upcoming 2014-15 season. Director Felicia Lovaglio, along with Mary Searson and the rest of her staff, are excited to start off another fantastic year. The dance conservatory offers classes to Garden City residents ages 3 through adult which are non-performance based. Age is determined by the start date of the desired class. 

 

Note: Registration is by mail only until Sept. 23. Participants MUST be the required age by the start of the program in order to register. 

 

Each session costs $220 for 22 weeks of class. The schedule and fees for this year’s youth classes are as follows (all classes are 55 minutes long unless otherwise noted): 

Fall Children’s Tennis Classes

Registration for the start of the Fall 2014 Indoor Tennis Program for Children has begun at the Community Park Tennis Center. Walkins and non-resident children attending Garden City Public Schools* will be accepted beginning Sept. 11. Please make checks payable to the “Inc. Village of Garden City." Please note—classes are not considered day care and can not be declared for tax exemption.

* Non resident children who would like to register for the tennis program must prove they attend one of the Garden City Public Schools. Proof must accompany registration. An additional $50 fee will pertain to anyone in this category.

10 weeks of classes—classes will begin Thursday, Sept. 18


Calendar

Living With Pulmonary Fibrosis Program - September 18

Harpeth Rising Concert - September 19 

JV Football - September 20


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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