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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

Preparedness is the best remedy for Ebola

Winthrop University Hospital hosted a presentation on the current Ebola epidemic, at the Garden City Library, on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Sponsored by the village’s Property Owners’ Associations, John F. Collins, president and CEO of Winthrop University Hospital and Dr. Michael Ammazzalorso, Winthrop’s Chief Medical Officer provided an overview of the disease along with an update on Winthrop’s preparedness plan.

Dr. Ammazzalorso began his presentation heeding that despite the waning in the press, the disease is still with us. He provided both historical and current day perspectives regarding the epidemic, advising that Ebola is not a new disease. The medical community has been aware of the disease for at least 40 years. Originating in the Congo, Ebola is a zoonosis a disease which has its reservoir in animals and was known for small sporadic outbreaks associated with people who handled bats and rodents or those who consumed bush meat. The current outbreak originated in West Africa, specifically Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. He noted in Africa that more than 45,000 people have died from the disease.

Multiple options help village avoid problems

While parking around LIRR train stations is typically a challenge, even on a regular work day, it’s not necessarily the case for Garden City residents, who have five departure points to choose from. The stations—Nassau Boulevard, Garden City, Stewart Manor, Country Life Press and the south side of Merillon Avenue—provide a grand total of 866 spots. (See page 13 sidebar for lot-by-lot breakdown). It’s a luxury many municipalities don’t have, particularly during the holidays. Annual permits run $150 for residents and $300 for non-residents and while people who call Garden City can use any of these five stations, non-residents are restricted to using the 70 spots allocated for their use over at the Stewart Manor station.

LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said that ridership between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day increases by at least 10 percent; last year it was by 12 percent. Though the MTA is adding more trains to the schedule, that doesn’t ease the parking situation, which is operated not by the LIRR, but by individual municipalities in each town.


Sports

Learn And Play Paddle Tennis

The recreation and parks department will offer beginner level platform tennis lessons at Community Park’s Platform Courts. This five-week course will offer the basic instruction and will be taught by certified platform instructor Sue Tarzian. Each class will be 1.5 hours in length. The cost of this program is $187.50. Classes began the week of Nov. 5. The following classes will be offered:

Beginners - Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Advanced Beginners – Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

This program is for beginners only and participants must be Garden City residents. To register, visit the recreation office at 108 Rockaway Ave.

Learn And Play Paddle Tennis

The recreation and parks department will offer beginner level platform tennis lessons at Community Park’s Platform Courts. This five-week course will offer the basic instruction and will be taught by certified platform instructor Sue Tarzian. Each class will be 1.5 hours in length. The cost of this program is $187.50. Classes begin the week of Nov. 5. The following classes will be offered:

Beginners - Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Advanced Beginners – Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

This program is for beginners only and participants must be Garden City residents. To register, please visit the recreation office at 108 Rockaway Ave. Space is limited so please register early.


Calendar

Sultans of String to play

Friday, November 21

Garden City Chamber Music Society Performance

Sunday, November 23

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, November 24



Columns

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

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com