Several presentations were made at the Glen Cove Board of Education's May 4 meeting. While not publicly noted, representatives from at least one news source were present. There was a public discussion on the new track lights and the high school administration answered questions about police being on site recently. It was announced that longtime administrative secretary Linda Wotzak is leaving school employ.
The Glen Cove School District is seeking to have school-sponsored evening events at the track and field. For this purpose, they are installing lighting. Some residents voiced concerns about the lighting and how it could damage the serenity of the neighborhood and create a dangerous environment, attracting bad people who would commit crimes. Some people were also concerned that adequate ambulance access will be created around the sporting grounds.
Some residents said they had not heard about this new lighting development until recently. The administration said they had been discussing this with the public for two years, and that it was the subject of a referendum, newsletters and newspaper articles. A student stood up to say that his parents and their friends have been discussing it for that length of time. People said they were just recently delivering letters about the situation door to door, on behalf of the school. Some residents said they did not get these letters.
Regarding security concerns, the school superintendent promised that a full security proposal would be made available. He is putting one together with Chief of Police William Whitton, he told the group. Dr. Aronstein said that a security guard will be present who will challenge any group that comes to the area. If they do not have a permit, they will be turned away.
"This is the first draft of a school policy," he said. "Once the board adopts it, I will come up with a detailed security policy."
One resident repeatedly confronted the board, saying that she felt subjects like this need more, "rigorous debate." She said that as a working person with no children attending school, she does not always hear of developments like this and, in her opinion, public sentiment is not taken into account enough.
During public comment, a resident said about the track lights, " Do we need them? Can we afford them? I already pay high taxes."
The administration said that the lighting was included in a referendum two years ago. They anticipate getting 100 percent of the cost back at some point from New York State. When that happens, they said, the school would mitigate that year's tax levy.
Board member Joel Sunshine said that Glen Cove had the fourth lowest school taxes in Nassau County but, "We need to compete with other districts." On the track, he said, "It's irrelevant to taxes."
The second reading on policy related to the track will take place at the next board meeting on May 18 at the high school.
In response to an inquiry about why police were recently at the high school, Principal Keith Schenker, Assistant Principal Allen Hudson and Assistant Principal Sheryl Goodine addressed the board and public about the "changing culture" within the school.
Principal Schenker said that the "context" is important when looking at incidents at the high school. He said they have been in the process of reshaping building culture. He and members of the public voiced that the reshaping, in general, was working and things are getting much better.
The administrators said there had been a fight at the high school, which resulted in a series of related fights, but the bigger picture was a school moving toward a safer, healthier environment. Suspensions for fighting, they said, are down significantly. They said that they are trying to teach, "responsibility, respect and working through conflict."
"We're sending a consistent message: This is a place of education," Principal Schenker told the room. "And the overwhelming majority of students know why they are here now, these days."
Assistant Principal Hudson said that, before Glen Cove, his previous job was in a tougher school, where dealing with guns, Latin Kings and MS13 were part of his day. He said that his first day there, someone's head met with a machete. Despite that, he said he considered going back to that school after a stint in Glen Cove.
"My entire day was about dealing with discipline," Assistant Principal Hudson said.
But, he said that these days he is happy to be talking to kids about creating new clubs or events.
"The culture has definitely changed," he said.
Regarding the police, he indicated that schools deal with a "Catch 22" of sorts. If they call the police, they risk hurting school image. But if they do not call the police when needed, they risk mishandling a situation.
"We did have the police here to be proactive," the assistant principal said. There were a series of fights on and off campus and the administrators said that they determined it was time to make a full effort to stop the situation.
Assistant Principal Goodine said that part of the success they feel they are having in general at the high school has to do with "empowering teachers." She said that while teachers used to refer students to the administrators for discipline, these days they work to create a dialogue.
She went on to commend Principal Schenker.
"He is a family man who has the compassion to help other families in Glen Cove," she said, "He treats staff and parents with great respect."
A parent in the audience said that she agreed that things were better in the high school, saying that a few years ago it would be so regular to have police at the high school. These days, it is good, she said, that people find it out of the ordinary.
Board member Richard Tortorici said that he cannot imagine how the school district will replace Ms. Wotzak.
"I will miss her very much," said Superintendent Aronstein. "It is very difficult to see her go."