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Glen Cove Begins Budget Discussion, Toys With Idea of Eliminating Class Rank

Last week AP scholars from Glen Cove High School were honored at the Board of Education meeting, held at Robert M. Finley Middle School. Superintendent Dr. Joseph A. Laria and the high school principals had words of praise for these students, some who had graduated last year, others who will be graduating in June.

In new business, the board approved a new course for the next school year called Essay Writing for College for the College Bound Student. The creation of this course sparked a lot of discussion among the board members, some of whom felt that taking a course like this in the fall of senior year is too late.

“The process needs to start sooner,” said Trustee Gail Nedbor-Gross, who was the only board member to vote no for this course. “I would like to see it offered for junior year as well.”

Board Vice President David Huggins agreed that he thought the course should be offered for juniors, and said that writing an essay in the fall would not be enough time to produce anything substantial.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph A. Laria explained that the course goes beyond essay writing and right into the application process, and Mr. Tweed addressed the board to give further details on the course. He said that juniors are too busy in their spring semesters and that the fall is a better time to begin writing essays because that is when most students are actively applying to colleges, and they can get firsthand advice from admissions counselors.

Trustee Joel Sunshine made the suggestion to implement the program this fall, and then to get feedback from the students and to possibly keep it as an option for juniors.

The board approved a Weekend English Language Learning Program for upper elementary and middle school students; this support program will focus on the improvement of math and ELA skills and is slated to run from 9 a.m. to noon from Jan.28 through June 9. The cost of the program will be funded by Title III funds, not to exceed $60,000. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Dr. Shari Camhi explained that the program also includes parent workshops for learning how to bring literacy into the home.

Before voting, the board members raised several concerns regarding how much supervision the students will have, whether or not a contingency plan exists in emergency situations for calling upon substitutes, and if it is a good idea to hold Saturday classes so late in the spring, after the tests are finished.

Dr. Laria said he would give the board a monthly report on the status of the program, said he would figure out how to supply benchmark data to measure the impact of change this program will have on students.

Dr. Laria briefly framed out the budget for next year: the current budget is $72 million, and if all existing programs were rolled over, next year’s budget would be $74.8 million, a budget to budget increase of 3.9 percent, and a tax levy increase of 4.2 percent, 2 percent over the cap.

“My strongest recommendation is, this is not the year to tinker with going beyond the tax cap,” he said.

He said some of the areas currently being looked at to save money without impacting the educational programs are by reducing line items like worker’s compensation and tax certioraris where the district currently has a reserve of funds, and by staggering start times at the elementary schools to save on transportation cost.

The board discussed eliminating class rank in the senior class, except for the top three students.

“Class rank is a system of an analog culture…it is not a factor colleges look for,” said Dr. Laria.

This raised a lot of arguments among board members and warranted plenty of comments from the public.

“Life is competitive…stress is a part of it, but part of the educational process is learning how to manage stress, and provides motivation to succeed,” said one resident in the audience.

“I don’t see bloodletting, I have seen healthy competition among the students in this district,” said Fran Krisch of Glen Cove.

“It’s too bad you didn’t have this item earlier on the agenda, when the top performing students were here and could have given their input on the subject,” said another woman in the audience.