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Academic Enrichment Program, Student Enrollment And Academic Eligibility Hot Topics at GC BOE

The Glen Cove Board of Education met Monday night at the Robert M. Finley Middle School in a regular meeting, discussing such topics as the revised academic eligibility policy and further exploring the terms of the Honors Program. All board members were present.

Before the meeting officially began, Superintendent Dr. Laurence Aronstein made an announcement regarding last week’s termination of the principal at Deasy School. He said that Dr. Hinton, an administrator with 30 years of experience in the district, has taken over the position and that things are “getting back to normal.”

“The whole incident was disconcerting,” he said, “but the board will not speak to personal or personnel issues during public comment,” he wanted the audience to know.

The meeting began with two presentations to the board. The first was an Enrollment Study Report conducted by Paul Abramson and Paula Lester to help determine enrollment trends for grades K-5 in the district. This year’s surge in kindergartners sparked the need for the study, forcing the district to look at not only the forthcoming trends but also the capacity and quality of the buildings themselves should enrollment continue to increase. Of particular note was the conclusion that Deasy Elementary School was, overall, “not suitable for young children” for various reasons, according to Mr. Abramson’s report.

Trustee Joel Sunshine asked whether or not extra modular classrooms would help ease the space issue at Deasy School. Mr. Abramson replied that it might help; however, it would not be the ideal long-term solution.

“The children would still have to cross a driveway to get to the playground,” he said.

When asked later what would be done to remedy the situation, Dr. Aronstein said that it would be discussed with the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and once digested, they would come back with a plan. He mentioned that the report would be available for public viewing on the website later this week.

Next, Dr. Michael Israel, principal of Landing School, and Principal Rose Sekelsky of Connolly School presented an Academics Plus Report, the purpose of which was to re-evaluate the enrichment program currently in place for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at the two elementary schools. According to the findings of surveys they sent out to present students, former students, parents and other districts on Long Island, they determined that the program has been well received, but could use some improvement. Currently, one teacher divides her time between the two schools; the results determined it may be beneficial to hire one more teacher so that students who are part of the program can get more out of it, and so that a higher number of students could participate. They also determined they would like to change the entrance criteria, which is currently based on test scores and also would let the students help determine the curriculum.

Vice President Gail Nedbor-Gross asked if there was any indication from former students whether or not they benefited academically from the program in middle school or high school, by being in honors or advanced placement classes. Dr. Israel replied, “I would say yes.”

“Do you see any reason not to expand the Academics Plus Program to the sixth, seventh and eighth grades?” Mr. Sunshine asked.

“No, I do not,” Dr. Israel responded.

The first item on the agenda was the second reading of the Academic Eligibility Policy. From this, clearer guidelines will be set in place regarding a student’s eligibility to participate in extra-curricular activities regarding academic status at the high school.

Glenn Howard of Glen Cove suggested that the title of the policy be changed to reflect the fact that it pertains to “extra-curricular eligibility” based on academic standing, and also pointed out some wording within the policy that seemed confusing. Another person asked if a grade of “N.C.” (no credit) on a report card counted as a failure. Dr. Aronstein said he would look into clarifying these points.

Board member David Huggins brought up the point that some students may be inclined to take easier classes in order to still be eligible to play sports and suggested perhaps making the terms more flexible to encourage the student athlete.

Later, a woman in the audience thanked the Board for “finally” getting this policy in writing after many discussions.

Audience member Annette Tripp asked about the status of the driver’s education cars; Kevin Wurtz, assistant to the superintendent for business, responded, “As soon as they come, we’ll put them on the road and use them.”

A concerned parent and teacher then addressed the issue of the honors program in the Middle School, asking the board for at least the second time to form a small committee of parents, teachers and community members to meet and put forth ideas for a curriculum.

Dr. Shari Camhi, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology, said she wanted to clarify that an honors program is currently in place at the middle school for English, Social Studies, Math and Science, and at the high school they are working on making the honors program “truly” honors classes, meaning SAT2 and AP prep courses.

Dr. Aronstein said that the board will be presenting the Middle School Honors Program on March 22, and that once the curriculum is determined, it will be in writing and posted on the website.

Mr. Sunshine suggested holding a public meeting earlier to get more input and give people a chance to voice their opinions on the subject. The board agreed to discuss this option.

Board President Ida McQuair said, “We have many students in Glen Cove with many talents and they need the opportunity to be challenged. We are asking the administration for a specific written curriculum and feel this is the best way to give more of our kids this opportunity. This is a serious program and we want to get it right.”

Local business owner Richard Smith asked about the incident regarding the terminated principal and the question of missing money. Dr. Aronstein said that $821 had been recovered, and that he was not sure of the status of the PTA money.

“Is it policy and procedure for the superintendent and board of education to send letters of recommendation for a terminated employee?” an audience member wanted to know.

“It is usually negotiated,” Dr. Aronstein replied, “However, I feel it is unacceptable to write a glowing letter of recommendation in such circumstances. Name, rank and serial number is sufficient.”

Other items of business covered included the approval of the Locust Valley School District as the Sole Supervisory District to effectuate extension of District boundaries, a matter regarding the Iroquois pipeline. The Board also accepted a $500 donation from the Reunion Committee of the Class of 1959 for the Middle School courtyard, and approved the first payment to Vezandio Contracting for work completed to date on the high school bathrooms in the amount of $73,691.50.

Additionally, the board approved the acceptance of tax certioraris. Mr. Sunshine mentioned that Glen Cove is the only school district on Long Island required to pay tax certioraris and that last year approximately $2 million was paid.

Finally, Dr. Aronstein mentioned that at the next meeting the public would receive the first presentation on next year’s budget. He said he has a list of about $1.72 million in budget cuts and that he is predicting the elimination of 13 teachers and two administrators.