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InBloom Withers

Hicksville school officials weren’t sad to hear the news that inBloom, a nonprofit organization that planned to mine student testing data and personal information, was closing up shop. The thought of a national database chronicling student addresses, birthplaces, economic statuses, race, ethnicity and disabilities, had many parents and school officials all across Long Island up in arms.

Hicksville school board president Phil Heckler says he initially liked the concept of collecting student’s data for research purposes, but once he realized that names were going to be linked to the findings, lost support for it.

“The implementation was problematic. I initially wasn’t too upset by inBloom, but then I realized any one can get hacked and there is a chance they could sell this to corporations and it could hurt children in the future because they get stigmas attached to them,” said Heckler. “I think it’s good that it’s gone because it created this fear that people were going to use it to monetize it.”

The move towards inBloom by the New York State Education was part of its push for Race To the Top funds, a pool of federal funds available to states that champions education reform. inBloom suggested it would streamline how school districts access student records. The system would have extracted student data from different school grading and attendance databases, store it in the cloud and funnel it to districts where teachers would track the progress of individual students.

Superintendent Maureen K. Bright said she was “pleased” with the state’s decision to not use inBloom. On March 28, the Hicksville School District’s Common Core Committee wrote a letter that was signed by the Heckler and Bright to Senator Jack Martins, stating their request to abandon inBloom.

“We request that the disclosure of personal student information be abandoned until such time as the State Education Department provides justification for the data requested and assurances that it will not be shared, stored or utilized for any purpose other than to measure individual student learning. The collection of indentifiable data regarding student disabilities or discipline history is unacceptable,” stated the letter.

Federal regulations under FERPA require school districts to maintain student databases responsibly. inBloom gave those guarantees, but people weren’t buying it.

“We have realized that this concept is still new, and building public acceptance for the solution will require more time and resources than anyone could have anticipated,” inBloom CEO Iwan Streichenberger said in a statement last week.

State Education Commissioner John B. King defended inBloom at a town hall talk in Mineola last year. “The data stored is encrypted when stored and when transferred. The data security are as high or higher than many third-party groups holding data for schools throughout the country.”

The New York State Legislature recently ordered the deletion of existing student records possessed by inBloom in the wake of parental outcry over Common Core’s testing and private data sharing. Assemblyman Ed Ra has been opposed to the Common Core. Ra said hearings held with inBloom were inconclusive.

“Now that our children’s personal data is no longer at risk, we can work on remedying the other structural flaws in Common Core: the rigorous high-stakes overtesting of our students and the curriculum that is doing a disservice to teachers and kids alike,” said Ra.

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



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