At the last Herricks School Board meeting held in the middle of December the board held a "rap" session with more than 100 high school students who, at the time, were given an opportunity to voice their school concerns to the board.
The concerns ranged from broken blinds in a classroom to the addition of foreign language at the elementary school level. The board was most impressed with the manner in which the students presented their views and concerns and since that meeting the administration has been working to address the concerns identified by the students.
According to Superintendent of the Herricks Schools Dr. Sidney Freund, "Some of the students concerns are easily accomplished, while others require considerable planning. However, we have been able to provide an update to the high school students on how those concerns are being addressed."
* Use of 17 Minutes Added to School Day:
The students expressed concern about the use of the 17 minutes which was added to the school day four years ago. As a result of a survey sponsored by the Student Government and of 926 questionnaires returned, 95 percent stated that they were not satisfied with the use of the 17 minutes. Of those not satisfied 35 percent stated that they would like the time to be used as a club meeting or extra help periods; 13 percent preferred that it be used to create a 10th period; 22 percent wanted to see it distributed over the 9 existing periods; and 10 percent made other suggestions. The students said that they felt there is a need for additional help time since many students are involved in sports during the time when help periods are scheduled.
High School Principal William Sigelakis has said that the Shared Decision Making Team at the high school is in the process of studying possible alternative uses of the 17 minutes.
* Mid-year testing days:
There was concern about the days considered for mid-year testing for those students taking the exam.
On Jan. 28 final exams in certain half-year courses will be given. Jan. 29 will be used as a marking day. There will be no regular classes on either day.
* Students Request Peer Leadership III Course:
The students requested that a Peer Leadership III course be offered for those students who have completed the existing Peer Leadership I and II courses.
A Peer Leadership III is possible for next year. However, it needs to be presented to the Curriculum Council for its review before central office and Board of Education approval.
* Possible French/Italian/Spanish at Elementary Level:
The possibility of offering French, Italian and Spanish at the elementary level was raised. It was noted, by the students, that the number of students selecting Spanish increases because conversational Spanish is offered to elementary students as part of the after-school enrichment program. Therefore, the number of students to go on and take French or Italian is decreased. Some students even expressed an interest in taking Latin.
Due to this concern, the Curriculum Council has formed a committee to study offering foreign language at the elementary grade level. It is perhaps possible to offer French language in the elementary after-school enrichment program and one student even volunteered to teach French students in that program. It is being discussed with the Sid Jacobson JCC which operates the program.
* Students Displayed Deteriorated Musical Instruments
A group of students brought several musical instruments to the board meeting to illustrate their deteriorated condition and urged the board to allocate sufficient funds to purchase new instruments. They also requested that the district hire an accompanist to work with both the choral and music teachers when they are preparing for concerts. Further, the doors in the rear of the high school auditorium are very noisy when being closed.
Many musical instruments supplied by the district are in poor condition. That was aptly demonstrated by the students. Next year's budget includes approximately $7,000 for new instruments. Further, an additional $20,000 may be allocated from extra state aid received this year. Regarding the noisy doors in the auditorium, the doors will be repaired in the near future.
* Students Want 10 Minute Rule Changed to Enter Library
It was noted, by the students, that they are not permitted to enter the library 10 minutes after the start of the period. The students questioned the rationale of that rule and asked that it be changed.
High School Principal Sigelakis is reviewing the 10 minute rule with the librarians. It is felt that a reasonable plan can be reached to address this problem.
* More On-Line Computers for Highly Technical Courses
The students requested more on-line computers for highly technical courses.
The Educational Technology Committee developed a plan for computer purchases in each school. All of the schools and most of the classrooms will have Internet access before the end of the school year.
* Students Express Need to Get Back to Basics
Several students stressed the need to "get back to basics" and to teach more grammar in English courses.
Grammar is taught in the context of the writing. This method is being followed because research indicates that this is the method of instruction. It is deliberately not taught as separate and distinct lessons.
* Highlander Needs Writers
Students expressed the difficulty in getting students to volunteer to write for the Highlander. Students felt an incentive was needed such as a half or quarter academic credit offered to students who volunteer.
The Administration will consider the possibility of granting academic credit for those students who work on the Highlander.
* Students Discussed Growing Ethnic/Religious Tensions
Students spoke about the increasing tension among the various ethnic groups within the high school. They requested time for student discussions and assemblies to address the cultural and religious diversity of the student population.
Special Projects Coordinator, Dr. Mae Timer, will meet with the student government and members of the Peer Leadership Program and the Human Relations Club to develop programs and strategies. All high school students are invited to attend the Community Coalition meetings. The next meeting will be held on Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Herricks Community Center and will be open to the public. The Community Coalition is a group composed of parents, students, staff members, community, civic and religious leaders who meet to develop programs designed to reduce racial and religious intolerance within the district.
* Students Complain of Sun Glare and Noise
Students complained of sun glare and noise from rattling blind slats and noted that because of missing slats classrooms are not sufficiently dark for viewing films.
It is true that the high school window blinds need to be replaced. However, because of the excessive cost, they will be replaced in stages since the same problem exists in each of the schools in the district.
* Replacement of Floor Tiles
Students mentioned the need to replace asbestos-containing floor tiles.
There are loose floor tiles in some classrooms. Gradually the old floors are being replaced and repairs are being made as needed.
* Emergency Exit Windows are Bolted Shut
Students claimed that the emergency exit windows in some of the classrooms are bolted shut.
Administration immediately addressed this claim by checking all the escape windows at the high school. None of them is bolted shut as reported by students at the meeting.
* Drainage and Faucet in Boys Facility Needs Repair
It was noted that there is a drainage problem in the boys locker room and the cold water faucet is broken in the boys bathroom
It has been determined that the boys locker room drainage problem will be corrected and the cold water faucet has already been repaired.
* Elevator Needed for Disabled Students
The students discussed the importance of an elevator to help disabled students get to the second floor.
During the summer of 1999 an elevator will be installed and two new physics labs will be constructed.
* Cafeteria Stops Serving Lunch After 10 Minutes
Students said that the cafeteria stops serving lunch approximately 10 minutes after the start of the 8th period which does not allow students sufficient time to purchase lunch. Further, they stated that often the cafeteria was very hot.
After researching the problem it was determined that the 8th period cafeteria line is open a minimum of 1/2 hour to a full period. The thermostat has been adjusted.
* Chemicals Being Dumped in Drain in Photo Lab
Several students claimed that chemicals used in the photograph lab were being poured down the drain.
It was determined that chemicals discarded in the photo lab go down a special line where they are then disposed of appropriately. They do not enter the general waste line.
* Dangerous Conditions Exiting Student Lot/I. U. Willets
Students spoke of the dangerous conditions when exiting the student parking lot onto I. U. Willets Road and they requested that a stop sign be placed at that exit.
A letter has been sent to North Hempstead Town officials and to Nassau County to see if special signs or a traffic light can be installed at the entrance to the student parking lot.
* Need to Re-establish a Recycling Program
Students felt there was a need to re-establish a recycling program in the school.
The company that has won the garbage disposal bid for the district includes a special recycling pickup. There is a separate pickup once a week for plastic, metal and paper from the cafeteria. Both the board and administration appreciated the students environmental concerns.
* Students Request Towel Dispensers in Bathrooms
Students requested that papers towel dispensers be installed in the bathrooms
Paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms were deliberately eliminated because the towels were not being eliminated properly.
* Concern for Deteriorating Hall After Locker Removal
The students expressed concern regarding the deteriorating hall areas after the removal of lockers.
It was determined that the wall areas would be repaired.
* The World Affairs Club Needs Money
Students noted the high cost of participating in The World Affairs Club and the members asked the board for additional financial support.
The $800 requested by the World Affairs Club will be provided by Principal William Sigelakis' budget.
Additional Intramurals as After-School Activity
Students requested that additional intramural be provided as an after-school activity.
Athletic Director for the District Robert Goldberg will look into the request to expand after-school intramural.
* All Weather Track and Long Jump Proposed
A student noted the poor condition of the high school track and long jump area. He requested that the board consider replacing the existing track, which is in poor condition, and replacing it with an all-weather track.
A district Field Study Committee is considering proposing an all-weather track.
* Students Request a New Concert-Grade Auditorium
Music students noted the poor acoustics in the auditorium, the lack of a back-stage areas, lighting problems, etc. and they requested that the board consider building a new concert-grade auditorium.
A new auditorium is a very expensive proposal and the district has many priorities that may take precedence over this request.
* Communications of Board Meetings Requested:
Students requested that notice of board meetings, meeting agendas and minutes be posted on the high school's Web page. They also asked that the dates of meetings of the Five Year Capital Improvement plan be posted and that a student be named as a liaison to the Board of Education.
The superintendent's office will furnish the student government with an advance copy of each board of education agenda. The board will study the possibility of having a student liaison on the board of education.
The board issued a closing statement that said that the students should be aware that there is a process for communicating student concerns. For example, if there is a specific facility concern, it should be brought to the attention of the assistant principal. Curriculum concerns that go beyond the classrooms should, as a first step, be shared with appropriate department chairpersons. New courses can be proposed through the district's Curriculum Council. Principal William Sigelakis' door is always open to students.
The Board of Education looks forward to future meetings with the members of the high school student body. The board learned a lot listening to the concerns of the students.