Written by Matthew Ern Thursday, 28 November 2013 00:00
Tempers flared over what residents call ineffectual and incompetent education officials last Thursday at a Herricks Board of Education meeting. Parents, teachers, and administrators at Herricks called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner John King.
Major grievances included the Common Core, raised testing standards in mathematics and English, and the issue of students’ private data being collected by third parties. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent comments about “white suburban moms” not wanting to face the harsh truths these increased standards might illuminate also drew ire from both the board and parents at the meeting.
“I hate to put it this way, but it is us against the state education department,” said board trustee Brian Hussan.
The major topic of contention was inBloom, a data repository that would collect information about each student and compile a profile for teachers so that they can tailor lessons to specific students’ needs. However, parents don’t like a private company collecting that kind of data on their kids, plus there are concerns over just how private that data will remain once it’s in inBloom’s hands.
“I don’t think there’s a person in Nassau County that thinks inBloom is a good idea,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. John E. Bierwirth.
According to their website, inBloom “connects the many disparate systems and standardizes the connection between education tools and teachers” in order to “see a more complete picture of individual student progress.” This includes collecting demographic information, test results, student ID numbers, certain special education needs once kept private, disciplinary records, and even pictures of the students. Much of this information has been provided by districts to the state in the past, but now the state is seeking to compile it in a private company.
Their website states that they do not and will not ever sell student data to anyone, but New York state officials have admitted the data could be used by testing companies such as McGraw-Hill.
New York is one of a handful of states taking part in a pilot program to develop inBloom. There are currently two bills moving through the State Legislature that would prevent the disclosure of private student data, but Herricks board president Jim Gounaris says the time for asking questions and conducting probes is over: “We just want it to stop. It has to stop now.”
Less contentious topics of the meeting included a presentation from Director of Music Anissa Arnold about students’ recent musical accolades as well as the summer music program. “We’re a high achieving district, both in and out of state,” Arnold said. Herricks recently had 142 music students go All-County, 14 students go All-State, and one make it to All-National choir in Nashville, TN.
The summer music program is up 54 kids from only 33 in 2010. The program offers a half day of music instruction ranging from band and orchestra classes to specific, elective ones such as guitar and “Rock Band.”
Columbia Ciccimarro, a teacher at Herricks, is organizing donations of holiday decorations for Island Park families who lost theirs last year during Superstorm Sandy. Flyers were passed out at the meeting asking for both indoor and outdoor decorations, new or gently used. The board also elected to participate in the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act which will provide relief for buildings and property deemed to have lost 10 percent or more of their value due to the storm.
The next Herricks School Board meeting is Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7:15 p.m. in the Herricks Community Center at 999 Herricks Road in New Hyde Park.