Written by Pat Grace Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00
The Manhasset Board of Education held a public session Sept. 3 with predominately school personnel present, along with two community members. A variety of issues were discussed including the district’s preparations for the pending flu epidemic.
A brief update on the Rocky Pacent ball field was provided noting four to five manufacturers have been asked to provide bids and if all goes well they will be in a position to make a presentation at the Sept. 16 board meeting. The group has sponsored fundraising events and will continue their fundraising efforts. John Grillo, district architect, has been involved with the structural engineer, and the inspector regarding the concession stand and it is hoped all will be in order by the first football game. The $200,000 grant from Senator Craig Johnson has been allocated: $75,000 for instructional technology; $100,000 for the new field; and $25,000 for the concession stand.
The board is forming a new Citizens Advisory Committee in technology and invites interested community with expertise in the area to contact them at Community Services 267-7753. The group would have a voice in decision-making regarding the districts technology needs.
A copy of the board’s statement on outsourcing bus transportation was entered into the minutes.
The school year begins Sept. 8 and it was said, for the first time in years, all administration positions have been filled, there are no interim positions. In addition, the district is fully staffed.
The three school principals were asked for updates. Dean Schlanger, Ed.D., secondary school principal, said the school has changed and classrooms are numbered in a better sequential order, noting Room #314 is above Room #214 which is above Room #114, in other words, they are stacked. Some improvements mentioned were ceiling tiles have been replaced, lighting improved, four to five boys bathrooms renovated, and SMARTboards installed. Downstairs all plaques are on display sequentially and faceplates, some missing for year, have been repaired.
Dr. Jean Kendall, Munsey Park Elementary principle, reported enrollment of 964 students, with three being added just that day. Last year enrollment was 908. At the Ice Cream Social 51 new students were welcomed. The current sixth-grade class is large, 150 students, while the incoming kindergarten class is smaller so there should be a slight decline in the numbers next year. The second grade has seven sections, the largest in the school. Kendall said bathrooms had been painted fashionable colors and that they intended to create a dining room environment in the existing cafeteria.
Robert Geczik, Shelter Rock Principle, reported enrollment of 773 students with two less sections but enrollment about the same. All classes at the moment have five sections. He too is experiencing late registrations.
Geczik said the loss of Sharon Berliner, a science teacher who died suddenly this summer, had been devastating to the staff, parents and children, and that at the end of September a simple ceremony was planned.
As far as improvements he cited the renovation of four bathrooms, and the redesign of the library giving it a new feel. The SCA, he said, had provided a new circulation desk. A new program involving “parent ambassadors” worked quite well he reported. Each new child was paired with another in his class, and their parents were introduced as well.
William Shine, assistant to the superintendent, addressed the pending flu epidemic expected to hit in September, surely by October. The flu is expected to be a mild virus and protocols to disinfect the schools are being put in place. Attention is being paid to surfaces, especially those touched by many, as in the cafeteria. In the past surfaces were wiped down with rags, in future paper will be used and then discarded. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said soap and water are fine disinfectants and soap dispensers and sanitizers will be provided for each classroom in Munsey Park Elementary, the middle school and high schools. Shelter Rock Elementary has a sink in each classroom.
Once a student has the flu and is homebound he/she may return to school 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (not counting one suppressed by medication.) Closing schools does not mitigate the flu and schools will remain open. Ongoing information will be available on the website, including attendance rates. Nurses will send students home with three of four flu-like symptoms.
The schools are not involved with dispensing vaccines, the county health department is not looking to schools for that service, however, the school has agreed to be a site if necessary. It was said persons aged 4 to 24 are among those most at risk.
A mindset change is needed for parents and staff—don’t attempt to get to work or send children to school with flu-like symptoms, for others will be infected. Also mentioned was the possibility of suspending attendance awards, and discussion with coaches regarding player absences.
During public comment one community member asked as of June 2009 what funds the district had in the bank and was handed a copy of the treasurer’s report. The second community member asked what would the impact be on the taxpayer of the transportation lawsuits and was told no dollar figure was available, that it was complicated. The portion of the order on back pay since June 30, 2005 is difficult as the district does not know what employment individuals have found and those individuals would be paid a differential based on their current earnings. Rosemary Johnson, assistant superintendent for business, said the reserves are adequate to pay back pay owed—with a total of $6.6 million dollars set aside for the matter. If the community votes to purchase buses in a proposition presented in late 2009 or early 2010, then negotiations begin with the bus drivers.
It was also said there have been significant savings in the budget related to the outsourcing over the past four years.