The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District's Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on July 20 at Vernon School. After the approval of the minutes, Board President Thomas Capozzoli noted the several community members who had written letters to the board recently. Rose Heyenoort, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Hirsch, Mr. and Mrs. Hal LeMar, and Kristen Victory had all written in with letters of appreciation toward certain teachers. Dr. Darlene Mengel from the State Education Department wrote regarding Shared Decision Making Plan, and correspondence from Beth Vendryes Williams was about the district's hiring process.
The first speaker at the July 20 meeting was Supervising Fire Inspector Joseph LaRocca, Jr., from the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office. In his annual Fire Marshal's Report to the Board of Education and community, LaRocca noted that all the district buildings' certificates of occupancy were renewed and that the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District was "the best district out of eight districts covered." He said only one minor situation needed to be addressed and was remedied by the district to his satisfaction right away. LaRocca then commended the district's staff for ensuring a "fine and safe district" for the community's children. The annual fire marshal's report is on file for three years at the fire department, Fire Marshal's Office, State Education Department, and at the district office.
After the treasurer's report was accepted, Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Chesterton commented that the STAR tax relief program has been successful and noted that this is the first year of full-implementation of the program. He also said that the district is still waiting for state aid figures, that are available once the New York State budget comes out.
Chairpeople of the site-based committees were then asked to make reports to the board about their progress. Judi Pullman, chair of the Roosevelt Elementary School Committee, addressed the board on behalf of her team. She said that the committee set a large amount of goals, but thanks to the dedication, hard work, and countless hours put in by committee members, they were successful. Pullman reported the findings and activities of the Transition Sub-Committee and Reading Program Sub-Committee, among others. She also informed the board of sub-committees' discussions on kindergarten and math curriculum, the district's hiring process, and the possibility of an after-school foreign language program at the elementary school.
Pullman especially thanked Principal Dennis Moller and his staff for implementing some of the committee's recommendations so quickly and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington for her support of their changes to the reading program. Board President Thomas Capozzoli called their work fantastic, especially given the committee's large agenda.
For the high school's site-based committee report, Assistant Principal Frank Imperiale made the briefing, on behalf of the committee's chair, who wasn't available. This is the sixth year of the existence of this site-based committee. Imperiale said the group's focus primarily centered on construction at the high school and the transition. The committee surveyed the Oyster Bay High School Student Council as one way to get ideas about how seventh- and eighth-grade students would share an identity with ninth- through twelfth-graders.
The committee also discussed the building's computer needs, both for students and staff. Imperiale said this agenda item met with great success and everything should be in place in September. Construction contingency plans, in case work is not completed on time, were also considered, but that issue was taken care of as well. Although final work won't be completed until after school opens, provisions have been made so that the construction does not affect any student's program. Imperiale reported that the committee also discussed the district's alternative programs and an expansion of special education that would be more broader-based to meet more students' needs.
Other items that were discussed included parking and the new parking lot that will be constructed, the district's hiring philosophy, and the safety of students with regard to parking, busing, pick-up and drop-off, and those who walk to school. Imperiale said there have been discussions with the district's police department liaison, but he advised them that no traffic changes (such as new crosswalks, a traffic light, or implementing full-time stop signs) could be considered until school actually opens and the increase in traffic, etc., could be documented. Imperiale then thanked the members of the committee, which included officers from the student council, for their work.
Dr. Chesterton informed the board that the Vernon Site-Based Committee would make its report at the August meeting.
For his superintendent's report, Dr. Chesterton talked about the Tax Levy Resolution that was on the meeting's agenda. He said it was up for approval by the board earlier than usual so that there would be more time for planning this year. Although the district doesn't have the actual state aid numbers yet, Chesterton said that he is confident that the actual figures will be more than what was projected.
The superintendent also reported on the district's progress in hiring teachers, the results of the last discipline committee meeting, and the significant amount of staff development that has been going on this summer that will enhance the district's overall educational program. Regarding the transition, Dr. Chesterton told the board that the physical moving work has been progressing very well with the help of students who are helping with the unpacking. With regard to construction, he said that it is continuing. Although all the work was not completed by Sept. 1, all the classrooms will be open by the first day of school. Capozzoli added to Dr. Chesterton's remarks and commented that work was moving along well and that the board and the administration are on top of the progress.
Also included in the superintendent's report was a report on the summer school program, the irrigation work that would need to be done to support the placement of sod on the Vernon School athletic field, and the progress of the new bleachers which are awaiting the awarding of the contract and state approval.
The board appointed several new teachers at its July 20 meeting. Local resident Tore Barbaccia is the district's new social studies teacher, replacing Mr. VanderMeer, Aimee Johnson was appointed art teacher, and Evelyn Valentin was made an English as a second language and Spanish teacher. Traci Roethel was appointed as a one year elementary education leave replacement teacher for fourth grade, replacing Ms. Ghicas. Catherine Soler, an Oyster Bay resident, was also named to that post, but for the first grade, taking over for Ms. Brunken. Summer remedial reading teachers were officially appointed as well. Having completed their probationary appointments, principal typist clerk Janet Bransfield and clerk-typist Marilyn LeBright were appointed to permanent civil service status. Congratulations to all!
Two local couples were thanked by the board of education for generously donating musical instruments to the district. Mr. and Mrs. Brian Hoesl contributed an alto saxophone and Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Mills contributed a trombone.
Items for discussion at the July meeting included the district's hiring practices and the high school's master schedule of courses available to students. The discussion on hiring focused primarily on the process of finding a new high school principal by January. The board considered a timeline and schedule of what stages the process should be at by which dates. They agreed to advertise the position twice in August and set a deadline for submission of applications.
Regarding more general hiring practices, Board President Thomas Capozzoli brought-up a letter from community member Beth Williams that talked about some concerns she had with the district's hiring process. In her letter, Capozzoli said that she thought the length of the hiring process and the non-negotiable salary were hindering the district with regard to hiring new staff members.
With regard to what salaries the district could offer potential candidates, the board and superintendent talked about returning to the steps system - giving credit and additional pay for years of experience. The discussion ended with Capozzoli asking the superintendent to make a proposal to the board about making salaries commensurable with experience and what the budgetary impact of this would be. However, it was agreed on by the board that this would be done on a case-by-case basis, not as a blanket hiring practice.
The position of the attendance office/social worker position was also debated. Dr. Chesterton recommended that the person chosen for this district-wide position be bilingual and act as a liaison with Oyster Bay's multi-cultural residents to convey to them the importance of education. This would then entail a separate clerical position to field sick calls from students' parents, although the use of answering machine with its own hotline number could be used for these calls.
Regarding the high school's master schedule, the board decided whether some courses with limited student interest should be offered or not. Among the courses discussed where ESL, language, computer, and law classes. Board member Dr. Y Jack Lin brought up the possibility of factoring-in what times of the day are best for learning which subjects, while Board Vice President Beverly Zembko was concerned about having the 10 period days. Zembko and board member Peg Bellavia also talked about moving this process up. Dr. Chesterton agreed and said that since they now have a director of guidance, next year's process will be greatly improved.