Fifth graders from the Vernon School presented the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education with a check for $15,000 so that their class can go on a trip to Sturbridge Village. It is a tradition of the school that students go on an overnight trip to visit the historic restoration village in Connecticut.
The presentation was made at the April 25 school board meeting. Board President James Smiros announced the "unprecedented event" which he said showed true community support for what might have not been because of the district being on a contingency budget. He said, "Vernon students in the fifth grade fund raised for the Sturbridge Village trip that had been canceled."
He introduced representatives of "Students for Sturbridge" who presented the check to the OB-EN board. The young activists included: Matthew Drexler, Thomas Kelly, Kristen Rojas, Alessandra Puccio, Kristen Poppe, Rianne Woodman, Alexia Ipiotis and Marissa Matarese. They each spoke as they told the story of their fundraising efforts.
Matthew Drexler, the first speaker, said, "The Vernon fifth grade students have a story to tell. When the overnight trip to Sturbridge Village was canceled everyone was disappointed. We had been looking forward to it our whole lives."
He explained that after a discussion among parents and students they realized how important it was and they didn't want to miss it."
In a meeting attended by parents and teachers they decided they would try to raise the money they needed. "We knew it would be hard work but we all felt up to the challenge," said Mr. Drexler.
Children took turns informing the board of what they did to raise the needed funds. The first event was a wine tasting held at Post Wines in Syosset. It was a great success. The next event was a car wash/bake sale at Vernon. They said, "It was tons of fun. We put up signs on Route 106 and it worked. Afterwards we were all pink from the soap and blue from the cold."
They also raised funds by taking orders for items. They sold magazines, cookie-dough and pretzels which was called "one of the tastiest events" and they had a Yankee candle sale which was a success.
A student said that added to the money they raised, "We had donations from some very generous people, which added up to a $15,000 check."
The children thanked Mrs. Hauser, the board and the parents, saying none of it would have been possible without their help. They said that now they know "we can make anything happen."
Mr. Drexler added that sixth grade students said it's "the best trip ever."
"The students really were disappointed when the trip was cut and they worked so hard to restore it," explained Maureen Drexler, Matthew's mother.
OB-EN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington said she hoped that next year the students won't have to raise their own funds for the trip, but added their activist skills were honed by the need.
Dr. Harrington said, "We need community support to help with passing the budget this year." The board, she said, is working to ensure the 2005-2006 budget passes. "Your vote counts. There are 'palm cards' on the table for people to take. They have a summary of the budget that you can refer to when talking to people about the budget vote on May 16," she said.
The Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District has been handling being on a contingency budget with great dedication. That was evident at the OB-EN Board of Education meeting on April 25. The OB-EN School Board meeting began with recognition for fifth-grade Vernon students, raising $15,000 for the annual sleepover trip to Sturbridge Village that has become a right of passage for the district's youth. (Please see the article on page 1.) The evening included a mention of the auditorium restoration that was funded in large part through private fundraising - a job that will be celebrated on May 20. (Please see the article on pages 34 and 35.)
The board also invited Athletic Director Joseph Piropato to acknowledge the great achievements of students in sports programs. Some of the student athletes attended, but it was also the night of a S.A.T. Review class, which kept some away from the recognition ceremony.
Board Vice President Judy Wasilchuk reported on a two-day workshop establishing educational foundations for school districts, something the district has begun to do in the face of a failed budget.
The workshop was originally to have been in New Orlean but, because of Hurricane Katrina, was re-scheduled in Chicago. She heard Colin Powell speak, and said, "He is a very witty person and he is in love with the United States of America. He said despite all reports the country is still trusted and respected including that people want to move here and still seek refuge here."
She also heard historian David McCollough speak who said he was concerned that the country is losing historical knowledge because it is not being taught in colleges and universities. He alluded to a large university on the east coast which he didn't name. He told listeners that after speaking at a university a young woman thanked him and said she didn't know that all the original colonies were located on the east coast. Ms. Wasilchuk reported that Mr. McCollough said the country is teaching to test and not remembering what is important for the country/citizens to know - its history. Another speaker, she said, was Jane Goodall, famous for her work with Silverback Apes. Ms. Goodall's message was that we have to teach children to preserve all animals - that animals and humans fit together in a giant puzzle and all the pieces need to stay in place.
Additionally, Ms. Wasilchuk said she attended three workshops. One was on school uniforms which was presented by a New Jersey school that said since adopting uniforms for the students both attitudes and academics were up. It took one year to get the program in place, she said. The second workshop was on how to deal with difficult people, which provided some good ideas, and the third was an exhibit of the work of architects.
That evening she attended a dinner given by JMOA, a construction management company. She told one of their representatives that the OBEN board is facing a $14.5 million construction project and he said, "I know all about that," which she said she found interesting.
Ms. Wasilchuk said the company, JMOA, has been used for 23 years by the New Rochelle Board of Education who said the company's work always came in at cost and on time. A representative of the Roosevelt School District, Ed McCormick, said JMOA were totally rebuilding their facilities. Ms. Wasilchuk said her children (as OBEN athletes), "had been at the school in Roosevelt and were sad to see the burned out lockers and rooms with most of their lights out and a football field that had been condemned."
There were no requests from the public to speak on any of the items on the agenda.
OBEN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington said she was happy to participate in a most important event, the granting of tenure. She said while she met the teachers as they were interviewed, here they were three years later, having demonstrated that they met the standards of the district. She said, "It warms my heart." She spoke without notes and gave a summary of the educational background of each person and included items that proved that she knows her staff members intimately.
Those granted tenure include: OBHS Principal Dennis O'Hara; Special Education Teacher Foreen Buckley; Mathematics Teacher Lesley Feinmesser, English Teacher Laura Keenan; Special Education Teacher Candace Lee; Mathematics Teacher Andrea LoRusso; Special Education Teacher Kerri Parrella; Art Teacher Amanda Prangenberg; School Psychologist Cara Riebe; Physical Education Teacher Jeffrey Schiereck; Art Teacher Mededith Schwarz and music teacher Mattew Sisia.
Resignations were accepted from Barbara Wortman, assistant director of special services; Holli Bombardier, special education teacher; and Special Education Teacher Melanie Hoops was granted a child care leave of absence from May 1 to Nov. 27.
Laura Seinfeld, assistant superintendent for instruction, introduced Dr. Terri McSweeney, math supervisor, who presented a PowerPoint presentation on a new math program for K to 5 called the Houghton Mifflin Blended Program. Dr. McSweeney and several teachers talked about the program that is needed because the New York State Department of Regents revised their math standards.
"We were ready to change," said Dr. McSweeney. She said the district is holding the students to a level that exceeds the NYS standards. Several teachers in the district piloted the program in their classes. When other teachers saw the program they too opted into the project. The board questioned the teachers in depth to be assured that the new program would be effective and worth the investment and that it will increase student performance.
There are 19 members on the elementary math curriculum team and Dr. McSweeney said, "The teachers shared their pleasure of working with the evaluation process." She said, "We teach mathematics, not a program (over the last five years) and have come up with better skills." Dr. McSweeney said the math staff are continuously assessing students in their portfolios, which they review three times a year. She said, "State testing doesn't tell us anything we don't know about our students."
At the end of the presentation Dr. Seinfeld presented copies of The Essentials of Math K-6, to all the teachers who took part in the project. Those attending appeared delighted to receive the book.
The board discussed their policy in regards to the number of days teachers are pulled out of the classroom for testing and professional development coupled with their personal sick days and the impact on the students.
Teachers are allowed 10 annual sick days. If a teacher does not use their sick days they can carry over 10 each year until they accumulate 200 days. At that time they can accumulate 17 days beyond the 200 and be paid $75 per day. During the last contract they were being paid beyond the 200 days, but that 'sun-setted' last year, said Dr. Harrington. She said they monitor teacher attendance via email to see who is covering for an absentee.
The district accepted a $500 - $1,000 scholarship from Frank Baker in honor of William and Mary Toner; a $1,500 memorial scholarship in remembrance of Michele Kaplan; and the Italian-American Ladies Auxiliary donated a $250 scholarship to the school.
Board President James Smiros thanked the members of the community for their donations.