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OBEN School Board Discusses Shooting, Special Ed

District says security procedures are

regularly reviewed and receive “flying colors”

With the Connecticut school shootings fresh in their minds, Oyster Bay-East Norwich school officials discussed security of its schools at their Dec. 18 school board meeting.

School Board President Ann Marie Longo opened the regular meeting at the Oyster Bay High School library with a moment of silence “for all the lives lost” in the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newton, CT.

Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of schools for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, noted that some parents had expressed concerns about the possibility of similar threats to the schools here. Yet when she discussed the district’s security arrangements, “most people seemed to be comforted.”

“We are doing everything we think we can,” Harrington noted.

In other business, board members listened to a preliminary recommendation by Harrington for creating the post of an additional assistant director for special education.

Harrington also updated the board on efforts to hire a science and technology director. In addition, the board heard a presentation on the results of the survey that the district commissioned of Oyster Bay High School graduates.

During the community comment period, Michael Giardina, a parent, raised questions about the district’s security procedures, asking whether the district has ever consulted security experts to ensure that the best procedures were in place. He remarked that he has raised these issues years ago when he considered running for the school board.

“They are our children,” Giardina said, adding that he fears something similar could happen here.

“This was an isolated incident,” commented Board Vice President Jim Mattel.

Giardina disagreed, stating, “This is happening year after year” in schools around the country.

Harrington said that security procedures are regularly reviewed by a district-wide safety team and that there was an audit by an outside consultant for which “we received flying colors.”

Christopher Van Cott, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, noted that officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reviewed the district’s procedures. Several board members suggested to Dr. Dennis O’Hara, principal of Oyster Bay High School, that access to the high school be more limited before school hours.

Longo argued that the real issue was not school security procedures, but easy availability of assault weapons.

In other business, Debra Kienke, director of the district’s department for special services, reported on the increasing demands for special education services — both a growing caseload and greater administrative burden — under federal and state regulations.

 She noted that the district’s special education services department has been responsible for a wider range — those as young as two-and-half and those as old as 21.

Regulations have also required the district to provide services for students who attend non-public schools, such as St. Dominic’s Elementary School and High School, as well as East Woods School, which are in the district’s geographic boundaries, Kienke said. That includes students who live outside the district. The district can bill the district where the student lives, but that requires more time and paperwork.

Kienke said that the district has about 270 students receiving special education services, which involves hundreds of meetings to review the needs of the students and determine which services are available and best suited for the student.

Thus, Harrington said, it will become necessary to hire an additional assistant director for special services.

Harrington acknowledged the strict budget limits that the district faces, but contended that a way must be found. “We have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“What are you robbing from Peter?” Mattel asked.

Harrington replied that the details need to be worked out. “We have to start the discussion.”

“I don’t understand the sudden need,” said board member Maryann Santos. Several board members wondered if an additional administrative assistant to help with paperwork might be sufficient rather than a new assistant director.

Harrington replied that the need is not sudden but has been building for years and the complex nature of the situation involves more than paperwork.

Longo said that the board needs more explanation of the problem. Several board members requested specifics on the cost and where the money would come from. Harrington said that she would work on a more detailed explanation for a future meeting.

During the community comment period, Harriet Dorfman, a parent, argued for consultation with the community, including students, in determining how to restructure special education’s administration — similar to what was done several years ago in restructuring the guidance department.

News

If you missed the 6th annual champagne party at Coe Hall in Planting Fields, put it on your calendar for next year, because this is the party of the summer. A total of 175 guests attended, and many of them were in costume, a new addition to the popular champagne party. The always ebullient Henry Joyce, executive director of Planting Fields Foundation, greeted his guests with his date Daphne, a 3-month-old long haired Dachshund, who is a companion for his Great Dane, Lucy.

The 1907 Courthouse building is now known as the Marguerite and Joseph Suozzi Building, marked by a special ceremony held at the North Shore Historical Museum on Sunday, Aug. 3 to a packed house.

“It’s a great day for the Suozzi family and a great day for the museum. We are so grateful for the Suozzi family for this generous donation,” said Brian Mercadante, president of the museum.

Mercandante then gave some history on the building, which was built in 1907 by the Town of Oyster Bay, when Teddy Roosevelt was president and the Gold Coast was in its heyday. He described how it came to be a museum, explaining that Tom Suozzi came up with a plan for redevelopment during his term as mayor of Glen Cove in the 1990s.


Sports

Kevin Mercier, 39, of Oyster Bay, led a large contingent of local runners in the Lynne, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint 5 Kilometer Run, held on the grounds of Nassau County’s Sands Point Preserve on Saturday morning, Aug. 9. Mercier was the 18th finisher overall and third in the 35-39 age group with a time of  21 minutes, 7 seconds.

Other local runners winning awards at the Sands Point Preserve were Nicholas Cuddy of Oyster Bay, who earned first place honors in the Clydesdale Weight Division with a time of 25:53, Joanne Gallo of Oyster Bay, who  took home the first place award in the women’s 65-69 age group with a time of 28:11, and Anja Hermann of Oyster Bay, third place woman in the 20-24 age group, who finished in 28:47.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay will once again be the site of the Long Island’s premiere multisport event – the 27th annual Runner’s Edge - Town of Oyster Bay Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 23, and the Runner’s Edge – Town of Oyster Bay Junior Triathlon for youngsters ages 8-13 on Sunday, Aug. 24.

The Saturday main event is a “sprint” triathlon, which consists of a half-mile swim in Oyster Bay harbor, a one loop 15 kilometer bike ride over hill and dale through beautiful Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove and Laurel Hollow, and a 5 kilometer run through Mill Neck and Brookville, “up” to Planting Fields Arboretum and “down”to the finish at back at  Roosevelt  Park.


Calendar

Bayville Car Show

Friday, Aug. 22

Junior Triathlon

Sunday, Aug. 24

Historic Church Service And Tour

Sunday, Aug. 24



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com