Written by Karen Gellender, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 04 January 2013 00:00
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, CT, much of the discussion at the most recently Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD Board of Education meeting on Monday, Dec. 17 was centered on school security. While Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis was clear that security had already been tightened and new security measures are being considered, a balance needs to be struck between security and school climate.
“Schools are not a prison; they are a wonderful place for learning,” said Lewis.
Nevertheless, Lewis said she hoped to bring proposals for implementing new security measures, including cameras, to the board sometime in January—although she noted that not every detail of the new security measures can be disclosed to the public. Acknowledging that the district had lacked “ a strong plan” for security during before and after school hours, she explained that this issue had been already been addressed, and she plans to have the district undergo a security audit shortly. A parent acknowledged the improved security during after school programs and thanked the district for this change.
While many parents spoke in favor of tighter security, saying that having visitors to the schools “buzzed” in at the front doors was not sufficient for children’s safety, one resident expressed a different opinion. Jane Pace, a frequent speaker at board meetings, commented that looking at the factors that make something like the Newtown shooting occur may be more important than any security cameras.
“We need to teach children what it takes to be a good citizen—put that back in the curriculum,” said Pace, going on to say that the culture of media violence, including movies and videogames, needs to be examined.
In general, Lewis acknowledged parents’ concerns and was forthcoming with ideas for security upgrades, but was clear that unfortunately, a child’s safety can never be absolute. “We will do the best we can, but it is never 100 percent,” she said.
In other news, there was some discussion on the current plan to eliminate English Honors 11H at the high school in favor of an interdisciplinary class that combines the English and social studies curriculum. Speaker Linda Gould expressed during Public Participation that she was concerned about the need to keep English 11H available without the social studies component, to which Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Jill Gierasch responded that feedback to the interdisciplinary course had been very positive so far; while there had been concerns that the material may be too rigorous, students reported that combining the two areas of material actually made the class easier, not harder. Gierasch also noted that the coursework for the proposed interdisciplinary class was much like an AP class, only without the exam for possible college credit.
In appointments, health teacher Vanessa Russell received tenure; Principal James Murray of POBJFK HS noted that after the passing of Sandy Vanderpool, Russell had “big shoes to fill,” but she has ingratiated herself with her students.
In addition, Gierasch reported on a group of 40 students from Mattlin Middle School who went by bus to Oceanside to help run a food drive for that community, hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Gierasch said that the inter-district effort was a great success, with one student calling the event the “best thing I’ve ever done!”
The next meeting of the Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD Board of Education will take place on Monday, Jan. 17 at Mattlin Middle School.