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Kindergarten Entrance Age/Increased Enrollment Projections at BOE

By Jackie Pierangelo

The school board revisited its kindergarten entrance age policy at its Nov. 25 meeting. The board's current policy on kindergarten entrance age states that any child who is five by Dec. 1 is eligible to attend kindergarten the following September. The amended policy proposes that in cases where the parent believes that a child demonstrates full readiness for entry into kindergarten, even though they're not five years old by Dec. 1, then that parent may request a screening for early kindergarten entrance from the principal at the building where the child would attend kindergarten. In all likelihood the period of this special consideration will be for children born Dec. 1 through Dec. 31. If the amendment to the policy is adopted, the superintendent will be directed to develop procedures to determine the readiness of a child for early entrance.

Board member Nancy Cowles commented that provision should be made for the exceptional child. Board member Roy Nelson agreed noting that for the exceptional child there is no downside. He added that the board should find reasons to do more and not less.

Board member Joe Mirzoeff questioned whether there should be any chronological criteria at all. Board member Sandy Ehrlich commented that this would place an unreasonable burden on the district.

Roy Nelson asked that the board monitor the children in the district who enter kindergarten early and get feedback on their progress. Nancy Cowles asked Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra if any studies had been done.

Dr. Inserra replied that he knew of one study in which the children's "exceptionality" didn't carry through to the upper elementary school grades. However, he noted that the district will be establishing its own baseline.

The recommendation will now be delivered to the Curriculum Committee, which will look at and discuss the policy. It's expected that it will be adopted at the board's Dec. 16 meeting.

The board also discussed the district enrollment projections, updating the figures presented at the board's September meeting on this subject. The latest figures include figures for the mandatory universal Pre-Kindergarten program currently under consideration by the State Education Department. Dr. Inserra noted that this could have a "dramatic impact" on the space issues facing the board. At this time he doesn't know if this program will be implemented in any of the district's current facilities. (See enrollment projections chart.)

The consensus of the board is that they feel "comfortable" with the current enrollment projections. Now Dr. Inserra said he will look at the capacity and status of each building and add the "educational piece," which he notes "could be the most important one." Board member Nancy Cowles reported that educational decisions like the all-day kindergarten used 18 rooms in the district. She also noted that the ESL program has increased to 14 percent..

Offering a time line, Dr. Inserra advised that the architect's recommendations and the other factors will be reviewed no later than February for the September '98 solutions. The decisions must be made before the budget vote, and before that the specs have to be submitted and approved by the State Education Department.

Audience Commentary

Michael Cooperman said he's concerned that certain members of the board will "alienate the architect as we've done in the past." He stated that this is detrimental to the students, residents and taxpayers. He feels the entire board should be supportive and "not take potshots" at the architect. He said, "If we keep abusing him, we'll lose him." He noted that in the past the district lived through a year without an architect, because one quit refusing to work in the contentious atmosphere on the board. Mr. Cooperman pointed out that the fire alarm system updates were delayed because of this, causing much concern in the district.

He told board member Richard Sussman that, if he doesn't trust the architect, we should find a better one. Mr. Sussman replied that he did trust the architect, but that he's opposed to the idea of having the architect conduct the facilities study based on a percentage of the total cost of the project. Mr. Cooperman replied that we have to trust that this architect will act professionally, or else find another one. Nancy Cowles advised Mr. Cooperman that the majority of the board supports the new architect.

He also criticized some board members for their behavior during public meetings, saying, "People can disagree, without being disagreeable."

Eileen Ronel said that she is "appalled and embarrassed by the behavior of some board members." Praising the teachers in the district, she said, "They're dedicated and caring."

Cheryl Kolitsopoulus asked the board to explain an accusation made in a letter to the Port News editor by Richard Sussman. He charged that the board did not have a five year plan upgraded every year as required by New York State. Dr. Inserra replied that the board is in the process of getting baseline data for long-term plans for these kinds of projections.

The next meeting of the board of education is Tuesday, Dec. 16. Check the Administration Building for exact time.

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