At its reorganizational meeting on July 1, the board of education unanimously elected Robert Scheer president, and Dr. Roy Nelson, vice-president. Mr. Scheer's nomination was uncontested .
The vice presidency of the board was contested, however. Dr. Nelson was nominated by Sandy Ehrlich and seconded by Dean Nardone. Nancy Cowles was nominated by Richard Sussman and seconded by Alan Baer. The vote was 6 to 1 for Dr. Nelson, with Mr. Sussman casting his vote for Mrs. Cowles.
In what appeared to be a show of solidarity, approximately 45 teachers in the district attended the meeting to protest the fact that their contract ran out at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, and a settlement of a new contract in the near future looks doubtful.
At the June 23 and July 1 meetings, several teachers addressed the board stating, essentially, that they want a timely agreement and feel that the current offer by the district's contract negotiator Terry O'Neill is "unduly harsh and unreasonable."
Nick Dallis, a teacher for 32 years, took issue with the undermining of the teacher's role in decision-making he feels is contained in the proposed contract. Arguing for a better contract, he also noted that over the years the demands made upon teachers have increased greatly. He also accused the board of "stonewalling," the negotiations.
Mary Gilbert, a 25 year resident of Port and a teacher at the Manorhaven School, related how it made her feel good to tell teachers outside of the district that in the Port school system, "We have shared decision-making." She implored the board to work out the differences with "dignity," and ultimately allow the district to remain as a "we"... and not "an us and they."
Matt Scott, a spokesperson for the Retired Teachers, urged the board to settle all of its employee contracts (i.e substitute teachers) in a timely and positive manner. He said, "Bad feelings can stay around for a long time after a contract is settled."
In all teacher contract negotiations, school board members are advised by counsel not to comment publicly on the negotiations and their issues. Therefore, the board has remained silent on this matter.
The only comment on the negotiations was made by Bob Scheer at the June 23 meeting. In response to the impression that the district is stonewalling the negotiations, he noted that the district has been at the negotiating table, having met with the teachers eight times already.
In other matters, the district's Internet policy is about ready to be approved. A draft is currently being looked over by counsel. Further refinement of the part of the policy that deals with the "filtering" of information is needed, however. Essentially, the debate is over less restrictions versus more restrictions, and more specifically allowing the students access to the rapidly growing flow of information that appears daily on the Internet and the feasibility of policing this information.
Addressing the board, Sheila Squillace asserted, "Kindly no Taj Mahals!"
Eleanor Rybecki stated, "The administration doesn't need space at Salem. Utilize the space for the children."
Michelle Ferguson suggested that Salem be dedicated as a 6th-grade facility. She feels that the 6th graders should not be with the older 7th-and 8th-graders in the current middle school configuration.
Phil Granger urged the board to get outside help. "You must get it together," he said. Saying they should spend money if they have to he said, "Dip into the envelope."
Another speaker stated that no classes should be in substandard space.
Wendy Cohen presented a study to the board that supports the educational value of small schools. The study can be found in Education and Urban Society, Vol. 21, #2, Feb. '89, p 140-153. The title of the work is "School and School District Size Relationship" by Robert Jewell.