The composition and organization of the PW Board of Education (BOE) changed with smooth efficiency on Tuesday evening, July 5, as three new individuals -- Bob Ferro, Julie Meyer, and Peter Wezenaar -- were sworn in as members of the BOE, Richard Sussman was elected president, and Bob Ferro was voted vice president. Led by the new president, the BOE then addressed issues ranging from voting to allow Dr. Inserra to enter into a contract with the Sid Jacobson JCC for another year of after-school programs/child care, to setting BOE meeting times for 8 p.m., all with civility.
Just after Larry Blake administered the oath of office to Julie Meyer, Bob Ferro, and Peter Wezenaar, Mr. Wezenaar nominated Richard Sussman for BOE President. No other names were placed in nomination. Mr. Sussman received four votes (his own, Meyer, Ferro, and Wezenaar), with two abstentions (Baer, Nardone.) (Mr.Zimmerman was not present for the elections; he arrived at a later time.) The election of the vice--president followed. Mrs. Meyer nominated Bob Ferro; Mr. Sussman seconded the nomination. Mr. Ferro received four votes (his own, Meyer, Wezenaar, and Sussman); there were two abstentions (Baer, Nardone). Approval of the appointments of many school officials (District Clerk, District Treasurer, etc.) followed.
There was much dialogue about proceeding with a contract for afterschool programs with the Sid Jacobson JCC, or searching for other service providers. Representatives from the JCC Program discussed scholarships based on individual financial need, and their advisory council, comprised of parents, who monitored the programs and provided feedback. They expressed being very willing to work in conjunction with other groups. But Mr. Sussman believed that costs rose after the JCC took over the program, and that attendance might have fallen, which he attributed to cost and quality. On the other hand, Serena Bogucki explained that the number of "free" clubs increased at the same time, which probably impacted on the enrollment, as well as other factors. While Mr. Sussman and Mr. Wezenaar sought to form an ad-hoc committee to explore other options and generate other proposals by the August 8 BOE meeting, the majority of the BOE members felt the time was too short to truly examine other groups, and that there was not much to be gained, since the JCC offered to work jointly with others. With the former, the JCC representatives agreed. "There is no time to delay ... parents are eager to make plans for after-school," they commented. Later in the meeting, Mr. Baer made a motion to authorize the Superintendent to enter into a contract with the JCC, so the after school program is ready by the start of the school year. Mrs. Meyer said they should monitor the program through the year. Four voted in favor of the motion (Baer, Nardone, Meyer, and Ferro), which therefore will allow a contract with the JCC.
Though there was some discussion of the need for particular school computer upgrades and the numbers involved, Mark Steinberg assured the BOE that "we are not ordering more than we need." The BOE voted 6-0-1 (Mr. Zimmerman abstained), in favor of awarding the computer bid. The BOE also voted to award a bid for a security upgrade.
Partnering the Office of Civil Rights in a largely statistical monitoring study of ESL students who are classified students was something the BOE voted to advance, with a cap on expenditures for any needed consultants.
For outreach purposes, members of the board favored rotating locations for meetings during the school year. Mr. Wezenaar suggested adding summer meetings to address facilities issues; July 25 and August 15 were added for this purpose.
During community comments, Ellen McCulloh, representing a group of Guggenheim parents of incoming 5th graders, said that while they appreciated a teacher's line being restored in the budget, "we are dismayed that it was not specified for Guggenheim." Predicting that "Daly's fifth grade will have an average class size of 17.75, (and) we will, if we get the line, have an average class size of 19.4," she continued, "If you do not see fit to give us this line, we will have an average of 24.25." Moreover, she advanced, "In and of itself this is unacceptable, but considering that this particular class scored the lowest on the NYS English Language Arts test of our four elementary schools by a couple of percentage points -- it is wrong." Speaking of the negative impact of the space shortage at Guggenheim, she added, "Our (incoming) fifth graders might have done better if they had had the luxury of smaller class size throughout their (education) ... Do not penalize this group of students with even larger classes." One of the parents, Barry Sherman, added that he believed having just four classes of fifth graders was "the result of a series of innocent decisions," but it was possible to correct it, perhaps through the purchase of two portables. But Dr. Inserra reminded the audience that the BOE does not have the power to authorize expenditures for portables.
Facilities though are the focus of two upcoming summer BOE meetings, about which Dr. Inserra expressed his pleasure, also approving of "the settlement of differences without rancor" at this BOE meeting.