All board members were present at the Oct. 5 board of education work session. Board president Nancy Cowles began the meeting by discussing how successful construction has been. She congratulated everyone who contributed, singling out Eric Vonderhorst, the director of facilities and operations, and the custodial staff. "It's nice to be able to talk about curriculum issues again," she said lightly.
Mary Callahan, the assistant superintendent for business, discussed recent flooding at Weber Middle School. Both ground water and sewer water presented great issues. The sewer issues arose with the start of construction. Ground water coming up from the floor and rain coming through ceilings has posed a problem and danger at the school, causing three inches of standing water in hallways for one day, she said. The flooding has damaged three rooms, which remain closed. Tiles lifted, and floors may need replacing.
The costly issue now at hand is a clay sewer pipe on the Weber property. Last spring, the pipe backed up into a locker room in the Weber gym, damaging student property and demonstrating that this nuisance must be ended.
Vonderhorst said his staff believes that they will find that a portion was crushed during installation of new ground water wells during construction. Vonderhorst's team has dug by hand a 14-foot-deep trench and has employed a district-owned fiber-optic camera to hunt for the break in the pipe. He said he expected to locate the break within a few days.
Callahan noted that the labor on this project is costing $7,000 per day, for which the general contractor would be liable if it turns out that the pipe was indeed damaged during construction.Currently, Vonderhorst said, his staff is snaking the broken pipe twice a day to keep it flowing and to eliminate ongoing health and safety problems at Weber.
Vonderhorst responded to board member Jean Marie Posner that they will sit down and talk about a possible long-term plan, given that the sewer pipe in question dates from the 1920s. Vonderhorst said he believes that the well pressurized and backflowed, causing the floods.
Board member Dean Nardone asked when the students would be able to use the fields at Salem and Weber. Vonderhorst replied, by late springtime but for recess only, not for athletics.
Board member Roy Nelson asked about lighting at the Salem parking lot. Vonderhorst replied that the issue was finally resolved, and the poles would be up in a couple of weeks. He noted that the Port Washington Fire Department brought in a light truck for use during Salem's open-school night.
The next discussion item was 2004-2005 board goals. Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, superintendent of schools, called for more interaction between the board and the community. The board debated whether community relations should be considered one of the main goals.
Board member Robert Seiden contended that the perceived "arrogance of the board" must be addressed at the broadest level. Posner felt that more community outreach should be integrated into goals.
Board member Mark Marcellus asked whether Gordon could develop resources within the administration to act as a liaison between the board and community. Nardone said that the board has made great strides in community relations and wanted to make sure that communication is continuing. Last year, the community relations committee didn't even meet, he noted.
Nelson stated that community relations shouldn't be made a fourth goal. Other districts have special-interest ad-hoc committees, and at this point the board should go ahead with other things, he said.
Seiden said that community relations should be the number one goal.
Callahan discussed facilities issues, including a review of the five-year plan and plans for field development. Cowles asked about playgrounds, and Callahan replied that the original plan had grouped playgrounds with fields. Marcellus said the board needed to come up with a fiscal plan. Posner stated that they shouldn't do just a band-aid job with the roofs and other capital projects. Marcellus asked how much they could really afford to spend on facilities. Cowles stated that there is not presently a wheelchair ramp or elevator outside the Weber gym.
Edward Sallie, the assistant superintendent for human resources and general administration, said the district needs to focus on establishing goals and accepting state mandates for a mentoring program. He called for an exhaustive review of salient issues and their direct impact. State mandates must parallel state certification laws. Leadership for teaching staff and objective-setting measures must be provided.
Emma Pendelton, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, distributed a list of five-year goals.
She called for improved performance and proficiency on Regents exams. She discussed aligning Port Washington with New York State standards. She spoke of increasing opportunity in terms of academic resources, stating that she wanted to remove barriers and provide advanced placement for more students. Also, she mentioned introducing the International Baccalaureate program at Schreiber.
The district currently exceeds guidelines for the "No Child Left Behind" Act, she reported, adding that a detailed analysis of achievement of students is needed. Using a formulaic analysis, at the end of five years, district officials target that 90 percent of fifth graders should meet the standard. On the grade eight assessment, 79 percent should pass, and on the high school English Regents exam, 99 percent should achieve proficiency or better. They want to look at reading and determine program objectives.
The new state mandates for student information were discussed. There is a movement toward information systems that will include all students' data. Students would receive an identification number that would follow them throughout their schooling. Through such computerized systems, their progress may be monitored.
Starting in January 2006, state assessments will be administered in every grade. The state proposes that the English Language Assessment will be given to all students in grades 3 through 8. CTB McGraw Hill will design the tests and another service will score them. The reports will be accessible by computer. Progress of individual students will be reviewed in context.
In terms of professional development, teachers will need to become familiar with this new technology. Internet safety will be extremely important, as security checks must be implemented. The district would need a full-time data administrator whose job would consist solely of collecting, inputting, organizing and analyzing the computerized educational data. The state has agreed to provide a profile of what this person should be able to do.