The Oct. 11 board of education meeting opened with a crowd of about 65 people. The back rows were closed off with yellow tape, preventing anyone from sitting too far back. The meeting focused on test results, donations from the district to Hurricane Katrina victims and a draft report on the five-year facilities plan.
The president of the board, Rob Seiden, began by congratulating the high school's varsity football team, discussing the district's new audit committee and thanking all who participated in the dedication of the Major Douglas T. Jacobson Memorial Wing at Weber Middle School on Oct. 7. He particularly thanked the Weber HSA, which helped put together the presentation.
Seiden said he plans to hold "town hall" meetings, conversational sessions for adults and parents who cannot attend board meetings. The meetings may begin by the end of the calendar year. Another meeting is likely at the end of the school year.
The floor was opened for comments. Daniel Donatelli, co-president of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, thanked the members of the board and the ad hoc committee for placing a membrane extraction system underneath South Salem Elementary School. "This is a wonderful example of the great things that can happen when people work together," he said.
Robin Schroeder asked for better security personnel at Guggenheim School on Election Day. Randy Hirsh, parent of a child at Guggenheim, said the community needs to take care of its own now instead of raising money for those affected by the hurricanes in Mississippi. Frank Russo said he opposed cuts in sports programs and busing. Joel Katz, a member of the Port Washington Education Assembly, asked the board to formally consider opening a polling place on the northwest side of town, in addition to the all-purpose room at Weber, for district elections. He suggested using Manorhaven, Sousa or the Manorhaven Village Hall.
Tessa Jordan, executive vice president of the Port Washington Teachers Association, ended the night's comments and sparked a round of applause after she discussed teacher salaries and compared Port Washington to other districts in Nassau.
The superintendent's comments included a special presentation by Edward Sallie, assistant superintendent for human resources and general administration, who discussed enrollment numbers. A new program, Writing Across the Curriculum, requires students to give written details on how they arrived at their answers on tests and homework in all disciplines. "It shows what our students and teachers are doing," Salle said.
It's "an example of just how far on the cutting edge the district is," Superintendent Geoffrey N. Gordon remarked. "This is one of the ways our board is moving forward. I'd like to thank our students and staff." Much of the night was devoted to discussion of recent standardized test scores. For fourth-grade test results, Gordon said, Port Washington has achieved its highest test scores yet, with 61 percent of students achieving the top level of expertise, up from 36 percent in 2001. Eighth-grade results showed the greatest improvement of any district in Nassau County, Gordon said, and at Schreiber, there has been a significant increase in students graduating with a Regents diploma.
"We're at the peak, and it's been like that for a while with our students," Gordon said. "Let's give these students credit, and all those who helped."
Bringing back old endeavors, Schreiber will have students evaluate the teaching staff for the first time since 1997. Board member Larry Greenstein said he wants to get students involved and that this is an appropriate way of doing so.
School principals gave an update on hurricane relief. Guggenheim has packed more than 200 boxes and has rounded up spare-change donations.
At Salem, students have been donating to Coins for Caring through Commerce Bank. At Weber, there have been small student donations as well as staff involvement through auctions and raffles. All the schools have worked to help the Osborne family, refugees from Katrina who are living with a relative here in Port Washington.
"It's important for kids to know they can make a difference," Greenstein said. "Port Washington always pulls through when people are in need."
Concluding the night was Eric Vonderhorst, director of facilities and operations, with a presentation on a draft of the five-year facility plan.
Since the last five-year plan was established, an estimated $9 million has been designated for repairs, he said.
"As of now, we do not see anything that is not functioning," said Mary Callahan, assistant superintendent for business, adding that nonetheless, approximately $12 million in assorted jobs must be done.
The leaking Manorhaven roof is widely considered one of the district's most pressing infrastructure needs. An architect's report on the Manorhaven roof is expected shortly.