The Dec. 6 board of education's regular business meeting focused on the district's electoral process, interscholastic athletic policy, driver education and important decisions regarding the Manorhaven School roof.
Robert Seiden, the president of the school board, began with a clarification of the events that ultimately forced the district to pay back $1,700,000 to the state. The district was required to pay because of improperly recorded documents relating to various capital projects, such as roof constructions. The mismanagement transpired during the late 1980s, and since then, the district has tried to legally re-create the documents needed. Unfortunately, Mr. Seiden said, Albany was still concerned that a lack of a complete paper trail would let the district "misconstrue" state aid. In deliberations with the State Education Department, Dr. Geoffrey N. Gordon, the current superintendent, who came to the district more than 10 years after the events in question, persuaded the state to allow the district to pay over the course of three years, thus alleviating the financial burden put on a district already facing contingency.
Voter registration procedures for school elections were discussed by Mary Callahan, the assistant superintendent for business, who outlined three possible changes the board might choose to make. Currently, the district follows an "on demand" registration policy, under which people can register to vote the day of the election. The only checks in place to prevent voter fraud are two questions that the district hopes the voter will answer honestly: whether the registrant is a U.S. citizen and whether the registrant has been a resident of Port Washington for at least 30 days.
Ms. Callahan noted that Port Washington is one of the few districts with on-demand registration. The board's concern with this process was the possibility of voter fraud occurring. "Many people do not know the definition of 'resident,'" said Dr. Gordon, who was worried that students away at college or those who have some real estate in Port Washington will vote that day and cloud the voting pool. Dr. Gordon made it clear that to be considered a resident of Port Washington, a registrant must have been living in town for at least 30 days up to the point of the election, not 30 days in the past.
Ms. Callahan suggested that the board pass a resolution implementing "personal registration" for all school district votes. The change would assign four representatives to be available on certain days to register new voters. This system would, it is hoped, dissuade fraudulent voters, as they would have to be aware of and interested in the vote a considerable amount of time before the actual election.
Ms. Callahan suggested that the board move to "continuous registration." If accepted by a community vote, a district representative would be responsible for registration all year long. This method would ultimately lead to a more honest election as people would be required to register far in advance and answer a series of questions proving residency.
Rose Bonanno, the director of health and physical education, gave a PowerPoint presentation on interscholastic sports. The presentation explained the requirements with which students must comply to participate in sports. Ms. Bonanno added that the district needs a new track at Schreiber, as well as new bleachers and a press box.
The main order of business at the meeting was making the final decision on how to carry forward with the Manorhaven roof. Burton, Behrendt and Smith, an architectural firm, was asked to prepare an in-depth report on the condition of the roof. In his report, Robert Smith of BBS found that the original roof was constructed in 1951. On top of the original roof, sections of EPDM, a ply sheet, were added. On some sections of the roof, repairs were done by adding additional layers of asphalt shingles.
BBS found in its tests that the section of roof on top of the library had moisture trapped in it before the EPDM was added. Also, in spots where roof leaks were reported, BBS found poor construction of the original skylight. The poor seals had cracked and allowed water to pass into the roof. Smith found that the lower level of the roof is sound, though many of the layers covering it are "saturated." In asbestos and airborne mold tests, BBS found that the original asphalt shingles contain asbestos, but assured the board that asbestos is commonly found in older buildings and can be removed safely. Airborne mold was found in the kitchen/food preparation area. In its recommendation, BBS concluded that the entire base level of asphalt shingles must be removed and properly rebuilt. Also, the library and cafeteria roofs must be completely replaced down to the substrate. Prolonging the situation only makes the situation much worse and much more unsafe, and soon water damage may result, Smith said.
BBS estimates the cost of the entire project, including the replacement of all roof systems, exhaust fans and other repairs, to be approximately $1.6 million. To expedite the state's approval, due to contingency budget, BBS recommends the project be moved to an "emergency" situation. In this case, the state will approve the project quickly, which would allow BBS to begin drawing plans and eventually send the project out to bid.
The board decided to declare the situation an "emergency" and pay for the repairs with an unappropriated fund balance in the sum of $1.5 million. The rest of the funds required will be found in the coming 2006-07 budget.
Neil Miller, the driver education instructor at Schreiber, spoke about the importance of including driver education in the school curriculum. Miller said it is critically important to have educated drivers on the streets of Port Washington and argued that the drivers' education program offered as an extracurricular does not provide the necessary education to students. The board acknowledged Mr. Miller's concern and added that they will discuss it in the upcoming budget. Also, in community comments, parents of sixth-grade students expressed concern that Math Olympiads, an enrichment program, had been discontinued. The parents want to see the program reinstituted because they feel it was intrinsically valuable to the education of their children and provided a fun and exciting way to learn math while being challenged.