Officially installing the winners of the May 16 elections, the Port Washington Board of Education held its reorganization meeting for the 2006-07 school year on Wednesday, July 5. Rob Seiden and Mark Marcellus retained their respective positions as board president and vice president in unanimous votes.
The meeting began with a recitation of the oath of office by Superintendent Geoffrey N. Gordon, incumbent candidates Larry Greenstein and Roy Nelson, and new member Pat Foye, who received the most votes in the May election. Following the reading, Seiden and Marcellus were officially sworn in by Assistant Superintendent for Business Mary Callahan. Callahan and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and General Administration Edward Sallie then repeated the oath of office as district clerk and deputy district clerk, their additional positions. Mark Flower was later named assistant business administrator.
Dr. Gordon began the business section of the meeting declaring the 2005-06 school year "a banner year" for the efficiency and integrity of the school district.
Nevertheless, he warned, "[There is] a lot of work ahead in 2006-2007." And on that note, he laid out the board's goals for the year, including the settlement of union contracts, the formation of a budget that is "fair and responsible," curriculum mapping at Schreiber and Weber, and increased community outreach efforts.
Mr. Sallie addressed enrollment issues in the elementary schools.
Currently, Manorhaven has exceeded its expected enrollment with three kindergarten sections of 24 and 25 children and will likely require the creation of another section in order to meet board policies on class size. A recommendation on this issue is to be made at the board's next meeting. Sousa is close to exceeding maximum class sizes, which could possibly affect the number of teachers that the district needs to hire. On the other end of the spectrum, Salem has classes of 18 and 19, which could allow for one section to be deleted, saving the cost of salaries for a teacher and aides.
Schreiber and Weber are in a "very dangerous position" because of class sizes, Dr. Gordon said. But the administration is spreading out fractions of teaching positions to ameliorate this problem. Schreiber Principal Jay Lewis explained how adding .2 or .4 teachers could bring classes like AP American History (30 students per section) and Spanish 2A (27-28 students per section) below 25 students. There are currently no classes below 15 students at Schreiber except for a handful of advanced language classes.
Additionally, Dr. Gordon explained that the board has responded to curriculum suggestions made by Schreiber graduates by adding AP Macro- and Microeconomics and AP Psychology.
The first round of community comments followed the curriculum discussions. Bill Stocker thanked the Terry Stocker/Port Singers for their yearly $500 scholarship donation, although he expressed sorrow "that after 50 years, Port Singers is no longer active." Alan Baer wondered whether the 250 computers the district plans to dispose of could be donated to low-income families; however, Ms. Callahan explained that these computers have been "cannibalized," with their parts disassembled and added to other computers. Additionally, there are software-licensing issues.
Mr. Baer then asked what specific role the board planned to play in the expansion of intramural sports as part of the proposed Wellness Policy that was later accepted 7-0. Although the board was unable to give a specific response, Dr. Charles Piemonte, interim superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, later described the plan as a "comprehensive review" to "guide our practice." The draft explains that the policy's purpose is to protect "children's health and well-being and ... the development of good lifelong wellness practices and habits that center on healthy eating and physical activity." A Wellness Coordinating Committee will be created to give annual reports to the board.
With the Wellness Policy on his mind, Mr. Greenstein questioned the district's proposed contract with the food service ARAMACK, calling the food "not affordable, nutritious or appealing." Although ARAMACK has met all state requirements, Mr. Greenstein cited the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are not included and only processed -not grilled- chicken is used. Nevertheless, the contract was approved 6-1, with Greenstein in the minority.
The rest of the meeting was dominated by a discussion of the turf field construction at the Whitney Athletic Field, commonly called "the Pit." This is the sunken field on the north side of Campus Drive.
An Oct. 1 date was set for the field's completion with construction beginning in mid-July, which would "ensure seniors get the opportunity to get on that field in the fall season," Dr. Gordon said. Some fall sports teams' schedules have been adjusted to allow for more home games in October and November.
The board is still in talks with the Athletic Association of Port Washington, which is paying for the renovation of the Pit using donations and about $500,000 from a state grant. Upon finalization, the agreement is to be presented to the community. After construction begins, the board plans to hold a public forum about how the field will be used, as "community concerns are on our collective minds," Mr. Seiden said, later mentioning the neighboring Bible Church's complaints about possible noise problems. Residents of Montfort Hill, which backs up on the field, have joined the church in urging the board to restrict the use of the renovated field. Ms. Callahan discussed issues of safety and student parking in the Montfort lot.
Community comments continued on the theme of athletics, with Mr. Baer questioning whether Schreiber will ever have a baseball field, calling the Sousa and Guggenheim fields "atrocious." Ms. Callahan explained that the facilities committee will be getting back to the board with a list of options, but she admitted that there are no plans for a Schreiber baseball field.