Written by Carolyn Levin Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
Dr. Kathleen A. Mooney has served as Superintendent of Schools for the Port Washington School District since August 1, 2012. As she approaches her first anniversary in the position, she spoke with the Port Washington News about her goals, vision and long-range plans for the district.
Port Washington News (PWN): How long have you been in the Port Washington school district?
Kathleen Mooney (KM): This is my 13th year in the district. I was hired in August 2000 as Director of Pupil Personnel Services. In 2008, I moved to central administration as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. I became interim Superintendent in August 2012, and permanent Superintendent in December 2012. I worked in other school districts before coming to Port Washington, as a special education teacher in Glen Cove, and as Director of Special Education in Malverne.
PWN: What does the passing of the school budget mean for our district?
KM: When we crafted the budget, we worked hard to stay within the tax cap levy. Our goal was to maintain our educational programs.
It is important to hear how every decision will impact the children, parents, teachers, paraprofessionals and others. Port Washington is very much a process place. I like to listen to all different perspectives.
At the beginning of our budget process, we had a $4.5 million gap between expenses and staying within the tax cap levy. In the final budget, we were able to maintain our educational programs, and also include upgrades to technology, capital improvements, and restoring the librarians. In order to do that, we cut additional supply monies for things such as field trips and materials in classrooms, as well as 14 teacher assistants. The original budget called for seven to eight elementary teacher positions to be attritioned, but we were able to keep those. This would not have been possible without an agreement with the PWTA that included salary concessions.
The technology improvements will include smart boards for all elementary school classrooms by September; 57 new smart boards will be installed.
PWN: What changes have you seen in the student body from your beginning years in Port Washington to now?
KM: Our enrollments have slightly increased. Last year, we projected our kindergarten enrollment to be 400, and we ended up with 430. This year, our projection is 376, and we are already at 380. There has been a slight increase in the Asian population.
PWN: What are the district’s strengths?
KM: Our strength is our students and their families. The teaching staff is also very qualified overall. Our sportsmanship and scholarship are often recognized. The cultural arts programs are a great asset.
PWN: At conferences you attend with other, how do you see Port Washington measuring up?
KM: We are very competitive with our neighboring districts. There are definitely areas, though, where anyone can improve. We recognized that our technology is not where it should be, so we allocated money for strengthening it. In our math program, we need to make sure that our students are fully prepared to be taught using the Common Core Standards and that our teachers have the resources to accomplish that.
In terms of enrichment programs, we could probably do a better job of differentiating instruction in all classes. Technology will help us individualize our curriculum.
PWN: Some school districts are extending the school day to 6 pm. Would you advocate for a longer school day?
KM: Extending the day is a practical issue that would be potentially problematic for us. If we extended our academic day, it would interfere with our students’ athletic activities and other extracurricular activities. These are also important for well-rounded students.
PWN: What is your view of judging teachers by test scores?
KM: It is always a problem to use test scores as the sole measure for judging teachers, administrators or students for that matter. There are many variables that can impact student performance. We believe in looking at the whole child, and we want to do that for our teachers and administrators as well.
PWN: What is new with security for the district?
KM: We have purchased a new visitor management system for all of our schools for the fall. It will scan drivers licenses when you enter every building, print out a visitor pass and maintain a database. We have also hired four additional security guards for the district. We are putting up cameras and working on scanning door locks.
PWN: What facilities work is being done?
KM: We are replacing the roofs at Weber, Schreiber, Guggenheim and Sousa. Last year, the community approved a bond for this work, which will start over the summer.
PWN: What are some of your long range plans?
KM: I am working with the Board of Education on more long range goals to improve student achievement for all students, advance curriculum and technology, maintain a safe, secure school environment, develop an educationally sound, fiscally responsible budget, and promote positive community relations. We want to provide high quality education in the most cost efficient manner. This is a challenge. The budget needs to support what we need to do educationally.
We are also always trying to find ways to generate revenue. We are looking at our facilities use policy, and developing a fee structure for the use of our fields and buildings for non-profit and for-profit groups. We are trying to cover our custodial costs. We also sold a small piece of unusable land through a community approved referendum in May 2012. This was part of the property donated to the District by the John Phillips Sousa family.
PWN: What are your coming challenges?
KM: In curriculum, we have the second year of the new APPR teacher and principal evaluation system, the K-8 math program pilot, and continued professional development on the Common Core Standards. In technology, we have the installation of the elementary SMART Boards and associated staff development, mobile laptop computer carts to begin preparing for the SED online testing requirement in 2014-2015, and the new visitor management system for security. Educational programs that are rigorous and relevant are primary goals. Most importantly, keeping the educational needs of all our students at the forefront throughout the budget development process will remain a top priority.