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Schools

Superintendent’s Column

Moving Ahead On Many Fronts

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of the first quarter of the school year, and that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The holiday season will be upon us before we know it. The fall has been filled with much activity and I would like to pause for a few moments to reflect on what’s been happening and where we’re headed in the months ahead.

 

On the academic front, New York State and the nation have been engaged in a lively and at times raucous debate about the Common Core standards and all of the new testing that has been introduced in recent years. Most of you probably know that I am not a proponent of the growing emphasis on testing, and even less enthusiastic about using tests — many of which have not even been proven to be meaningful measurements of student achievement — as a means of evaluating education professionals. Nonetheless, Roslyn has done its due diligence and has introduced new protocols for accountability, as per state guidelines. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of these changes, to say the least, and

I intend to remain a vocal participant in this ongoing discussion about how best to improve teaching and learning and prepare students for college and careers. 

 

Roslyn continues to chart its own unique path in many respects. For example, if you have been following our new “News of the Week” email features, you may have seen the piece a few weeks ago about the district’s iPad initiative. With the rollout of iPads to the ninth grade this fall, Roslyn became the first public high school in the region to put a tablet computer in the hands of every high school student (and garnered some media attention upon reaching this milestone).

Connectivity has become an indispensable necessity of the digital age in which today’s students find themselves. The commitment to giving them every available advantage requires that we continually watch the educational landscape and find the technologies that work best to reach our instructional goals. Given the very creative ways in which teachers and students have quickly learned to use these versatile devices, the initiative has been even more successful than I could have imagined when we started it a few short years ago. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that we have paid for this initiative by reallocating funds in our technology budget, and through resulting savings on books, paper and printing, and not by increasing the burden on taxpayers.

 

One of the activities that is occupying much of my time these days, and that of the Board of Education, is the development of a bond referendum for presentation to the voters later this school year.  During 2012-13, a committee of residents and staff members undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the district’s facilities and made many recommendations for improvements. An architectural firm engaged by the board has prepared an initial proposal based on those recommendations. The board has been reviewing that proposal since the end of August at nearly every one of its public meetings, including two special meetings held in recent weeks. A question I am often asked is why we are contemplating a large capital program at a time when many residents are still feeling the effects of the bad economy of the last few years. The short answer is that the school community has about a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of property and buildings, and every few decades our schools and other facilities, and the systems that keep them running, need major updating in order to protect the taxpayers’ considerable investment in these properties.

 

The longer answer can be found on the district website, where we have posted accounts of the board’s numerous discussions on this issue, and where you will find a lot of detail about the range of capital issues the district is facing. The reality is that there is only so much we can accomplish with the small capital initiatives that the voters have supported strongly in the last decade. We’ve done a lot of good work in that time, but there are projects on a larger scale that require a larger vision and a larger investment. It’s been some time since Roslyn has had a bond referendum — nearly 14 years — and we will be retiring some of our older debt in time for this new round of projects, which will help mitigate the cost to taxpayers.