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Westbury Board of Education Discusses Policies at Meeting

Dress Code, Wellness Program Among Items on Agenda

The Westbury Board of Education held its planning meeting on Jan. 13 in the high school library and provided updates on several policies including the district’s registration, student and employee dress codes and the wellness program.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Lagnado, along with Mike Gongas, a member of the Westbury Nutrition Committee, offered information regarding the district’s wellness policy.

As of 2006, New York State law required that all schools must develop a local wellness policy that involves parents, students, a representative from the School Food Authority, the school board, school administrators and the public. Lagnado said the district had already begun developing a wellness policy prior to the state’s initiative in 2006 and is ahead of the curve regarding requirements for wellness within the district.

One of the main points Lagnado and Gongas made was that all foods and beverages made available on campus comply with the guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

“We were one of 20 districts in the State that had our school lunch program audited. As a result of that, one of the items that they recommended is that our dietary guidelines should now be by the Institute of Medicine,” said Lagnado.

“We were in the top three out of 20, so we were very proud of that,” added Gongas.

“We’re so excited about the fact that the guidelines that they’re setting forth that they’re asking all the schools to do, we’ve implemented over the past few years. Everything that they’ve asked us to do we already do. There is really nothing we can do except to keep going forward and be one step ahead of what they’re doing, and we’re very proud of that,” said Gongas.

As for physical activity, a point of interest, in addition to promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, was having staff and administration act as role models for good nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Lagnado reminded attendees that the evening Adult Education program offers community classes in swimming, low-impact aerobics and strength training as well as recreational basketball.

Lagnado and Gongas noted that the district no longer holds individual birthday parties in classes, but instead the school kitchen bakes healthy cupcakes for each student in a given class at the end of each month to celebrate all birthdays in that month. This method ensures that no unhealthy or tainted goods are brought into the classrooms.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Brisbane said the district will implement an accelerated academic program for sixth-graders in math and science, which will permit students in the accelerated program to take two Advanced Placement tests (physics and chemistry) in high school rather than the current system, which only allows for one.

“It’s going to be a very intensive program for the young people. They’re going to have to take an exam and hopefully we have a nice cohort of about 25 students that will start this program. We’re excited to be getting started,” said Brisbane.

Dr. Clark-Snead also added that Mandarin Chinese will be an available world language for students in the middle school beginning in February.

Dr. Marjorie Toran, assistant superintendent for special education and special services, explained the reasoning behind the district’s ongoing re-registration program. Toran said letters were sent out to all families in the district to confirm their residency within the district – so far 70 percent of recipients have complied and confirmed residency.

In order to allocate resources and provide the best educational experience for its students, Toran noted it was essential for the district to monitor all students attending the school. To that end, the district is considering establishing an anonymous hotline to share beneficial information with the district, not only for residency but other issues as well. Toran said the district is working with other schools to observe how they handle registration and deal with the constant turnover of families moving in and out of districts.

“We need to ensure tax dollars are going where they should be going,” Toran said.

Dr. Clark-Snead gave a brief update on the district dress policy for students and staff members. Trustee Rocco Lanzilotta noted the student policy differs from that of the staff, and he called the staff policy “vague,” given the different interpretations of the term “professional attire.” Clark-Snead said the board couldn’t change the policy because the matter then becomes a contractual issue with district personnel.

All policies discussed at the meeting will be carried over for board approval at the Feb. 17 action meeting. Dr. Clark-Snead also encouraged those in attendance to express questions or concerns on a written public comment form.

“We make revisions to our policies if we have a current policy, if not we start from scratch. The committee then agrees on that policy and once we agree and look at all the legal requirements it’s forwarded to the board. That’s where we are at this point,” Dr. Clark-Snead said at the meeting.

The next board meeting will be an action meeting on Thursday, Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school’s little theater. The high school will also host a pep rally on Friday, Feb. 11 at 12:30 p.m. in preparation for the Reid/Robeson Basketball Classic the following day from noon to 4 p.m.