Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00
The Westbury Board of Education convened on July 14 for a combined planning/action meeting. The meeting primarily centered on current summer programs in the district in addition to special education contracts and services for the upcoming school year.
Several summer program coordinators highlighted the features and benefits of the different programs available, many of which encourage social and life skills and engage students by combining academics with recreation.
The grant-funded Westbury Community School program, which provides a year-round supportive afterschool environment for middle school students, offers a wide variety of activities during its summer portion, according to program director Sandra Mahoney.
“The most exciting component of the program is swimming,” said Mahoney, adding, “It’s been great to see how, in two weeks, children who could only just go into the pool can now tread water and swim 15 yards.”
Incoming sixth-graders also participate in a tour of the middle school, while all students are given lessons in healthy eating, arts and crafts, and reading and writing workshops.
In a more mathematics-centered program, the Cradle of Aviation Museum houses the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) summer enrichment classes. These classes, which are also grant-funded, are available to students entering seventh and ninth grades.
At the Cradle of Aviation, students apply physics and geometry skills by performing experiments and working on scientific case studies, such as building solar-paneled cars. The students will also visit Arkwin Industries, a Westbury-based producer of airplane parts.
“One of the things that the students are doing is learning by teaching,” explained districtwide Science Chairperson Brumsic Brandon.
“We found that the students learn well in group study activities, but they also learn quite well when they teach others. They developed a lesson plan, which they will be sharing with students from Drexel Avenue Elementary School’s summer program,” continued Brandon.
Drexel Avenue’s summer program, which serves children with special needs, offers project-based lessons in academic subjects and provides counseling and occupational therapy.
“In our program, we’re not only looking for a way to stop regression during the summer months, we’re looking for progress,” said Drexel Avenue guidance counselor Cheri DeBellis.
“When I see my colleagues during the year, they tell me that it’s very clear to see which students attended the summer program and which students didn’t. The students who have had the benefit of our six weeks of intensive instruction come to school in September ready to learn; they hit the ground running,” she continued.
High school students and graduating eighth-graders who need to recover credits and/or take summer Regents exams are also attending summer school in a rigorously academics-focused program.
Summer School Principal Kevin Ehrlich explained the program’s role in keeping students on track for graduation.
“Students can receive course credit recovery through the use of NovaNET, which is computer software that offers lessons and assessments for the subject in which they are deficient,” said Ehrlich.
“We also offer the ability to prepare for the Regents exams. If students just need a review of the course material to prepare them for the Regents in August, these classes are available to them,” he continued.
A resident in attendance was curious to know if all of this particular program’s teachers were from the Westbury School district as well as how students were selected.
“Everybody that teaches in the program, including the administration, is from Westbury,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Robert Brisbane answered.
Brisbane also stated that the students were prioritized according to need, with high school seniors given first priority, followed by high school juniors and then graduating eighth-graders.
The remainder of the meeting was mainly devoted to approving approximately 25 special education contracts between the school district and service providers for the approaching 2011-2012 school year.
The majority of the contracts pertained to various forms of need-based therapy for children in the district, including physical, psychological, speech and occupational therapy. Other contracts involved specialized services in social work, tutoring, vocational training, residential placement and behavior intervention.
One resident wanted to know more about why one of the contracts hired a special education consultant, including the duties of the individual as well as if services were provided on-site or elsewhere.
Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Dr. Marjorie Toran replied that the individual provides on-site coaching to teachers in the middle school “to ensure that classroom teachers are providing best-practices education to students” in both self-contained special education classes and integrated classes.
The board also approved several routine items, including cocurricular clubs for the middle and high schools and NJROTC Basic Leadership Training for Westbury High School cadets.
There were also some special items on the agenda. The board, as well as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Constance Clark-Snead, offered congratulations to Westbury High School scholarship winners Nerly Moise, Brandon Mapp, Hugh O’Brien and Joyous Pierce. Each student received a $250 scholarship from the Westbury Cricket Club for excellence in academics and sports.
The board was also pleased to approve two donations to the district, including an automatic external defibrillator from The American Heart Association and 30 laptops from Comp4Kids.org, a Long Island-based organization that provides low-income families with access to computers.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 7:30 and will be another combined action/planning meeting. For more information, visit www.westburyschools.org.