Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00
On the evening of Aug. 25, the Westbury Board of Education held its final meeting before the 2011-2012 school year. Primary items discussed included state assessments for pupils and educators, as well as contract approvals for services for the upcoming school year.
In her Superintendent of Schools report, Dr. Constance Clark-Snead informed the public that the board plans to conduct presentations on student state assessment results during the month of September.
“We will have a very thorough analysis of the results, and we hope to have our principals available to talk about the strategies that they have implemented to ensure that students are making progress,” said Clark-Snead.
She added that all of the schools met AYP (Average Yearly Progress), but that “there is still a lot of work to do” with certain student populations, including ESL and special education students.
Clark-Snead also discussed the state’s new evaluation process for educators, known as APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), and identified some of its anticipated impacts on the district.
“The APPR is an evaluation of both teachers and administrators based on student achievement,” stated Clark-Snead, before briefing the audience on the controversy that has taken place within the state over the use of student data in the evaluation process.
“We, as a district, will have to collaborate with our unions,” she continued, indicating that the district would first be working with administrators because their contracts are currently in the process of negotiation.
The BOE is required to send a draft plan to the state outlining the specifics of how they intend to address the new regulations.
“We will post the plan on our website as soon as it has been reviewed and approved by the board,” said Clark-Snead.
Much of the remainder of the meeting consisted of approving contracts for various services for the upcoming school year, including SAT preparation classes, a financial aid guest speaker for Westbury High School students and an ESL adult program for parents of students in the district.
In response to a question from a resident, the board discussed details for a reading comprehension software program that received approval. The program, called Fast ForWord, will be piloted in Powell’s Lane and Drexel Avenue elementary schools.
“This program allows children who have difficulty in reading to improve their reading through brain exercises,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Robert Brisbane.
The software is expected to boost reading levels by one to two grade levels over an 8-12 week period by targeting cognitive skills and memory.
“The software company especially discussed the program’s ability to help students with limited English proficiency to improve their reading comprehension and listening skills,” added Brisbane.
After meeting in executive session, the board returned to the public forum to announce decisions on personnel items.
A resident expressed concern that this portion of the agenda may not have been made available to the public in a timely manner before the meeting. The board responded that this issue would be taken into consideration for future meetings.
The board then approved, with some adjustments, a list of staff contracts for tenures, appointments and retirements.
Special recognition was given to Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Dr. Marjorie Toran, who retired after 30 years of service to the Westbury School District.
Stated Toran, “It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve Westbury as a teacher, as a coordinator of special education, as a director of special education and finally, as an assistant superintendent.”
She continued, “I am passionate about this community and I am passionate about these children. We are facing very difficult times, but if we can keep in mind as we move forward that we are here for the children, I think that whatever decisions we make will be in the right direction.”