BOARD NOTES - North Shore School Board Meeting, November 7, 2013 - TEACHERS AND PARENTS PRESS BOARD TO REINSTATE MIDDLE SCHOOL PHYS. ED. TEACHER - TRUSTEES LABBATE AND JONES DRAFT AND INTRODUCE STANDARDIZED TESTING RESOLUTION - DISCUSSION OF DISTRICT TESTING PHILOSOPHY AND MISSION/VISION STATEMENTS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT PROCESS
PRESENT: Board President Herman Berliner, Vice President Tom Knierim, Trustee Amy Beyer, Trustee Sara Jones, Trustee Toni Labbate, Trustee Michael Nightingale, Trustee Marianne Russo, Superintendent Ed Melnick, Assistant Superintendent Rob Cheblicki, Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia Buatsi, District Clerk Betty Ciampi
At the start of the meeting, Board President, Dr. Herman Berliner, read a statement that had been prepared by the district’s legal counsel stating that under state law, and to protect the privacy rights of employees, the district could not comment on personnel issues. He stated that legal counsel has been conducting an investigation, and that that investigation would be concluded within a week to ten days, and that the Superintendent would make a determination regarding the allegations at that time. (Click here for the full statement that is included in the article “North Shore Faculty and Parents Press School District")
North Shore Schools Federated Employees President Bruce Fichtman then read a statement on behalf of the faculty regarding North Shore Physical Education teacher, Aaron Kozlowski, and the District’s actions on the matter. He expressed several concerns that included: the expense of conducting an investigation "with zero evidence to justify such a course of action;" due process issues; the willingness of the district to defend teachers against untruthful and baseless claims; and, limits on free speech (Click here for full statement).
Following the union president’s comments, several parents from the community came to the podium in succession to speak regarding Mr. Kozlowski.
The first speaker questioned the board’s decision to expend district resources on an investigation, when the charges had been dismissed for lack of evidence after a long investigation by the District Attorney’s office. The speaker stated that Mr. Kozlowski should have been re-instated on September 28th – the day after the dismissal of charges. He continued that he was concerned about teachers “being scared out of their wits” when they meet with students for extra help.
Amy Manzone of Glen Head encouraged the board to take “righteous action” on the matter. She said that “There have been school boards that have been focused and clear when called on to make moral decisions and take action.” She cited the Little Rock Arkansas school board in the 1957. “The members of that school board,” she said, “were brave and righteous people.” While the circumstances are different from Little Rock she said, “the basic concept is the same – the school board is supposed to act with integrity.” She continued that the school board has been “given the opportunity to show the community that they are agents of truth.” “When the school board has the opportunity to restore someone’s reputation, only silence is spoken,” she said. “Students are taught to be upstanders while their school board stands immobile, frozen, and fearful.”
Gwen Lennon of Sea Cliff stated that she was greatly angered by slow pace of the district’s investigation into allegations against Mr. Kozlowski, and that it has hurt the reputation of the district..
Eugene Alletto said that he was concerned about the lack of transparency of the School Board concerning what the procedures are and the length of time so that “no one in the community is standing around guessing.”
A Glen Head resident declared “enough is enough,” and expressed concerns over the impact of the ordeal on Mr. Kozlowski and his family, and that “he deserves his life back.”
Another parent expressed his support for Mr. Kozlowski, saying that several parents and community members have for the last few meetings to come to his support, while that any detractors there may be “have not shown up.” The court concluded, he said, that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Mr. Koslowski. “It is time to give Aaron his job back,” he said. “It is time for the board to lead from the front. All of the necessary due diligence has been completed. Reinstate Aaron immediately.”
Roz Johnson said that Mr. Kozlowski is an excellent teacher and coach, who is greatly respected by his players.
Another parent stated that coach Kozlowski is a great leader, and “that’s what we need from you guys.” “I implore you, please,” he continued, do not let this man linger on. Just do the right thing, show some leadership, and get it done.”
Trustee Marianne Russo made a motion to amend the minutes from the 10/24 meeting. She said that under “Old Business” the minutes stated that she is not in favor of moving forward with IB. Ms. Russo said that she wanted the minutes "to be corrected to say that she had concerns with moving forward with IB” and to list the reasons for her concerns. There was some discussion over what meeting minutes traditionally include. Trustee Beyer stated that the reasons for concern that Trustee Russo stated were listed further down in the minutes. The board agreed to approve the minutes amended to read that Trustee Russo expressed concerns about moving forward with IB at this time given the current fiscal outlook.
DISCUSSION - District Mission and Vision Statement and 2010 White Paper on Testing
Dr. Melnick stated that he believed the board’s discussion needed to go beyond the 2010 White Paper on Assessments, and that the Mission and Vision Statements should be revisited. He said that the District withdrew from Race to the Top but that that did not mean the district’s students were exempt from having to take the grades 3-8 assessments, or that APPR no longer applied. He said that it just meant that district was foregoing $4000 in funds, and that the district could use its own data dashboard – “Power school.”
Thursday evening’s board discussion began with a review of the District’s mission and vision statements which Dr. Melnick said were adopted in 2003 and two years ago reviewed by the Committee for 2022 and reaffirmed by the board at that time.
The Mission statement reads, in part, “Our mission is to nurture and enrich our students’ natural delight in learning and in the powers of mind and body. . . to foster in our students those qualities of character consonant with the ideals of a democratic society. . . and [to maintain] a learning environment that encourages inquiry and builds its daily practice upon respect for oneself and others.”
The Vision statement follows -“Our schools shall provide a well-articulated program that meets the needs of each of our students for life and work in a “knowledge society,” in a fashion that reflects North Shore’s philosophy of education; is developmentally appropriate; and is properly responsive to state and national standards as well as the views of discipline-based professional organizations.”
During Thursday’s discussion, both Trustees Tom Knierim and Sara Jones stated at the outset that they believed that the statements did not need to be changed significantly. “The essence of the mission statement is exactly what we want it to say.” Trustee Jones said. “The real concern is that students are not getting a real love of learning out of school . . . and the testing has twisted what we want to do.”
Trustee Amy Beyer said that she believed the Vision statement ought to be updated a bit to include preparing students for a “global or technological society.” Trustee Knierim added that he would like to see “international” added to the clause that states that the district’s educational program is “responsive to state and national standards.”
Trustee Labbate stated that she agreed with Trustee Beyer’s suggestion and that perhaps “college and career readiness” could be added somewhere. She said she believed the board needed to send a message to state policy makers with a resolution similar to what other districts have adopted. “We don’t want high stakes standardized testing to undermine the high quality education we are offering.” She said. Ms. Labbate then distributed a copy of the resolution that she and Trustee Jones had developed, and read it to the full board. (Click here for the full resolution.)
With regard to high stakes standardized testing, one recital states that “overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators' efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy. “ And another that, “ the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate.”
The resolution then calls on state and federal education officials to reexamine their current student and teacher assessment policies, and “to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools . . . and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.”
In addition to calling for state and federal reforms the resolution expands on the district’s mission and vision statements.
“The mission of the North Shore Central School District” another recital reads, “is to inspire all students to be confident, passionate learners with the courage and skills to lead their lives with integrity, while contributing to our global community with creativity and compassion;” and that “prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being.”
The resolution then calls on the district to minimizing the impact of high stakes testing on the district’s educational program by emphasizing “district measures of teacher effectiveness” and “district measures of authentic student progress and engagement over state measures and standardized test scores.” It continues, “scores from state mandated testing will not be used beyond what state and federal law requires.” In addition, the resolution states that the District “will minimize the impact of standardized testing by limiting test practice.”
With regard to the new Common Core Curriculum, the resolution states that the standards will be evaluated “to determine which are not developmentally appropriate for our students and minimize their impact on our teaching and learning.” In addition, the district “will emphasize a curriculum rich in all areas of education including but not limited to art, music, science, social studies and foreign languages, and will actively work to prevent a narrowing of our educational standards to match those of Common Core Learning Standards.”
The Board and Dr. Melnick offered minor modifications of Trustee Labbate and Jones’ proposal. There was a suggestion that “technology, athletics, English and Math,” be added to the list of emphasized areas.
Trustee Amy Beyer expressed concerns that there was a contradiction between one section and the District’s 2010 white paper on test preparation, and that the inconsistency had to be reconciled. She wanted also to make sure that the resolution was consistent with state law.
Dr. Melnick said that District legal counsel would have to take a look at it.
Board President Herman Berliner stated that he believes the “resolution is better than the mission and vision statements and incorporates points that should be in” those statements. He said that there is nothing in those statements "that talks about a diverse democratic society and that is the fabric of our society today.” He also added that he liked the line about promoting in students a sense of integrity. He continued that any mission and vision statement has to “aspire for our graduates to be critical thinkers.” He said that he believes the mission and vision statement should be updated to reflect “our values and society’s values” in 2013.
Trustee Tom Knierim suggested that a statement be included supporting the district’s professional staff.
Dr. Melnick said there might be a contradiction between the wording of the resolution and the section of the 2010 white paper that said test preparation would be “regularly imbedded in instruction” and that teachers would help students with “strategies for success” on standardized tests, and that that should be worked out for consistency.
Trustee Nightingale stated, “This is a wonderful piece of work. Thank you for getting it done.”
Trustee Jones addressed Dr. Melnick’s comment, stating that she believed the section he referenced from the 2010 white paper was a “radical shift” from the sentiment expressed in a 2007 district statement on test preparation, and that the 2007 statement is “much closer to where we want to be.”
Trustee Marianne Russo said that she did not believe there was a contradiction between the 2010 white paper and the district’s vision statement. She said that her interpretation of the statement is that students need to be instructed in the format of the test. She said that it is “necessary to give the kids the strategies to do well on the tests.” She explained how her child did “very well the year everyone else’s score dipped and that it was because he had a tutor and teachers who gave him the strategies. . . . not that it mattered what he got on the test anyway.” She said that if test preparation was imbedded in the curriculum there might not be the need for as much of the Kaplan type review book test preparation.
Trustee Knierim said that perhaps it was the implementation of the test preparation that was the problem rather than the phrase itself.
Trustee Beyer agreed – “it’s not necessarily what’s written, it’s the implementation of it.” She continued that the 2007 white paper was interpreted as “there shouldn’t be any test preparation at all.” She said that a simple sentence providing clarification would perhaps solve any problems regarding interpretation.
Trustee Labbate stated that with the 2010 reaction to test scores and the subsequent white paper, the pendulum swung too far in one direction with overemphasis on test preparation and that the district needed to send a different message – and “not a message about balance, but a message about educating our students and how they’re educated.” She said she did not believe students needed to learn the strategies over and over again through every grade of schooling. She continued that she did not believe the tests came close to “giving us the whole view of a child,” and as a result, “we need to minimize what these tests mean to us.”
Dr. Melnick stated that he was concerned about “having our teachers’ backs.” “I trust the faculty to engage and motivate and bring passion to our students. And that the “tenure standard is very high” “I’m not worried about the quality of education our kids will get without this pressure here, but I do think there needs to be a board statement about having the backs of our teachers.” He said that when scores are published and released by the Commissioner, the district needs to be able to say to the community how it is measuring the quality of its teachers and educational program. He stated that the district may need to be “more concrete” as to what those measures are. We need to be prepared to “not allow teachers to hang out and dry” if they receive a low rating on the state portion of their evaluation.”
Trustee Russo said that it is “fundamentally unfair to send kids unprepared for the test. And I do think whether you like it or not the reality is that we as a district are judged by how we do as a whole on these standardized tests. And I do think it is about finding balance.” She said that she knows that people are concerned with what their kids get on the tests and that the district “cannot ignore the realities of testing.
Trustee Beyer stated that there needed to be preparation but that there should not be over-emphasis on the test preparation.
Trustee Nightingale stated that he agreed with Trustees Russo and Beyer and that it is “disingenuous not to expose kids to at least some standardized testing to give them an advantage,” but stated that he agreed with Trustee Labbate that perhaps second and third grade is too young to start that process. He agreed with Dr. Melnick that there needs to be protection of teachers.
Trustee Knierim said that he believed it was about finding the right balance, and that the district has shown that it can be at the top with regard to test scores if it focus on test preparation, but questioned whether that was best for students educationally, and therefore there needed to be “balance.”
Trustee Labbate said that she would like the educators in the district to identify what is developmentally inappropriate about the common core.
President Berliner said that he believed that board wanted a balanced approach, but it needed to determine what a balance approach is and that teacher input was necessary to make that determination.
Dr. Melnick said that he would like to establish a committee of faculty, administrators and board members to review some the issues that had been raised and to determine how the district would measure those things that standardized tests fail to measure.
Dr. Berliner stated that the Resolution, after being reviewed by board counsel, would be put on the agenda and voted on at the next meeting, and that the language of the white paper concerning the district’s testing philosophy would be taken up by a committee – either a the policy committee or a committee formed for this particular purpose.
Trustee Beyer said that she believed that the district had a responsibility to prepare students for the tests.
Trustee Labbate questioned whether that was appropriate at elementary school – especially in the early grades.
Trustee Russo said that if test preparation was introduced in the elementary grades and a part of regular instruction, the district would not have to do so much preparation with the test prep books and so it wouldn’t be such a “shock.” She said by the time students get into the 6th, 7th, or 8th grades, “they will have it down and will understand and will have the strategies in place.” “If you wait until later on, that’s when you come home with the big Kaplan book – that’s what we’re really trying to avoid.”
The full board agreed that the resolution would be put up to a vote at the next meeting, after district counsel had an opportunity to look it over to make sure that there were no inconsistencies with state law.
Lisa Albanese, Glen Head, expressed concern that her 5th grade daughter has been given a lot of test prep and has not been able to develop her love of learning. She questioned how would students who have been overly test-prepped, and not really “educated,” be able to survive in high school when they are called on to do more high level, critical thinking. Dr. Melnick said that he thinks that they will do very well. He said that he has observed teachers “try in every way possible to engage their students in critical thinking.” He said that we need to think about how we go about re-engaging students who have been turned off to education. Ms. Albanese said that she is worried about the “5th graders when they get to the middle school because they are not the same type of students that the older kids are.”
Noah Blumenthal, Sea Cliff, complimented the Board on how the trustees interacted with each other at this evening’s meeting. He said that he was concerned about the tenor of the comments during the first public comment section of the meeting. With regard to testing, he said that he is not for a balanced approach. He said as far as test preparation goes, there is no reason to start prepping students in elementary school for tests later on down the line like the SATs. A six week review course can take care of that, he said. He said he disagreed with the earlier statement that it would be unfair to students to not prepare them for the tests. It wasn’t unfair to not prepare them in 2009, he said. He said what’s fair to them is getting them prepared for the tests that really matter, and that wouldn’t be until they reach high school. He then made a distinction between developmentally appropriate and developmentally possible and said that it appears that much of the common core standards are based on what is developmentally possible, but not developmentally appropriate. He said that we can teach kids these things, but that we will “just destroy their minds.”
Tim Madden, Sea Cliff, requested that the results of the the CogAT, 4th grade state science tests, and the practice ELA and Math tests that are administered be communicated to parents, especially since communication of results was stated in the 2010 white paper as an important part of assessments. In addition, he asked about the use of the Northwestern Evaluation Association assessment that is now being administered in the fifth grade. Dr. Melnick said that NWEA is an individualized computerized assessment that adjusts to students responses and can vary the level based on student performance. The purpose of the assessment was to create individualized learning plans for E-Spark, an I-Pad based program that 5th graders will be using. Asked if NWEA was multiple-choice, Asst. Superintendent for Instruction, Robert Cheblicki said that it was, but that it was a diagnostic assessment that was useful for placing students at an appropriate level for E-Spark. With regard to test prep, Mr. Madden said that he has tutored many students to do well on an assessment knowing that they continued to have serious weaknesses in a subject area. That is fine for high school students, he said, who are trying to market themselves to colleges, but can be harmful to students in elementary and middle school. He said that when students are prepped for tests, it can have the effect of masking or concealing weaknesses and deficiencies that need to be addressed. Dr. Melnick said that he agreed, and that the opposite can happen as well, where test results can give “false negatives” indicating a problem when in fact there really isn’t one.
Larry Ruisi, Glen Head, said that he completely understands the need to respect confidentiality, but that it is also important for the District to make it clear to the community what the process is. He said it would have been good for the District to present a “skeleton” of the process to show the community, and make it clear what stage the district was at, as the process progressed. With regard to the testing and vision statement discussion, he said he believed that the teachers ought to be involved and that LAC should be involved as well. He said providing direction is important but what matters most is how to get going in that direction. He said that “rapid application development,” something that is increasingly being used in the business world, was a good approach to doing that.
Rob Casella of Glen Head Resident expressed concern that his 5th grade child has now been introduced to a third different math program since beginning elementary school, and that it was a bit of disservice to those students to switch gears so many times. He said that he believes third graders should be using the same program that k-2 is using since that is seen as the preferable program going forward. With regard to testing, he said he wholeheartedly agreed with Trustees Russo and Beyer and a “balanced” approach. He said test prep was important and responsible – that there is an economic cost of everyone getting “1’s” and “2’s” with the need to provide academic intervention services. He said the other problem with academic intervention is that kids get pulled out of the classroom and are missing important things. He said he has more of a problem with the pre-tests than the prep-tests that are given. Dr. Melnick suggested that Mr. Casella call Dr. Smythe the Math director to discuss the elementary math program.
A resident of Glen Head, who is both a parent and a teacher in the District said that she had concerns about the NWEA tests. She said it pushes kids high and higher to the point of frustration. She said her child, who typically does very well, broke down while taking the NWEA test. She said that we need to do what is mandated by the state and draw the line there to “stand up for what we believe in and we need to show that to our children.” She continued that teachers know their children very well and work with those children day in and day out. Every teacher knows their children and they pride themselves on that. She said that the non-essential tests should be eliminated. We need to be there for our children – not only for their academics, but their emotional state as well.
Eugene Alletto, Glen Head, said that he was never good at taking tests, but that he has nonetheless done fine. He said he is concerned that many students have not learned how to deal with failure. He said failure is a valuable learning experience, and that knowing how to deal with it is important for achieving success later in life. He said the district should be teaching kids how to take tests, but that pressure should not be put on them. Mr. Alletto also said that the community should be involved in developing a vision statement and that a questionaire should be sent out to residents.
A Glen Head parent asked about the cost of guest speakers - $600 for a financial aid speaker and $500 to talk to parents about the college process. She said that seemed wasteful. Dr. Melnick, said that parents have said that the speakers’ presentations have been very valuable, and that the financial aid speaker helps parents navigate all of the financial aid options. Dr. Melnick said the both speakers provide a valuable service. The resident also asked about APPR and the possibility of upping the district proportion of the total score. Dr. Melnick stated that already 80% is based on the district measure, and that the state requires that 20% be based on the state measure for courses that have a state exam. He said that virtually all district teachers fell within the effective or highly effective range on the district measure. She expressed concern about the pressure put on the teachers.
Pooja Veera of Glen Head, referring back to the testing resolution asked how evaluation at the local level could supersede evaluations at the federal level. Trustee Beyer said that that district legal counsel would be looking at the resolution.
COMMITTEE AND CONFERENCE REPORTS
Trustee Russo reported on the Construction steering committee meeting on Oct. 22 – electrical work is continuing on the Victorian house; track and field repairs have been postponed to the spring; The Construction Committee is looking into solar energy at high school and possibly the Middle School; masonry at glen head, MS cafeteria renovation has been completed; SEQR has been approved for bond projects and that there was a tour of bond projects on October 28th guided by John Hall; the hole in the fence at the high school by the LIRR tracks has been closed and signs have been posted.
D – Personnel – approved
E – Legislative Action committee bylaws were amended to allow up to nine members. Trustee Knierim raised the issue that the terms of the nine members were not properly staggered, with three members being up for appointment each year. The board agreed that would be adjusted and taken care of at the next meeting.
F- Roger Friedman, Deborah McDermott and Carol Remy were appointed to the Legislative Action Committee.
G – Tom Murphy was reappointed to serve as chair of the Legislative Action Committee
H-M – Approved
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
Deb McDermott of Sea Cliff – Said she agreed with Trustee Jones point during the testing discussion that the district needed to come up with alternative measures to the state assessments. She said that Brown University has published some studies on engagement metrics.
Tom Murphy of Sea Cliff – asked for clarification of the process on the personnel issue that was discussed earlier and the role of the Superintendent and the School Board. He asked if it is ultimately the Superintendent’s decision and if the Board could override the Superintendent’s decision. Dr. Berliner repeated a section of his opening statement – “Once counsel’s investigation is completed, which will be concluded in the next week to ten days, that the Superintendent will make a determination and report it to the board." Mr. Murphy asked if that was the final decision, or does the board have the option to overrule. Legal Counsel said that if the Superintendent recommended charges it would go through the 3020-a process and that it would then go to the board for a probable cause hearing. If the Superintendent determines otherwise, she said, then there would be a re-instatement. Dr. Melnick explained that "it is the superintendent's decision whether or not to bring charges. . . . If the Superintendent recommends charges, the Board has the obligation to determine if there is probable cause to move forward with those charges." (Click here for article on the process)
Trustee Beyer – Said that there was a comment about the LAC committee perhaps being involved in a committee to discuss assessments. She said she believed the purpose of LAC was to pursue legislative solutions and that their involvement would come in after the district decided what it wanted to do about the state assessments.
Dr. Melnick raised the issue of how public comment procedures would stated on the next meeting Agenda. He said that the language that appeared on this week's agenda was a case of bad timing and not intended to restrict speech. He said guidelines ought to appear on on the next meeting agenda, but perhaps should be worded differently. He suggested that each Trustee e-mail recommendations to him about what should appear on the next agenda.
Trustee Nightingale stated that his understanding was that the board was prohibited from commenting on personnel issues but that that prohibition did not apply to the public. Dr. Melnick replied that board policy states what was stated on the Agenda. Trustee Beyer said that past practice has been that positive comments about personnel have been allowed, but that it is an issue when there are negative comments made about an individual in public. Dr. Melnick said that he would draft something that would be a “more eloquent” way of stating what is presently there based on trustee feedback, and that the policy sub committee would look into changing the language in the board policy.
BOARD RECONVENED IN EXECUTIVE SESSION to discuss matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
Copyright 2014, Northwordnews.com, Sea Cliff, New York. All rights reserved