BOARD NOTES - NS SCHOOL BOARD REGULAR MEETING, OCTOBER 10, 2013 - Minutes Approval Debate - District Withdraws from Race to the Top - But Still Must Administer Tests - International Baccalaureate Program Presentation and Discussion - Parents and Students Speak in Support of Gym Teacher and Coach - Board Agrees to Procedure for Video Recording Public Meetings
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.
Approval of Minutes - Trustee Knierim made a motion that the minutes of the September 26 meeting be amended. He said that the minutes included public statements by a trustee referencing a confidential executive session discussion regarding the company Syntax. He requested that the minutes be "collapsed" to indicate only that a discussion about the Syntax contract had taken place "to avoid inadvertently disclosing the context of the executive session discussion." Trustee Marianne Russo opposed the motion stating that the section of the minutes Trustee Knierim sought to strike included comments unrelated to executive session, and that she wanted her reasons for voting no on the Syntax contract to be included. Trustee Beyer stated some of what what was in the minutes was o.k, and that the minutes should accurately reflect what was said at the public meeting since the comments that were made regarding executive session had already been published in Northwordnews. Trustee Beyer then suggested that the minutes be amended to say that Trustee Nightingale was informed by the chair not to disclose any of the confidential information that had been discussed in executive session. Trustee Nightingale said that he did not think he what he said violated executive session confidentiality requirements. Trustee Knierim said that he would withdraw his amendment in favor of Trustee Beyer's. Trustee Russo said that she believed that Trustee Nightingale had not said anything that violated executive session confidentiality. Trustee Jones stated that the minutes "can reflect that it was said that Trustee Nightingale was asked not to disclose information from executive session. Whether it was right or wrong, it happened and should be included in the minutes." Trustee Knierim then offered what he described as a "friendly amendment" that would read "the chair reminded the Trustees to refrain from disclosing in public session information discussed in executive session," without mention of names. The minutes, with Trustee Knierim's amendment, were approved 6-0 with President Berliner, who was not present at the Sept. 26 meeting, abstaining.
Superintendent's Report - Dr. Melnick said that the District had withdrawn from Race to the Top, but that grades 3-8 testing would still be required. He stated that while the District would be foregoing $4,000 in RTF funding, the District would not have to adopt Data Dashboard, which he said would cost the district more than $4,000. Data Dashboard provides educational data and instructional content to teachers, students, and families. A similar service, he said, is already provided by BOCES.
Dr. Melnick also announced the first meeting of the Superintendent's Advisory committee which would be taking place on October 15th and that more than 100 people have volunteered to serve. The issues that the committee will address include: the tax cap; LIPA decommissioning; property taxes; maintaining an infrastructure that supports changes in education; and the requirements of the 21st century school.
On October 26, he said the Viking Foundation would be holding its dinner dance at the Brookville Country Club.
SGO Report - Representatives Adriana Rubertone and Nicole reported that high school students had a great pep rally and Homecoming weekend, with the Seniors taking first place in the Spirit week class competition. In addition, they said the Key Club and Interact club sold zeppoles and cookies respectively at this past Sunday's Sea Cliff Mini-Mart and did quite well raising funds for charity.
International Baccalaureate Presentation. Dr. Melnick called on high school principal Albert Cousins to present on the District's proposed adoption of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
Mr. Cousins started by saying that some may be asking "why are we doing this when things are already good?" The answer he said is that the district was capitalizing on the school's current strengths and experiences. He added that IB deepens the current impact of the school's educational program; that it is an excellent way to prepare students for success once they are in college; and that the program required students to engage in the world in a more substantive way. IB, he said, helps all students - not just those taking IB classes in that it has a positive impact on overall school culture.
As he spoke, Mr. Cousins presented several slides in a PowerPoint presentation that gave an overview of the program. The Core Values of the program, he said, were "strategic and purposeful organization to learning"; "Global Mindedness"; and, "focusing on process rather than product." IB he said, "looks at the whole student." Mr. Cousins then introduced Ms. Candace Brody, the coordinator of the IB program.
Courses she said are divided into six groups - English Language and Literature, which she said is not only aligned with the common core, but goes beyond it; Languages other than English - which at this time includes Spanish, Italian, French, and Latin; Social Sciences which include History of the Americas, Anthropology, and Philosophy; Natural Sciences, which includes Biology, Physics and Environmental systems (which doubles as a social science offering); Mathematics; and, Arts, which includes visual arts and theater. Students seeking an "IB diploma" must take one course from each group, or one course from five and double up in one area. In addition to taking courses in the six course areas, students pursuing the IB diploma must also satisfy three other requirements - satisfactory completion of the course "Theory of Knowledge"; writing a 4,000 word research paper; and performing community service. Students not pursuing the IB diploma could still take the individual courses for a "certificate", without having to satisfy all of the IB "core" requirements.
The microphone was then handed back to Mr. Cousins who explained that IB was available to only 11th and 12th graders. Current AP courses without a comparable IB course would continue to be offered, and that the school would continue to offer two levels of study in its course offerings. All IB diploma program students, he said, will conduct ongoing focused, mentored research projects. Students may elect to sit for AP exams for any course in which the curriculum overlaps with IB.
Mr. Cousins said that the adoption of IB, was based on feedback from students, alumni and teachers; and they were looking at "what works and made students successful in college." With IB, he said, there is increased levels of research and inquiry based learning; enhanced coordination between subject areas; seamless alignment with the common core learning standards; external accountability measures that are not traditional state assessments; and, high quality professional development.
Mr. Michael Kleva, a teacher at the High School, was introduced. He explained that he received high quality professional development through the IB program, and that the program emphasizes inquiry based education and applying connections between subject areas. He concluded by thanking the community for its support.
Mr. Cousins explained that the adoption of the IB program is a three stage process. Last year was the "Consideration Phase" in which a feasibility study was conducted, staff was trained, and the application completed. This year is the "Candidate Phase" in which a consultant works with the school to make sure it is prepared. During this phase, the school develops a code of academic integrity (which had already been in place), an assessment policy, and a schedule that "maximizes students' opportunities across the board." In addition, faculty training continues. Next year, the third stage would involve actually creating the courses for implementation in the 2015-16 year for 11th graders.
Mr. Cousins then addressed how colleges view IB. He said that Ms. Brody contacted the top 20 schools that NS students apply to, and asked admissions officers about their view of IB. "The unanimous answer," he said, " was that a student who is involved in the Diploma Program is making a statement about the seriousness with which they approach their education." With regard to students who enroll in individual IB courses, Mr. Cousins said that colleges view them in the same way as students who are enrolled in AP classes. They look at their scores on the assessments - a 5, 6, or 7 on the IB, would be comparable to a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP.
The principal explained what he sees as the major difference between the AP and IB. For the AP courses, he said, "you need to know a lot of information" and that the AP assessment requires the student to respond to multiple choice questions. The IB, on the other hand, asks students to "tell me what you know about," which he said is a "totally different skill."
Mr. Cousins then turned the microphone over to Dr. Melnick who explained the costs of the program. He said that while training opportunities were available internationally, the training for North Shore teachers would be primarily local and primarily in New York, thus keeping staff development costs in check. He said that there was no additional costs for hiring an IB coordinator - that a comparable position already exists and that the IB position had "been carved out from what we already have."
The Superintendent then explained that the cost for the program this year, including the .6 for the coordinator position, is $115,000, but that it was covered by the elimination of a social studies position through attrition that, with salary and benefits, cost the district $176,000. For the 14-15 year, the cost of the program is anticipated to be $89,000, and $144,000 for the 15-16 school year - which includes the $56,000 IB registration fee. He stated that by eliminating the social studies position, the district is saving more than enough to cover the costs of IB. He continued that new programs the district adopts will not use "new money" but rather be funded by reallocating existing funds.
Dr. Melnick concluded, saying that he believes Mr. Cousins has done a "phenomenal job; that the faculty is enthusiastic about the IB program; and that they have convinced him that this is the right way to go." He recommended to the board that the District stay the course on implementing IB through 2015-16 and then re-evaluate at that point.
During the Board discussion, Trustee Marianne Russo asked for clarification about the Standard Level and High Level IB course offerings and whether only IB Diploma candidates would be eligible for the High Level Courses such as History of the Americas. Mr. Cousins stated that the higher level courses are two year courses and that they were open to all students. Trustee Russo continued that she had done some research and found that only about 20 students in Locust Valley were enrolled in the diploma program and was concerned that it was only for a small "elite" group. She also asked whether students had to make their decision to enroll in the diploma program in their sophomore year. Mr. Cousins replied that students did have to decide in their sophomore year to enroll in the diploma program but that many more students, perhaps four times as many, would choose to enroll in individual IB courses such as History of the Americas. Dr. Melnick then interjected that there are two levels - the standard level and the high level, and that the diploma students were required to take three high level and three standard level courses, but that students who chose not to enroll in the diploma program could still take individual high level or standard level courses and receive and IB certificate for successful completion. Trustee Russo expressed concerns that, because it was likely that only a small number of students would be enrolled in the diploma program, IB would not be benefiting the majority of students but only a small "elite" group. Mr. Cousins said that he disagreed with that assessment and said that the program "elevates the entire school community." He stated that in other schools, there are many students, including special education students, that take IB certificate courses. He continued that "there may be a select group that opts for the full array of classes, but the benefits are school-wide." Dr. Melnick stated that he disagreed that this was "an elite program for just a few students." "In fact," he continued, "it is just the opposite - it is a program that will elevate the level of thinking and inquiry for every student that goes through this high school." He said that the type of thinking that is promoted in the IB courses will filter into all courses offered at the high school.
Trustee Toni Labbate asked about the Arts component of IB and why it included only visual arts and theater, but not music. Mr. Cousins replied that the IB music course is a theory course and it would limit students' opportunity to participate in the music ensembles. Trustee Labbate then stated that if the district wants students to be prepared for the type of instruction and thinking that is required in the IB program, that "we cannot kill the love of leaning in Elementary School" with its emphasis on standardized test preparation, and that "we cannot create robots and expect them to do this [the IB program] in High School."
Trustee Jones asked Mr. Cousins what percentage of students he expected to receive IB diplomas. He estimated approximately 15%. She then asked if students could still sit for A.P. exams like U.S. History. Mr. Cousins replied that they could. Trustee Jones then asked whether the two year course structure created scheduling difficulties especially with regard to students having the opportunity to take electives. Mr. Cousins replied that flexibility can be an issue but was confident that the school would be able to work it out. Trustee Jones expressed concern about losing local control over curriculum and instruction with both IB and the common core. Mr. Cousins said that he has similar concerns with common core, but his issue is primarily with the assessments. He said he believed the IB program was consistent with the type of instruction that the District values and had a preferable way of assessing students compared to the common core.
Trustee Tom Knierim said that while he believed that there was direction from the program, there was local control over how the courses are structured. He asked Mr. Cousins if he agreed. The Principal stated that teachers create their own courses similar to the AP audit, in which the college board approves course curricula submitted by teachers.
Trustee Knierim also asked for assurances that the program, both through the diploma route and individual certificate classes, was open to all students. Mr. Cousins said it was.
Trustee Knierim stated that IB was the direction the district should go in, and that it is perhaps the "counter weight" to the standardized testing "mania" that the district needs.
Trustee Beyer asked for clarification of the impact of IB on existing senior programs. She said that for diploma students, the existing senior programs would not be available, but for other students, including those who take certificate IB courses, they would be. Mr. Cousins replied "yes." She also asked for assurances that there would be AP courses where there was no IB equivalent. Mr. Cousins said yes, and gave AP chemistry and psychology as examples.
Trustee Beyer asked whether kids not enrolled in the IB program be at a disadvantage when applying to college, and wanted clarification on how the program benefits all students. Mr. Cousins said implementation of IB brings about a cultural shift in how all teachers and students approach instruction and learning. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Robert Cheblicki added that implementation of IB will have a positive effect on how colleges view North Shore High School and the District as a whole, which in turn would be a benefit to all students who are applying to college.
Trustee Nightingale asked about the quality of professional development and what makes this different in terms of how it will affect instruction and the student body. Mr. Cousins stated it is a higher quality of professional development than what teachers are accustomed to seeing. He said teachers are coming back from IB training with very positive feedback and that it has changed teachers ways of thinking about instruction. Ms. Brody added that teachers return from IB training excited about the program. Mr. Nightingale asked about how many levels of each subject would be offered and expressed concerns of there being multiple levels. Mr. Cousins replied that there would only be two levels - IB and regents level, or in the case where there is no IB class, AP and regents level. Dr. Melnick interjected that IB professional development "filters into every level of class - that it is deeper thinking, inquiry based learning, understanding of knowledge and content."
Trustee Russo expressed concern that for some courses IB may provide a greater breadth of knowledge but less depth. Mr. Cousins replied that it is "just the inverse of that - that you cover less topics but do so at a deeper level." Trustee Russo said that she read a comment from a professor who taught both the AP and IB math that she thought there was an anti-American bias in the grading because some students who did well on the AP did not do as well on the IB. She asked if there are any studies comparing how the same students do on AP and the comparable IB assessment. Mr Cousins stated that it is not a good comparison because it is easier to prep for the AP which is more formulaic than the IB which is "literally open-ended questions."
President Herman Berliner said that as a college administrator he knows that college admissions officers view schools that offer the IB program in a very positive way and that the program helps students with the very sort of thinking that is necessary for success at the college level. He continued that there is a cost to IB just as there is a cost to everything the district does, but that the district is not adding on to other expenditures. He said that he is thoroughly behind the adoption of the IB program.
Julia Brennan of Sea Cliff said that she likes that in the IB program there is a coherence to the program - not just taking classes but rather a course of study.
Ms. Brennan then stated that while the school board cannot discuss personnel issues outside of executive session, the public can make positive comments about an employee. She then quoted extensively from the District Policy Manual the section on interscholastic athletics (5280). Part of the passage she read included the following: "in recruiting, selecting and retaining coaches, the Athletic Director shall seek individuals who model integrity, decency, respect and intelligence. Coaches should have a demonstrated interest and competence in the sport(s) they are coaching as well as the ability to inspire young people. They should possess the capacity or potential to be superior teachers and to build effective teams and programs." She said that her son was a goalie on the Lacrosse team, and that coach Aaron Kozlowski "fit the bill" and that he was that kind of person when he was hired, and she believes he remains that same person. She added that she hopes the board will take that into consideration the positive impact he has had on many students and players who have been under his tutelage, when deciding on his future with the North Shore School District. Herman Berliner replied, as Ms. Brennan indicated, that the board cannot talk about an individual personnel matter in a public session, but the board will always take into consideration was is best for students, faculty and staff when making personnel decisions.
Amy Manzone, of Glenwood, said, "common sense must prevail when it comes to Aaron Kozlowski." She said both her children worked closely with Mr. Kozlowski and knew him to be a man of outstanding character and that she trusted him completely to be with her children. She said that "he had suffered the worst indignity possible and the besmirching of his name. " She continued, "I just hope that now that the school board can act, it will act so that this cloud of doubt can be lifted from him. Although Newsday will not put the clearing of Coach Kozlowski on the front page, the action taken by this school board must be humane and should lift the cloud from this very unfortunate situation."
Patrica Demayo, Sea Cliff, said she was at the meeting to talk about the elementary specials program and how world languages has affected the offering of art and music. She said she believes the introduction of languages has been detrimental to the schedule, and is concerned about the reduction of time for art and music. She expressed concern that her third grade son was not getting chorus and that he was only getting one section of music instruction every six days, not the two days that Dr. Melnick had indicated in a previous meeting. Dr. Melnick responded that it is a 12 day cycle - not a six day cycle. Dr. Melnick invited Ms. Demayo to meet with him so that they could go over the schedule. Dr. Melnick also said there were "incredible push-in opportunities" that music and art teachers would be doing in the elementary classrooms.
James Patel of Glen Head asked about the hole in the fence leading to the railroad tracks at the southeastern corner of the high school track and asked what had been done about it since he raised the issue at a meeting in September. He questioned why there weren't discretionary funds available for safety issues such as this, and why the superintendent had to consult with district counsel before responding to one of his e-mails. Dr. Melnick replied that signs had been put up and the area surveyed, that the District has met with LIRR and Nassau County officials, and has worked out a cost estimate for fencing off the area. He continued that it was unfair to insinuate that the district was not concerned about safety, and that when he receives an e-mail discussing district liability, since he is not a lawyer, he has an obligation to consult district counsel. He said that he cannot spend $1800 without board approval.
Gwen Lennon of Sea Cliff said that Aaron Kozlowski was the "quintessential coach" and that he needs to "be back on the job." She continued that her children were "hurt by the actions against coach Kozlowski."
Mike Lennon of Sea Cliff said that his three sons had great experiences with coach Kozlowski, that the coach had put in a great deal of extra time in growing the Lacrosse Program, and that the situation "appears to have been a horrible hoax" and that he has been put through a horrible ordeal and encouraged the board to re-instate him as quickly as possible because "he is an exceptional young man, an exceptional teacher, and an exceptional coach."
Elias Masakoris, a 10th grade lacrosse player said that Coach Kozlowski is "a man of good character and a great coach" and encouraged the board to re-instate him as soon as possible.
Logan Kupferman, another lacrosse player, also expressed words of support for Mr. Kozlowski, saying that he was very effective in helping players establish connections with college lacrosse programs, and urged his reinstatement.
Roz Johnson stated that Mr. Kozlowski was her son's J.V. soccer coach and told of Mr. Kozlowski handling a difficult situation in a game with Mineola extremely well, modeling good sportsmanship and how to conduct oneself both on and off the field. She pressed the Board to make a decision as quickly as possible.
Steve Grahber said that Mr. Kozlowski had done a great job with his sons and that they excelled working with him. He expressed concerns that Mr. Kozlowski's ordeal would cause teachers to be hesitant to work with students on an individual basis, thinking, "that could be me." "This can happen to a teacher at any time," he said.
Michael Deleo of Sea Cliff expressed support for Mr. Kozlowski, stating that "he suffered through something that no one should have to." He said he was an excellent advocate for his players in helping them get into college and establishing contacts with college coaches. He asked if there is a process to bring a teacher back to work after he has been cleared of charges. Dr. Berliner responded, "Due diligence on our part to see what is an appropriate next step." Mr. Deleo asked if there is a written policy somewhere that provides a process. Dr. Melnick suggested that he consult the policy handbook which is on the school website, or go to the New York State Department of Education website. Mr. Deleo suggested that the board move quickly and with as little expense as possible, since, he said, the county DA has thoroughly investigated the matter.
Robert Modella, Glenwood, asked if there was an overall decline in the number of AP tests taken for schools that adopted IB. Mr. Cousins replied that initially there is actually an increase in the number of AP exams taken because it is a "known quantity", but that the numbers wane in subsequent years.
Veronica Gilligan of Glen Head, stated that "Aaron Kozlowski took an ACOD [Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal] - which means he did not admit or deny the charges brought against him." "I think that speaks volumes," she said.
Deb McDermott of Sea Cliff, stated that the IB website mentioned that there were grants available for implementation of the program and asked whether or not the district looked into that. Mr. Cousins said it was looked into, but the District's zip code alone disqualified it from consideration because the grant is based on a district wealth ratio. Ms. McDermott also commented on the length of time first graders at Sea Cliff sit without a special or lunch - from 9:05 to 1:05, and questioned whether it was "developmentally appropriate." She requested that the district consider doing something about it. She also stated that she is concerned about the drop off in time spent on the World Languages program once students enter the third grade. Dr. Melnick said that we are looking into the whole thing and that he has been getting very positive feedback about world languages and that the biggest complaint has been about the schedule.
Tim Madden, Sea Cliff, stated that he was under the impression that the change to the art and music schedule in elementary schools had more to do with the increase in time devoted to ELA and Math instruction, and was not a result of the world languages program. Dr. Melnick replied "it was a result of looking at the whole elementary schedule - Math, science, social studies, English, and character education and the amount of time in the day. Secondly it had to do with the fact that one day in every five days students were being pulled out for instrumental lessons. The other piece did have to do with the impact of World languages on classroom time." Mr. Madden stated that one observation he would make is that when Latin was in the fourth and fifth grade curriculum, it did not impact art and music instruction. Dr. Melnick replied that they were looking at the schedule. Mr. Madden then asked about the IB two year courses and whether the district had a way of addressing the needs of students who were enrolled in a class junior year but decided it "wasn't for them in their senior year," and, how that might impact taking the regents exam in a course like American History. Mr. Cousins replied that the students would receive a course grade and credit for one year of American History, and have the option to take another course in senior year. He also stated that the curriculum is structured so that the students would take the United States history regents at the end of 11th grade.
A representative of Arts Angels announced that the organization would be having a meeting on October 22 and would be discussing the changes to the Elementary Arts program.
Lisa Albanese, Glen Head, read a letter to the board from her son regarding the positive impact Coach Kozlowski has had on his players with regard to the values he instilled in them, and in being a driving force behind the growth of the North Shore Lacrosse Program.
END OF PUBLIC COMMENT
The meeting broke for five minutes.
DISCUSSION - VIDEOTAPING BOARD MEETINGS The Board revisited the issue of videotaping public meetings. Technology Director Eliot Kaye was available to answer questions. President Berliner stated that he believed that having the best quality recording was very important and supported spending $2680 on the equipment necessary for that result.
Trustee Knierim asked whether work sessions and retreats would be recorded as well. Dr. Berliner replied yes to work sessions, but no to retreats since those are not public meetings and concern the internal workings of the board. Trustee Knierim asked if the equipment could be easily moved. Mr. Kaye replied that it could.
The question of whether the meetings would be live-streamed came up (they will not) and whether the recording would appear on the website or somewhere else. Mr. Kaye said it could appear on the district website or on YouTube. President Berliner stated he believed the district website would be the best place.
Trustee Knierim asked if there was a way of locking the video file so that it could not be edited. Mr. Kaye said it could not.
Trustee Byer said she had similar concerns about editing. She stated that it was important for the original to be on the District website which could not be tampered with.
Trustee Nightingale stated that he would like students to operate the equipment and that he believed it would be a great educational experience for them.
Trustee Labbate expressed concerns about the recordings being edited and questioned whether there was a big demand for watching the meetings on-line.
Trustee Nightingale said that seniors and parents with young children have trouble getting out to the meetings.
Trustee Labbate said that if the equipment could be used for purposes in addition to recording Board meetings, then the expenditure is worth it.
Dr. Berliner said putting meeting recordings on the web would be a "pilot" this year. Trustee Byer said it would give people the opportunity to be more involved
ACTION ITEMS C-I (see agenda) were approved.
COMMITTEE REPORTS Trustee Labbate gave a Construction committee report which included an overview of what was happening with the Victorian house (discussions with architect to work out the geothermal heat, pricing on recording and taping equipment, and working out water service). Work on the middle school kitchen has been completed. Trustee Labbate also stated that community members would be able to participate in a walk through of bond projects on October 28 at 5 pm at Glenwood School.
OLD BUSINESS - Dr. Melnick asked if there was consensus among the board to approve the $1800 to fence off the hole to the railroad tracks behind the high school track. Dr.Berliner asked if the Board could authorize more money - like $5 or 10,000 for the purpose of addressing safety issues should they come up. Dr. Melnick suggest that that proposal be turned over to the policy committee. The Board agreed to the $1800 expenditure There was a discussion about whether a fence would be effective since it could be cut again. Dr. Melnick said that a heavier duty fence was being looked at. Trustee Nightingale said we have an obligation to repair it if it gets cut. Trustee Labbate suggested having a camera in the area.
-Trustee Knierim suggested the board have a retreat to discuss internal topics that continue to face the board, whether or not enough time is allotted for executive sessions, communications, and other issues. Trustee Byer agreed that it would be a good to have another retreat, now that the new members have gained some experience, she said.
- Trustee Jones questioned increasing the price of school lunches when the price on snack items such as cookies remained the same. Trustee Knierim asked whether there was a way of exercising parental control over children using their lunch accounts for purchasing snacks. Ms. Buatsi said there was a way of doing that.
NEW BUSINESS - none
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