NORTH SHORE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING HEADLINES, 8.28.14
- ON-LINE NEWS SITE RANKS NORTH SHORE HS ONE OF NATION'S BEST
- FOUR DISTRICT SCHOOLS RECEIVE COMMENDATION FROM NYSED
- DISTRICT GOALS FOR 2014-15
- BLUE LIGHT PHONES PROPOSAL NIXED
- LAC APPOINTMENTS PUT ON HOLD
- E-SPARK SPARKS DISCUSSION
Updated August 31 (Original post, August 30, 2014) -- Now seated at the north end of the High School Library with the 19th century-style one room school house just outside the windows serving as the backdrop, the North Shore School Board resumed its monthly regular meetings this past Thursday evening. The seven trustees, Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick, Assistant Superintendent Robert Cheblicki and Assistant Superintendent Olivia Buatsi met for about an hour with District Goals, Installation of Blue Light Phones, and Legislative Action Committee Applications on the Agenda as discussion items. Two community members were in attendance at the start of meeting and the audience grew to six by the time it ended about an hour later.
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – NORTH SHORE HIGH SCHOOL RANKED #100 IN NATION BY THE DAILY BEAST; FOUR DISTRICT SCHOOLS RECEIVE “REWARD SCHOOL” DESIGNATION FROM NYSED
Dr. Melnick announced that the online news site, The Daily Beast, ranked North Shore High School the 100th best high school in the nation. He said that the ranking was based primarily on the “rigor” of the courses taken by a large percentage of North Shore students with 70.5% of students enrolled in AP level courses - a result of North Shore’s open enrollment policy he said, and the high percentage (73.6%) among those students achieving passing scores on the AP exam (3 or higher), as well as the school’s SAT average. The ranking would have been higher, he explained, if poverty rates (% of students receiving free and reduced price lunches) were given less weight in the formula for determining the ranking. Many of the schools within the top 100 he said, had lower percentages of students taking AP or IB level courses and doing well on those exams, but significantly higher percentages of low income students. (CLICK HERE FOR DAILY BEAST RANKINGS)
The Superintendent also announced that New York State Commissioner of Education John King has informed the District that Glenwood Landing Elementary, Sea Cliff Elementary, the Middle School and the High School have been designated “Reward” schools for the 2014-15 school year. Reward schools he explained are those that demonstrate high level of achievement on state exams and that have also have closed the gap between regular education and special education students, as well as between upper income and lower income students, and racial/ethnic minority students and white students. He said that Glen Head Elementary was close to receiving the designation but did not because the achievement gap was slightly greater than in the other district schools. Of more than 4800 schools statewide, only 454 received the designation.
DISCUSSION ITEMS –
The Board Trustees had received a copy of the goals from Dr. Melnick in advance and there was little to no discussion at this meeting regarding the goals, which had been discussed at the July 1 meeting. During the Public Comment period a resident asked what the goals were and if they were public information. Dr. Melnick said that of course they were and handed the resident a draft copy of the goals which the resident shared with the one other resident in the audience at the time. The goals are as follows:
Goal 1 - Student Learning – “. . . to continue to develop and support those facets of the North Shore Schools that place an emphasis on learning that is deep and meaningful. Student growth will be supported through engagement in the production of high quality, authentic, original work that demonstrates the capacity for analysis, reasoning, problem-solving, critical, creative and reflective thinking, and effective communication about complex issues.” Tasks to be accomplished in support of goal one – “Development of course curricula for the International Baccalaureate Courses for implementation during the 2015-16 school year; implementation of transition plan for current sophomores to make sure they are prepared as they enter the Diploma Program; Implementation of the Approved Action Plans for 2014-15 contained in the Plan for 2022; Further opportunities for all students to engage in deep, meaningful, authentic learning through continued development and implementation of Performance-Based District Initiative (PADI), Interdisciplinary Instructional Units of Study, Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop Model, Use of technology (iPads) in transforming instruction.”
Goal 2 – Review the following district programs – Writing in Grades K-12 (TriStates); Guidance in grades 6-12; Board Policies 0000-3230.
Goal 3 – Fiscal issues – “Continue to develop a comprehensive fiscal plan for the district with a focus on – Tax Levy Limit; ramp-down of the LIPA plant.”
Later, during "Old Business," Trustee Marianne Russo said that she had wished a review of the Athletics program had been included in this year's District Goals and made the suggestion that a survey be distributed to current and former North Shore athletes and parents regarding their views of the athletics program and use that as the basis for conducting a review next year by identifying issues of concerns to parents, coaches and students.
Dr. Melnick said that he has already scheduled a report from the Athletics Department to the Board going through all of the recommendations of the last Athletics review and “providing both qualitative and quantitative data,” to give an update on each of those recommendations. “That should be the beginning point,” in terms of process. The next step, he continued would be a survey, but that perhaps it would be better if an independent third party conducted it, as had been done during the last review, so as to avoid the District being accused of “skewing the data.” That party would then report the findings to the board, and then based on those findings, the Board would give direction on what the focus of the review ought to be.
Trustee Joanna Commander said that she believed a survey is critical before conducting a review. Dr. Melnick said perhaps surveys could go out in the spring, if the board wanted to do the review next year.
Trustee Toni Labatte said that she would also like the Board to consider doing a review of the science program “which has not been done in a long time.”
INSTALLATION OF BLUE LIGHT PHONES
Board President Herman Berliner had suggested this past spring that the district look into installing blue light phones at the Middle and High School campuses in an effort to better insure the safety of students and faculty staying late. During Thursday’s discussion, Dr. Melnick stated that Building and Grounds Director John Hall had researched installing the phones and could not find another high school or middle school that had used them – that they were something that was used on College Campuses where facilities are much more commonly used late into the night. Dr. Melnick reported that Mr. Hall, taking into consideration cost and the degree to which safety would be enhanced with the vast majority of people having cellphones, did not recommend the installation of the blue light phones. Trustee Maryanne Russo stated that she believed that more nighttime lighting at the High School Field and Parking lot would improve safety. Trustee Michael Nightingale suggested that solar powered lights be looked into and Trustee Toni Labatte said that motion detection lights also be considered. Dr. Melnick interjected, lest the discussion be misconstrued, that the board was not talking about or considering adding stadium lighting to the high school field for nighttime play. Dr. Berliner said that the District should reach out to the Nassau County Police Department and ask for their recommendations on how best to enhance safety at nighttime.
LEGISLATIVE ACTION COMMITTEE APPLICATIONS
Discussion of Legislative Action Committee Applications was tabled to the next meeting.
(BACKGROUND – There has been one vacancy on the committee since this past spring. An "Action Item" to approve an individual to serve on the committee was on the Board Agenda for April 24, 2014, however that was tabled and the board agreed to follow the process for appointing members that is outlined in the committee bylaws which is to allow for a period of application submissions. Soon thereafter the District posted on its website an announcement that applications to serve on the committee would be accepted through June 1, 2014. On August 31, the terms of committee chairman, Tom Murphy, and two other members – Robin Charlow and Roger Friedman expire.)
On Saturday, in response to questions from Northwordnews, Dr. Berliner said that the discussion was tabled on Thursday night because the Board had not yet had an executive session to discuss candidates to serve on the committee or who would serve as committee chairperson with two individuals having expressed an interest in the position. The Board, he continued, would have discussions in open session regarding whether to extend the time period for accepting applications to allow others to apply; if the current vacancy should be filled; and whether current members should reapply when their terms expire or can just be reappointed. "My own feeling is that, since we need the strongest LAC possible," he said, "I would be willing to provide another opportunity for candidates to apply. I would also support current members just needing to express an interest to continue serving rather than completing another formal application." (an earlier version of this article did not include Dr. Berliner's comments)
ACTION ITEMS – E-SPARK LEARNING DISCUSSION
All 34 Action items were approved unanimously.
The E-Spark Learning Contract (Action Item Q) sparked the greatest amount of discussion. Trustee Maryanne Russo asked Dr. Melnick whether the $36,520 cost was the total cost for the program or just training.
The Superintendent said that it was the total annual cost of the program. He explained that last year the service which develops an individualized learning plan called a “quest” for each student based on diagnostic data was piloted by the company in the district’s 5th grade last year. The company, he said, monitored students that used E-spark and those that did not and found that those who did had a steeper learning trajectory. He continued that for each quest, the student moves at his or her own pace and that it is not just multiple choice questions, but includes activities such as games and building 3-dimensional models. The quest ends with a particular task or project the student needs to accomplish that demonstrates understanding of the skills and concepts. It might mean creating an I-movie teaching a lesson, creating an e-book or a photo-journal. Teachers are able to monitor student progress through a “dashboard” provided by the company on their computer.
Trustee Nightingale questioned whether or not students would be losing something in the curriculum if time was devoted to E-Spark. Dr. Melnick replied that E-Spark does not replace the curriculum, but enhances what students are doing. He gave examples of times when students would be using it – when the teacher is working with a reading group, rather than having students read independently, they could be working on their quests or doing a guided reading activity on E-Spark; or, if there are a small group of students who have mastered a math concept the rest of the class had not, then those students would be on E-Spark building on that concept while the other students would be receiving direct instruction from the teacher.
Trustee Nightingale said he believed teachers might be better equipped to do evaluate student progress rather than E-Spark, and could better address their needs with enrichment or supplemental materials. Dr. Melnick said that he disagreed and that it increased the number of learning resources and tools that teachers may not have previously been familiar with. He said that using E-Spark would mean less “down time” during small group instruction and that it is “more individually applied.” Trustee Nightingale said that he would be more comfortable if the board got feedback from teachers regarding E-Spark. Dr. Herman Berliner said that he did not believe that this was the role of the board - that was the Superintendent’s job, and that he did not want to “micro-manage.”
Trustee Maryanne Russo said that E-Spark is an enrichment tool and that even though data is taken from test scores, “this is not test prep.”
Dr. Berliner said that E-Spark “dovetails” with the curriculum.
Trustee Sarah Jones said that she was initially skeptical, but after speaking with students, was surprised at how engaging the lessons on E-Spark were and how positively the kids had reacted to it.
Assistant Superintendent Robert Cheblicki said that ultimately decisions regarding the individual learning plans lie in the teachers’ hands as they can override and modify a quest if they believe it is at an inappropriate level for the student.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the contract.
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