NORTH SHORE BOE MEETING, 10.22.14
- NEW COURSE TO OFFER 8th GRADERS HANDS-ON OPPORTUNITY TO STUDY UNDERSEA WORLD
- ATHLETICS REVIEW DISCUSSION - INCLUSIVENESS V. COMPETITIVENESS
- LAC'S DIRECTION
NEW COURSE TO OFFER 8TH GRADERS OPPORTUNITY TO STUDY UNDERWATER WORLD
Middle School technology teacher Keith Slack and Science teacher Brian Lang presented a new 8th grade elective course that, partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would enable North Shore students to participate in a global research project that studies the undersea world. The course Exploration 2.0 integrates the study of engineering and science, as students would construct from a kit an unmanned submarine called a ROV that would then be used to study the sea bed and underwater habitat of local water ways. The course would be tied to similar efforts that are being conducted under the direction of NOAA, giving students access to live video streams and data from similar research being conducted in oceans and coastal areas around the globe. The information collected by North Shore students would likewise be shared with others involved doing similar research in other areas of the world.
“The project puts North Shore on the map both locally and globally,” Mr. Slack said.
The two teachers see learning opportunities beyond Marine science and engineering developing out of the project. “The potential to extend to other disciplines is limitless,” Mr. Lang said, as the study of the coastal area would be a unique springboard to making connections to literature, history, the physical sciences, and geography.
“This is the beginning of an era,” said Mr. Slack. “It is a full hands-on Learning experience.”
During the discussion that followed the presentation, the remarks centered around entry requirements for the course. “How would students be selected for the course?” Trustee Maryanne Russo asked. The teachers responded that they were not yet sure what the selection criteria would be. They would survey students to determine interest first, and then based on that information would develop selection criteria – whether it would be an application process, performance requirements, teacher recommendations or other factors. As a full year elective course, they said, “students would really have to commit,” since all other electives in the eighth grade are one-quarter offerings, and students in Exploration 2.0 would not have the opportunity to enroll in those classes.
Trustee Toni Labatte asked whether students not enrolled in the course would have access to some of the learning opportunities the project would provide through their science or other courses. Mr. Lang and Mr. Slack said that that would indeed be the case.
ATHLETICS REVIEW DISCUSSION
In preparation for a possible review of the District’s Athletic program next year, the Board, Dr. Melnick, and Athletics Director Don Lange discussed the possible areas of focus. The Superintendent said that the last review, completed in 2003, involved interviews and surveys of parents, faculty, and the observations and recommendations of outside experts, and resulted in a report that addressed “Policy/Philosophy/ Mission,” “Communication,” “Financing and Fundraising,” “Program Evaluation,” and “Facilities.” Most of Thursday’s discussion addressed the first area – policy, philosophy and mission.
Dr. Melnick explained that the last review led the district to embrace a philosophy and mission that promotes “Character, Competence, Civility, and Citizenship.”
Implementing the report's recommendations, the District adopted a “modified participatory program” at the Middle School that accommodates all students who are interested in playing a sport, grouping players on multiple teams for a single sport heterogeneously with regard to experience, past training, and ability. The goal, the Superintendent said, was to develop a large pool of talent. In high school the approach is to develop competitive teams and as a result there are team try-outs and cuts at both the Varsity and Junior Varsity level.
Commenting on the modified participatory program at the Middle School, Trustee Russo stated that there were two baseball teams each at the 7th and 8th grade levels and that, based on e-mails she had received, she believed splitting the talent between the teams “left us less competitive compared to other districts to the point where it was disheartening for some of the players.” “Have we thought about how we are going to address that?” she asked.
Other schools, Mr. Lange explained, have cut teams at the middle school level because of financial considerations, and that with more selective programs that cut players, they have become more competitive than North Shore.
The goal of the modified participatory program, Mr. Lang explained, was to give all students, even those who are new to a sport or who have not received as much training as other children, an equal opportunity. The approach is not just to be inclusive, he said, but that it would make the high school teams more competitive as students with great ability who had not received training earlier or who had not participated in youth programs were given the opportunity to develop. He believes the approach has paid off with the varsity baseball team winning conference championships the past three seasons and making the county finals last year.
Dr. Melnick said that one of the questions the district may want consider is “If we are not forced by budget needs to make cuts, in light of what is happening in other districts, do we still believe in a philosophy of having modified participatory teams or do we want more competitive teams?”
Trustee Russo wondered whether there was a better way of integrating the kids who are learning with the more experienced and skilled players.
Trustee Joanna Commander stated that there appeared to be a choice between two directions – one that was participatory and the other competitive. She said that there are great advantages to the participatory approach because kids develop at different rates and times.
Mr. Lange said that there is a big disadvantage to having a “B” team as opposed to heterogeneously grouped teams in a sport like baseball, where there is no time limit to the game and a certain amount of control is needed in pitching to keep the game moving along.
Trustee Nightingale said that since there are enough games for both teams to play in, perhaps it would be “a possibility to have an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team where we would be encouraging the better children to play who are not going to feel left out losing eight or nine to nothing, and you would have a “B” team where they are striving to make an “A” team.” He suggested making a determination regarding which team plays (A or B) based on the strength of the opposing team.
With regard to football, he said the district has an “iron man philosophy” with players playing both offense and defense. He said that needed to be looked at – whether the philosophy was to allow for more players to get game time or is to be more competitive.
Dr. Berliner advised against getting too specific at this point.
Trustee Labatte said, “Let’s also no forget that we would also like to review Science and Social Studies.”
Dr. Melnick said that two reviews can be done a year.
Trustee Commander asked what the Athletics Department’s philosophy was regarding student attendance and cutting and whether or not there were consequences. Mr. Lange said that coaches were provided with that information and it was taken into consideration, and that there was an effort to be consistent.
Trustee Commander said that going through the review she more than once came across the phrase “coach’s discretion,” and that concerned her because consistency in treatment of players was important. Mr. Lange said that sometimes discretion might be used to get a student involved in sports who might otherwise be in danger of going astray of finding trouble. It can be desirable, he said, to employ different approaches are needed depending on the type of kid. Trustee Commander said that that made sense to her, but the use of the word “discretion” seemed a bit too “open-ended,” and that she believed that parents should expect the same deal for their kids no matter what.
Dr. Melnick said that this was a very complex issue, and one that he and Mr. Lange had had discussions about. He said it was important to look at the “systems of accountability and data collection to ensure consistency of policies and consequences across the board.”
As for the second topic, “Communication,” Dr. Melnick stated that information concerning athletics is communicated on the district web page and that schedules are going out in e-mail blasts.
Issues raised by the Superintendent and Board members included concerns among parents that if they complain, it could potentially be taken out on their child; responsiveness to e-mails and phone calls; and when is it appropriate for a coach to text students to communicate information such as practice times.
With regard to financial support and fundraising, Mr. Lange said that teams are discouraged from fundraising on their own as they find themselves competing with each other, and that working through the Booster Club has been very effective.
Dr. Melnick added that the Booster Club has done a phenomenal job of fundraising, “working tirelessly in support of the Athletics programs.” He said the district was fortunate to have the Booster Club and Arts Angels, both of which he said, have been outstanding for the District.
As for the fourth area of study, Program Evaluation, Dr. Melnick said that after 12 years, he believed it was time to re-evaluate the Athletics program. With regard to coaching, he said that the district has improved with regard to retaining coaches and hiring coaches. Questions were raised by the board about retention rights for coaches and hiring practices. Dr. Melnick said that if a coach receives a satisfactory rating, he is entitled to his position the following year. If not, he is not entitled to the position. With regard to hiring, he said that in-house applicants are not given preference over outside applicants.
And with regard to the last issue - facilities, Mr. Lange said that the district’s facilities are in very good shape, and have been used to host county competitions. Dr. Melnick added that he believed the district could use another gym, as it would reduce the number of cuts on sports teams during the winter season, and that field space is always an issue.
The Superintendent ended the discussion explaining that the board would come back to the Athletics review as they develop their goals for next year. He recommended that a review committee be formed this coming spring to design a questionnaire.
The Board of Trustees discussed both the Legislative Action Committee’s direction for the current school year, and voted on whether or not to increase the size of the committee from nine to eleven members.
Dr. Berliner said that he would like LAC to look at unfunded mandates imposed by the state, consider approaches to addressing the issue of environmental remediation of the National Grid property in Glenwood Landing, and to “remain vigilant” on the tax shift that could possibly result from the decommissioning and demolition of the power plant – and in particular whether New York State Real property tax law 1803 and 1803a will continue to protect the district’s residential taxpayers.
Trustee Nightingale added that he would like the committee to see if the certification of the Power Plant property’s reassessment could be delayed until the environmental remediation issue is resolved.
Trustee Toni Labatte said that at the most recent meeting of the Legislative Action Committee in September, the group said that it wanted to look at the creation and use of reserve and special funds.
Trustee Sara Jones added that she would like the committee to address state standardized testing requirements, as well ensuring that student privacy rights are protected as proposals have been made to use the company inBloom as a repository for student data. Dr. Melnick stated that after the November elections, School Superintendents would be working with the Long Island Congressional delegation and our two Senators to alleviate pressure from the federal government on public schools with regards to testing. Perhaps, he said, LAC could be involved in that effort.
Trustee Lara Gonzalez said that with the ambitious agenda that has been laid out, it is important to publicize that LAC meetings are open to the general public as “it is going to be necessary to mobilize the community” in support of the committee’s efforts, and for the sake of transparency.
Later in the meeting, when a motion was made to increase the size of LAC from nine to eleven members, the board continued a discussion that had taken place at the last meeting.
Trustee Toni Labatte asked if there would be clear parameters with regard to the application process. Dr. Melnick said that once expansion of the committee is approved, notification would be posted on the district website and in the official school district newspapers, and that there would be a one month time frame during which interested residents could submit applications.
Trustee Russo spoke in support of increasing the size of committee, stating that the district is facing a lot of issues and that it should be “all hands on deck.”
She also questioned the motives behind the votes cast by some of her colleagues on the board at the previous meeting. The Trustee said that she was a “little more than disturbed to hear that there was commentary that some of the discussions we had in executive session were discussed with non- board members and there was commentary from members of the community that the reason why certain items were not approved was because of some of the potential candidates for the position and their political affiliation. I’m hoping that’s not true.” She did not provide any evidence to support her allegations that executive session confidentiality had been broken, what board member, if any, had broken that confidentiality, that other board trustees had cast votes because of “potential candidates’ political affiliation,” or who specifically in the community commented regarding such issues and what specifically those comments were. At the previous meeting the board rejected 4 to 3 President Berliner’s motion to include on this meeting’s agenda an action item to create a Vice Chairman position for the committee, and supported 5 to 2 a motion to hold a vote at this week’s meeting to increase the committee’s size. (see article about last meeting.)
Trustee Russo continued that she believed that the board should welcome onto the Legislative Action Committee anyone who wants to lend a hand.
Trustee Joanna Commander addressed Trustee Russo’s comments. She said that her vote at the last meeting was based on “issues that had been raised by LAC that were problematic to running the committee" with a larger membership. "We had not heard for the need of increased membership or for restructuring the committee.” The committee ought to “be on board" with the trustees' decision, she said, and added that "there are lots of ways for people in the community to give to their community.”
“Why are we following a recommendation that is not coming from that group?” Trustee Commander asked. “That was my question. I don’t think it has anything to do with people, places or things.”
Trustee Nightingale said that LAC is like a non-profit organization. “What makes them work are the dedicated people who want to be involved. The people who want to be involved in any group are the strength of the group.”
The board then voted 4-3 to expand the size of the committee. Trustees Commander, Gonzalez, and Jones were in the minority.
Later, during “Public Comment,” resident Robert Mazzella said that he “agreed wholeheartedly with what Trustee Russo said” and asked Trustee Gonzalez why she voted “no,” when she said earlier that it was important to have “community participation.” Trustee Gonzalez replied that the current bylaws outlining the committee’s composition required varying interests, experiences and expertise among its members. Additionally, she said that a large committee could become unwieldy as the numbers of “leaders” are increased year after year. She said that it is important for the committee’s meetings to be publicized and that community members should be encouraged to attend, so that there is transparency and that residents can participate in support of the committee’s efforts “as foot soldiers.”
Trustee Jones said that “while we want a lot of people involved, we’re not certain that making the core committee larger makes it more effective – particularly when we just expanded it last year. We think there are many ways for the community to be involved with the actions of LAC without making the core group, which has to make decisions and to function effectively, bigger every year.”
The district sent out an e-mail to the community and a press release on Friday announcing that applications for serving on LAC would be accepted through November 25.
BACK TO WEEKLY
BACK TO HOME PAGE
SALUTING THE SCHOOL BOARD WITH SONG - The North Shore Madrigals under the direction of Ashley Hasset performed for the seven volunteers in salute to their service on Board Recognition night this past Thursday.