MIDDLE SCHOOL PTO PROBLEMS AND CALENDAR CHANGES DISCUSSED AT NORTH SHORE BOE MEETING
At his past Thursday’s North Shore Board of Education meeting, following the scheduled agenda presentations during which the five building principals each spoke for five minutes on their respective school’s “shared value outcomes,” the Superintendent and Board President addressed two issues raised by residents during the public comment period and in an earlier correspondence to the Board. The first related to last month’s resignation of a majority of the Middle School PTO board; and the other –a request to hold a voter referendum on whether or not to indicate "holidays, religious holy days, and days of remembrance” on the district calendar.
Immediately following High School Principal Albert Cousins’ “shared values outcome” presentation, during which he complimented the High School PTO's efforts in working collaboratively with the school in advancing its educational goals, a Sea Cliff parent, during public comment, inquired about the current status of the Middle School PTO as she said she had received information that it was not operational at that time, and asked why that was the case.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick replied that several Middle School PTO officers had resigned over an "issue about a fundraiser that was going on and that there had been some animosity created by different views." He said that he had met with the two PTO presidents that afternoon and that "all parties had sat down and mediated the situation and are ready to move ahead,” and that the officers who had left the board, would be invited to return.
Additionally, the Superintendent explained that the Middle School PTO presidents have agreed to review the organization's bylaws and consider revisions in an effort to prevent similar situations from arising.
During the second public comment period, another parent, who is currently active in the High School PTO, said that she did not think the issue was with the bylaws themselves, but that the bylaws which had been written two years earlier needed to be followed. “Perhaps a board that hasn't functioned optimally is perhaps because the current bylaws haven't been followed,” she said. “I feel a little insecure with perhaps a board that doesn't know how to function at this time, although I'm sure they can and will with the current bylaws, to be rewriting bylaws."
According to documents and sources close to the story, the flap erupted after some of the PTO officers took issue with a speech delivered by an 11 year-old student concerning fair trade chocolate and a school fundraiser at an October PTO meeting attended by 15 to 20 parents.
The Middle School PTO has not held a meeting since October, and had suspended its activities, including operating the school store and holding its after-school bake sales. The school store was opened earlier this week, however, other activities, have not resumed. According to sources, as of publication of this article, it does not appear that any of the PTO officers that resigned have, as of yet, accepted the invitation to return as executive board members.
A follow up report from Northwordnews on this story is forthcoming
PRESIDENT RELAYS ANONYMOUS RESIDENT'S REQUEST FOR REFERENDUM ON SCHOOL CALENDAR LANGUAGE
President Herman Berliner, during the “New Business” segment of the meeting, said that a district resident requested that the board consider holding a public referendum at the next budget vote that would ask voters to consider whether the district ought to indicate “holidays, religious holy days, and days of remembrance” on the school calendar. The resident, he said, asked that the language be more similar to that which is used at Hofstra University, where Dr. Berliner serves as Provost. Dr. Berliner said that holy days were not included on the university’s calendar.
Dr. Melnick advised against holding a referendum on the issue. He said that he did not believe that “how the calendar is printed and what should be on it, should be a community decision. It should be a board decision.” The school board, he continued, “was elected by the community to represent them” and that it would set a precedent where other similar questions would then have to be put up for a community vote. However, he said, Trustees have an obligation to take community input into consideration before making decisions.
Additionally, he explained that the district was increasingly becoming more diverse and that it was not practical to accommodate every religion’s holidays in the limited space provided on the calendar boxes, which must include district events and announcements. He said he believed the direction the district has gone in is the most “inclusive” direction.
Dr. Berliner agreed and said that Hofstra did not include religious holidays on its calendar for similar reasons. “It’s impossible to respond to every single holiday,” he explained. “And so it’s better to have a secular calendar. “ He said the issue for the board to decide is whether or not to have a change in policy where the “calendar would be presented to the public for a vote.” He asked if any of the board members would like to make a motion to change the current policy. No motion was made.
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