NORTH SHORE BOE MEETING, SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 HEADLINES - EFFORTS TO IMPROVE PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AFTER STUDENT HIT BY CAR - FORMER TRUSTEE BEYER TO CHAIR LEGISLATIVE ACTION COMMITTEE - GUIDANCE REVIEW PROCESS DISCUSSED - CITING RESEARCH, TRUSTEE PROPOSES THAT BOARD LOOK INTO LATER START TIME FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS
EFFORTS TO IMPROVE PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AFTER STUDENT STRUCK BY CAR In the aftermath of a North Shore sixth grader being struck by a car near the intersection of Glen Cove Avenue and Kissam Lane this past Wednesday morning, Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick announced efforts to improve pedestrian safety at that location. Additionally, he reported that the student would be released from the hospital the next morning and was expected to make a full recovery.
The superintendent said he had spoken directly with County Executive Edward Mangano, as well as the County Police Commissioner and the Commissioner of Public Works, and was told that a police officer would be stationed at the intersection at the southeast corner of the Middle School property from 7:30 am to 8:15 am and from 2:30 pm to 3:15 pm while the county conducted a traffic study to determine how pedestrian safety could best be improved at that corner, and until a crossing guard could be assigned there.
Dr. Melnick said that he was specifically asked by the Director of Public Works what the district would like to have at that location, and he replied that the district would like to have a crosswalk from Todd Drive across Glen Cove Avenue to Kissam Lane with a crossing guard, as well as a sidewalk continued along Glen Cove Avenue on that side of the street to that point.
He urged community members to reach out to the county public works commissioner and the police commissioner to reinforce the need for safety improvements at the intersection.
President Herman Berliner expressed appreciation for the county’s response and encouraged community members to make suggestions on how to improve safety at the intersection. “We can do better in this regard,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get some of these things changed for a long time and have not gotten the response. Maybe this [the county’s response] signals a change in how issues like this will be dealt with.”
The issue of traffic and pedestrian safety was also raised by a few residents during the public comment period.
Larry Ruisi, Glen Head said that he believed many factors have exacerbated the traffic problem in front of the school, including the construction on Glen Head Road, speed cameras causing people to slow down, and what he perceives as an increase in the number of students who are eligible to receive bus transportation, but are being driven to school by their parents instead. He said he had spoken to about thirty parents in which this was the case. Perhaps efforts could be made to increase ridership as a way of addressing traffic woes, he offered, which in turn would make the streets and sidewalks safer. Dr. Melnick replied that only about 37% of students eligible to be bused actually use the service, and that to increase the number of students eligible would require community approval through a referendum. The last time that had been done, he said, it was for universal busing, and the proposal had been overwhelmingly defeated. Trustee Maryanne Russo said that she believed that many students chose not to take the bus because of early morning and late afternoon activities. She said the costs of additional buses had been looked into but the expense would be great. Dr. Melnick said that even for elementary schools ridership was very low.
Robert Mazzella of Glen Head asked if the district considered staggering the start time of the High School and Middle School as a way of alleviating congestion. Dr. Melnick said that it has been looked at, but the difficulty was that some staff is shared between the two schools, and that if it is staggered too much the district would lose out on the “efficiency” that that provides.
A Glenwood Landing resident suggested that the right turn lane into the high school as one approaches from the south be lengthened so that cars that are backed up making a left into the middle school would be less likely to block cars looking to make a right into the High School. Dr. Melnick seemed interested in the idea and said he would relay it to the county engineers when they come to do the traffic study. Additionally, he encouraged those who had any other thoughts about how to improve safety or the traffic situation to let him know and he would forward them to the county.
The Superintendent also reported that Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy would be holding a press conference at Kissam and Glen Cove Avenue at 10 am on Monday morning to discuss the issue. Mr. Kennedy is also running for the State Senate seat for the 5th district.
FORMER TRUSTEE AMY BEYER TAPPED TO LEAD LEGISLATIVE ACTION COMMITTEE
The School Board reappointed two members and tapped two additional residents to serve on the district's Legislative Action Committee. Glen Head resident, Amy Beyer, who had served on the school board for twelve years, and as President for a few of those years, but had chosen not to seek a fourth term this past May, was selected to replace Tom Murphy as the Committee Chairperson. Mr. Murphy, also a former school board member and president, had decided several months ago that he would not seek re-appointment. Robin Charlow, who has served since the committee’s inception in 2011, was re-appointed to a second term and Roger Friedman who had been appointed in 2013 for one year (so as to maintain staggering of the nine members’ terms) was re-appointed to serve another three years. Additionally Christine Hughes, of Sea Cliff, was selected to fill the seat that had been vacated early last spring.
There was no public discussion regarding the candidates, as consideration of board appointments takes place during executive session. Five Trustees voted in favor of the appointments, which were made in a single motion, while Trustee Maryanne Russo voted against and Trustee Michael Nightingale abstained. In response to questions from Northwordews following the August 28 School Board meeting, Board president Herman Berliner said that two individuals had expressed an interest in the chairmanship.
Ms. Beyer was a driving force behind the creation of LAC back in 2011, when she saw it as a vehicle that would advocate for reforms and other legislation, in particular at the state-level, that would promote the educational and financial interests of the district. As a board member she had sought to establish partnerships with other district to push for such legislation. She also served as a School Board liaison to the committee during its first year.
During the New Business portion of the meeting, the board discussed the possibility or re-writing the committee’s bylaws so as to clarify its mission and to perhaps expand the number of members and create a vice-chairman position. They agreed that LAC would be a discussion item at the next meeting.
GUIDANCE DEPARTMENT SUBJECT OF INTERNAL REVIEW THIS SCHOOL YEAR
The board discussed the process and procedures by which the district would conduct this year’s review of the 6-12 Guidance Department. Dr. Melnick said that four areas would be considered. They include – what information is communicated to parents and students; what does post high school planning looks like; how does guidance communicate with other aspects of student schooling such as athletics, arts, extra-curricular activities and academic departments ; and, what is the relationship between guidance and college admissions officers and how does the school promote itself to colleges.
Dr. Melnick said that a nine member review committee would be formed with Assistant Superintendent Rob Cheblicki, serving as its chair. The other members would include Middle School Principal Mark Ferris, High School Principal Albert Cousins, two school board members, two middle school parents, and two high school parents. The committee would first hold listening sessions with a variety of groups – current and former students; parents of current and former students; guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers. Based on what is heard, the committee would design a questionnaire that would address points that came up during the listening sessions. The information from the listening session and the questionnaire, he said, would be analyzed by the committee, which would then draft a report. The report and an action plan would be presented in May. It’s the goal of the board, he said, “to measure the effectiveness of the guidance program, as well as the needs of stakeholders and the extent to which those stakeholders’ needs are being met.” Dr. Melnick recommended that Trustee Russo and Board President Herman Berliner serve on the committee. He said that Ms. Russo has been through the process of having a child graduate and apply to college, and that Dr. Berliner’s experience and expertise in the workings of higher education would be very useful.
“I am very interested in serving on this committee,” said Trustee Russo. “This was actually my idea to do it.” Although she said she “had a very positive experience with the guidance process,” she wanted to make sure that the district is “maximizing and identifying" in the beginning of a child’s secondary schooling "what their goals are as to where they want to be so that they are involved in the right after-school activities, sports camps,. . . theater programs, and getting together their art portfolios.” She said she does not think a lot of people think about these things until junior year. She emphasized the importance of communicating the process to parents.
Trustee Lara Gonzalez offered her assistance to the committee, saying that her 18 years experience in education would bring another perspective to the table.
Questions regarding program reviews in general were asked by residents during Public Comment.
Former Trustee Amy Beyer asked what the plans were for the Special Education review that had been conducted last year. Dr. Melnick said that an action plan was being developed, and revisions to the original report were being finalized and that would probably be presented to the board in either November or early December. He added that the High School, Middle School, Glen Head School, and Sea Cliff School were each identified as reward schools for narrowing the achievement gap between special education and regular education students and having one of the highest special education graduation and college enrollment percentages in the state.
Tim Madden, Sea Cliff, asked whether there was a rotation where each program is reviewed before a previously reviewed program like Athletics gets another look. Dr. Melnick said there is a rotation. This year, in addition to the in-house Guidance review, he said the Tri-States Consortium would conduct a review of the district's writing program. He said that the board tries to limit reviews to a maximum of two programs per year so that an adequate job can be done, with one review done in-house by staff and the other one using an outside source, which is typically more intensive and costly. .He said the board has talked about next year using an outside consulting group to evaluate the athletics program, which had been reviewed by an outside group about a decade ago, and that perhaps science or social studies, neither of which have previously been reviewed, would be examined "in-house."
CITING RESEARCH, TRUSTEE PROPOSES LOOKING INTO LATER START TIME FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS
Citing the body of research that teenagers do not get enough sleep and that there are higher levels of achievement when high schoolers start the day later, as well as a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Trustee Sara Jones proposed during “New Business” that the board discuss at a future meeting the possibility of making such a change. She said she understood the complexity of the logistics, but that it was something the board ought to at least talk about and look at.
Dr. Melnick said that if the board chooses to put it on a future agenda, it needs to be viewed in the much larger picture of the county as a whole since there are county-wide programs and after-school athletics. He said he would be willing to raise the issue at the next county Superintendents meeting but that it has been brought up just about every year for the last decade.
Trustee Toni Labbate said that she believed it was something that the board ought to discuss.
Trustee Marianne Russo, said she sees the benefit of starting later, but that “you’d really be throwing a monkey wrench in the works when it comes to athletics.” She said it involves more than just this district.
Trustee Labbate said that it has to be a county discussion, but that “it has to start somewhere.”
Dr. Melnick said that maybe it was an issue the Legislative Action Committee could network with other districts on. Trustee Nightingale said the other issue is that many parents, including himself, need their kids to go to school early because of work. “It’s free childcare, so to speak,” he said.
Trustee Jones said that the research shows that there are significant academic gains when school starts later, and that is why it would be worthwhile to discuss.