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North Shore BOE Focuses on Students Not Budgets

After grappling with budget issues and cutbacks to programs and staff during recent meetings, the North Shore School Board got a reprieve from disheartening work and instead were able to focus on the accomplishments of the district’s students at its last meeting on March 1. Specifically, district students were recognized for their achievement in prestigious music programs and there was a performance by the middle school seventh and eighth grade chamber choir.

“This board is dealing with serious issues,” board president Carolyn Genovesi told the audience after being serenaded by the choir. “We feel that we are in the best shape that we can be in. We truly believe that although the paradigm is changing, you as parents, will still see these amazing things.”

Recognized were the students who were selected for the Long Island Strings Festival, the American Choral Directors Association National Music Conference, the All State Music Festival and the Hofstra Honors Band. In addition, David Davani, a senior at North Shore High School, was honored for winning the YoungArts award for his extraordinary achievement as a clarinet player.

Obviously proud of the school’s student body, Superintendent Dr. Ed Melnick said that the boys and girls winter track teams would be competing for the state championship and the girls varsity basketball team would be competing for the county championship [which they won a few days later]. He also pointed out that 130 North Shore students recently traveled to Europe on exchange trips as part of the foreign language and music programs.

“I just want all of you to know what an incredibly special community you have and I want to thank you as the parents of this community for providing us with not only your children but the resources, the support and the belief in fine quality public education,” he said.

In other news, trustee Dr. Igor Webb spoke about the district’s efforts to join forces with other districts to get much needed relief from state education mandates. Webb said that he has met with representatives from sister districts including Roslyn and Locust Valley in an attempt to use the strength of a coalition to get the leaders in Albany to recognize the achievements of high performing districts and ease some of the mandates, which they believe are negatively impacting districts such as North Shore.

“Our goal has been to see what we could do to change the conversation about public education and emphasize the success of education in schools like ours,” said Webb. “To establish a statewide coalition of schools, to get the conversation changed and to get some genuine relief from the state to reward our success - to reward our results rather than to be constantly punished for them.”

Speaking with the Record-Pilot, after the meeting, Webb said that teacher evaluations and the tax cap are two examples of the state not recognizing success. He said that because the state is trying to make teachers more accountable, students are required to take standardized tests and teachers are taken out of the classroom for training and scoring for these exams, all of which costs school districts money. He said that the high performance of districts like North Shore is a good indication that it does a good job of evaluating teachers on its own and that the state tests are an unnecessary expense. He further said that the tax cap has the effect of penalizing those districts that are already fiscally responsible.

“The more good fiscal planning we do, the lower our base is according to their formula,” said Webb. “Does this make sense?”

According to Webb, he and representatives of similar districts will soon be interviewing publicists about devising a strategy to get their message across.

“We feel that we represent the leading schools in the state,” said Webb. “Rather than being punished, we should be rewarded and we should use that for a basis of finding a way through the present bureaucratic and fiscal constraints that are being put on schools that we feel are forcing us to do things that we don’t think are good educationally, or forcing us to lay teachers off instead of helping us to sustain what is the best education.”

Trustee Amy Beyer reported during the meeting that all of the graduations will be held on the field behind courtyard as construction on the track and field will not be completed in time.

“It will be beautiful,” she said referring to the alternate location.

She also said that security cameras have been installed in the press box and are being monitored by computer. Trustee George Pombar asked about the paint that is peeling from the ceiling in the high school auditorium. Beyer responded that it is caused by a high content of lime and to permanently resolve the issue, the auditorium would have to be closed for six to eight weeks at a cost of $37,000. She added that because the district would be discussing a long-range plan it did not make sense to incur that cost at this time and that the staff would continue to scrape the ceiling to remove the flaking paint. Speaking with the Record-Pilot about this following the meeting, she explained that the auditorium ceiling is plaster with a high lime content so the paint doesn’t adhere well and thus peels. She emphasized that there are no health concerns and painting experts and environmentalists have deemed it a “healthy ceiling.”

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Robert Chlebicki heard from trustees at the meeting regarding the district’s health program. Chlebicki will be performing an internal review of the health program and said he would be looking for areas with well-articulated curriculum, gaps in the curriculum and areas where the curriculum is repetitive. Trustees expressed health concerns that they would like to see addressed by the district are student obesity and drug and substance abuse, including prescription drug abuse. Bullying and character education along with parental education of both are areas the trustees also see as important to focus on.

In addition the board appointed leave replacements, a bus driver and per diem substitutes. They also approved an increment for advanced study and a teacher overage. In addition, they approved a health services contract, approved the disposal of inventory, and approved a special education tuition agreement.