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C’est What?

North Shore students and parents protest foreign language cuts

The North Shore School Board had to wrangle with budget constraints and the resulting cutbacks at its latest meeting even though a budget discussion was not on the agenda. North Shore High School students and residents spoke to the board to protest proposed cuts to North Shore’s foreign language program.

“The students here are not going to see the effects of these cuts,” said a North Shore student to the board. “We are here genuinely as concerned citizens of this school district. Languages, learning about other cultures, being able to communicate with other cultures, [and] developing our brains are an essential component to having a full, healthy, meaningful, and fun education.”

Another student, who also volunteers with the fire and rescue team, spoke of how his ability to speak another language enabled him to save a life when he was able to translate between and a patient and emergency medical technicians, while a third student spoke of the benefits she has received from her foreign language studies including the recent trip to Europe by North Shore students.

“Offering all four languages sets students up for a tremendous amount of success in college and sets North Shore apart from competing schools,” she said. “Without foreign language, North Shore would lose its edge.”

The district will be eliminating a fourth- and fifth-grade Latin program next year, and officials have warned that the district may not be able to offer four foreign language choices in the future.

“The board is equally as heartbroken as you. There is not one cut we are not very upset about,” said Board President Carolyn Genovesi in response to a parent who also expressed disappointment at the cuts to foreign language. “We are in agreement with you. This is the position the state has placed us in.”

Trustee Amy Beyer assured the audience that the cuts are being made fairly across all programs with the best interests of all students in mind. An audience member stated that it felt like the foreign language department was being unfairly targeted. Beyer responded that over the past several weeks, community members and students have appeared at board meetings to protest cuts to other programs such as arts and sports and she reiterated that the cuts were decided upon fairly and equitably, and that specific areas were not targeted.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Chlebicki added that although the district was being forced to cut Latin and other programs, he would look into ways of incorporating some of these programs into other areas.

Other Board Business

Earlier in the meeting, North Shore Superintendent Ed Melnick spoke on behalf of the Coalition for a Drug Free North Shore. He explained that the goal of the coalition is to educate the community about the abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal narcotics by students.

“The problem is no better or no worse at North Shore than similar districts with the same socioeconomic breakdown within the community,” explained Melnick, who also said that while some of his colleagues in other school districts are afraid to tackle the issue out of fear of sullying their district’s reputation, he feels the issue must be addressed.

Melnick also spoke of some of the dangerous and terrifying ways in which students are abusing these substances. He said that the coalition has worked with the Nassau County Police Department and there will be increased patrols in areas of concern and increased undercover activity in the community, but not in the schools.

According to Melnick, the coalition consists of local politicians, local police officers, local clergy, parents, faculty, administrators, school social workers and other interested community residents. He further added that the coalition is sponsoring “Choices and Consequences” on March 27, which North Shore juniors must attend. Those who do not may not attend the junior prom or park their vehicles on campus as seniors.

The board also heard a presentation from Elliot Kaye, North Shore’s director of technology. He spoke about the district’s current technology programs, such as iPads, SMARTBoards, and SMART tables as well as future plans. Kaye said that in the future, he would like to see North Shore students have a greater exposure to Apple computers, as he said PCs do not dominate the workplace as much as they did. He also said he hopes to increase the district’s bandwidth capabilities and have more remote storage of data i.e. the cloud.

The board also heard from high school English teacher, Kristie Anne Lieberman, who excitedly spoke of utilizing iPads in her teaching program. Lieberman demonstrated some of the apps she used to teach her English classes and said that iPads have allowed her to make real-time learning a reality.

“It’s not only innovative for me, it’s been a transformative tool,” said Lieberman.

Legislative Action Committee Members reported on a trip to Albany to appeal to representatives from the governor’s office for help regarding the LIPA plant. As previously reported, LIPA is planning on closing the plant in 2013 and discontinuing payments to the North Shore District which amount to approximately $14 million per year. Committee members are hoping that instead of walloping the community by placing this responsibility immediately upon it, it is instead hoped that this increase can be phased in over a ten-year glide period. It is further hoped that by the end of this ten-year period, another method of generating tax revenue from the property could be implemented so that the community does not have to assume the entire burden.

It was said that the discussions went well, but that no action will be taken until after the state budget is approved and the ultimately the matter will go to the governor. Committee members stated that local legislators said they have received letters from local residents and have taken them into consideration and Genovesi urged the committee to continue sending letters to local representatives in government.

When speaking with the Record Pilot after the meeting, Genovesi said, “It was very necessary for us to go. We’re really hopeful that our legislators will work together and try to put together a very rapid solution for our community. I think they understand how serious it is and how urgent everyone is feeling about the need for relief is.”

The board also approved an agreement with Night Sky Educational Services, approved a special education services contract, approved an IEP, granted a leave of absence, appointed three regular substitute positions, appointed a part-time cook added three individuals to the per diem substitute list and approved an increment for advanced study. Melnick also reminded everyone that the North Shore Masquers will present The Sound of Music 
on Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., in the high school.