Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 26 October 2012 00:00
“After much soul searching, I concluded that now is the time to turn the page and establish more of a balance in a new chapter of my life as I approach 70 years of age,” Dr. Laria began. “I did not come to this decision easily because my service in Glen Cove has been so very fulfilling, both personally and professionally. My notice is submitted early in the school year to give the board sufficient time to complete a superintendent search unencumbered by the pressures of time and by other important issues during the upcoming months.”
His statement continued with the assurance that he plans to continue to perform his required duties with “the same passion, dedication, commitment and effectiveness that remain the hallmark of my leadership since I first became part of the Glen Cove family. Looking ahead to June 2013, also be assured that I shall discharge my duties with my customary work ethic, energy and enthusiasm until the last minute of the last hour of my last day in Glen Cove. The children, staff, parents and residents deserve no less.”
The prepared statement was sent out to the entire district staff and parents later that evening via email, and Dr. Laria said he planned to have a meeting with his administrative staff first thing in the morning. Part of his reasoning for submitting his resignation early, he said, was to give the board of education fair warning so that they can find a new superintendent without having an interim superintendent, and so that he can assist with the transition.
He concluded, “We still have much to accomplish this year in our mission to the children and the community. I look forward to serving and working cooperatively with you to bring about a smooth, orderly and timely leadership transition.”
Board President Joel Sunshine said, “Let me be the first to thank you for your service to the district. It will be a huge loss.”
The meeting then continued with discussions and adoptions of several district goals that the board wanted to put into effect regarding performance targets on ELA and math exams, AP exam scores and the percentage of students graduating from high school and moving on to a four-year college.
While all four of the goals were passed unanimously with a 6-0 vote (Trustee David Huggins was absent), the board members had some disagreement over the numbers presented and questioned how realistic some of the goals were.
The first goal passed was the adoption of ELA and math performance targets for grades three through eight for 2013; a chart was provided showing the projected outcomes based on cohort data.
“I want the language to state increases rather than specific numbers as targets,” said Trustee Gail Nedbor-Gross.
“The numbers are based on real kids who scored high twos,” explained Nelson Iocolano, principal of Finley Middle School. “We are going to work on those students and are creating data on those kids. Then we will create a framework for how to move forward.”
“I have been waiting to hear that for years…thank you,” said Trustee Ida McQuair.
“I am excited about this,” said Trustee Donna Brady. “We are finally actually doing something to address the kids in the middle.”
The board also adopted high school graduation performance targets, comparing Glen Cove’s numbers to those of Nassau County; in 2011, 70 percent of Glen Cove seniors graduated, and the goal is to increase that number to 88 percent for the 2014-15 senior class, making it more on par with the county average. The goal also aims to see more students attending a four-year college and fewer attending two-year colleges.
“Going to a two-year college is not terrible – any college is great,” said Nedbor-Gross. “I don’t think it’s a fair way to do this, it looks like random numbers to me.”
“The objective is to close that gap; the spread is too significant,” said Dr. Laria. “We used benchmark data based on Nassau County.”
The board next adopted Advanced Placement performance targets, with a goal of having 50 percent of students receive a 4 or 5 on the exam in the spring of 2013, 55 percent in 2014, and 60 percent in 2015.
“Having 50 percent of students get a four or five is not realistic,” said Brady.
Thomas Pye, chairperson of the science department, also raised some concerns about the goals being presented. “It looks like we’re trying to increase the number of students as well as the scores,” he said, adding that since the district began focusing on the pre-requisites for entry into AP courses for the past few years, there has been an improvement, and questioning whether the district would be pushing to have the exams open to more students who may not be prepared for the course. “If they are not meeting the pre-requisites then we are setting them up for failure.”
“We have set benchmarks,” clarified Dr. Joseph Hinton, principal of the high school. “With the pre-requisites, we are more likely to have more fours and fives. The standards are there. Plus, a lot of schools will only take fours and fives.”
The board also approved the proposed performance target to complete the alignment of the grade level curricula with the common core standards, resulting in a consistent and incremental improvement of scores on the state’s ELA and math assessments for grades three through eight.
Some more discourse took place as concerns were raised, though for each of the goals adopted, Sunshine stressed the importance of first setting a goal – each one deemed to be attainable by the administrators who presented the numbers – and to then discuss how to get there.
At the close of the meeting, Dr. Laria announced that the APPR plan for the district has been officially approved and is in the process of being rolled out for implementation. He noted, “I believe APPR is seriously flawed in its execution and implementation.” He said he mentioned his concerns to the commission and got a “benign reaction…it’s bad policy and bad politics.”
The superintendent’s letter of resignation can be viewed on the district’s website, www.glencove.k12.ny.us.