Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00At the last Herricks School Board meeting the members of the Herricks Booster Club presented a check in the amount of $10,329, 95 for the following track-related athletic equipment: Hurdles, a High Jump Pit, and a High School Aluminum Discus Cage.
It was also suggested that a new window be installed in the refreshment house stand, so that parents working in that stand could see their children compete in the meets while they are busy selling refreshments.
Plus, a “Hall of Fame” will be established to display all the records of past and present athletes at the high school.
The meeting was held at Denton Avenue School and at the very beginning of the meeting Principal Mary Louise Haley greeted everyone with a warm welcome. And, deputy school board president Christine Turner, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of president Rich Buckley, wished everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.
The first announcement was made by assistant superintendent for instruction Dr. Deirdre Hayes. She announced that the Herricks Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Choir both performed at the opening of the New York State School Board Association Conference, held recently in New York City. She said, “This group was selected by a statewide selection process run jointly by New York State Music Association and the School Board’s Association and both the chamber orchestra and choir were selected. So, it was quite a honor.”
Herricks Superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth added, “A school board member from another district was sitting next to someone I know and they were looking through the program to find the magnet program that had produced such a professional orchestra and choir. They could not believe they came from a regular K-12 district and not some performing arts school.”
Dr. Hayes continued, “We have been notified that Corine Duvalsaint has been recognized as an outstanding participant in the National Achievement Scholarship Program, a program that honors academic accomplishments for Black-American High School Students.”
Dr. Hayes also announced that four students have been named in 2009 Siemens Math, Science and Technology Competition, David Park has been named a regional finalist and will continue on to Carnegie Mellon University to present his project and Julie Chang, Nesha Maniar and Edward Vargas have been named as semi-finalists.
Dr. Bierwirth continued with the announcements. He said, “The first is that there will be a meeting of the Center Street parents to meet with Third Precinct Inspector Canavan. Over the years there has been a great deal of frustration on the part of the neighbors of Center Street and our staff in terms of lack of response when there were groups of kids causing problems with drugs and alcohol. To the inspector’s credit he said he will meet with us and with parents to discuss this problem.
“Further, I asked him to return to do a district-wide meeting to talk about safety. With some of the other commanding officers it has taken two months just to even go see someone but in the case of Inspector Canavan he answers his own telephone and has been extraordinarily responsive to the community.”
Dr. Bierwirth said, “We have completed our tri-state visit in Science and it went really well and we got a lot out of it. The purpose of this process is not to get ratings, but to learn things about yourself and we expect the report in another four to six weeks.”
“Lastly,” Dr. Bierwirth said, “As you know we made a presentation at the beginning of the year about Language Immersion and World Language Chairperson Dr. Lori Langer de Ramirez has been going around to explain what this is. There is a copy of a letter being sent to parents in the current kindergarten and to parents who have children in next year’s kindergarten. We have a lot of general interest and we need to find out, at this point, if that is serious and in what language. What we need are 50 students per year, per grade level. The meetings so far have been very interesting and the video that was shown at the board meeting is now on the district’s website. All you have to do is scroll down to the right hand corner to video, go to district and language immersion and you will see the video.
“My guess would be that just before the December recess we should be able to tell you if it looks good, it’s a maybe, or if it’s out of the question. Unfortunately, as it’s always been for me, none of us have experienced this and there are no other programs like this in this part of the United States, so it’s brand new for people.”
Trustee Paul Ehrbar wanted to know the response of the parents Dr. Bierwirth had met with.
Dr. Bierwirth said, “It’s been different with different meetings. There is a certain amount of self-selection and we run the gamut from skepticism to real interest. Again, the biggest problem is that we are describing something that nobody has experienced. I did indicate that my wife would like to come explain the program from a mother’s point-of-view. So, she’s going to come to a board meeting. She was going to bring our daughter, who has gone through the program, but unfortunately, she will be returning to college before the January board meeting. But, my wife will be coming.”
A member of the audience wanted to know what would happen if there were 25 parents who wanted Spanish and 25 who wanted Chinese. Dr. Bierwirth said, “That all 50 students have to be in one language because there will be two classes and this is why it will not cost the district any additional monies. One will be taught in whatever the language chosen and the other is taught in English and those two classes will flip half-way through the day. However, there are all kinds of possibilities.
“I don’t think any parent should sign-on to this program until they have actually listened to someone who has experienced having a child in the program and that is why my wife is coming to talk to the parents. She will explain the process she went through before putting our daughter into the program and then how our daughter did in the program.”
Then someone suggested that his daughter be videotaped at college explaining the program. Dr. Bierwirth said that was a possibility if someone other than he would set it up.
Trustee Paul Ehrbar then said he had a few comments he wished to make.
He said, “I went to the Special Education meeting a few weeks back and was very impressed. They gave a four-piece presentation of what goes on in the SEPTA program and it was really enlightening for me who has been away from the school for a few years. What was disappointing was the lack of parent involvement. There were students present that had been helped by the program. I commented that the 580 kids that are in the program, their parents must be comfortable with what is going on in the district in regard to their children, or they would be attending the meeting.
“Ironically, the night that Center Street had its vandalism problems was the night of the Center Street Dinner Dance, which I attended. I was talking that night to a parent who was concerned about what has been happening on the Center Street grounds. That parent asked if I could speak to the superintendent to see if something could be done. I said sure. So, the next day I went to Center Street with my little granddaughter to play at the playground and we’re walking around the school and I found these burnt pages set a book and there was a father there, with his daughter, looking for her cell phone. Now, I didn’t know what happened, if I had I would have asked the daughter what went on the night before and why she lost her cell phone. When I returned home my son told me there had been an arrest at Center Street the night before and of course I talked to Dr. Bierwirth about what went on. However, the dinner dance was fabulous and principal Ed Bellomo is a fabulous singer, who, it was established, is singing on YouTube.”
Some of the parents made suggestions regarding how to safeguard the school and one was to light the back of the Center Street school. Dr. Bierwirth said that it’s a known fact that kids gather where there is light. He said the key will be if when there are calls to the police they respond right away and he said, “I think we are on the right track.”
Assistant Superintendent for Business Helen Costigan
Assistant Superintendent for Business Helen Costigan clarified the contentions raised by Newsday in an article published a few weeks ago,
Costigan then handed out the actual document that was sent to the Nassau County Department of Assessment on Aug. 13, 2009. She said, “This document tells Nassau County what to raise in taxes for the next fiscal year. Listed for this year for school purpose is $93,805,395 and after the necessary claims and expenditures are deducted the amount is $80, 696,909 which is the tax levy which then represents an increase of 1.99 percent, which was listed in the original tax brochure sent out to all residents.” She explained that each home is taxed accordingly, some may be assessed at a higher rate, but that the Herricks school tax rate remains at 1.99 percent.
Dr. Bierwirth said, “Helen’s nicer than I am. I don’t like being called a liar and I don’t like the district being called a liar. What Newsday said was that we told the community that the tax levy was going to go up by 1.99 percent and that the tax levy went up by 3.1 percent. Our total levy went up by 1.99 percent. If, in fact, if our tax levy went up by 3.1 percent, then our total, instead of collecting $80,600 we would be collecting $81,500,000, so basically Newsday said we are all liars. Unfortunately, people are going to be stuck with that impression and I was just furious. So that’s the story. A number of people have contacted Newsday and they are not going to issue a retraction.”
The board approved a disaster plan requested by New York State Comptroller. The district has always had a disaster plan in place but this plan has been adapted to the guidelines of a plan dated Nov. 3, 2009.
High School Science Department-Astronomy
High School Science Department-Human Systems
High School Art Department-Digital Photography
High School Math/Special Education-Mathematics Applications/Computer Math
High School World Language-College Italian for High School Students
Elementary and Middle School-Music-Summer Music Fourth-Eighth Grade Camp.
The meeting was adjourned to executive session and the next meeting will be held on Dec. 10 at the Middle School, 7 Hilldale Drive, Albertson at 7 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. the board will meet with the Middle School students. This will be the only meeting of the Herricks School Board to be held in December.