Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
Most of the 20 community members in attendance at the recent Herricks School Board meeting were engaged addressing concerns and skepticism about the proposed plan to add an optional language immersion program to next year’s kindergarten and first grade curriculum. Dr. Lori Langer de Ramirez, chairperson of the Herricks School District World Language Department, gave an overview of the planned program that took precedence over any budget discussion planned for the evening. The district’s curriculum council previously approved the program being addressed.
Students in the immersion curriculum would spend a half-day in the target language and the other half in English taught classes. All students of incoming kindergarten and first grade classes would be invited to participate, with the decisions resting with the parents, no matter what the home language is of each student.
Surveys were previously sent home to parents of the existing kindergarteners to determine the popular language interests. Spanish has been preliminarily chosen as the pilot language and Denton Avenue is the proposed location to host the program for the entire district. More than 50 students will be needed to secure the resources for the initial program.
Many parents and community members posed dozens of questions to the board and Dr. Ramirez including how the district would handle the program if its popularity surpasses its capacity, whether this program would turn into a Gemini program, and how the program would be funded, tutoring and homework assistance. “Part of the techniques and methodology that we use in immersion has to do with a tremendous amount of visual gestures, kinesthetic learning, hands on learning,” said Dr. Lori Langer de Ramirez. “The research really supports that kids, learners of all types, can do very well; it’s an equalizing type of a program.”
Language immersion has been implemented nationwide for over 20 years.
There is a model program in Montgomery County, northwest from Albany that will be available for preview by parents, students and educators.
This year’s voting hours for the 2010-2011-school budget will be extended. On Tuesday May 18th the voting hours will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. This extension in the hours is only in effect for the current budget year to accommodate the sundown beginning of the Shavuot holiday.
The meeting was then geared toward a preliminary review of the district’s revenue. A comprehensive 20-page draft of the upcoming budget was available to the public at the open board meeting, as submitted to the board by Dr. Jack Bierwirth, superintendent of schools. In the memo to the board explaining the difficulty in developing a budget for a school district, Dr. Bierwirth writes, “It is particularly difficult in years such as this and last year. The thoughtfulness and professionalism of those involved in Herricks is wonderful, however. Everyone would like to do more. Sometimes that is possible. Most of the time it is not. This year, it was clearly not.”
Two meetings remain for budget hearings and discussions. On March 4 at the Community Center, and March 18 at the Center Street School, both beginning at 7:15 p.m. are the final two chances to address the district board with suggestions and concerns regarding the upcoming budget proposal.
Helen Costigan, assistant superintendent for business, addressed the board, reporting that the state has announced its proposed statewide education spending for upcoming budget year. According to the New York State 2010-2011 Executive Budget summary, the state is expecting a five percent decrease, totaling a reduction of more than $1 billion in aid to schools statewide. The decrease in state aid would strip significantly more than a half a million dollars from the Herricks 2010-2011 school budget.
Herricks School District has been accepted as a member of Hanban – Asia Society Confucius Classroom Network, one of 20 schools chosen nationwide. The purpose of the program by Asia Society organization is to promote the Asian culture and society through classroom learning. The program selects schools that represent model Chinese language education throughout the country. Herricks will be matched with a sister school in Shanghai to increase opportunities for language learning. Medgar Evars College Preparatory School of Brooklyn was the only other school chosen from New York to represent the organization’s pilot program. The program was established with support from the International Expert Advisory Committee with Hanban, the branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education. Program information and links for parents and students can be found at: http://www.asiasociety.org or on the district’s website.
The Herricks Parent Education and Community Awareness Committee (PECA) is hosting a pre-prom awareness event for parents, students and staff in the district on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. during the PSTA meeting at Herricks High School. The guest speakers for the evening will be former Deputy Commissioner of Nassau County Consumer Affairs James W. Reed and “The Law Squad” representative, Oscar Michelen, Esq. Topics will include pre-prom, prom, and after parties, including many safety and legal issues that may be encountered. More information is at http://www.herricks.org/peca or by calling 742-1926.
The next regular board meeting and third night of budget hearings will be held at 7:15 p.m. on March 4 in the Community Center.