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Massapequa Schools Cancel February Break

Cancellations due to Sandy

force the district to take action

Sorry Massapequa students, but you’re not going to have a week off in February. At the end of the last Massapequa School Board meeting, the board voted to accept Superintendent Charles Sulc’s recommendation and cancel the last four days of the February break. While Massapequa schools were originally scheduled to be closed from February 18-22, Sulc said that because of the six days of school closings that were necessitated by Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter that followed, days of instruction had to be added back to the schedule, and schools will be open during that week, with the exception of February 18, which is Presidents’ Day.

“It’s not something that we want to do but it’s something that we have to do,” remarked Sulc.

Based on Sulc comments at the board meeting, there appears to be two driving forces behind the cancellation of the February vacation days. First, there is the need to ensure enough instructional classroom time so that students are sufficiently prepared for New York State assessment examinations that will be administered in the spring. Secondly, there is the potential loss of state aid. School districts that do not meet the requirement of 180 school days are penalized with the loss of state aid. It was hoped that the commissioner of education might waive this stipulation this year due to the storm, but according to Sulc that has not happened. Board President Maryanne Fischer asked Sulc how much state aid would be lost if schools were not open for 180 days to which Sulc replied that $145,000 of state aid would be lost per day below the 180 requirement.

After the board approved the cancellation of the four vacation days, an audience member who stated that he was in favor of using the February break to replace lost school days asked if the teachers’ union was involved in the decision. Sulc replied that the union was not.

“That’s disrespectful,” responded the resident. “It’s going to make negotiations very difficult.”

In addition to the four February days, the snow emergency day scheduled for May 24, the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, is now a school day. At the moment, the full spring break is intact, but that could change if more school closings are necessitated. With forecasters calling for a cold and stormy winter, that is a distinct possibility. Should more closings occur, Tuesday, Apr. 2, currently the last vacation day of the spring break, would become a school day. If a second cancellation occurs, Monday, Apr. 1, would then be taken away from that vacation.

In other news, Dr. Thomas Fasano, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, spoke about curriculum proposals for next year. Fasano said that the district focused on how well the district’s course offerings align to the common core, how well the district’s courses allow students to meet their goals, and how well the courses allow students to demonstrate college and career readiness. After taking those factors into account, as well as the recent success of Massapequa students in being accepted to Ivy League schools, Fasano said it was decided that there will not be any new course offerings for next year. A currently offered course in sports management will offer three college credits to students through Adelphi University.

“We are increasing participation in rigorous courses and our students are succeeding,” said Fasano.

Fasano said that the district is continuing to look for ways for students to earn college credits and for the senior year at Massapequa High School to mirror the first year of college. He added that the Advanced Placement courses, of which Massapequa has increased its offerings, instill many of the common core standards. Massapequa School District is one of seven districts on Long Island and among 539 in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll for increasing access to Advanced Placement courses while increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP Exams. This is the second time Massapequa has been awarded this distinction.

Trustee Gary Bennett, while praising the district’s advanced placement program also asked about technical training courses. He stated that careers in auto repair, air-conditioning repair and plumbing have significant earning potential and he would like students interested in these careers to have an opportunity to pursue them.

Sulc said that there is concern about Nassau BOCES reducing its offerings of classes due to budget constraints and that the district is carefully watching this situation so that Massapequa could offer alternatives within the district should BOCES cutbacks occur.

Lucille Iconis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, gave a presentation on the new exploratory classes being that students in Berner are taking. She also showed examples of student work that has been done in those classes. Iconis described the classes as “technology rich” and said that the purpose of the exploratory classes is “to extend the core curriculum in the four major academic areas.”