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Parents Exhibit Anger

The new contract between the Massapequa School District and its teachers killed the long-standing Spring Exhibit, an annual event meant to display the artistic talents of area elementary school children—and now parents are speaking out.

“I am saddened to hear that an event that fosters so much creativity and artistic expression in the children must be sacrificed for something as cold and unprotecting as the common core,” said Catherine Ferrara, a parent in the district. “I’m seeing this core curriculum forcing students to skip over the wonder of their childhood and taking away their thirst for knowledge.”

The four-year contract between the district and its teachers was announced at a recent Board of Education meeting. Officials said half-days, along with the spring exhibit, were eliminated in order to provide more in-class instruction time.

School Board president Gary Bennett said common core preparation has taken away vital class time, and that is what is most important to preserve.

“Parents are upset about this, and rightfully so,” he said. “We realize the impact and we sympathize with it. But the board did not make this decision alone, nor was it a quick decision. At the end of the day, we have the best interests of the students in mind. And that is how we came to this decision, with plenty of input from teachers.”

But Ferrara said she believes teachers grudgingly agreed to certain aspects of their new contract because they have little choice.

“The teachers are very knowledgeable, but their hands are tied by the system,” she said. “It might have been healthier for the students, faculty and staff to borrow the half-day from the testing schedule in order to go ahead with the spring exhibit.”

Another parent, who chose not to be named, said the elimination of the spring exhibit represents a much larger problem that stretches throughout the state—that schools are now more concerned with churning out test-ready students rather than well-rounded individuals.

“It seems almost robotic,” said the mother, whose child attends Lockhart Elementary School. “The student-teacher relationship that I grew up with can’t exist in the same way with test preparation. [The spring exhibit] was always a great confidence builder for the kids.”

But Bennett said he believes opting for more time in the classroom will enhance the student-teacher relationship and replace time lost to core curriculum preparation.

“We had about 200 to 300 people attend a common core testing workshop, and throughout the state test scores have dropped. It is important for us to stay ahead of the testing and keep these students prepared,” he said. “At the same time, we try to maintain athletics and music and art. We do the best we can to keep our programs under tight budget constraints. And Massapequa education is near the top on the island because we work hard to maintain student-teacher relationships in a way that is financially responsible.”