Written by Ronald Scaglia Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00
Last week, the Massapequa School Board voted to cancel the last four days of the February break to make up for some of the school time lost due to cancellations caused by Hurricane Sandy. I agree with that decision. According to Superintendent Charles Sulc, the Commissioner of Education is not yet willing to lower the 180 school day requirement, so therefore Massapequa must make up for the lost days. While it will be difficult for some families who had made arrangements for that week, the alternative of taking vacation days away from the December break when families are getting together for Christmas and New Year’s, or the spring break when families are celebrating Passover and Easter, would have been worse.
What I take issue with is the way it was conducted. This was not listed on the agenda for the evening, but was brought up under “new business.” Community members who only looked at the agenda for the evening would have had no way of knowing that this potentially controversial decision was being acted on. Furthermore, it was the last item voted on by the board, more than two hours after the meeting had begun. Prior to this, there were two informative but lengthy presentations on the success of Massapequa’s curriculum and the success of a new academic program at Berner Junior High.
This practice is far too common at Massapequa School Board meetings. There are often lengthy presentations, which result in meetings going beyond two hours. This results in resolutions being voted on at the end of the meeting and the time for community members to speak is after this. It is unfair to ask community members to have to wait so long for what is often the most consequential part of meetings, particularly on weeknights when many have to get up early the next morning to go to work and get their children ready for school.
At a previous meeting, community members commented that there is a lack of transparency at board meetings. At issue was the lack of specific information about the issues being discussed. Officials replied that the information is posted online prompting an audience member to question what those without Internet access should do, especially in the aftermath of Sandy when many were without power.
To be fair, agenda items up for vote should be acted upon at the beginning of meetings. The forum for community input should also be done at the beginning. It is simply unreasonable to ask community members to wait until 10 p.m. or later to voice their concerns or ask their questions. Most in the community already know that we have a successful school district and should not have to sit through two hours of officials patting themselves on the back in order to have their say. In addition, while having board meeting information online for everyone to view is a good thing, those in attendance should also be given this information on the agendas that are available for attendees.
The Massapequa community has been very supportive of Massapequa schools. They should be kept more informed about their district and given more consideration than to have meetings that end so late on a weeknight.