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OBEN School Board Discusses Shooting, Special Ed

District says security procedures are

regularly reviewed and receive “flying colors”

With the Connecticut school shootings fresh in their minds, Oyster Bay-East Norwich school officials discussed security of its schools at their Dec. 18 school board meeting.

School Board President Ann Marie Longo opened the regular meeting at the Oyster Bay High School library with a moment of silence “for all the lives lost” in the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newton, CT.

Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of schools for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, noted that some parents had expressed concerns about the possibility of similar threats to the schools here. Yet when she discussed the district’s security arrangements, “most people seemed to be comforted.”

“We are doing everything we think we can,” Harrington noted.

In other business, board members listened to a preliminary recommendation by Harrington for creating the post of an additional assistant director for special education.

Harrington also updated the board on efforts to hire a science and technology director. In addition, the board heard a presentation on the results of the survey that the district commissioned of Oyster Bay High School graduates.

During the community comment period, Michael Giardina, a parent, raised questions about the district’s security procedures, asking whether the district has ever consulted security experts to ensure that the best procedures were in place. He remarked that he has raised these issues years ago when he considered running for the school board.

“They are our children,” Giardina said, adding that he fears something similar could happen here.

“This was an isolated incident,” commented Board Vice President Jim Mattel.

Giardina disagreed, stating, “This is happening year after year” in schools around the country.

Harrington said that security procedures are regularly reviewed by a district-wide safety team and that there was an audit by an outside consultant for which “we received flying colors.”

Christopher Van Cott, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, noted that officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reviewed the district’s procedures. Several board members suggested to Dr. Dennis O’Hara, principal of Oyster Bay High School, that access to the high school be more limited before school hours.

Longo argued that the real issue was not school security procedures, but easy availability of assault weapons.

In other business, Debra Kienke, director of the district’s department for special services, reported on the increasing demands for special education services — both a growing caseload and greater administrative burden — under federal and state regulations.

 She noted that the district’s special education services department has been responsible for a wider range — those as young as two-and-half and those as old as 21.

Regulations have also required the district to provide services for students who attend non-public schools, such as St. Dominic’s Elementary School and High School, as well as East Woods School, which are in the district’s geographic boundaries, Kienke said. That includes students who live outside the district. The district can bill the district where the student lives, but that requires more time and paperwork.

Kienke said that the district has about 270 students receiving special education services, which involves hundreds of meetings to review the needs of the students and determine which services are available and best suited for the student.

Thus, Harrington said, it will become necessary to hire an additional assistant director for special services.

Harrington acknowledged the strict budget limits that the district faces, but contended that a way must be found. “We have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“What are you robbing from Peter?” Mattel asked.

Harrington replied that the details need to be worked out. “We have to start the discussion.”

“I don’t understand the sudden need,” said board member Maryann Santos. Several board members wondered if an additional administrative assistant to help with paperwork might be sufficient rather than a new assistant director.

Harrington replied that the need is not sudden but has been building for years and the complex nature of the situation involves more than paperwork.

Longo said that the board needs more explanation of the problem. Several board members requested specifics on the cost and where the money would come from. Harrington said that she would work on a more detailed explanation for a future meeting.

During the community comment period, Harriet Dorfman, a parent, argued for consultation with the community, including students, in determining how to restructure special education’s administration — similar to what was done several years ago in restructuring the guidance department.

News

On Saturday, July 5, Building J on the Western Waterfront was opened to the public for a free concert of classical music played by talented youth in the Oyster Bay Music Festival. The acoustics in the large metal shed were lively as the backdrop of the Ida May, a wooden oyster dredge under construction, lent artisanal flavor to the rich stew of mostly sea-related musical selections. People sat on stacks and benches of freshly milled wood or stood in the cavernous space. They soaked in beautiful solos, duets and trios that combined voice, piano, flute, cello and violin. Frank M Flower & Sons provided fresh oysters that engaged the palate, and representatives from Steinway & Sons gave a quick overview of how their pianos are made, relating several aspects of their meticulous process to the construction of the Ida May.

Last week was one of Oyster Bay’s biggest, most anticipated summer events, the Italian American Society’s St. Rocco’s Festival. Returning to its usually spot in Fireman’s Field on Shore Avenue, the festival was filled with amusement rides, live music, and great food and company.

“We come every year to St. Rocco’s with friends,” said Laura Regan of East Norwich. “The rides and awesome food make it a lot of fun.”


Sports

Oakcliff’s intensive training program provided a high level of competition last weekend at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship in Oyster Bay.

This year, the teams selected for the event were highly ranked through the United States, and several of the competitors are past and current Oakcliff trainees, including Elizabeth Shaw, Kathryn Shiber, Madeline Gill, and Danielle Gallo.

A total of 11 members of St. Dominic Track Team (grades 1-8) recently medaled at the Nassau-Suffolk CYO Championship Finals at Mitchel Field. In the finals, the athletes competed against the finalists from all three regions, representing more than 2,500 athletes from 23 other parishes.

In addition to the student athletes’ success, the track coaches were honored as well. St. Dominic CYO Track coaches Phil Schade (grades 1-3), Julie and Mike Keffer (grades 4-6) and Rich Cameron (grades 7-8) were selected by peer coaches in their region for the NSCYO Team Sportsmanship Award. The Saint Dominic CYO track program, in its second year, has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with and the young runners are among the best on Long Island.


Calendar

OB Band Concerts

Wednesday, July 23

Music Under The Stars

Friday, July 25

Annual Chicken BBQ

Saturday, July 26



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com