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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

You may not actually see who is leaving books and magazines for the commuters at the Locust Valley Train Station, but those who have nicknamed these delightful and dedicated women the “Book Ladies.”

Sue Klein and Joan McCauley, who are Friends of the Library, have been collecting donated books from the community and displaying them at the Long Island Railroad waiting area every week. The Book Ladies have also displayed Locust Valley Library programs so that commuters are aware of all the wonderful events that are going on.  

There will be a different look to the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education come September. Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christopher Van Cott is leaving his position to take a similar role in the Oceanside School District. He is following in the footsteps of past OBEN School Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington, who also left to take a similar position in Oceanside last year. The district will begin their search for a replacement for Van Cott this summer.


Sports

The Varsity Baseball Team finished the season with a league record of 11-3-1. In the playoffs, the team swept Carle Place in a best of three set to advance to the county finals vs. Wheatley at Hofstra University. The team finished the season as County runner-ups. The team was a nice combination of veteran varsity leaders and new comers to the varsity with six senior players and four freshmen on the squad. Along with four juniors, the team maintained the winning ways of a program that has won the league championship 7 out of the last eight years and won the county championship 6 of those years. Senior Berkeley Golon, Junior Jackson O’Neill, and Junior Stephen Spiegel received All-County honors. Senior Robbie Venegas and Freshman Harrison Treble received All-League honors. With two All-County pitchers coming back and four freshmen going into their second varsity season mixed with the other juniors and new players coming up from another successful JV season, the team expects to continue to work towards the goal of another county title next season.

The 2014 Oyster Bay High School Lady Baymen varsity spring track team recently completed a most memorable and record breaking season. Two school records were shattered this season; one relay record and one individual. Oyster Bay’s 4x800 meter relay team comprised of seniors Nicole Giannetti, Cassandra Iacono and juniors Linda Cameron and Rachel Wesley, broke the existing school record, and later broke their own record with a time of 10:01.56 at the Section VIII State Qualifier Meet on May 29.

Nicole Giannetti‘s senior year as a member of the Oyster Bay Girls’ Varsity Track team will also be one that will be long remembered. In addition to helping break the school’s 4x800 meters relay record, Giannetti broke the school’s 2000 meter steeplechase record, with a time of 7:23.79. Winning the 1500 meter run in very dramatic fashion at the Nassau Coaches Invitational, with an amazing time of 4:59 was a memorable mid-season highlight. Giannetti earned All-Conference honors in both the 1500 meters and 3000 meter runs and All County honors in the 2000 meter steeplechase. Giannetti qualified for the New York State Track and Field Championship in the 2000 meter steeplechase, finishing fifth and thus earning All-State honors. Giannetti was recruited by Haverford College to run for them when she attends this fall where she will study bio-chemistry.

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