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BOE Discusses Tour Of District Facilities

Superintendent Lewis also discusses testing, APPR

During the Monday, Sept. 24 meeting, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education discussed a recent tour of all schools in the district on Friday, Sept. 14 by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorna R. Lewis, Director of Buildings and Grounds Kim Parahus and Director of Technology Guy A. Lodico and assistant superintendents.

The general consensus for all schools was finding an improvement in almost all areas from previous years, including the quality of education as well as each building. “In general, the level of kids’ work has really improved throughout the district,” said Trustee Gary Bettan.

Stratford Road Elementary was discussed first, which has had new blinds put up for the windows, and a new piano donated to the school for the music room. Bettan recalled seeing examples of students work in the past that were fill-in-the-blanks and drawings, while now he is seeing actual writing by the students. “It really shows me we’re moving in the right direction,” said Bettan.

The board expressed their approval of how the Howard B. Mattlin Middle School’s new courtyard looks, and discussed future plans for technology within that school, as well as others. Students at Mattlin are now using Nook e-readers, and Jill Gierasch, assistant superintendent for curriculum, recalled a student telling her, “If I had one of these [Nooks] at home, I would be reading all the time.” The board has begun discussions on opening up POB schools to wireless communication. “We’re going to have to look at our technology policy over the next year, so we can allow our kids to become 21st-century learners with 21st-century tools,” Bettan said.

Among the other findings at Mattlin Middle School were Principal Dean Mittleman’s comment to the board that he finds students to be much better behaved than in previous years. The board attributed these improvements to setting clear expectations of the students. Some repairs were also discussed, which were cabinets and windows in the old science rooms that have been damaged by termites. “That’s something that as we do the budget, we’ll have to concentrate on,” Vice President Ginger Lieberman said.

The board also reported back that Pasadena Elementary School has seen improvements in the quality of education. Trustee Emily Schulman, who spoke to third-grade teachers there, reported back that they are “on the order of 4-6 months ahead, which is a significant difference.” According to the teachers’ testimonies, they are seeing less of a need to re-teach material, and consistency of instruction.

The boy’s locker room at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School has had some repairs, including repainting and improved lighting. The mosaic in front of the school is also completed. The board praised the improvement in the building’s appearance, however one issue that remains is the construction of their courtyard, which the board hopes to be completed soon. “We used to have concerts there, foreign language events…it would be nice to have that back in use again,” Schulman said.

 At the high school, the computer technology available to students, especially in the art rooms, was praised by Trustee Angel Cepeda. “Technology really gives us an advantage and helps our students reach the next level,” he said. One of the major concerns about the high school during the discussion was the pool, which is leaking. The board has been told that repairing the leak is not covered by insurance, as the leaking is not coming from the lining of the pool, but from drainage pipes. Updates on the pool’s repair will be provided at upcoming meetings.

Another issue with the high school is its locker rooms, which are “not where the board would like them to be,” according to Cepeda. The board is in the process of reviewing what the issues are with the locker rooms and planning repairs.

Another matter of repair is at Parkway Elementary School, which Lieberman mentioned an old and obsolete piece of equipment on the playground that is “in dire need of repair.” The board plans to replace it.

The Kindergarten Center’s new computer lab was shown to the board, which President Amy Pierno reported had new flat screen monitors, an update from previous “hand-me-downs from the high school,” according to Pierno. The board also visited Fern Place and Jamaica Avenue, which has seen repairs. Jamaica Avenue was reported to be in good condition, especially the All Purpose Room, which has been renovated in recent years. The parking area for Fran Place was repaved this summer, and an island around the circle of their parking lot has been reduced to make more room for buses to maneuver.

Following the reports, Superintendent Dr. Lorna R. Lewis commended everyone on the board for their “detailed reports on each building.” In her report, Lewis announced the district’s National Merit Semi-Finalists: Robert P. Adelson, Adrian Kim, Amelia S. Ricketts and Sunny Zheng. Lewis also talked about her attendance at a ceremony by the Long Island Art’s Alliance which honored the class of 2012-13 scholars, two of which are Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School students: Jackie Primack and Nicole Davidson. Regarding APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), Lewis announced: “We are on our way to completing the requirements for NY State, and we will be submitting our plan very soon.”

Lewis also discussed her recent meeting with New York State Education Department Commissioner John B. King Jr., to which Lewis addressed the challenges of APPR and state mandates. “The state has no idea how much APPR has cost, both in time and resources,” Lewis said.

“I said to him (Commissioner) that ‘at the end of all this [APPR and state mandates] is a child.” Lewis did state that she had received confirmation from the state that third- and fourth-grade testing will be 20 minutes shorter this year, but was hesitant to completely believe it. “What happened last year is that it was 90 minute tests, which they said could be completed in 60 minutes. I feel they will give us the same test with a different time, so we have to watch that and call them on it,” Lewis said.

The next board of education meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 15 at 7:45 p.m. at Mattlin Middle School.