Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
The Westbury Board of Education held a dual Planning/Action Meeting on Dec. 16, 2010. In addition to addressing questions and concerns from the community, the board identified challenges facing the district as well as anticipated successes from upcoming new programs.
During the public forum, several residents made inquiries as to current district policies and expressed concerns about the past instability experienced by the board.
One resident asked if the district’s policy of providing bus matrons on only public school buses was discriminatory to children attending private school.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Constance Clark-Snead responded that, according to the law, the district is not required to provide bus matrons.
“We provide matrons because we have the universal Pre-K program, and that’s where the funding is coming from,” said Dr. Clark-Snead.
“It’s also important to remember that the students on some private school buses are not all Westbury students; some are from other districts,” added BOE President Dr. Pless Dickerson.
According to Dr. Clark-Snead, the Board has arranged for a meeting with area private schools. The district intends to determine if other schools would be willing to share a financial burden for matrons in the interest of safety for all students.
Another safety question was raised when a resident asked if the district could inform parents when a staff member is accused of inappropriate contact with students.
Assistant Superintendent Robert Brisbane stated that an investigation would have to be conducted first with any consequent action decided upon by the board.
Brisbane also stressed that “if we ever have an incident where we feel that a child is in jeopardy, we would immediately remove that staff member from children, and only then would we go about an investigation.”
The board also listened as a number of residents who vehemently protested the amount of fees spent in recent lawsuits involving the board. A primary point of their contention was the belief that the money should have instead been spent on education. There was also a general sense of indignation among many of the speakers and audience members that taxpayers were shouldering the burden in difficult economic times.
The district is currently contending with several budget complications of their own. A lack of communication from the State regarding this year’s Extended Day funding, as well as next year’s 2.8 percent increase in district enrollment, have been of primary concern. To manage these issues, tutorials have been merged into the school day and the board is conferring with school principals to plan for the subsequent budget.
Keeping pace with new assessments and standards in a variety of areas including teacher evaluations, special education, graduation requirements and the curriculum as a whole have also been demanding for the district.
As Dr. Clark-Snead summed up, “Everything is in a state of flux.”
More encouragingly, several new programs will soon be introduced within the district as a component of raising student achievement and enrichment. Westbury High School is currently developing a new program to prepare students for the SAT exam. The school has partnered with Method Test Prep, which will provide various services including a classroom tutor, an informational session for parents and PSAT score analysis.
“We’re going to have Method Test Prep analyze the scores so that teachers can target specific areas for individual students,” said Brisbane.
In addition, for the first time in the district, Westbury Middle School will soon offer a Mandarin Chinese Program. Students at the Middle School will also have the opportunity to study a World Language Lab program that includes French, Spanish and Italian.