Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Friday, 25 December 2009 00:00
With the 2009-2010 school year in full swing, Dr. Constance Clark-Snead, superintendent of the Westbury School District, recently sat down with The Westbury Times to discuss student accomplishments, district initiatives and the various “misconceptions” surrounding the school community. Clark-Snead said the message, not just to parents but to the entire community, is that Westbury students are improving.
According to the district, between the 2005-2006 and 2008-2009 school years, the graduation rate has steadily increased from 85 percent to 88 percent. In fact, in 2008, 89 percent of the district’s 270 graduates, including those with special needs, went off to attend two- and four-year colleges and universities, including such prestigious schools are Dartmouth and Harvard.
“This is well above the New York State average. We are just as competitive as a private school,” Clark-Snead said, adding that 80 percent of graduating seniors received New York State Regents Diplomas and 2009’s graduates were awarded a total of approximately $400,000 in college scholarships.
In the area of mathematics and English language arts (ELA), Westbury students have also improved over the past four years. According to the “Spotlight on Achievement” flier provided by the district, 77 percent of all ELA students in third through eighth grade ranked in Levels 3 and 4 for the 2008-2009 school year as compared to just 60 percent back in 2005-2006. In math, 63 percent of third through eighth graders ranked in Levels 3 and 4 during the 2005-2006 school as opposed to an overwhelming 87 percent in 2008-2009.
“[Westbury] students are doing an excellent job and demonstrating growth,” Clark-Snead said.
The superintendent is extremely proud of the various curriculum initiatives Westbury has become involved with over the past few years, including the Westbury Magnet Academy at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and elementary science program at the Long Island Children’s Museum. According to Clark-Snead, the district’s aggressive technology/science program offers students access to computers and SMARTBoards in every classroom and was recently selected as one of only eight school districts in the country to participate in teleconferencing with NASA while the astronauts are in space. The district is currently exploring the idea of developing a television studio at the middle school along with a lacrosse club and performing arts academy at the high school.
In addition to serving as superintendent for the past 11 years, Clark-Snead is also a resident and taxpayer, which means she is invested in the success of the district and its students on both a professional and personal level. “My tax dollars are going to the schools as well. I have a personal interest and to me that says something,” she said, admitting that while she receives a great deal of support from the community, the negativeness tends to overshadow the positive. This, she said, can be “exhausting” at times.
“It’s exhausting because you are constantly fighting for students of the district. I enjoy what we’re doing here, just not the negativeness or the idea that the work by my staff and faculty is not appreciated,” said the superintendent. “I would love to have the community work with us and see all the positive aspects of the district.”
She added, “Everything I have done has been for the benefit of the residents, students and community.”
To those who need further proof that Westbury is on a level playing field with other comparable school districts, Clark-Snead said, “come in and see for yourself. Come into our school. Visit. Make an appointment to sit in on a classroom and see the quality of instruction.”