Education

Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon speaks at a meeting. File photo

It was just a few years ago — 2011 to be exact— when Everyday Math made its rocky debut in Three Village elementary schools.

The district was among the first to move to a Common Core-aligned math curriculum, following the state’s adoption of the standards the previous year. One problem among many, said Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, was that Everyday Math was only about 80 percent aligned to the new standards.

Now the district’s elementary math review committee is recommending that Three Village adopt a replacement, the Houghton Mifflin Go Math! series. The proposal follows an evaluation that began last year with the committee’s analysis of the district’s 2012-13 New York State math assessment scores.

The group also met with the representatives of four leading math programs — Envisions by Pearson, Mc Graw Hill’s updated Everyday Math 4, Go Math! and Singapore Math — and decided to pilot Everyday Math 4 and Go Math! this year. Of the two programs, the committee determined that Go Math! was best suited to Three Village students’ needs.

Unlike Everyday Math, which was put in place before Scanlon and the current superintendent assumed their jobs, the recommendation was meant to be a collaborative effort that included feedback from teachers.

Scanlon said elementary school teachers, who were given materials from both programs, were able to “experiment under their own professional discretion.”

“When we look at any of these products, nothing is going to take the place of great teachers in the classroom using their discretion with the students in front of them,” Scanlon said.

The committee — a cross-section of educators from each grade at the district’s elementary schools, as well as secondary math chairs and administrators — designed surveys for elementary teachers to complete. The most frequent rating for Everyday Math 4 was “fairly good,” while Go Math! was most frequently rated as “very good.” The surveys indicated that there was a clear three-to-one preference for Go Math!

The committee also examined the resources each program provided for parents to help their children at home. Committee members decided that Go Math! has the best resources for teachers, students and parents, while also offering opportunities for enrichment, remediation and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.  The addition of five elementary STEM positions, as proposed in the 2015-16 budget, would also support differentiation for students at different levels.

Because of the difficult transition to Everyday Math, board members said they were concerned about the simultaneous introduction of Go Math! to all grades. Scanlon responded that the change would be less tumultuous since both teachers and students have already worked with the Go Math! material.

Many districts across Long Island, including neighboring Comsewogue and Northport, use Go Math! which, according to Scanlon, is the most sought-after math program for elementary schools.

In answer to the board’s questions about what competitive districts like Jericho and Cold Spring Harbor use, Scanlon said that he is in the process of finding out.

“Our teachers picked what was best for the students in Three Village,” he added.

Though not advocating for the Envisions math curriculum, board members did wonder whether Three Village students would be at a disadvantage if they didn’t use the textbooks written by Pearson, the company that also writes the state exams. Scanlon explained that Pearson’s textbook division is separate from its test-writing division and that legally, the company cannot structure its books to the test.

If Go Math! is adopted, teacher training will begin in May, with voluntary training continuing throughout the summer. Teachers will continue to receive more in-depth training throughout the coming school year.

Scanlon said the district would save about $100,000 since it chose to pilot the program. Three Village will sign a yearly contract over six years, rather than purchasing all material upfront. The agreement means it will be easier to receive updated material, he said.

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Stock photo

The Comsewogue School District will be conducting a lottery to determine which students will be attending its half-day pre-kindergarten program this fall.

The lottery will be held at the district office on Monday, June 15, at 11 a.m.

Applications will be mailed to all district residents and are also available in the main office of each of the district’s schools and at the district office.

Completed applications are due back to the district office by 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

Contact Jennifer Reph, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, at 631-474-8110, with any questions.

For one day, Seawolves stepped aside to give red rubber duckies the spotlight.

Hundreds of organizations across the North Shore converged onto Stony Brook University’s campus on Friday to celebrate the 14th annual Earthstock, a weeklong Earth Day extravaganza at the school. By that afternoon, a throng of students and residents celebrated by floating hundreds of rubber ducks down an on-campus brook — an activity that has become a known visual for Earthstock.

The college hosted events all week long in observance of Earth Day, including public lectures, a farmer’s market, drum circles, art showcases and even beatboxing. The annual Earth party came just days after Stony Brook University was ranked fourth overall on The Princeton Review’s environmentally responsible university list, which awarded the school a perfect green rating score.

“Environmental stewardship is a commitment the university makes to students, faculty and staff; and together we are committed to the community at large,” SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said. “Implementation of green technologies, resources and sustainability initiatives is an investment that not only impacts the future of Stony Brook but our collective future. We share this outstanding distinction with the entire campus community.”

The school recycled the most e-waste nationally in the annual RecycleMania 2013 and 2014 competitions, and operates 10 electric vehicle charging stations.

Since 2006, Stony Brook has planted more than 4,900 trees, saplings, bushes and perennials using an on-campus greenhouse and nursery.

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School board adopts $78.7 million spending plan

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring. File photo by Erika Karp

Come May 19, Rocky Point Union Free School District residents will take to the polls and vote on the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year budget, which would increase the tax levy by about 1.7 percent over the current year — slightly less than how much administrators previously expected to raise taxes.

Since budget talks began earlier this year, district officials estimated the tax levy increase at 1.97 percent. But at an April 22 school board meeting, district Superintendent Michael Ring announced the lower levy increase, after the district received additional state building aid for next year. According to aid projections from New York State, the district is set to receive a total aid package of more than $27 million.

The district had a difficult budget process this year, as it faces an increase in special education costs.

Between more students being schooled outside of the district and those with high-cost Individualized Education Program plans, the special education budget line will increase by nearly 13 percent. According a recent budget presentation, with BOCES services and tuition for outside and private placements, the district is looking at spending more than $7.3 million.

Assistant Superintendent Deborah DeLuca said officials tried to keep some special education students in-house, but was unable to do so.

“Quite honestly, there was no way of grouping them, with their needs and their IEPs, for us to do that here. … We wouldn’t be able to have nice, clean groups and it would be difficult to support,” she said.

Ring said creating a more robust special education program at Rocky Point to educate the students makes sense, but supporting it over the years could be a challenge.

“If we don’t get people to enroll in our program, what happens?” Ring said.

Because of that budget line’s increase, administrators said there would be a decrease in the district’s Striving for Higher Achievement at Rocky Point, known as SHARP, at the elementary level. The district is cutting the afterschool program, but summer SHARP would continue and other extra help would still be offered.

Ring said that after reviewing the numbers, there wasn’t a strong correlation between placement in the program and a child’s outcome, as students received the services for a brief time — from one hour to no more than four hours a week.

The move will save the district between $150,000 and $170,000, according to Ring.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on May 5 in the Rocky Point High School auditorium.

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Tom Brischler. Photo from Brischler

The Miller Place Board of Education has one seat open as incumbent Mike Unger decided he would not seek re-election. Three hopefuls, including former trustee Michael Manspeizer, who wasn’t re-elected to his seat last year, and newcomers Tom Brischler and Keith J. Frank,  are vying for the position. The election, as well as 2015-16 school year budget vote, will take place on May 19.

Unger, a six-year school board veteran, said in an email that he feels the board is in great shape and it’s a good time to hand it off.

Unger reflected on a number of achievements during his tenure, including construction of the administration building, addition of a full-day kindergarten program, adoption of long-term budgeting practices and naming Marianne Higuera as the district’s superintendent.

“I thank the residents, my board members and the staff of Miller Place for trusting me with their educational, administrative and financial issues,” Unger wrote. “I have truly enjoyed these last six years and will maintain a high level of interest in all things Miller Place. Go Panthers.”

Tom Brischler
The retired Sachem North High School English teacher is making a run for the board, as he hopes to become a facilitator between the board, the teachers and the community.
Brischler, 63, said he loved teaching and called it a way of life instead of a job. He feels education is in jeopardy, which is why he decided to make the run.
“I don’t want to see teaching and learning fall apart,” Brischler said.
He feels the relationship between local schools and the state of New York is at an all time low and he hopes that by gaining a seat on the board he can fix that.
If elected, Brischler said he would work on being a facilitator and making sure teacher’s jobs are manageable, as the Common Core Learning Standards and aligned standardized testing continues.
“I would like to see shared decision making come back to Miller Place,” Brischler said.
Brischler said is he is against Common Core and teacher evaluations being tied to the state tests.
Brischler and his wife, Janine, who is a teacher in the district, have lived in Miller Place for 10 years. He has two grown children.

Keith J. Frank is running for the Miller Place school board. Photo from the candidate
Keith J. Frank is running for the Miller Place school board. Photo from the candidate

Keith J. Frank
The father of three students in the district decided he would like to run in an effort to continue the great experience his children in the district have.
Frank, 50, said his children have had a tremendously positive experience in the district and he wants to get on the board to make sure the district continues that.
“My goals are to make sure [the] schools continue to run as well as they have with the proper balance to maintain programs for kids,” Frank said.
Frank is a partner at the Uniondale-based law firm, Forchelli, Curto, Deegan,
Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana, LLP, where he practices labor, employment and business law. He said he feels he has a lot to bring to the board with his skill set, especially as he has litigation experience.
“I think I bring a good perspective of understanding how a large organization runs,” Frank said. “I try to see both sides of all issues.”
Frank has lived in the district for 12 years with his wife, Kristina, a stay-at-home mom.

Michael Manspeizer is running for the Miller Place school board. Photo from the candidate
Michael Manspeizer is running for the Miller Place school board. Photo from the candidate

Michael Manspeizer
Manspeizer isn’t letting last year’s loss get him down, and the Cisco Systems program manager is running again.
“I really want to have a second chance to get a full term and have an impact on the community,” Manspeizer, 55, said.
The 10-year Miller Place resident was first elected to the board to finish a retiring member’s term in the spring of 2013.  He said he is running again because there are a lot of issues that need to be fixed.
“We face a lot of issues, a lot of issues that require thoughtful contemplation,” Manspeizer said.
With everything going on in the education world, Manspeizer said he hopes to help manage the change by being respectful to students, teachers and the taxpayers. He also wants to see more discussion among board members when making important decisions.
If elected, he would continue to comb through the budget to find better and more efficient ways to spend money, encourage more science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — programs in the district and work to enhance athletic programs.
Manspeizer, and his wife Doreen, a stay at home mom, have two daughters, one in college and one in high school.

School board trustees James Macomber and Doreen Feldmann at the board meeting on April 22. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The Middle Country school board unanimously adopted a nearly $236 million budget for the 2015-16 school year on April 22. The proposed budget will now head to a public vote this May.

“This is the first time in 10 years that we’re looking at stabilizing the district,” board President Karen Lessler said prior to the vote. “Ten years we’ve been through a reduction of funding by the state of New York.”

The president called the budget “solid,” as it keeps current programs intact, no excessing of staff will happen and it includes a continuation of the popular science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – know as STEM – program that has been a hit in the district. The spending plan is also tax levy increase cap compliant.

At the district’s budget presentation on April 1, Lessler announced the district would receive back roughly 60 percent of the Gap Elimination Adjustment money. The deduction in aid district is currently looking at a loss of $3.3 million, which is less than year’s past.

“I want to be clear that this is not extra money that we’re getting,” Lessler said at an April 1 meeting. “This is money that we’re entitled to have. It has been earmarked in our budget and there has been a reduction in this funding and finally this year we’re seeing some restoration of these funds.”

Under the plan, residents with an average home assessed at $2,200 will pay an extra $93.19 in taxes next year.

Like many other districts across the state, Middle Country is adding staff in order to comply with a state-mandated English as a second language initiative, which aims to help students whose first language is not English. The district will add two to three teachers to meet the mandate.

In regards to new programs, officials said the budget allocates funds for a science research program at the high school.

In an earlier presentation, Lessler said if the budget is voted down, sports, clubs, full-day kindergarten and the pre-kindergarten program are among items that could be negatively impacted.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on May 6 at the Newfield High School library. The budget vote and school board election will take place on May 19.

Residents pack Kings Park High School at a previous drug forum. File photo by Chris Mellides

Kings Park High School will be hosting a resource fair and substance abuse event on Thursday, April 30, with hopes of attracting North Shore residents to discuss the many issues related to drugs affecting Suffolk County.

The fair will include numerous prevention, support and intervention “helps” for parents, students and community members. There will be six speakers who will provide an overview of the epidemic and current trends, effects on family members, prevention and risk factors, treatment options, success stories, hope and advocacy.

“This event is a collaborative effort between Families in Support of Treatment, Thomas’ Hope and Kings Park in the kNOw,” said Timothy Eagen, superintendent of Kings Park schools.

The event opens at 5:30 p.m. and the fair begins at 6 p.m. in the Kings Park High School cafeteria. The program will then begin promptly at 7 p.m. in the Kings Park High School auditorium.

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Full-day kindergarten included in spending plan

Mount Sinai’s administration and board — including Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and BOE President Robert Sweeney — will ask taxpayers to weigh in on a capital bond proposal Dec. 11. File photo by Erika Karp

Over the last four years, only an average of 17 percent of registered voters in the Mount Sinai school district came out to the district’s annual May budget and school board election. This year, Superintendent Gordon Brosdal is urging residents to actually show up to the polls.

Prior to making his last presentation on the district’s proposed $56.7 million 2015-16 school year budget, which the school board unanimously adopted, Brosdal took a few minutes to remind the larger-than-usual crowd that every vote matters.

“If people vote yes or no, that’s their issue, but please come out and vote,” he said at the April 22 school board meeting. “All of you. Encourage your friends, neighbors.”

Elected officials, those who decide how much state aid the district gets, will take notice, according to Brosdal.

While the district budgeted for no increase in state aid over the current year, the district received $391,860 more than anticipated. Included in the total $16.4 million aid package, is more than $500,000 in kindergarten conversion aid, as the district plans to transition from a half-day to full-day kindergarten program.

The possible change has been a topic of discussion for a year, with many parents backing the move, as students require additional classroom time in order to keep up with the Common Core Learning Standards.

Last month, the district committed to making the jump and included the full-day program in its budget proposal.

At the April 22 meeting, Brosdal said that after he recently saw Miller Place’s newly implemented full-day kindergarten program he was “kind of elated” by what he witnessed at the school and how much the students were learning.

“We are leaving kids behind in our current program,” Brosdal said.

But school officials have repeatedly reminded residents that the budget just isn’t about kindergarten. There is still a whole K-12 program that the budget maintains and betters.

Under the spending plan, which increases nearly 3.3 percent from the current year, class sizes, class offerings and programs are maintained. In addition, the district will begin following Columbia University’s Teachers College Writing Project, which provides writing curriculum and professional development for teachers, in grades kindergarten through fifth.

A resident with an average assessed home value of $3,500 will see an annual tax increase of $156.

The slight increase in state aid also helps the district’s three-year outlook, as it won’t have to rely as much on appropriating fund balance year after year. In the past, board President Robert Sweeney pointed to the 2017-18 school year as to when the district’s surplus would be depleted. However, according to current district estimates, the fund balance would remain at nearly 2 percent of the operating budget that year.

“We’re now in a position that we can develop our program each year and develop our program positively,” he said.

Xavier Palacios file photo by Rohma Abbas

The race for the Huntington school board this year will be cut-and-dry, as four individuals are running uncontested for four open seats on the school board.

Board President Emily Rogan and board members Xavier Palacios and Tom DiGiacomo are seeking re-election to new three-year terms on the board, as is newcomer Christine Biernacki, a Halesite resident and president of the district’s PTA Council.

The four seats include those held by Rogan, Palacios and DiGiacomo, but also former Vice President Adam Spector, who died after losing a battle with cancer last summer.

In interviews this week, candidates sounded off about what they’ve accomplished and what they feel they could bring to the board in the next three years.

Xavier Palacios
Palacios, an attorney with an office in Huntington Station, wears many hats. He has leadership roles in various groups like Huntington Matters, an anti-crime Huntington Station group, and the Friends of Huntington Station Latin Quarter. He is running for a second, three-year term.

Palacios wants to see the district continue parental engagement program efforts — something that was funded this year by a federal grant. The district’s been able to engage parents in their children’s education through the program’s efforts. He also wants to see the district continue to cut costs in innovative ways, such as building partnerships with other school districts and agencies.

Emily Rogan is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. Photo from the candidate
Emily Rogan is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. Photo from the candidate

“I’d like to see us be able to find more efficiencies in how we run the buildings themselves,” he said. Palacios also spoke of the reopening of the Jack Abrams building and reinstating full-day kindergarten as big accomplishments.

Emily Rogan
Rogan, who is finishing her third term on the board, said she’s running again because she wants to keep the district moving in the right direction. She said she and her colleagues have made decisions in the interest of student success — she shouted out a few, like reinstating full-day kindergarten last year and reopening the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. There’s still work to be done, like improving the district’s food program, but overall, Rogan said the board is doing “real work,” and she wants to continue to be a part of that.

“We have been getting such terrific work done and I feel so good about the direction our district is heading,” she said. “For many, many years I did not feel like that. I kind of felt like I was banging my head against the wall.”

Christine Biernack is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. Photo from the candidate
Christine Biernack is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. Photo from the candidate

A large part of Huntington’s success has to do with its leader, Superintendent Jim Polanksy, who Rogan spoke highly of. She also spoke strongly about Huntington, noting she was raised and educated in the district.

Christine Biernacki
A newcomer, Biernacki said she’s excited to join the board and continue to help a group of people she feels is already doing the right things.
Biernacki is president of the district’s PTA Council. In that role, she has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening at all the schools in the district.

She is also a parent member in the district’s special education committee. A mother to a special needs child, Biernacki said she feels she would bring a unique perspective to the board on special needs issues.
“We have a wonderful special education program, but there are some areas that, for example, it was discussed at the last board meeting, adding some more student support, like a psychologist or social worker,” she said. “There’s such a need for that, not even in special education but across the whole range of students at our district.”

Helping special needs students isn’t the only thing Biernacki is passionate about. She also doesn’t want to see class sizes increase.

Tom DiGiacomo is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. File photo
Tom DiGiacomo is running unopposed for a seat on the Huntington school board. File photo

Biernacki is an attorney who works from home.

Tom DiGiacomo
DiGiacomo grew up in Huntington Station and has roots in the district that go back three generations. He’s running for a second, three-year term on the board.

The incumbent is the director of technology sales for at Complete Packaging and Shipping Supplies.

Recently, DiGiacomo voted in favor of adding two new soccer teams to J. Taylor Finley Intermediate School. He’s also expressed interest in the district exploring solar energy alternatives.

His experience includes project and budget management, finance and implementing technology solutions, according to his district bio.

He didn’t return calls seeking comment this week.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library shows off its new gear. Photo from Robert Caroppoli

Setauket’s own Emma S. Clark Memorial Library made the most of $10,000 in state funding and is now celebrating a new state-of-the-art technology center.

Three new 55-inch smart televisions were only the beginning of the new technological enhancements made at the library this month, thanks to $10,000 in state funding from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), which helped offset the cost of the refurbished center. It took a lot of work, but the library made sure to employ all the painting and wiring from in-house library employees in order to get the most out of the money.

“We are grateful to Sen. Flanagan for this generous award, which will help enhance the lives of our patrons, young and old,” said Ted Gutmann, library director. “Thanks to Sen. Flanagan and New York state, this new facility ensures that Emma Clark Library continues to offer its patrons the latest in technology, keeping it a modern library for today’s fast-paced world within its charming façade.”

Moving forward, Gutmann said the technology center will offer classes to the public on a wide variety of subjects, including those for beginners and others for more advanced learners. With this new software, the library will add to its existing selection of classes for teens by offering online video creation and editing.

Flanagan visited the library last week to meet with Gutmann and its employees to tour the new equipment and share in the success.

“The staff and leadership of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has utilized this state funding to create a learning center that will enhance the lives of so many in the community. This new technology center has many different applications for young and old and is a great addition to this already impressive facility,” Flanagan said. “I am happy that we were able to work together for the benefit of the patrons.”

Among the equipment purchased as a result of the grant were three Vizio 55-inch wall-mounted smart televisions, which have the ability to mirror the display of the instructor’s machine, Apple TV and any other HDMI-capable hardware. This technology will allow participants to follow along with an instructor during any class. Each television is also equipped with a floor level HDMI port for easy access to gaming systems or other external input devices.

The Technology Center will also house 10 Dell computers with 23-inch LCD monitors, which are wall-mounted to allow for a clean appearance and functionality. These computers are designed in a way that enhances learning because they are fast, reliable and equipped with some of the latest technology available, including Intel i5 processors, 8GB of memory, and wireless keyboards and mouses, the library said.

The library also received a brand new Macbook Pro with an Intel i7 processor and 16GB of memory, which operates on Mac OSX Yosemite. The Macbook also has Microsoft Office 2014 and Final Cut Pro, which allows for video and photo editing.

All classes held in the Technology Center can be found in the printed newsletter or online at  /newsletters.

The library already offers adult classes on a broad range of topics, such as the Internet, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Facebook, Pinterest, smartphones and tablets. Children and teen programs include Minecraft and Wii U. Also offered are workshops and drop-in tech assistance for help with mobile devices in a small, personal setting.

The library even offers a Teen Tech Clinic on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, where teens volunteer to assist adults with their computers and mobile devices.