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Gordon Brosdal

Mount Sinai held its Class of 2016 commencement ceremony on Saturday evening, June 25.

The bleachers were filled to capacity as Superintendent Gordon Brosdal congratulated the students and offered some advice.

Mount Sinai staff members and members of the school board handed out diplomas and cheered on the students, while valedictorian Patrick Hanaj and salutatorian Justine Quan gave poignant speeches. The band and choir performed to add to the festivities, and students were all smiles as they walked up on stage to receive their diplomas. The now former Mustangs then tossed their caps toward the sky in celebration.

 

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Mount Sinai superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the best part about going to work is the potential of great things happening in education for the school district. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Mount Sinai Superintendent of School’s Gordon Brosdal has worn many hats in his 46 years in education. But there’s one hat he wants to wear for a little bit longer.

On March 16, the school district’s Board of Education unanimously voted to extend the superintendent’s contract for an additional five years. Brosdal, whose initial contract ended next year, will maintain his position as until 2022, and add to his already expansive career.

“It creates stability in the district when everyone knows that you’re going to be here,” Brosdal said.

The average lifespan of a superintendent is five years, according to Brosdal. While superintendents typically start with a three-year contract, the board of education can vote to hire someone new to fill the position. Board members can also change, which can affect whether a superintendent remains with the district or start looking for another job.

Although Mount Sinai’s Board extended Brosdal’s contract, the superintendent’s salary agreement, which is linked to the tax cap, and benefits, will remain the same. His benefits include personal days, vacation time and health care, among some other benefits.

The district hired Brosdal in July 2014, with a starting salary of $195,000, staying under the $200,000 limit.

In his two years with the district, he lobbied for full day kindergarten and the district’s new writing program. Since the implementation of full-day K and the writing program, kindergarten students have learned how to read and write faster than those in previous classes.

“He has been a leader among leaders,” said Board of Education President Robert Sweeney. “I think he’s added so much to our district.”

Although Sweeney was unavailable for further comment, he has worked frequent with the superintendent and encouraged his fellow board members to vote in favor of the contract extension. Trustee and Vice President of the Board, Peter Van Middelem, added that Brosdal is widely respected across many districts on the Island.

Brosdal said he hopes to add more electives for students to take at Mount Sinai High School, including a virtual enterprise course. The course will allow students to study entrepreneurship and learn about accounting, human resources and other skills that will help them in college and their future career endeavors. The superintendent said he has many ideas for updating the district’s curriculum, which are currently on the back burner until the district can afford to implement the ideas.

Prior to working in the Mount Sinai school district, Brosdal worked at the Middle Country and William Floyd school districts. He’s served as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent in the past four-and-a-half decades. He will be one of few individuals on the Island who serve more than five decades in education.

“I feel this is the best opportunity I’ve had in my career,” Brosdal said. “I love coming to work. I work with great people. It’s a great district … and it’s like being renewed. I would like to work the rest of my career here, and we’ll see what happens at the end of five years.”

A full-day kindergarten class at Mount Sinai Elementary school has rug time during class. Photo by Giselle Barkley

With the Mount Sinai Elementary School’s new full-day kindergarten program, most students don’t want to miss school, even if they’re sick.

Since classes began six weeks ago, the school district’s kindergarten classes have learned to read, construct simple sentences, understand patterns and count when doing math. Six weeks ago, the majority of these students didn’t even know how to spell or identify “the” or “and” in a sentence.

Faculty and staff members, like Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and teacher Debra Santoro, who started teaching 10 years ago, said they thought the students would take longer to grasp the concepts the school teaches in the full-day program, but the shift from half-day to full-day Kindergarten has been successful, according to the school’s employees.

With the help of teachers like Santoro and the school’s new writing program, “Think, Draw, Write,” the kids aren’t only gaining confidence in their writing abilities, but are also using their creativity and applying what they learn to events in their life. During class, the kids have rug time, which is when the teacher devotes a certain amount of time teaching a lesson related to English language arts or math, among other subjects, at the front of the class. Students can then return to their desks and expand upon what they learned on the rug. Now, lessons are hands-on, allowing the kids to have a more positive outlook on learning.

“I think, in the past, we didn’t have it structured with mini lesson that’s presented in a few minutes to really grab their attention [and] convince [students] that they’re capable, and to build confidence,” Santoro said.

With the half-day kindergarten program, teachers only had 90 to 100 minutes of instruction time, as opposed to the scheduled 120 — walking from the bus to the classroom and taking off warmer clothing during the winter months took time out of the lesson. The new program gives students and teachers more time to learn and teach a lesson, Brosdal said.

“You don’t want to do it just because [the] parents both work and might need child care,” Brosdal said. “The reality is … when you look at the demands of the curriculum of ELA and math, you have to have time to learn it. When you’re rushing, it’s easy for some [children] to get left behind.”

The program also allows kids to get out of the classroom for special classes, like music, art and physical education, and learn the layout of the school and how to stay attentive despite the additional hours.

Initially, first grade teachers at the school spent the first four to six weeks teaching the kids how to get around the building as well as how to sit for a longer period of time — first grade used to be the first time former kindergarten students stayed in school for a full day.

According to Santoro, the key to preventing these students from fading as the day progresses is to keep them engaged.

Brosdal added that school officials intend to follow the progress of this group of kindergartners, especially when they enter third grade and complete their assessments for Common Core. Thus far, faculty, staff and students alike are excited about the program and the kids’ progress. Brosdal admitted he thought the change from half-day to full-day would be more difficult, but said that teachers sacrificing parts of their summer to prepare for the program by scheduling meetings with superintendents from school districts with full-day kindergarten, like Miller Place, was helpful.

“[With] new programs, sometimes you find that ‘oh you should have planned that or did that,’” Brosdal said. “[School] opened like we had [full-day kindergarten] for years.”

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Enrollment soars above school district's estimates

School board President Robert Sweeney explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

When Mount Sinai school board members proposed full-day kindergarten, they didn’t expect 160 students to enroll.

But the new program brought an enrollment increase of more than 40 percent, according to numbers the Mount Sinai Board of Education examined during a recent meeting, leading the district to hire another teacher.

By the end of the 2014-15 academic year, which had half-day kindergarten, there were around 112 students enrolled. With the 2015-16 enrollment, Mount Sinai had to bump up the number of teachers to seven.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Superintendent Gordon Brosdal explains the full-day kindergarten enrollment in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In May, the board estimated that 125 students would enroll in the full-day program, but by mid-July, there were 151 students.

“All year long … we promoted full-day K at a number around 125 and [aid Mount Sinai received from the state] was based on that number,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. The increase “was a little bit alarming to the board and myself.”

Brosdal said the new program could be popular because full-day kindergarten is easier for a parent’s schedule. He expects several more children to enroll before class starts on Sept. 8, pushing kindergarten enrollment past 160 students.

According to Linda Jenson, assistant superintendent for business, the extra teacher the district had to hire added $85,000 to the budget, bringing the total program cost to $635,000.

Despite that increase, residents will not see taxes go up, Jenson said. Officials dug up the extra money from within the approved $56.7 million budget for 2015-16.

Mount Sinai lengthened the kindergarten day to give young students more time to learn subjects like language arts, math, social studies, science and music.

“We wanted to give our kids and our teachers adequate time to address Common Core, the demands of the curriculum,” Brosdal said.

In half-day kindergarten, students were in school from 8:55 a.m. until 11:05 a.m. With the full-day program, they will stay in the classrooms until 2:58 p.m.

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