Tags Posts tagged with "Brian Biscari"

Brian Biscari

Three Village school board discusses cell phones, including Regents exams in course grades

Public domain photo

District parents should not expect more information about the surprise reassignment and investigation of Ward Melville High School’s principal, according to Three Village Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon.

Due to federal and state privacy laws, district representatives can’t discuss personnel matters  — and they won’t be able to even after the issue is resolved.

The board had an emergency meeting Wednesday, Nov. 8, after announcing the personnel change, with a public portion that lasted only a couple of minutes, time enough for the board to confirm the interim principal — Paul Gold, previously an assistant principal — and his compensation, as well as to vote to engage the services of Investigative Management Group.

District parent Qin Wu at the Nov. 15 board meeting spoke out in support of former principal William Bernhard and indicated parents were concerned for high school seniors.

“As a parent, I hope the investigation will be fair and transparent, and maybe even as soon as possible to resolve the issue and have everything come back to normal,” Wu said.

Scanlon told TBR News Media after the meeting that even though such transparency is not possible, Wu and other parents have nothing to worry about regarding their children’s education or the district’s reputation.

“I think the school is in good hands, and the acting administration is doing a wonderful job,” he said. “The educational system is still intact. Classes will remain, students will still go to college. No one’s going to be harmed that way,” adding, “If that is the fear that is being propagated, that’s wrong.”

Board president Susan Rosenzweig, a district parent herself, also spoke against percolating speculation and hearsay on social media. “Don’t buy in,” she advised. “Let due process take its place. It’s tough, I know.”

Regents exams as part of final grade

During the meeting, the board tabled any decision regarding the so-called “Do No Harm” rule, the policy of including Regents scores as part of a student’s final grade only if that score improves the grade.

The policy, which proponents say supports students who don’t test well, was instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic and temporarily extended last year after a group of parents petitioned the district.

Assistant Superintendent Brian Biscari shared the consensus recommendation that came after “tremendous discourse” by the district’s grading committee to include the exams at 10% — down from the 12% that has been the policy outside the reprieve of the last few years.

Biscari also took issue with the label “Do No Harm” since it implies acting in any other way will inflict harm on students, when part of the concern was that students may not take exams seriously if they don’t count toward final grades.

“It was a very student-centered conversation,” he said. “Never was the conversation about what the district is going to look like or how we’re going to present data. It was all in relation to students.”

But for freshman board member Karen Roughley, a long-time supporter of the policy, a 2% decrease is not enough. “There are many different ways to gauge a child’s understanding of the concepts than just sitting for one single test that means so much,” she said.

Biscari noted that some form of testing is required by the state, and removing any pressure from the Regents exam could backfire for students who need to take licensure exams or other higher-stakes tests in the future.

“We, as a district, would want to arm kids in how to address that anxiety and deal with it so they can effectively take tests, rather than eliminating that stress,” he said. “It’s almost an avoidance in some cases that we’re not teaching kids these skills that they are going to need in their lives.”

The board opted to wait on voting about the issue until it could hear forthcoming data from the state to see whether exam scores changed when students knew low scores would not be included in their final grade, and to learn more about how comparable Long Island districts are using Regents scores for classroom grades.

Cell phone policy

Scanlon also updated the board on the ongoing cell phone policy committee’s work, laying out the current thinking for parameters around student cell phone use in schools.

Currently the committee is ironing out how to best enforce the proposed new policy, though Scanlon emphasized that any consequences will be decided by building principals or the district, and will not be a one-size-fits-all consequence determined by a planning committee.

The board engaged the committee to look into changes after it became apparent that issues of use during instructional time, inconsistent enforcement across classes and cyberbullying were popping up at the secondary schools.

“It’s fully recognized by the teaching staff and the administration that cell phones are an issue, and then we heard loud and clear from the student representatives on the committee that yes, they agree, cell phones are an issue,” Scanlon said. “Everyone seemed to agree: We’ve got a problem.”

He said the final committee recommendations should be available for the Nov. 29 board meeting.

File photo by Greg Catalano

Proposed structural reorganization for Three Village Central School District is likely to happen later than originally targeted, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon in an update to the Board of Education June 14. The update comes amid an ongoing internal review on the matter by a staff committee working alongside a school start times subcommittee, which is open to the public. 

“Currently the committees feel that the changes for the sixth and ninth grades will not be able to occur for the 2024-25 school year, however final determination will occur in September,” he said at the meeting.

A survey earlier in the year revealed community and district stakeholders prefer moving sixth and ninth grades up to middle and high school, respectively, but the board did not adopt the plan outright. Rather, the trustees tasked district administration with researching costs, logistics and potential impacts of the plan first. They also asked the district to figure out how to include in the change later secondary school start times, per health and academic concerns. 

Scanlon has said at previous board meetings that such structural changes are extremely complicated with a lot of moving parts and, even before the board asked for the review, he had indicated the 2024-25 school year was an aggressive target date.

One sticking point is the need for additional mental-health support in the schools if younger students are moving up to the bigger schools, an issue that has percolated among some district parents, and came up during the recent board election. Scanlon said the internal committee agrees and is looking into options on how to provide that support effectively. 

According to Scanlon, one of the options on the table is a “house plan” for middle school, in which students would be grouped and rotate through the same set of teachers for core subjects, a program Scanlon laid out at a restructuring subcommittee meeting earlier in the school year as something that would allow teachers to better collaborate to recognize and address student needs.

At a previous board meeting, Brian Biscari, assistant superintendent for education services, indicated the district is already planning to expand its “departmentalization” trial for fifth and sixth grades next year to all five elementary schools, meaning students in those grades would change classes for core subjects to allow teachers to specialize and to help prepare students for secondary school.

Cellphone policy due for review, insubordination at events

Scanlon also informed the board the district is setting up a committee to explore changes to its cellphone policy in schools following a recent Newsday article laying out the potentially harmful effects of cellphones and social media on students.

In Three Village, there have been cellphone-related “acts of bullying and disrespect throughout the district, but especially at the secondary level,” Scanlon said. “We need to reexamine the use of cellphones by students under the code
of conduct.”

The code of conduct currently available on the district’s website prohibits the use of cellphones or other electronic devices during class, as well as the use of recording devices on school property or buses without permission.

In a separate item at the meeting, Scanlon addressed what he called “entitled, enabling and inappropriate behavior” by some students and spectators at district events. He said these behaviors have increased alongside the increase in use of cellphones as recording devices. “We have witnessed acts of insubordination and disrespect to not only our own staff, but also to police and other parents. This is a reminder that there is a code of conduct for students and for spectators at events, and the administration will enforce those codes.”

by -
0 1674
Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, discusses the proposed 2019-20 school district budget. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

Three Village is set to stay within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase.

Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, made the announcement March 27 as he previewed the 2019-20 Three Village Central School District budget during its board meeting.

Based on numbers released Monday in the state budget, Three Village will receive about $34.7 million in state aid, not including funding for capital projects. The amount is $287,000 above last year’s aid package and $175,000 more than estimated in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) proposal in January, Carlson said.

Among the district’s biggest expenses are retirement costs, which will decrease by about $1.2 million, and health insurance, which will increase by about 2 percent, the assistant superintendent said. Nevertheless, the district will not have to cut programs or staffing to stay within the cap, he said.

Decisions on programs and services will be based on enrollment and student need, and in coming weeks, the administration will meet with building principals to assess course requests and enrollment, Carlson said.

Next year, for the first time, the district will offer its free prekindergarten program — currently housed at Nassakeag Elementary — at each of its five elementary schools. Morning and afternoon sessions, taught by Three Village teachers, will meet for two and a half hours five days a week. This will be at no additional cost to the district, officials have said.

To supplement the program, the district will add a tuition-based, half-day prekindergarten enrichment program. The “fully self-sustaining” extended day will offer enrichment in STEM, art, music and movement during morning and afternoon sessions. Carlson said that there are already 100 students enrolled for the up to 200 spots across the district. Tuition — $500 a month — will also cover the cost of building age-appropriate playgrounds at each of the schools, he said.

The board is scheduled to adopt next year’s budget at the April 10 meeting. Three Village residents will vote on the budget May 21, at the district’s secondary schools. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Those zoned for Mount Elementary, will vote at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, while Setauket-zoned residents will vote at P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School.

New principal

Minnesauke principal Brian Biscari was appointed principal of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School. His appointment is effective July 1. Biscari will take over for Richard Pulaski, who has been serving as interim principal since Vincent Vizzo retired Feb 1. Vizzo, who was Murphy’s principal for 14 years, had worked in the district for 34 years. The district is interviewing candidates to head Minnesauke, where Biscari has served as principal since 2011, when he joined the school district.

Regeneron scholars

In other news, representatives from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals presented certificates to Ward Melville’s four Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars — the most from any Long Island high school. The honorees were Kelsey Ge, Maya Peña-Lobel, Megan Specht and Elizabeth Wang.

Kim DeCristofaro, a representative from the company and a parent of Ward Melville graduates, thanked Three Village on behalf of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for “continuing to provide opportunities for students to pursue scientific research.”