Tags Posts tagged with "Kevin Scanlon"

Kevin Scanlon

File photo

By Mallie Jane Kim

Three Village Central School District is on track to restructure its schools as planned in fall 2025, according to superintendent of schools Kevin Scanlon.

The district has been planning to move sixth grade up into the junior high schools to form middle schools and move ninth grade up to form a four-year high school.

Staff teams responsible for planning the changes have been working to prepare what will be needed as far as staffing, facilities, grading and curriculum to accommodate the changes and support kids’ mental health needs during the transition, Scanlon shared at a June 12 Board of Education meeting.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “Next year is still going to be busy, but I think we’re way ahead of our schedule and on target to move forward.”

The district has already taken into account planning moving-up ceremonies and related activities for both fifth and sixth grades at the elementary schools, as well as eighth and ninth grades at the junior high schools, for the 2024-25 school year since all four grades will be changing schools at once.

One thing still under consideration is the possibility of repurposing one of the five elementary schools in tandem with the change, to address ongoing financial concerns, especially as the schools will no longer house sixth grade. Though the possibility has come up multiple times, the board has not made any substantive moves toward such a decision.

The district also must decide whether to change the names of any of the schools — for example, changing the junior high schools to middle schools.

Some parents and at least one staff member have tried to convince the district to hit pause on the restructuring plan, expressing worry that a change could risk losing what is good about the district. 

“Three Village school district has distinguished itself by providing top-notch opportunities for our students across diverse areas, while also fostering nurturing environments during pivotal transitional years,” wrote Gelinas Junior High guidance counselor Anthony Dattero in a March perspective piece in The Village Times Herald. “Our district has maintained its uniqueness for over 40 years, resisting the trend toward common middle school models adopted by other districts.”

District administrators have argued the new structure will bring Three Village into line with the way New York State standards are written and will provide sixth and ninth graders the benefits of the curriculum available in the upper schools.

“We are ready to move forward,” Scanlon said. “This is happening.”

Scanlon indicated the teams will continue to work over the summer and into the fall to make ready the transition. 

Start time complications

Secondary school start times after the restructuring are still up in the air, as there is no solution yet for making start times later, something parent advocates have been pushing for over several years, citing mental health and academic costs of having adolescents start school at such early hours. 

Ward Melville High School currently starts at 7:05 a.m. and the junior high schools start at 7:40.

“We have to do our very best to make sure we’re not moving grade nine up to an earlier start time, if we possibly can avoid it,” said trustee David McKinnon, referring to the fact that restructuring will bring ninth and sixth grade up to schools that start earlier than the schools that currently house them.

At issue is the tiered bussing system, which allows the district to get by on fewer buses than they would need if all the schools started at the same time. 

Each additional full-sized school bus added to the fleet would cost about $105,000, according to estimates by a transportation consultant, called in to help the district figure out the most efficient way to make a change with the lowest price tag. 

The consultant shared the results of his assessment at the meeting, but the board did not see an immediately clear solution. Some of the proposed scenarios had elementary schools starting as early as 7:20 a.m. or as late as 10:00 a.m., which would mean dismissal wouldn’t begin until 4:15 p.m.

“Any elementary school that ends later than it is now, is a problem,” said Karen Roughley, who is a longtime advocate of later secondary start times. She added that the early start times would also be a problem. 

“The whole point of us moving our high school kids is that we don’t want them there so early and waiting for the school bus when it’s dark,” she said. “I’m not going to have my elementary kindergarteners standing in the dark waiting to get on a bus.” 

Some of the proposed scenarios would require adding six new buses to the fleet.

Board members indicated they would continue to work with the consultant to fine-tune his results into realistic proposals they can lay out for the community, possibly in September to make a decision by October.

Three Village Central School District Superintendent Kevin Scanlon. File photo

Superintendent warns cuts would impact programs, class sizes and staffing

By Mallie Jane Kim

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon sent a dire warning last week to Three Village Central School District families over proposed state funding cuts, calling for Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to reconsider her calculations for state education aid — which would decrease funding for the district by $8.9 million — and requesting advocacy from district residents.

“At a time when expenditures continue to rise beyond the district’s control and federal COVID funds are set to expire, any loss of school funding poses significant challenges for our district and will have far-reaching implications for students, staff and our entire education system,” Scanlon wrote. 

Hochul’s budget proposal for the 2024-25 school year includes an increase of $825 million in state aid to schools overall – but cuts for some districts, including Three Village, which would lose 17.86% of its aid if the budget passes as is. This pullback in aid would mark an end to the “hold harmless” provision, which had assured districts they would not receive less aid than the previous year, a policy that helps long-term budget planning because districts aren’t left guessing as to how much the state will provide in coming years.

The governor touted her budget proposal during her Jan. 16 presentation as marking “the highest level of education funding in state history,” but acknowledged the jump is far more modest that the past two years, which combined saw a $5 billion increase, according to state data. 

“As much as we may want to, we are not going to be able to replicate the massive increases of the last two years. No one could have expected the extraordinary jumps in aid to occur annually,” she said, adding that it is “common sense” to allot money based on current school enrollment rather than that of past decades.

The cuts for Three Village come despite the state Comptroller’s Office in January 2023 designating the district as “susceptible to fiscal stress,” which district officials have previously said is due to money from district reserves spent to keep schools open during the pandemic.

Scanlon’s email painted a bleak picture of the district’s future under the proposed decrease in funds, suggesting it “could mean catastrophic, long-lasting results for our school system. When schools face funding cuts, it often leads to a reduction in resources, extracurricular programs and support services, as well as the potential for building closures. … Steep reductions such as the one proposed will not only require reductions to staffing, but also increased workloads, larger class sizes and the elimination of essential educational opportunities — all pillars of strength that our district has prided itself on providing.”

The superintendent also urged district residents to use contact details provided at contact.3villagecsd.org to write to the governor and local representatives, though some of those representatives have already taken notice.

Both state Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) and state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) made statements against the funding cuts for some districts. 

Flood suggested the governor was prioritizing the migrant crisis instead of helping schools overcome learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Gov. Hochul claims education for our younger generations is her top priority yet at the same time schools are lowering their testing standards,” he wrote.

For his part, Palumbo indicated that during upcoming budget talks, he plans to “ensure that Long Island receives its fair share of state funding for education, transportation, housing and workforce development.”

A Change.org petition started by the Three Village Parents Alliance, an advocacy group that includes several school board members, calls on Hochul to reconsider. “We cannot overemphasize how disruptive the proposed 18% reduction in state aid to the Three Village school district will be for the education, health and safety of our students. There is no mechanism to manage a cut of this magnitude in a single year that will not be damaging to our students,” the petition states. More than 200 district parents signed on within the first day, Jan. 20, and by Wednesday morning, Jan. 24, the petition had garnered nearly 500 signatures. 

According to Scanlon, administration officials plan to expand on the potential impact of the change in funding at a Jan. 24 school board meeting. He invited parents to attend or watch the livestream on the district’s YouTube channel.

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

By Mallie Jane Kim

Three Village Central School District is set to restructure its schools starting fall 2025, after the Board of Education voted to officially adopt a plan to bring the district in line with New York State standards, moving sixth grade up to form middle schools and placing ninth grade in the high school.

The proposal was the most popular among all stakeholders in a survey last year of students, staff, parents and community members, but several public comments at the Jan. 10 school board meeting called for holding off on the decision.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if you have something that’s boutique, that’s a good thing,” said district parent Kevin DeBlasi, who was one of the commenters to support keeping the district in its current configuration, in part to give students the extra time to mature. “Let them be kids as long as possible,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon pushed back against the idea that change in school structure will damage the education children receive in the district. “Our uniqueness is not in our configuration. Our uniqueness is in the amount of care and concern that the people in this district show for the children that go here,” he said.

Trustee David McKinnon, who indicated he’s usually in favor of not changing things — just look at his house, he joked — agreed. “The problem is that reality is changing, much like my house is deteriorating,” he said. “Enrollment is declining a lot. Change is inevitable here at some point. We’ve reached the point where we have to do something.”

In an email read aloud during the public comments, district parent Michelle Schultz urged the board to wait on reconfiguring schools in order to consider the class of so-called “COVID kindergarteners.” Schultz pointed out that the students who will be sixth graders in 2025 are part of the same class that was sent home from kindergarten in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“They were prohibited from being within 6 feet of each other and did not have the opportunities to work in collaborative groups or build their social skills,” Schultz wrote, reminding the board that this group missed foundational elementary experiences like field trips, classroom celebrations and interacting normally — at a significant developmental age. “Making the change at this point will impact a group of children who’ve already lost out on a typical elementary school experience,” she added.

Scanlon, who has previously indicated the district has an unprecedented number of students in need of counseling services, validated her concern and said he is committed to addressing increased postpandemic mental health challenges. “We need to keep investing and investing in those things to make sure we have trusted adults at earlier and earlier ages to be able to address the needs of our students as they come through the system,” he said, but added that school configuration won’t change that need. “Regardless of the outcome of the vote tonight by the Board of Education — if we still stay in our current configuration, we are going to have to spend a lot of money to help support the children that are in our system. We have a lot of issues that still need to be addressed.”

Board member Jeffrey Kerman was swayed by the comments and twice made a motion to table the decision to move grades, but no one seconded the motion, so the vote went on. “This is a very large change for a district that is very, very successful, so if we’re going to change it, I want to know why, how, how much it’s going to cost, et cetera,” he said before voting “no.” “I’m not totally against changing it, but I want to know all the information before I vote on something like this.”

For his part, board vice president Vincent Vizzo, a former district teacher and principal, expressed mixed feelings, but said he spent time reviewing the research and survey results before deciding to vote “yes.” “It’s a hard decision for me to make, but at the same time, when I see what the community, what the teachers and what the students looked at and voted for, it makes it a little more simple for me,” he said.

In the administration’s recommendation to the board, Scanlon said closing or repurposing an elementary school should wait in consideration of potential upcoming New York State pre-K requirements, but that district budget considerations could include discussion of renting out a wing of an elementary school and/or part of the North Country administration building. 

“Given the current climate of the times, we need to just be careful with all of this occurring all at the same time. And if this is one factor that will alleviate the fear of some of our elementary parents, it’s worth considering,” Scanlon said.

School start times still in limbo

The board voted down a proposal to make secondary school start times later for the next school year but is expected to approve changing times to coincide with district restructuring in 2025-26, as originally proposed.

Start time change advocates had pushed the board to make time adjustments sooner despite an expected higher price tag associated with doing so while the district is still in its current configuration. At the same time, the current proposal only moves Ward Melville High School’s start time by 35 minutes to 7:40 a.m., which some advocates say is simply not enough. 

In the 2-4 vote, McKinnon and trustee Shaorui Li voted in favor of a time change for next fall, while long-standing later start time advocate Karen Roughley voted “no,” preferring to wait for an outside consultant to try to figure out more favorable start times without increasing transportation costs as much as the current estimate does. She expressed disappointment that any work by a consultant would come too late to make a time change decision for next fall.

Board president Susan Rosenzweig indicated the board would vote on later start times for 2025-26 at the Jan. 24 meeting.

Superintendent also addresses Regents score worries with end of Do No Harm

Public domain photo

Reconfiguring Three Village Central School District and changing start times could cost nearly $3 million, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon, who urged the Board of Education to decide by January whether to adopt the plan.

The superintendent advised that decisions are necessary soon to provide the district time to enact all the proposed changes by the target 2025-26 school year.

“We should try to do it all at once, as opposed to doing one piece here and then having another transition for families in another piece,” Scanlon said during a Dec. 13 presentation to the BOE.

The proposal entails moving sixth grade up to the junior high schools, bumping ninth grade up to the high school and making secondary school start times later. The plan aims to improve financial stability, realign the district in light of declining enrollment, bring the district into line with state norms and address health concerns surrounding early start times for adolescents.

Scanlon estimated costs to reconfigure buildings to accommodate the grade changes could be about $2 million for projects like converting faculty rooms back into classrooms and configuring spaces for science labs, art and music.

According to Scanlon, the start time change would require adding buses to the district’s rotation at a cost of $963,000 if implemented at the same time as the grade changes, and more if implemented in 2024-2025, before sixth and ninth move up.

Scanlon left on the table the possibility of repurposing an elementary school or the North Country administration building, though he warned the funds from such moves would not “solve all the world’s problems in this regard,” and any such discussions would need to wait for recommendations from this year’s recently convened Budget Advisory Committee.

A couple of the trustees, including Karen Roughley, wondered if it was possible to do more to improve district finances, especially since BACs in former years have already suggested the board consider repurposing a school.

“I’m not sure why we are pushing it off again when we’ve been talking about it for two years now,” she said, adding that the board could also discuss the possibility of repurposing both an elementary school and the North Country building, rather than either/or. “We need to look at this district’s financial stability going forward.”

During the public comment section, Gelinas Junior High School guidance counselor and district resident Anthony Dattero gave a grave warning against moving too fast on reconfiguration. “There’s something in the chemistry of the district that is unique and different,” he said, pointing to the many accomplishments for athletics and scholarship frequently honored at board meetings. “The benefits [of reconfiguring] have to be also looked at with what we’re trading off.”

He said he believes keeping sixth and ninth graders in the younger schools gives them a chance to mature and therefore be better prepared for their next stage of education.

Board president Susan Rosenzweig indicated the board will consider allowing public comment at the start of their Jan. 10 meeting to allow residents to express concerns before the board’s vote, rather than after the fact.

Residents can watch Scanlon’s presentation and the resulting discussion in its entirety on the district’s YouTube page under the “Live” tab, starting at 1:37:00.

Regents scores

Scanlon also sought to ease parental concerns over the board’s Nov. 29 vote to end the so-called Do No Harm policy, under which Regents scores were only factored into a course grade if they helped the grade [See story, “Split 4-2 vote keeps Regents scores in final grades for Three Village students,” Dec. 1, TBR News Media].

According to Scanlon, teachers can adjust grades up to 5 points on their own, or up to 10 points with administration approval. under a policy enacted in 2016.

“Before there was a Do No Harm policy, we had something in place,” he said, adding that Three Village teachers want to see students succeed. “One test shouldn’t define a child.”

Board member Vincent Vizzo chimed in to say he saw this policy in action when he was principal of Murphy Junior High School. “Plenty of teachers have come forward to ask me, ‘Vin, I really want to adjust a grade for a student,’” he said. “The teachers are aware.”

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.

Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano
Moving 9th grade to high school logistically complex

By Mallie Jane Kim

Three Village Central School District needs more time before restructuring the grade makeup of its buildings, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon, who officially recommended a delay on proposed changes until the 2025-26 school year.

“It’s best we do this right and not fast,” Scanlon told the board at a Sept. 13 Board of Education meeting. He also followed up with an email to district parents explaining the delay.

The board previously charged the administration with researching the feasibility of a proposal to move up sixth grade to junior high and ninth grade to the high school, based on the preferences of a majority of stakeholders in the community surveyed last year. 

At the meeting, Scanlon said administration staff spent the summer “working very heavily” to explore logistics of the proposed changes, such as secondary class schedules, staffing needs and classroom requirements.

The superintendent previously warned that restructuring likely wouldn’t be possible by the original target of fall 2024, and the summer research found enough snags to give Scanlon and his team pause.

The junior high schools would simply exchange one grade for another — ninth grade would move out to the high school and sixth grade would move in from elementary — a nimbler change than adding a fourth grade level to the high school, which currently houses grades 10-12. It’s not a matter of the number of students, Scanlon pointed out. Due to declining enrollment over time, the population at the high school with an added grade would be roughly on par with its population about a decade ago — just shy of 1,800 students, according to district data. But each grade has specific classroom requirements.

“Ninth grade does require some different courses — certified teachers in areas of science and languages — that need to be maneuvered around,” Scanlon explained, saying major considerations include the number of appropriate classroom spaces for art, music and science labs. “We just need a little bit more time to figure out those particulars.”

The board opted last April to table any decision on officially adopting the proposed restructuring until the administration could present research on logistics and cost, and also find a way to address concerns over early start times at district secondary schools.

Scanlon indicated the logistical research should wrap up next month, and a committee looking into start times is in full swing, with plans to send out a survey early this fall to assess related community needs. A possible second survey with more specific proposals may go out by the end of the calendar year, he added.

When asked, Scanlon didn’t rule out the possibility of changing start times sooner than 2025, but indicated that particular conversation would take place in the context of the upcoming survey results.

by -
0 412
Three Village school district staff members kick off the 2023-24 school year during Superintendent’s Conference Day Aug. 30. Photo courtesy TVCSD

Three Village Central School District Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon, alongside district administrators and leaders, welcomed back faculty and staff after summer break at Superintendent’s Conference Day on Aug 30. 

Staff gathered at Ward Melville High School to kick off the 2023-24 school year. The day began with opening remarks from Board of Education president, Susan Megroz Rosenzweig, followed by a presentation from Scanlon.

Scanlon first thanked the district clericals, custodians and grounds crew for their efforts throughout the summer. He reviewed the district’s goals for the upcoming year, as well as giving a brief overview of the strategic planning committee’s work.

Finally, Scanlon wished all staff members a happy, healthy year and reminded them the importance of their daily work.

“I hope that all of you this year look for that happiness in everything you do,” he said. “When you look at the smiles on the children’s faces in front of you, you’re making an impact on future generations.”

Following the superintendent’s remarks, Kerrin Welch-Pollera, Three Village School Administrators Association president, and Brian Pickford, Three Village Teachers Association president, welcomed the group. Staff members then dispersed for faculty meetings and time in their classrooms. Additionally, they participated in a professional development day Aug. 31.

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 Mallie Kim

The results are in. Across stakeholder categories, the clear favorite in Three Village Central School District’s restructuring survey was Option B, moving up both sixth and ninth grades to mean the two middle schools would house sixth through eighth grades, and the high school would house grades nine through 12.

Option A represented maintaining the current configuration with kindergarten through sixth grade in elementary school, seventh through ninth in junior high, and grades 10-12 in high school; Option C would have moved up only ninth grade; and Option D was the Princeton Plan, which would have split elementary schools and placed upper and lower grades in separate buildings. All four options, including Option B, left open the future possibility of closing or repurposing an elementary school.

Among district parents, staff, secondary students and the community at large, the data followed very similar trends, with the status quo coming in a distant second place when all four options were ranked against each other. “We’re so often told that different groups are in conflict with one another — schools and parents and teachers and politics,” said Deirdre Rubenstrunk, the district’s executive director of technology, at a special meeting to present survey results to the Board of Education on Monday, March 13. “But here we got to see in this data a real alignment of where people want to go, and as a school district administrator, that was really reassuring.”

The strategic planning committee recommended the board adopts Option B, but BOE president Susan Rosenzweig said they would take their time making a decision.

“We are not in a rush to make this vote; there’s a lot to consider,” she said, pointing out that there were many helpful comments and concerns written in the survey responses, especially from some forward-thinking teachers who had suggestions from the front lines. “We’re going to do what’s absolutely the very best for the kids but while remaining within our fiduciary responsibilities.”

Restructuring plans are separate from the budget planning currently in process for the 2023-24 school year, but restructuring is under consideration because of declining enrollment trends and other budget concerns.

Even if the board votes to adopt Option B in the coming weeks, that would mark only the beginning of the work, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon. Whatever the board decides, he said, “the work then begins for the employees of the district — the administration, the staff.” 

If Option B moves forward, Scanlon said, district staff would need to go through all the nitty gritty details to figure out logistics, such as moving instructional staff, adjusting curriculum and planning to have enough guidance counselors in the right school buildings. That work, Scanlon said, would need to be finished by next December to make implementing changes for the 2024-25 school year possible. “We want to do this properly,” he said. “We don’t want to rush at this.”

Scanlon mentioned that making secondary school start times later, the part of the strategic planning committee process that wasn’t included in the survey, was still high on the administration’s priority list, but they have not yet figured out logistics and finances. 

The district plans to schedule four informational meetings in coming weeks, two at night and two during the day, to explain the survey results to interested parents and community members. In the meantime, the results — including comments — are posted on the district’s website and can be found by clicking on the “District” drop-down menu and selecting “Committees.”

by -
0 1568
Option four in the survey, which would create primary schools for kindergarten through second grade and intermediate schools for third through fifth, has been widely panned. Setauket Elementary School pictured above. Photo by Mallie Kim

By Mallie Kim

Declining enrollment alongside a history of budget vote woes has Three Village Central School District eyeing structural changes, and the Board of Education is asking parents, students, staff and the community to weigh in by survey. 

The request for community involvement, which comes after a series of public strategic planning meetings, is a step toward forming the 2023-24 district budget after last year’s budget proposal squeaked by with 66 votes and the 2021 budget failed to pass the vote at all, forcing a tighter contingency budget and no tax levy increase. The vote this spring will be the first under the leadership of new Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon.

Results of the survey will weigh heavily in upcoming budget and planning discussions, according to Scanlon. “The board and administration will only consider those options which receive the majority of support from each of the groups surveyed,” he wrote by email.

The survey, which opened Feb. 2 and will close Feb. 17, includes explanatory video messages from Scanlon and asks residents to rank the favorability of four restructuring options individually and then against each other. The options include maintaining the status quo, moving up ninth grade to high school and sixth grade to middle school, moving up only the ninth grade and finally the Princeton Plan, which calls for dividing elementary students into lower and upper grade schools.

According to district data, there’s been a 23% decrease in the student population since the 2012-13 school year, from just over 7,000 students enrolled a decade ago to about 5,500 this year in grades K-12. Maintaining the current structure of district schools may only be sustainable if enrollment increases, according to Scanlon. Proposed restructuring is an effort to prepare in case enrollment continues to decline along its current trajectory. In response to rumors among concerned parents, Scanlon has emphasized at strategic planning meetings and in the survey videos that no decisions have been made about closing or repurposing any of the five district elementary schools. Any such move “would not be considered by the administration until the budget process next year for the 2024-25 school year,” Scanlon wrote.

The options on the table this year, which have been explained and discussed publicly at the strategic planning meetings, have varying popularity among local families.

Creating sixth through eighth grade middle schools and a four-year high school would bring Three Village more in line with schools across New York state and the country, give sixth graders more course and extracurricular offerings and, according to figures provided by the board, save about $450,000 per year on transportation costs alone, for ninth graders traveling to Ward Melville High School for athletics and advanced placement courses.

The proposal to move ninth grade to the high school has received a lot of public support, due to the prevalence of four-year high schools in the United States and the fact that it would save the district money. Kim Moody, who has four children spread across all levels of district schools, agrees. “I really think it would benefit the ninth graders to be at the high school,” she said, pointing to the inefficient time management for those who bus to Ward Melville for extracurriculars and for the high schoolers who have to wait for those buses to arrive. “It is an ambiguous year that ninth graders can be part of JV sports teams, but they’re still housed separately from their teammates,” she added.

Detractors at strategic planning committees have raised hallway crowding and increased traffic around Ward Melville as primary reasons for pause.Moody is less firm in her opinion about moving sixth grade up to middle school. “I don’t think they can make a wrong decision around sixth grade, personally,” she said. Moody, who works with adolescents through the Christian organization Young Life, has noticed both in personal and professional experience that students tend to make a developmental leap around the middle of sixth grade. “As a parent, the first part of sixth grade I was glad they were in elementary school, but by the second half, I would think: ‘This kid could be in middle.’”

Some parents, including Moody, say if the change goes through, the district should find ways to scaffold this variance in readiness among sixth graders during their first middle school semester and should also begin preparing fifth graders to switch classes — something district elementary schools are already piloting this year. 

Option four in the survey, which would create primary schools for kindergarten through second grade and intermediate schools for third through fifth, has been widely panned at strategic planning subcommittee meetings and on social media. In the Princeton Plan, common in surrounding school districts on Long Island, classroom and special area teachers would specialize in a smaller range of grades while students in programs like the Intellectually Gifted classes would no longer have to bus to alternate schools. This option would also mean adding a school transition for students, splitting elementary-aged siblings and a lengthening commute time for some children, away from their neighborhood schools.

Data from the survey will be broken up into the four respondent groups: the community at large; parents of students currently enrolled in Three Village schools; secondary students and district staff and will be shared in the relevant committees before moving on to a formal presentation to the school board.

For more survey information, visit the district’s website www.threevillagecsd.org and click on School Restructuring Survey on the home page.