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Communication is Key - Bellmore-Merrick High School Board Meeting

I am one of the few parents who were in attendance at the November 5, 2012 Bellmore-Merrick high school board meeting. The meeting started forty minutes late which showed little respect and compassion for those in crisis who took the time to attend this meeting. I went there with the specific goal of obtaining information about our school buildings and the status of students returning to school. To say I was appalled by the meeting is a mere understatement. The parents have received no information throughout the duration of school closings other than spotty email messages that school would be closed. I'm sure you can agree, that when in crisis, information is imperative. While disseminating the information proved to be challenging not only for the Bellmore-Merrick High School District, but all affected school districts, the effort was not there from our superintendent. Merrick/Bellmore are made up of strong, resilient, resourceful people. The information would have made its way to the community and shared. Social media has proven to be a lifeline during these trying times. I know Mr. Seinfeld, Calhoun Principal is on Twitter and does tweet status updates as many of the students follow him. Even posting this information in the Merrick/Bellmore Patch or in Merrick Life would have served the community.
 
I found it alarming and distressful that the buildings have not been fully assessed and the Director of Facilities "wasn't sure" if the fire alarms or the public announcement system were working at Kennedy High School, yet definitive plans were made for our children to return to school on Wednesday. Having people as "fire watches" is dangerous as humans are failable. I would never send my children to school knowing the fire alarms might not work. It is putting the children and staff in unnecessary harms way. I found it disturbing that the school board, like the audience, were only learning these fact's at the public portion of the school board meeting. It was clear that the parents weren't the only ones uninformed during this period. Contingency plans, team meetings and full building assessments should have taken place immediately after the storm, when it was deemed safe to meet. The incompetency by the administration is mammoth and unacceptable in this parent's eyes. We pay high salaries for our administrators and we depend on their leadership, especially in times of crisis.  I was appreciative to hear the updates at this meeting but the fact is, more than those in attendance deserved to hear the same. 
 
Parent's brought up some really good points at last night's school board meeting.  One question in particular struck a chord with me and it dealt with curriculum. Due to power outages there is going to be struggles in completing homework as there is limited, if no access to internet for some of our students. Dr. Kiernan said the district would be sensitive to this.
 
Perhaps this can be used as a learning tool that parent's need to attend school board meetings and the administration must be held accountable. I did point out to the board, parent attendance was down most likely due to gas issues and the pure devastation experienced by many families. The community is sympathetic to the unprecedented circumstances and the challenges they present. The board listened to our concerns and I am hopeful they will be more responsive and sensitive in knowing communication is imperative going forward. 
 
Wendy Gargiulo
(North Merrick School Board Trustee...the views expressed are mine as an individual and does not reflect that of the North Merrick School Board)
Trish Appello November 06, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Hey Wendy, thank you for your letter. As much as I am an understanding person and realize that we are in a state of disarray and uncertainty since Hurricane Sandy hit. I realize many including the BMCHSD BOE as well as the district staff may need time to figure things out to put the best plan of action in place for all the students of Bellmore and Merrick. But I know one thing that the safety of the students as well as all the staff should be priority number one. And communication from the BMCHSD has been extremely low, a phone call was made prior to each day closing, BUT if you did not have phone service, that was no help. Socially media has been the info go-to for me as well as many others - town, volunteering, school district(s) information has been shared by many. Dave Deneberg has been EXCELLENT with sharing the important information on Facebook. Wendy you know as well as I, when you raise your hand to take on a position, such as a BOE member, you should do the job to the best of your ability..and if you can't- than don't raise your hand next time. Because when it comes to the education and safety of our children, half-fast jobs are NOT Acceptable-Period-Thanks for sharing your letter, Trish Appello
Merokianlifer November 06, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Thanks Trish. It was very evident that administration not only failed to keep parents and the community informed but more unsettling is the fact that they clearly had not kept their own board of education apprised.

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