With decisions on next year's school budget drawing closer, the North Merrick School Board recapped events of the current year and touched on some of the changes necessary for next.
One major change will be how test scores for students in grades from three to five will be assessed by New York State. Just prior to the 2010-2011 school year, the SED and Board of Regents raised class cut-off scores, thus changing the standards for measuring student proficiency.
Superintendent David Feller explained that since the change was decided so late in the year, the state offered schools a “one-year pass” before implementing the new standards. So, now is the time for the North Merrick district to take action.
The results of the 2009-2010 New York State District Report Cards were presented by deputy superintendent Beth Friedman, with regard to theses new standards. Her presentation showed that 81 percent of North Merrick students met or exceeded the State standards in Math and 73 percent met or exceeded standards in English-language arts (ELA).
Her presentation also gave an overview of how the new standards will effect student placement and scoring. While the majority of students from third to fifth grade will not be affected by the shift, approximately 25 percent of students will require additional resources from the district to improve their scores, such as extra-help in the general class setting or smaller class settings. Among the students that fall into that, 25 percent are students that receive Academic Intervention Services (AIS), English Language Learners (ELL) and students requiring Individualized Education Program (IEP).
After the evening's presentations, Lisa Derwin, mother of a fifth grader and a tenth grader, questioned the recent cuts to the WINGS program. Derwin explained her observation that North Merrick elementary school students – at three hours every other week in the WINGS program – are receiving significantly less extra-curricular attention compared to students of South Merrick schools. Derwin also pointed out that once these students are integrated at the middle school and high school level, they are coming in less prepared for the curriculum.
"I think as this program is cut, we're going to see more of a schism between North and South Merrick," she said. "Are we preparing our children at this level, with six hours a month, to be in an advanced placement level course in tenth grade?"
The Board acknowledged her concerns, and those of other parents, asking them to bring these points to the upcoming budget meeting at 7 p.m. on March 15.
In other school board news:
- The issue of synthetic turf for the high school football fields did not escape this school board. Chris Roberts asked the board its opinion on why the high school board was not going to give the community a chance to vote on the synthetic turf issue. John Pinto added to the discussion on synthetic turf, but also spoke about the money that is in the accrued liability reserve in the North Merrick School account, and explained that using that money could help reduce taxes.
- Music teacher Peggy Rakas conducted a performance by the All-County Jazz Band, followed by a presentation of the SmartMusic interactive class software.
- Nassau BOCES is donating up to 50 off-lease used Dell 620 CPUs for district use. The Old Mill Road PTA is donating $665 to the Old Mill Road physical education department for brisk heart-rate monitors.
- Joanne Long was officially appointed as school board district clerk.
The next regular school board meeting will take place on April 12.