Here are the highlights from Monday night's Syosset Board of Education meeting at South Woods Middle School. Check out the attached PDF of the agenda to follow along.
Board Discussess Going Paperless
Trustees held a public discussion on the possibility of changing correspondence between the district and parents of students to email. Trustee Josh Lafazan motioned for a second time in two meetings to hold the discussion, saying he had information that the change would save the district $75,000 per year, while a server holding students' information would cost less than $1,000.
"There are people in the community, especially the seniors, who don't really always have access to computers or don't want to use computers and they want a printed copy," said Trustee Christopher DiFilippo, stressing the idea of flexibility.
Trustee Marc Herman agreed, asking about the possibility of giving residents the choice of opting out of paper communications.
Lafazan specified that the change he was proposing applied only to parents of students, not all residents in the district. He added that if students are assigned homework that required internet access, there is an assumption that a vast majority of district parents would be able to receive the email alerts.
Superintendent Carole Hankin added that there are various state laws that require certain physical mailings to be sent to residents and that the change would have to comply.
Board members agreed that it was an issue worth investigating, with several members voicing their interest in gathering more information and their support for the endeavor.
MSG Varsity Collaboration Discussed
Board members revisited the idea of having MSG Varsity record home athletic events and activities after they reportedly voted against the idea within the past few years.
Lafazan motioned to discuss allowing the high school-centric channel to attend, saying it would be a "wonderful" way to highlight not just sports teams, but the robotics club, mock trial team, and other clubs.
DiFilippo asked that the board be given more time before voting on the issue to get a full view of the costs involved in the process, including compensation for coaches for spending the extra time to do interviews, etc.
Trustee Alan Resnick agreed, adding that in recent years, Syosset was approached by MSG Varsity and voted against allowing them to film.
"I had a son that was on the varsity football team at the time so I would have loved to see him play in every game or tape it…[but] the restrictions and the ultimate costs that Mr. DiFilippo mentioned seemed to outweigh the benefits that we were getting at the time."
Resnick said if the proposed contract had changed, the idea might be better that it was years ago. Trustee Laura Schlesinger said that more information would be appreciated before a decision was made. Board Vice President April Neuendorf suggested that Lafazan approach MSG representatives to host a presentation at an upcoming meeting, which Lafazan agreed to attempt.
Moving Up Moving Home
The eighth grade moving up ceremonies may move home in 2013, as DiFilippo motioned to have a discussion to move the ceremonies to district property to reduce costs. The ceremonies for both Thompson Middle School and South Woods Middle School are currently held at C.W. Post for a reported $22,000 each year. The board agreed to have the discussion, with DiFilippo emphasizing that it can be up to the residents, specifically parents, to make the final call, as they are the ones who attend the ceremony.
Cost Efficiency Committee to be Explored
The board also approved looking into creating a committee on cost efficiency relating to expenses and budget impacts on homeowner taxes. DiFilippo motioned that the committee would be aimed at gathering information from the community to "raise the bar" for the district.
Resnick said he was "completely supportive" of the committee, suggesting the streamlining of the objective of the committee. The board agreed to explore the creation of it.
Robocall Still on Residents' Minds
While no more details are available in the "robocall" scandal from election season, Board President Michael Cohen addressed the issue in more detail than has been thus far.
"The Nassau County District Attorney, who has fielded complaints from both sides, has done nothing with it," he said, in response to Robert Gershon, who said he left court to see what was going on after receiving the call over what he said was much less than an emergency. Cohen added that the DA's representatives said that in light of other issues going on at that level, the robocall does not seem to be a priority.
When some attendees called out, saying the question was not answered, Cohen responded that because it is a pending legal matter, no one is permitted to speak about it.
"Just give it a chance," he added, pleading with audience members to be patient during the meeting rather than call out.
Future of Teacher Assistants Questioned
Martin Ugell, a husband of a Syosset teacher assistant stood and asked about the rumored plan to fire 144 teacher assistants in 2013.
"TAs have strong working relationships with students," he said. "They are by no means replaceable in the classroom."
Hankin responded that there was no plan to get rid of TAs and that any plan involving a mass firing does not exist. She encouraged others to approach the TA's union representatives who helped negotiate the contracts for information.
In a statement, the CSEA responded:
A codicil to the current contract between the Syosset School District and CSEA does preclude the layoff of Teacher Assistants through June 2013. It became necessary to negotiate this add-on agreement several months ago after district officials notified the union in writing of their intention to eliminate these positions. CSEA will make every effort to avert these layoffs after that date but right now there is no contractual language to prevent this eventuality.