After a 45-min. delay, the Malverne UFSD school board opened their July “meeting in public” with a moment of silence for the 9 victims shot in the AME church in Charleston, SC, and for a Malverne HS student.
As step one of the reorganization meeting, Mrs. Ridley, the district clerk, swore in Mrs. Bottitta, the re-elected trustee. The board members proceeded with proposing each other into different posts and, consequently, changed their seating order. Mr. Tulley has become the school board president and took a spot in the middle of the table. Mrs. Ridley swore them all in, including Dr. Hunderfund.
The audience, 5 attendees, was introduced the new treasurer and the new team member of the district’s attorneys.
The rest of the reorganization agenda took 5 minutes. In the school year 2015-16, the MUFSD is entering in contracts with about 50 districts in order to comply with the Government Efficiency Plan, a political agenda introduced by governor Cuomo two years ago. While some contracts may be useful, others may exist just to meet the requirements set by the agenda. For example, a contract with Roosevelt UFSD was established “for the purpose of cooperative bidding for the trash bags.”
I asked the board to inform the residents about how foreign languages are implemented into the curriculum of individual schools and what method of teaching foreign languages the district follows. I suggested the presentation follows the model of the “K-12 SAT Initiative” that takes residents throughout the district schools and is posted on the district’s website. I reasoned with the fact that the proponents of the educational reform claim the US students must compete on a global level, but they don’t acknowledge that students abroad will graduate in their mother tongue AND English.
The board members argued that by introducing foreign languages the school days would have to be extended and that it would cost millions. Mr. Taylor, the school board trustee, interrupted their objections and explained that all I asked for was to “map” the current state of foreign language curriculum at our schools and present the findings to the public. Some board members still wondered why would something needed to be mapped when “the parents will learn anyway.”
Given the diversity of families in the district, many students come to the MUFSD system bilingual; and some don’t speak English at all. In such cases, the curriculum neglects their natural habitat for 7 years instead of building on it directly in their most formative years. When the “bilingual parents” meetings find their permanent spot on the district calendar, as the “music parents” meetings do, the foreign language curriculum will be different. It will pick up on the language skills of kindergarteners and our schools will not only host more foreign exchange students than one, as was the case last year, but more students will also travel abroad as well.
Having an informative presentation on the state of foreign language curriculum may entice parents to research how surrounding schools approach the subject and collaborate on implementation of an appropriate program. Doing so, they could add some muscles to the educational skeleton imposed by Washington, DC and Albany. Perhaps, it could lead to a meaningful “Government Efficiency Plan” contract.
A Lakeview resident questioned the board about the proposal he had submitted. He offered to volunteer his time, jointly with others, to work with administration. The trustees and the resident entered into a discussion covering many topics without explaining the subject of the proposal to the audience. So, in order not to misrepresent it, I restrain from trying to describe the proposal. Yet, it was clear the board members didn’t deem the proposal worth a response, let alone presenting it to the school district owners for a discussion and let them consider its merits. The resident was invited to join the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, which he declined.
In MUFSD, the Council members claim to discuss initiatives, evaluate them, and set them on the “right” path. Although the Council members consider their group as a “think tank,” the product of their “thinking” rarely leaks to the public. To the district residents, the group is rather known as a recruitment center for school board candidates who think “unanimously” with the district CEO.
After the board’s meeting ended, I approached the resident and encouraged him to present the proposal via social media and also send it to LI Herald. In my opinion, residents, the owners of the $53M enterprise, need to review each initiative and not just leave it up to the “owners’ representatives.”