Malverne BOE Announces Participation in “Schools of Opportunity” Project

The Malverne UFSD BOE opened the May session in public by announcing the Malverne high school was awarded the gold badge in a pilot project Schools of Opportunity. This school year, the project was available in Colorado and New York only, as the project’s co-founders, Carol Burris and Ken Welner, reside in the respective states. The recognized schools got public attention in Washington Post, in the column Answer Sheet (here and here). This publication is also conducting the “Challenge Index.”

Next, the administration reflected on the Relay for Life; approximately $27K was raised.

Mr. Caputo, the business administrator, in joint effort with Dr. Colaitis, the assistant superintendent for district operations, presented the adopted budget. In 2014, a Property Tax Freeze Credit was established. Part of its requirement is the districts must put forward a compliant plan to save one percent of school district’s tax levies (0.78% of MUFSD spending) in each of the following three years. MUFSD teamed up with the Farmingdale school district to create such a plan and designated Farmingdale UFSD as a lead entity. This cooperation means sharing services; for example, administrative, transportation, payroll, IT, etc. It also allows for district consolidation, merger, or dissolution.

Mrs. Bottitta, the school board president, opened the “public participation” in their meeting by emphasizing that it’s board’s meeting in public, not a public meeting and that public should not discuss personal matters and should restrict their time. Judging by the silence and facial expressions of the public, she immediately added that she didn’t want to scare anybody; she just wanted to set the “parameters for participation.”

Reluctantly, a resident asked, if the school board ever goes line by line and compares the budget items with the actual expenses, so it’s clear that something is not over budgeted. Dr. Colaitis assured the resident that that’s what the board has been doing from February to April. The part of comparing the “actual expenses” wasn’t explained, though. Malverne UFSD doesn’t publish actual line-item expenses. Beside the administration and the board members, residents don’t know district’s actual expenses.

Since Mr. Taylor wasn’t present, I asked the school board to relay my request, if Mr. Taylor could bring his observations from the private school his child attends. After one year of experience, Mr. Taylor could assess the differences between the two systems and recommend what the public schools could implement in order to make improvements.

Yet, the situation surrounding Mr. Taylor is not clear. He hasn’t attended BOE meetings since March when the board added to their agenda an “undisclosed personal matter.” In April, he resigned from his coaching position on the softball team. These actions indicate that an announcement of Mr. Taylor’s resignation from Malverne BOE could follow soon.

Next school year, the Downing school is transitioning to the GoMath program. I asked, if teachers could give parents a guidance as to why such a change, what are the advantages, and what are the differences. I was explained that first the teachers need to get a proper training (held on May 22nd), then there would be a parent academy taking place next school year.

My last question pertained to the field tests that were scheduled for Davison Ave. school between June 1st and 10th. I asked, what is the plan in terms of administering the tests or not. “We are still contemplating,” answered Dr. Hunderfund.

A resident brought up an issue of cyberbullying, a violent website in connection with the softball team. The resident was told that the matter was investigated.

Another resident asked about the Common Core in relation to the MUFSD and opting out of the test. “From the board’s position, it’s clearly a parent issue, a political issue,” was the answer. This past spring, Malverne district had 25% test refusals from the ELA and 35% refusals from the math. One can interpret the board’s message as—don’t come to us for a guidance, solve it on your own. And that’s precisely what parents have been doing. They are involved and taking schools back.

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