This week's top stories
1. Districts oppose proposed charter school
Three local school districts are strongly against a proposal for a charter school in Central Islip, each saying it would draw students and resources away from public schools.
Officials in Bay Shore, Brentwood and Central Islip strongly oppose an effort by South Shore Charter School to start an elementary school. A charter school had been proposed in the region about five years ago, but the application was withdrawn after vocal opposition.
Dermoth Mattison, one of the founders of the proposed school, said he represents Central Islip parents and educators who are seeking change. The school would offer an extended school day and year, as well as free after-school programs, he said.
Robert Feliciano, Brentwood's school board president, said in a statement that a charter school would take "funds away from our schools" and "have a negative impact on our district's programming and students' educational opportunities.
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2. Riverhead schools restore cuts
Riverhead Central School District officials plan to use $13.8 million in additional state aid to restore jobs and sports and music programs that were cut last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the district operated under a contingency budget.
The proposed $159.4 million operating budget for 2021-22 was unveiled April 13 at the district Board of Education meeting.
- The proposal — which raises the budget by 10.8% from the previous year’s $146.3 million spending plan — also would add classroom furniture, new security cameras, musical instruments for students, classroom supplies and improvements to the district’s technology and electronic infrastructure.
- It also will allow for new teachers in business, world language, two new student deans, psychologists and social workers, among other positions.
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3. Community college enrollment declines
Nassau and Suffolk community colleges have seen a vastly greater downturn in enrollment than local four-year colleges over the past year, compounding a decade of losses in their attendance, school officials said. Community colleges, where virtually anyone can register if they have a high school diploma or GED, provide a springboard for low-income students to better jobs and higher earnings, said Brandy Scott, president of the Long Island Black Educators Association.
- The enrollment losses have been straining these schools' finances, thwarting people's ability to reach their chosen career, and potentially hampering the Island's ability to sustain a well-trained workforce, school officials and education experts said.
- Nassau and Suffolk saw drops of 16.7% and 10.5%, respectively, from fall 2019 to fall 2020, according to records from the State University of New York. Most other local institutions of higher learning saw enrollment declines that rarely rose above 5%, school figures show.
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4. Trustees and candidates clash over Smithtown's in-person return
Smithtown Central School District returned bumpily to in-person Board of Education meetings this week with heated exchanges between school board candidates and district trustees.
The public portion of the meeting held earlier this month began with questions from Stacy Murphy, a school board candidate who led rallies starting last summer for a return to five-day, in-person schooling for all students. District officials, citing pandemic concerns, did not make that shift until this spring.
- District officials moved cautiously in the face of a stubbornly high infection rate and at times changing guidance from federal health officials.
- But as a consensus grew among experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that schools could open safely, some parents grew frustrated as Smithtown lagged neighboring districts that moved more swiftly to reopen.
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5. Curran, Bellone request fall championships
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone have co-authored a letter to Sections VIII and XI, the governing bodies of public school sports in Nassau and Suffolk, respectively, requesting they come to an agreement to hold Long Island championship games in all of the fall high school sports currently in session.
- It is no small ask, because the sections are not running on the same schedule for this pandemic-induced spring version of fall sports.
- The Long Island championship games in most sports — football is an exception — would normally be part of a state championship tournament and, thus, champions in both counties would be crowned at about the same time.
- The adjustments forced by the coronavirus pandemic not only caused all state championship tournaments to be canceled, but also forced the Long Island sections to shoehorn three seasons into six months.
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Resources for you
- Newsday reached out to dozens of 2011 valedictorians from around Long Island to see what they've been up to in the decade since graduating. Here are some of their stories. The former valedictorians also offered advice and life lessons for this year's graduates.
- The New York State Museum in Albany is offering free virtual resources for all of educators, caregivers and students looking for engaging and educational activities to do right from home. This portal brings together many of the museum’s resources, including links to virtual "Fieldtrips," digital collections, online resources, and fun activities for kids based on the museum’s research and collections.
- The New York State Education Department and New York State United Teachers have congratulated 60 teachers from across the state who have achieved national certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the "gold standard" in the education profession. Candidates typically spend 200-400 hours of their own time having their teaching assessed against rigorous standards. The list includes several from Long Island.
Round of applause
Students from Garden City and Jericho high schools were the winners in a national competition that challenged them to create original apps.
Jericho High School sophomore Arnav Hak and Garden City High School freshman James Nagler were among about 225 winners nationwide in the 2020 Congressional App Challenge, an initiative of the Congressional Internet Caucus and the U.S. House of Representatives. They were named winners for New York's 3rd and 4th congressional districts, respectively, in February.
Hak's app, titled Food Distributor, aims to assist food businesses in arranging for the pickup of excess food with local shelters.
"I wanted to create an app that would allow for food to be recycled and be fresher for those that need it," Hak said.
Your questions answered
Have questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.
What is different this year about the state assessments in grades 3-8?
School districts across New York began a scaled-back version of the annual state testing for grades three through eight this week with the controversial assessments returning after being canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government declined the state Education Department's request for a waiver to skip testing this year.
The tests cover English Language Arts and mathematics, and were cut back from two days to one in each session, with only one of two sessions mandatory. Under the amended rules, schools may choose a day within the entire testing window: from April 19 to April 29 for the English tests, and May 3 to May 14 for math.
Remote students can opt to come in for testing but won’t be required to do so, while in-person students, can, as in any year, opt out of the testing. Totally remote schools will not have to open in-person for testing.
The tests were detached from any consequences in policy or funding. Schools will not face any penalties if less than 95% of the student body opts out, and results will be used only to assess individual students’ progress.