11/27/13 6:00am
11/27/2013 6:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night's forum.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night’s forum.

Long Islanders outraged over New York’s direction with education in public schools took their concerns directly to state education commissioner John King Tuesday night during a public forum in Manorville.

When Mr. King first walked onto the stage in the Eastport-South Manor High School auditorium, he was greeted with a large portion of the 1,000-person crowd, mostly teachers, quietly holding up green and white signs that read, “We are all more than a score.”

Several area high school students also asked questions and made statements.

Connor Sick of Rocky Point High School wanted to know “why failure is being used as a weapon” to try to get children to perform better in school.

“As a student who takes his studies very seriously, failure  is not motivational,” he said. “It hurts.”

He received a standing ovation.

Throughout the three-hour meeting, attendees often became disruptive , jeering as the commissioner attempted to respond to audience questions. Then, as he began to give his final remarks at the conclusion of the meeting, almost half the crowd walked out, with one heckler shouting: “You’re not listening! Goodbye!”

Mr. King continued to defend New York’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which requires, among other things, instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

He also championed the state’s lessons plans designed to support the new curriculum, known as “modules,” as well as new, state-mandated teacher evaluations and a contract with inBloom, Inc. that will store student data and personal information.

But Mr. King acknowledged some adjustments are needed, such as reducing student testing requirements, especially with English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities.

“Disagreeing isn’t the same as not listening,” he said as residents started to leave during his closing remarks.

Frustrated parents criticized Mr. King, who was joined on stage with Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents Meryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles, throughout the meeting and asked that the state scrap the new education mandates.

Many parents told stories about how test anxiety has hurt their children. Others expressed how they are annoyed by how the state Department of Education rolled out the new requirements for public schools.

Recently retired teacher and Wading River resident Terry Kalb said she’s “alarmed” about the current teacher evaluation system, especially for special needs teachers.

“Even if they have perfect scores on their observations in the classroom, because they teach students that are physically, cogitative or emotionally impaired, the test scores are going to be low,” she said. “Those teachers are rated ineffective — by mandate.”

But two people who took to the podium spoke in favor of Common Core, to the displeasure of the crowd.

The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as a way to better prepare students from across the U.S. for college and careers after high school.

Along with the federal government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the Common Core initiative. Pearson, a worldwide publishing and educational company, is the primary producer and seller of Common Core instructional materials.

In 2009, through the “Race to the Top” program, the federal government offered $4.35 billion in competitive grants to states that adopted Common Core standards and developed plans to improve state test scores and teacher evaluation results.

The following year, New York adopted the Common Core in order to qualify for a $700 million portion of the federal grant, and later published lesson plans for teachers to help students meet the new standards.

Earlier this year, and as part of Race to the Top requirements, the state did direct New York school districts develop their own teacher evaluation systems, known as annual professional performance reviews plan (APPR), lest the districts risk losing additional available state aid.

The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them. While many educators embraced Common Core when it was first introduced, they’ve since demanded that the state hold off on implementing the new student assessments based on Common Core and the APPR plan until the rigorous curriculum is properly implemented inside the classroom.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who hosted the meeting, told Mr. King he believes a moratorium on the state’s plan is needed.

“We need a delay so we can get everyone in synch,” said Mr. LaValle, himself a former educator and school administrator.

Other local residents with ties to the North Fork that addressed Mr. King included Riverhead School District parent Catherine Callaghan, Shoreham-Wading River school board president Bill McGrath, Aquebogue Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Shelly Walker, Mattituck-Cutchogue High School math teacher Kathleen Scholand, Riverhead Middle School English teacher Mindy Benze, Riverhead High School librarian Kim McGurk, Shoreham-Wading River Teachers’ Association president and special education teacher Lucille McKee and Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg.

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/26/13 10:30am
11/26/2013 10:30 AM
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

A public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King is set for 6 p.m. tonight at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville.

While the forum will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, state officials said speakers will be chosen prior to the meeting.

State Senator Ken LaValle(R-Port Jefferson)  has asked local superintendents to meet with their school’s community members — including parents, students, teachers, and PTAs — to organize their comments and questions relating to Common Core, teacher evaluations, standardized testing and student privacy, and submit them to his office by last Thursday.

Riverhead School District officials have said only one question from each school district will be allowed based on submittals, and a seat at the event will be reserved for each of the speakers chosen.

Tonight’s forum comes about a month after Mr. King was criticized for canceling some previously scheduled meetings, which he said at the time were being “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a new set of standards that requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age. The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as a way to better prepare students from across the U.S. for college and careers after high school.

While the state has claimed the Common Core program aims to better prepare students for college and careers, many educators have criticized the initiative because they believe it forces teachers to abandon true learning and “teach to the test.”

Check back later for live coverage.

jennifer@timesreview.com

 

11/21/13 1:41pm
11/21/2013 1:41 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle at a previous Calverton Business Incubator event.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle at a previous Calverton Business Incubator event.

East End state legislators Ken LaValle and Fred Thiele are hosting a roundtable discussion on food-industry related topics at the Calverton Business Incubator Friday morning, Senator LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced.

The Senator said the following topics will be discussed:

• The impact of locally grown/artisanal foods on the local economy.

• Changes to New York State funding outlets — now done on a competitive, regional basis.

• State government has been successful in supporting the establishment of the necessary infrastructure to support the local agriculture/food industry (e.g. funding for cold storage facility, funding for establishment of small scale, shared-use food-processing facilities at Calverton, funding for farmland preservation) to allow the creativity, determination, and ambition of entrepreneurs to thrive. Determine other infrastructure needs and how to achieve those needs.

• How as a region can we work together to establish/support the food industry on Long Island as an economic cluster (to join IT, biotech, and energy) and overcome challenges/obstacles and allow it to flourish.

The Long island Farm Bureau, Long Island Wine Council, Peconic Land Trust and many other local businesses and non-profits are expected to participate.

The event will take place at 10 a.m. Click here for directions to the incubator.

11/18/13 12:00pm
11/18/2013 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle will host the Common Core forum.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle will host the Common Core forum.

Residents planning to comment or ask questions during the Nov. 26 public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King will need to contact their school district and make prior arrangements, according to staffers in state Senator Ken LaValle’s office.

While the forum will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, state officials said speakers will be chosen prior to the meeting.

Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has asked local superintendents to meet with their school’s community members — including parents, students, teachers, and PTAs — to organize their comments and questions relating to Common Core State Standards and curriculum, teacher evaluations, standardized testing and student privacy, and submit them to his office by Thursday, Nov. 21.

“In light of our time constraints, questions will be reviewed ahead of time to eliminate duplication,” Mr. LaValle said in his letter. “Remember to keep any questions/comments to two minutes. Speakers will be chosen and notified ahead of time.”

Riverhead School District officials said Monday only one question from each school district will be allowed based on submittals, and a seat at the event will be reserved for each of the speakers chosen.

Mr. LaValle said the arrangement is needed because his legislative jurisdiction includes more than 30 school districts. The First Senatorial District contains the most amount of school districts on Long Island, he said.

In addition to the meeting being be held in the 1,000-seat auditorium located at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville, officials said there will be an “overflow room” where people can watch the forum via closed-circuit television. The event will also be live streamed on the senator’s website, www.senatorlavalle.com.

jennifer@timesreview.com 

11/12/13 4:00pm
11/12/2013 4:00 PM
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

Residents will no longer have to sign up with their local school districts to secure a seat for the Nov. 26 public meeting with New York Department of Education commissioner John King, state Senator Ken LaValle’s office said Tuesday.

A sign-up list won’t be necessary because a larger venue has been secured at the Eastport-South Manor High School auditorium in Manorville, Mr. LaValle’s spokesman Drew Biondo said. Entry will be determined on a first-come, first-serve basis, Mr. Biondo said.

Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has said he was working to relocate the meeting from Riverhead High School’s 800-seat auditorium to a new location in order to accommodate a larger crowd. Last week, the state Department of Education posted on its website that the meeting will take place in Manorville. Eastport’s auditorium can accommodate 1,000 people, a school spokesperson said.

Mr. Biondo said the senator is also looking to live stream the event. Additional details will be released closer to the meeting date, he said.

On Tuesday, Mr. King is expected to address state Senator John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) constituents at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr. Flanagan’s office said the meeting is open to the public. Although seating capacity is 900 in that auditorium, the school will be able to accommodate an additional 400 seats in the cafeteria where the event will be live streamed.

The forums are designed to answer questions and provide information to the public on the Common Core Stand Standards Initiative, teacher evaluations and state assessments.

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/09/13 2:31pm
11/09/2013 2:31 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The main entrance to the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus in Manorville.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The main entrance to the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus in Manorville.

The public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King that was first scheduled for Riverhead High School is now being moved to the Eastport-South Manor High School auditorium in Manorville.

Kenneth P. LaValle

Kenneth P. LaValle

After the News-Review reported the state education department had chosen Riverhead as the location for the Nov. 26 meeting — even listing the venue on its website — State Senator Ken LaValle told the newspaper the planned location would be changing.

He said he suspected the event would be well-attended and need about 200 more seats than Riverhead High School’s 800-seat auditorium.

State education officials then said they were “working with the senator to pick a location.”

The state’s website was updated Friday with the new location at the Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, located at the Kenneth P. LaValle Campus. (See map below.)

The forum will be run from 6 to 8 p.m., and is designed to answer questions and provide information to the public on the Common Core Stand Standards Initiative, and with that, teacher evaluations and state assessments.

Mr. LaValle, himself a former educator, said he has concerns about how Common Core is being implemented.

Among those concerns, he pointed to excessive testing for elementary school students and students with disabilities.


View Larger Map

07/08/13 3:00pm
07/08/2013 3:00 PM
Striped bass on Long Island

MELANIE DROZD PHOTO | A striped bass caught recently in Peconic Bay.

A New York Senate bill to extend the striped bass season by two weeks went belly-up after it failed to make it through an Assembly committee.

The Senate bill, which was approved in May, would have allowed fishermen to harvest striped bass until Dec. 31 of each year, adding another 16 days to the season.

Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sponsored the bill, and initially proposed to have the season extended to Jan. 15 of each year.

The bill states that extending the season “will help create jobs, boost the Long Island economy, and ensure that quotas can be reached even if affected by natural causes.”

But the bill did not make it out of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, government officials said.

William Young, president of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, a preservation lobby, said the striped bass stock is in decline and that extending the season would threaten the fish.

His group sent letters to assemblymen and senators, urging them to let the bill die.

“The signs are that [the bass population] is not going in the right direction,” he said. “That’s up and down the coast, not just one area.”

A status update of the striped bass stock hasn’t been completed since 2011, said Mike Waine, a coordinator with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which helps to set fishing quotas for commercial operations to protect fish populations.

The commission will complete its latest assessment later this year and release the results in the fall, Mr. Waine said.

Mr. Young said it would be unwise to change fishing regulations without knowing the latest information on the striped bass stock.

“Right now is not the time to do it, there’s a question mark,” he said. “Right now is the time to wait and see what’s coming down the road.”

But Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the bill would have helped fishermen meet their quotas, even if stormy weather or other conditions prevented them from getting out to fish.

“[Unfilled quotas are] money that’s gone, basically out to sea,” she said.

The regulations were put in place to protect the bass when their population plummeted in the 1980s. Now the stock has been rebuilt, Ms. Brady said.

“It’d be nice if the regulations would come into the 21st century like the fishermen have,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/20/13 2:59pm
06/20/2013 2:59 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

UPDATE:

The New York State Senate approved a bill today designed to fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The bill was approved in the Assembly in the morning and in the Senate this afternoon.

“We’re firing on all eight cylinders now,” Supervisor Sean Walter said of the approvals. “The marketability of that property has increased 10,000-fold with this vote today. There should be nobody ever comparing this to the vacancies in Hauppauge or Melville, because nobody else in New York State has what we have now.”

The bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor, establishes a generic environmental impact study, or GEIS, at the outset, to cover all possible development proposals that meets a re-use plan agreed upon by the town, county and state.

Any fully engineered development proposal for within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application being filed.

If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it will receive a default approval, Mr. Walter said.

“This is the single biggest piece of economic development legislation for Long Island, probably ever,” he said.

The state also passed a law that gives tax exemptions to businesses associated with hi-tech research projects at SUNY campuses, Mr. Walter said.

The 50-acre Stony Brook Business Incubator at EPCAL would fall under that bill, he said.

The town still needs to complete the GEIS , the new zoning and land use plans, and the subdivision at EPCAL before the fast-track proposal can take effect, the supervisor said.

That process, which has already begun, is expected to take about a year to compete.

Today was the last day of the current session for both houses of the state Legislature, which next meets in January.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Riverhead Town’s plan to fast track development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton is going right down to the wire, with the state Assembly slated to vote on the measure today, Thursday, the last day of the current legislative session in Albany.

The state bill would establish the EPCAL Reuse and Revitalization Area, 2,124 acres for which Riverhead Town would develop an overall generic environmental impact study (GEIS) outlining what can and can’t be built there.

“This is probably one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that will hit the East End and, in my opinion, all of New York state,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday. “What this does is, it gives the town a mechanism to have approval of projects at EPCAL in 90 days, and it is going to put EPCAL on the map in a way that nobody else in New York State is on the map.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the supervisor added.

Under the proposal, if a development application is submitted within this area, and its impacts have already been studied by the GEIS, that project would require no further environmental studies and would receive approval within 90 days of submission, provided the application was deemed complete by the town.

Normally, each individual development application would potentially need to conduct a separate environmental study.

Similar legislation passed in the state Senate last year but never made it out of committee in the Assembly. As written at that time, the bill would have created a commission comprising the five Town Board members and one representative each from the state and county. The current version of the bill gives full authority to the Town Board, eliminating the need for a new commission.

As of Wednesday, the revised bill had been moved out of the Senate’s local government committee and was listed on the Senate’s agenda of bills to be voted on Wednesday afternoon, according to Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.

But it was uncertain if the bill would be voted on by the full Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. (See riverheadnewsreview.com for updates.)

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, said he expected it to be voted on Thursday by the full Assembly.

Officials say they expect the bill to be approved in both houses.

The Town Board on Tuesday also declared itself as the lead agency in the review of its EPCAL reuse plans, which include amending the town master plan and zoning and creating a new 50-lot industrial subdivision at EPCAL.

This vote came after the state Department of Environmental Conservation raised no objection to the town’s taking the lead in the review of those plans.

“This is an amazing thing we’re about to undertake,” Mr. Walter said Tuesday, as the Town Board prepared to vote on the lead agency status.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Wednesday she thinks this is the most important legislation the town has adopted in more than 10 years.

The board also voted to schedule a public scoping hearing on the draft GEIS for July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

A scoping hearing allows people to suggest issues they feel should be studied in the GEIS.

On Friday, the Town Board also approved a home rule message, which indicates the board’s local support for the state proposal and was needed before the state Legislature could vote on the measure.

Board members gave Mr. Walter credit for his work on the bill, as he had made numerous trips to Albany to lobby for its passage over the past two years.

The board got the idea after taking a bus trip, complete with media members, to Devens, Mass., in January 2011. That community had worked with officials within the Commonwealth to redevelop a former military base.

The EPCAL property had been owned by the U.S. Navy and was used by the Grumman Corporation to built and test fighter jets until 1996. The land was given to the town in 1998 for economic development purposes to replace the jobs lost when Grumman shut down.

tgannon@timesreview.com