12/17/13 5:00pm
JOE WERKMEISTER FILE PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the high school library.

FILE PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school library.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board is expected to discuss instructional program support plans during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The discussion is part of Superintendent Steven Cohen’s series of presentations titled “Strategic Planning.”

The school board is also expected to vote on coach appointments, according to the meeting agenda. The district doesn’t release the names listed under personnel recommendations until after the resolution is approved, administrators have said.

It is unclear if the list includes a replacement for boys varsity lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz, whom the superintendent has said will not return next school year.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back for an update.

SWR School board meeting agenda, Dec. 17, 2013

12/04/13 12:30pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen gives a presentation at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Shoreham-Wading River School District’s elementary students will be divided among buildings based on grade level — not neighborhoods — starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The school board voted 4-2 in favor of implementing what’s called a Princeton Plan — developed in Princeton, N.J., and currently used in other districts — to enhance educational opportunities by grouping elementary school teachers and students by grade in the same buildings while downsizing staffing levels.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said a Princeton Plan model will benefit students because teachers will be with all their grade-level colleagues, which he said will result in an increased opportunity to collaborate on lesson plans.

But which grades will be housed in each building isn’t yet known.

Under one proposal for implementing the Princeton Plan, Briarcliff Elementary School would become a kindergarten-only building. That school currently runs a K-1 program. Students in grades 1-3 would attend either Miller Avenue or Wading River elementary; those in grades 4 and 5 would go to the other.

“The most important benefit from the Princeton Plan is that there’s much more dynamic interaction among teachers in order to improve and distribute high-level instruction and continuity of curriculum,” Mr. Cohen said. “In these days of heightened demands from Common Core and state ed, that is an important consideration to keep in mind as we talk about elementary school.”

The second Princeton Plan option, which would only be implemented if the budget fails in May, would involve closing the Briarcliff school.

During his presentation Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said his office has also drafted a Neighborhood Plan, an option that groups students by “catchment areas,” or where they live. Mr. Cohen wanted to present it for the board’s consideration because residents have said they’d prefer a more traditional option, but the board opted to go with a Princeton Plan.

School board member Robert Rose, who, with Sean Beran, cast a dissenting vote against the Princeton Plan, said that although he liked the Princeton Plan, he believed it would be more appropriate at this time to implement the Neighborhood Plan, which he described as “a baby step” toward the large-scale reconfiguration of the elementary program.

After a nearly two-hour discussion, and with more residents speaking in favor of the Princeton Plan than against it, the board approved the Princeton Plan proposal, with school board vice president John Zukowski and members Richard Pluschau, Michael Fucito, and Jack Costas voting for it. School board president Bill McGrath was absent from the meeting.

Now that the board has agreed to move forward with a Princeton Plan model, Mr. Cohen said it must now look at ways to reduce expenditures in the district’s secondary program.

He said that should the district do nothing, it would face a $8 million budget deficit next year.

The deficit was caused in part by the district’s pulling from its reserves in recent years to maintain programs and staffing levels at the school. Last year, the district used $5.5 million in reserves and leftover balances from the previous year.

Were this year’s budget to roll over into 2014-15 as-is, the district would be looking at a $2.5 million increase in expenditures.

jennifer@timesreview.com

12/03/13 12:00pm

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | The Briarcliff School in Shoreham.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board is expected to continue discussions Tuesday night about future plans for the district’s elementary school program.

During the school board’s Nov. 13 meeting, administrators discussed two options. The first plan would split the kindergarteners between Miller Avenue and Wading River elementary schools. The other option — the so-called “Princeton plan” — puts all the first- and second-graders in one elementary school, with the remaining grades up to fifth into the other elementary school. Both plans will include two drafts: one with Briarcliff Elementary School opened and with it closed.

The school board will also begin discussing the district’s secondary program options and selection classification within the athletic program, according to the meeting’s agenda.

The pubic portion of the meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Miller Avenue Elementary School located at 3 Miller Avenue in Shoreham.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back for an update.

Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting agenda, Dec. 3, 2013

09/25/13 3:00pm
09/25/2013 3:00 PM

 

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Homeland Systems president Chris Downie, front, discusses his company’s emergency alert system at Tuesday’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting while his business partner, Phil Tumminio, looks on.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Homeland Systems president Chris Downie, front, discusses his company’s emergency alert system at Tuesday’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting while his business partner, Phil Tumminio, looks on.

As school district officials across the entire country consider ways to make their classrooms safer less than a year after a school shooting in Connecticut, the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education heard a presentation Tuesday night about an emergency alert system it’s integrating that will enable designated school personnel to communicate with first responders in the event of a security breach.

The software was discussed at Tuesday’s school board meeting by Homeland Systems president Chris Downie. S.A.F.E.R. Direct, the name of the program, is smartphone-based and can send text message and email alerts to first responders and school personnel depicting where a security breach has been made. Alerts can be sent via smart phone, tablet or computer.

“Our system is a virtual panic button,” said Phil Tumminio, a district resident and the treasurer and marketing manager of Homeland Systems, based out of Delaware. He said he and Mr. Downie have been working with the district since May and are in the midst of negotiating a contract. “It’s not stationary. Everyone on the system with a smart phone can send an instant emergency alert direct to first responders from any location in the school.”

This is the latest in a series of security measures the district has implemented or is considering.

In January – less than six weeks after the deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn. left 26 innocent victims dead – the district hired two security guards. A district parent had raised concerns during an open forum on security in the district, Superintendent Steven Cohen said at the time. The middle and high school’s entrances have also been upgraded with more security measures.

In explaining in more depth the ‘virtual panic button’ to the board of education Tuesday night, Mr. Tumminio said one of the main problems with emergency cell phone calls is poor cell tower coverage in the area. “Hard-wired calls from alert stations can work, but in times of crisis it might be impossible to get to a hard-wired phone to send an alert,” he said.

The S.A.F.E.R. (School, Ambulance, Fire Department, Emergency, Response) Direct program would not be reliant on cell coverage, but would rather run through the a wireless Internet network.

Glen Arcuri, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said S.A.F.E.R. Direct is already partially installed at Shoreham-Wading River High School. He hopes to see the installation process completed there by mid-November.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said on Wednesday that the board had instructed him to move forward with installing the program.

“Much planning will be needed, however, before the system is operational,” he said in an email.

The cost to install the program, Mr. Arcuri said, is typically $7,000 per school, or a total of $35,000 for the district. The total cost is offset by a $20,000 price reduction Mr. Tumminio and Mr. Downie said they’re willing to contribute, bringing the total installation cost down to $15,000. Once installation is completed, the district would have to pay $18,000 annually in maintenance fees – $300 per school, per month – Mr. Arcuri said.

Board member John Zucowski said during Tuesday’s meeting he supports installing an emergency alert system throughout the school district.

“What first responders really need during an emergency is information, so I think it’s worth pushing forward,” he said.

ryoung@timesreview.com

09/24/2013 12:02 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River High School.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board will vote on a resolution calling on state and federal officials to end the over-reliance on standardized testing at tonight’s Board of Education meeting. The board is also expected to vote on a resolution asking state and federal officials to re-examine New York state’s accountability systems.

Recently, both the Riverhead and Southold school boards took similar action.

The Shoreham school board is also expected to discuss a security improvement proposal at tonight’s meeting. In January, the district hired two security guards after a SWR parent raised concerns at an open forum on district security, Superintendent Steven Cohen said at the time. A head security guard was also chosen this winter to review the district’s security policies and improve them.

Tonight’s board meeting takes place at 8 p.m. in the high school library.

ryoung@timesreview.com

SWR School Board Agenda 09/24/13

09/11/2013 2:30 PM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said programs and positions such as teacher aides and tutors could face cuts.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board is discussing the possible elimination of some non-mandated programs next year, including athletics, full-day kindergarten and musical performances, if the district can’t find a way to close a projected $6 million budget gap.

While the 2013-14 budget keeps school programs intact, school officials have said it will be difficult in future years to find ways to trim the budget to fit within the state-mandated tax cap, largely because increases in teacher salaries and benefits will outpace the cuts.

Programs aren’t the only things in danger of being cut or reduced. Positions like teacher aides, tutors and an athletic trainer are also potentially at risk, Superintendent Steven Cohen said during the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

“We’re now at the point where the board needs to make some strategic choices,” he said. “We need to decide, ‘Are we going to dip into savings? And if so, how much?’ That’s where we are.”

Mr. Cohen said he believes the gap could be filled temporarily by dipping into the district’s savings. In March, the district had reserves of $14.7 million, with $9.9 million still due from prior-year state aid.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Shoreham-Wading River PTA vice president Alisa McMorris expressed concern about eliminating all non-mandated programs and asked how her group could help.

“At some point, there’s going to be something that gives,” she said. “This is a black hole for every district on Long Island, so we’re definitely not alone.”

During the 2013-14 budget process earlier this year, Mr. Cohen said the district would be able to stay within the tax levy cap without having to cut school programs by making one-time cuts and reducing professional services. In May, residents in the Shoreham-Wading River district approved a $66.1 million budget, which represents a nearly 5.5 percent spending increase and carries a 2.29 percent tax rate (the most allowed under the tax cap).

“These are beyond difficult times in terms of trying to make these decisions,” school board president Bill McGrath said. “It’s very difficult choices we’re being forced to make here. We’re open to all suggestions.”

As the budget process unfolds for the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Cohen said the community and the board may need to come together and decide that some programs are just too important to lose.

“And if that means we need to try to convince the community to pierce the cap, that’s what it means,” he said. “It’s a tough question, but I think that’s what the numbers are telling us.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

09/08/13 12:00pm
09/08/2013 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Work on the new Riley Avenue Elementary School facade as of last week. The window wall marks the school's expanded cafeteria and auditorium.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Work on the new Riley Avenue Elementary School facade as of last week. The window wall marks the school’s expanded cafeteria and auditorium.

The start of a new school year is an ideal time to roll out changes to curriculum, faculty or initiatives, and in Riverhead Town public schools, the 2013-14 school year is no exception.

From new computers at Shoreham-Wading River to 30 new staff members in the Riverhead School District, the two local superintendents each shared a list of four things that will be new or different in their districts this year, as well as their hopes for the next nine months.

Nancy Carney

Superintendent Nancy Carney

• The district has hired over 30 new staff members, including over 20 new teachers to replace retirees.

• Construction work is complete at Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue and Riley Avenue elementary schools. There are new parent drop-off areas and bus loops, renovated libraries, classrooms and computer rooms, a new kitchen at Aquebogue, two new classrooms and an expanded cafeteria at Riley Avenue and new playground surfaces at all the schools. At Riverhead High School. There are new bleachers in the gymnasium and the library and auditorium will be completely renovated this fall. Construction will continue at the high school over the next two years with the addition of new science rooms and a new weight room.

• The district has installed new physical education equipment at Pulaski, Roanoke, Phillips Avenue and Aquebogue. Equipment at Riley Avenue will be installed this fall. Riverhead is the first district in New York State to be awarded a Project Fit Grant, in collaboration with Peconic Bay Medical Center.

A new curriculum is being implemented in the physical education program as part of the grant.

• Riverhead will continue to take delivery of new propane-powered buses to replace older diesel models.

“This continued overhaul of our transportation department will be complemented by a bus garage committee that will begin work this fall to oversee the design and location of a new bus hub,” Ms. Carney said. “We are looking for community members who are interested in joining this effort. Please contact me if you would like to participate.”

Steven Cohen

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen

• The district is implementing a technology initiative in all five buildings. This includes new computers throughout the district, as well as Smartboards.

• The faculty will be strengthening its new professional development program.

• The district will be adding more security measures to all the schools

• Officials are continuing to strategically plan for the future of the district’s facilities while developing a five-year plan for programs and fiscal plans to preserve the high quality of education in Shoreham-Wading River.

ryoung@timesreview.com

08/30/13 5:00pm
08/30/2013 5:00 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | This new research area at Phillips Avenue Elementary School was unveiled in March. The Riverhead school board is expected to receive an update about the district's capital improvement projects Tuesday night.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Students at Phillips Avenue Elementary School and all other local schools will start later than usual this year because of the timing of the Jewish New Year.

The first day of school is rapidly approaching, but the timing of the Jewish New Year means area districts will have a later start date this year.

For most students in the area, the first day of the school year traditionally falls on the Wednesday following Labor Day — this year, that’s Sept. 4. But because Rosh Hashanah begins that evening, most schools have pushed their start dates to Monday, Sept. 9.

Students in the Shoreham-Wading River and Riverhead school districts will all begin classes Sept. 9, which is in keeping with the majority of public schools on Long Island.

“We went by the recommendation made by Eastern Suffolk BOCES,” Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen said.

Students at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead have the latest start date, with Tuesday, Sept. 10 as their first full day of classes. That’s because seniors have orientation Thursday, Sept. 5 and junior high students have orientation Friday, Sept. 6. Grades 7, 8, 9 and 11 have a half-day of school Sept. 9.

“The rationale for that is that the Riverhead Public School District, Middle Country Public School District and Hampton Bays Public School District were not providing busing until the ninth,” said Mercy principal Carl Semmler.

ryoung@timesreview.com