SWR Notes: Board gives green light for new reading program

Steven Cohen, Bill McGrath
SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education agreed to move forward with a new reading program for students.

Shoreham-Wading River school board members agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to move forward with a new student reading program, the first part of superintendent Steven Cohen’s education goals and priorities plan.

Dr. Cohen laid out the plan at school board meetings earlier this month, and the board adopted it Tuesday.

The plan is meant to improve reading skills and interest for students in the younger grades, Dr. Cohen said, and to have “more flexible and varied reading support options to provide greater opportunities for students to close identified reading gaps.”

The plan includes hiring .6 full-time equivalent reading teachers in the elementary schools — .2 at Wading River, .4 at Briarcliff and none at Miller Avenue. Teaching time is divided up based on the number of students in each elementary school and student performance level, Dr. Cohen said.

The plan also creates nine reading tutor positions. Three will work in Miller Avenue Elementary. Wading River Elementary, Briarcliff Elementary and Prodell Middle School will each get two reading tutors. Those employees will be paid hourly and will work for 2 1/2 hours per day, five days a week.

The plan comes with a nearly $144,500 bill, which will be footed by savings realized in the difference between retired teachers’ salaries and the salaries of their replacements, Dr. Cohen said.

“This gives principles and teachers tremendous flexibility at very low cost to pinpoint reading problems,” Dr. Cohen said. “It’s an opportunity for us to develop a very deep pool of teaching talent we can distribute as the need arises.”

Board hires two substitute per diem employees

The board approved the hiring of two substitute per diem employees as walk-on resolutions Tuesday night.

Lynn Schwartz is the new substitute director of health, physical education and athletics, earning $575 per day. Mr. Schwartz, who is retired from the Westhampton School District, will fill in for Kenneth Marlborough, who holds that position permanently and is out on medical leave. Mr. Schwartz is expected to work until Mr. Marlborough can return.

John Drenckhahn is now the substitute plant facilities administrator. The retired Rocky Point School District employee will earn $475 a day and replaces Robert Woolsey, who left the district on Sept. 13 to go to the Smithtown School District, according to board president Bill McGrath. Board members said Mr. Drenckhahn’s salary will be less than the amount budgeted for that position.

Both men were hired without medical benefits. Mr. Drenckhahn already collects about $80,000 annually through the New York State Teacher’s Retirement System. Mr. Schwartz made more than $223,000 in 2010, according to state records. His pension earnings have not yet been made available online.

Purchase of video equipment to record board meetings

The board came to a consensus to purchase a camera and laptop to record board meetings. Glen Arcuri, director of finance and operations, said the total cost will be less than $2,000. He said he’ll hold off on purchasing the laptop after board member Richard Pluschau said he may be able to obtain a donated one.

The district began videotaping board meetings this school year and it’s making the recordings available on its website. School officials have been using an MSG varsity camera and a high school laptop, equipment that won’t be available for every meeting moving forward.

Additional money in fund balance

The district has an additional $540,000 in its fund balance that was not forecasted in the 2011-12 budget, Mr. Arcuri said.

Board members came to a consensus to reallocate the money by reducing the allocation of Prior Year’s State Aid in the 2011-12 budget from $800,000 to $260,000 and increasing the district’s undesignated, unreserved fund balance for this school year from $750,000 to $1.29 million. The total amount in the district’s fund balance this school year, $1.55 million, remains the same.

Board approves field trip almost pulled last year

The board approved an overnight field trip to Camp Alvernia in Centerport for the Natural Helpers, an extracurricular club in which students learn to provide emotional support to their peers.

The yearly trip was cancelled last year due to a shortfall in funding, but was restored after students pushed for it at meetings.

The resolution was approved 6-0-1. Mr. Pluschau abstained, citing his daughter’s participation in Natural Helpers as the reason.

Superintendent donates to district

Dr. Cohen donated $1,000 to the district to be divided evenly among the five schools ($200 each). The money should be used at building principals’ discretion for student initiated project-based learning.

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