SWR superintendent urges voters to pass technology upgrade

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River school superintendent Steven Cohen (left) and board vice president Richard Pluschau discussing a proposed technology and track proposition Tuesday night.

Shoreham-Wading River school superintendent Steven Cohen, at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, discussed plans for a $1.6 million proposition to improve district technology and make repairs to the high school track, as well as a proposed process to appoint a student to the school board.

Mr. Cohen stressed that a voter-approved referendum allowing the district to purchase wireless Internet connections, new computers and software is necessary for the district to comply with upcoming state testing regulations. He noted it will be mandatory come 2014 that students take state assessment tests online.

“That is something we have no choice about,” Mr. Cohen said. “We have to begin preparing now in order to have a technology system that will be capable of managing state tests so our students can continue to participate in New York State’s education program.”

Currently, 77 percent of district computers are more than five years old and run obsolete versions of Windows, such as Windows 95 or Windows XP. These operating systems are too old to be compatible with the latest computer software, he added.

If voters approve the proposition, Mr. Cohen said computers and interactive digital Smartboards will be added to each classroom, and each building will have a computer lab.

In addition, about $286,000 is slated for resurfacing and repair work at the cracked high school track. School officials and high school track team members have said county racing officials may not allow future track meets at the school if the repairs aren’t made.

Mr. Cohen said taxes will not be raised if the proposition is approved by voters on Oct. 2 because the funds will be pulled from district’s tax stabilization fund, commonly referred to as the district’s prior year state aid.

School officials said the district has about $10 million in that fund and the only item currently earmarked is the proposed technology and track proposition.

The district could be reimbursed up to 40 percent of the total amount of the proposition from the state if it is approved this school year, Mr. Cohen said.

The board also discussed Tuesday night adding a non-voting member to its ranks. Voters this spring approved the proposition to add the position to the board.

The student board member will be a high school senior and will not be privy to executive sessions or be able to vote in board decisions. The student board member will be able to share student concerns with the board.

High school principal Dan Holtzman gave the board his recommendations for appointing the student member, which included requiring the student to have an 85 GPA or better and having the board develop an interview committee comprised of teachers, administrators and a representative of the district’s Civil Service Employees Association. Under this proposal, the superintendent would make the final determination.

School board member Jack Costas questioned the proposed GPA requirement and appointment process. He said he believed students should elect one of their peers to the board and suggested the position be voted on during the high school’s student body elections.

“It should be open to all students,” Mr. Costas said. “That’s open government.”

Mr. Cohen said he will work with Mr. Holtzman to develop an election plan as an alternative to the proposed appointment process and will present those findings at the next school board meeting, scheduled for Sept. 24.

[email protected]