Urgent! Tonight’s BOE meeting

Thank you to the many members who turned out for the Board of Education’s Curriculum Committee meeting on Friday, Feb 17, 2017, at which the committee chaired by BOE member Larry Greenstein reviewed the K-8 Enrichment Report submitted by the district consultant Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska.  If you have not read the report, we urge you to do so at this link:

http://www.portnet.org/Page/12394

We also urge you to attend in person the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 8:00 p.m. at Paul D. Schreiber High School, Library Computer Lab, to add your voice to the open public commentary regarding supporting and improving enrichment for students in Port Washington schools.

BOE members, the Superintendent and the Asst. Superintendent all indicated that budget constraints and limited space are impacting their ability to restore enrichment in the district to pre-2011 levels, as well as to implement the majority of substantive program changes recommended by the consultant in the 2017-18 school year and beyond.

Board of Education Committee members Karen Sloan (president), Emily Beys, Nora Johnson and Beth Weisburd, as well as Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Wafa Westervelt, and building principals Ms. Suzzan (Daly), Dr. Meoli (Sousa) and Mr. Shields (Weber) were in attendance on Feb. 17 at the committee meeting, and all are concerned about budget constraints limiting education opportunities in our district, including enrichment.

The Superintendent, Asst. Superintendent and many speakers from the community noted that the consultant’s report contained recommendations that appear to be cost-neutral that could be explored for implementation for the 2017-18 school year, including:

  • Strategies for identification of gifted students, particularly minority and low-income gifted students, as early as kindergarten;
  • Consistency amongst identification criteria in all elementary schools and training general education teachers to use identification materials more effectively;
  • Expanding areas of enrichment in the middle school by making better use of CORE extension & lunchtime enrichment offerings to “develop additional talent development course options for gifted learners in English, social studies and world language coursework”(Van Tassel Baska 45);
  • Developing enrichment curriculum tied to the general education curriculum with measurable standards and portfolio evaluation, increasing articulation for enrichment across grade levels, and providing general education teachers with additional support in differentiation for the gifted student.
  • Expanding planning time for PEP teachers and general education staff together across the district, seeking input of specialty teachers at the high school level to assist in developing materials for enrichment.

The Superintendent also noted that the district is firmly committed philosophically to heterogeneous grouping at all levels and pointed out the positive additions of Math in Focus, literacy programs, and the beginning of involvement with Project Lead the Way all as resources for use with gifted children in the general education classroom.  However, the district does not have the budget to hire an administrator to fill a recommended minimum 30% PT staff position to act as designated coordinator of the enrichment program.

The responsibility for reviewing any changes to the enrichment program for 2017-18 and forward was referred to the Professional Growth and Curriculum Development Committee (PGCD) a committee of administrators and teachers for further analysis.  No date was set for the PGCD to issue their reported findings to the community.

AGATE believes that the approximately 13% of students in district qualifying for enrichment services are entitled to a robust program that properly identifies all qualifying students, articulates an appeals process for admission that is transparent, meets the academic and social/emotional needs of these students, while simultaneously enhancing the enrichment opportunities for the entire student population. The school district, supported by the community, must develop and commit financial and administrative assets to design a curriculum for PEP tied to the general education program, with clearly articulated advanced standards and outcomes, as well as enhanced offerings in the humanities particularly at the middle school level (6-8) that allows all children to develop to their full potential.

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