School Supe touting preschool

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Teacher Walter Brigham with students Carter Brigham (left, front) and Tommy Card gave the Shelter Island Board of Education a lesson Monday night in how technology is being used throughout the school.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Teacher Walter Brigham with students Carter Brigham (left, front) and Tommy Card gave the Shelter Island Board of Education a lesson Monday night in how technology is being used throughout the school.

Could the Shelter Island School District offer a pre-kindergarten program in September?

It’s an idea Superintendent Michael Hynes told the Board of Education he’s examining in view of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s drive to launch universal pre-kindergarten classes throughout the state.

The aim would be to work in conjunction with Shelter Island Preschool and not compete with the existing program, Dr. Hynes said. While that program takes children younger, the district would focus on 4-year-olds, he said.

Pre-kindergarten is “a very, very important stage for kids,” Dr. Hynes said. But to make the program work within the district, it would likely be necessary to restructure the current combined kindergarten-first grade class, he said.

One approach might be to combine more advanced preschoolers with kindergartners and move more advanced kindergarten students into a class with first graders in response to a suggestion from BOE member Linda Eklund. She said students should be assigned based not just on age and a possible lottery system, but on ability to handle the level of work involved at each stage.

Funding might come entirely from New York State, but Dr. Hynes said he was exploring other sources of money to support a preschool program.

What he asked for and got from the BOE was approval to continue to explore the concept.

Initial steps to determine the best approach to upgrading the Shelter Island School heating system begin in earnest this week. McClave Engineering starts fleshing out its proposal to tackle the job for an estimated $1.6 million. At the same time as McClave engineers start their work, engineers from Ameresco, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, will be exploring the possibility of doing the work on a performance contract.

In January, the BOE made the decision to pay McClave $12,500 to expand its proposal while seeking a performance contractor who might be willing to take on the job, guaranteeing that costs wouldn’t exceed the amount of savings on energy the district would achieve over the life of the contract.

No one responded directly to the BOE’s request for proposals from performance contractors, according to business manager Kathleen Minder. But Ameresco offered to examine the job and determine whether it would be worth it for the company to make a more formal offer.

Under a performance contract, the work would likely get a faster green light from the State Education Department, Ms. Minder said. But should no performance contractor be willing to take the project, the district would likely float a bond to pay for much of the work, pulling the balance from reserve funds.

Voters in the district would have to approve a bond issue, while no such approval is necessary for a performance contract, Ms. Minder said.

In late October, automatic controls failed and examination of the aged system showed that replacing just the controls — something that has now been done at a cost of $55,000 — would just be a bandaid, rather than a real solution to maintaining reliable heat.

For about two months, the breakdown required building and grounds workers Mike Dunning and Greg Sulahian to work around the clock, spelling one another every other hour to keep the heat going. Since the new controls were installed in late December and early January, the pair have been able to do so remotely, instead of having to go to the school.

Given the time it would take to get either a performance contract or a bond in place, it’s now expected work won’t begin until the summer of 2015.

If your child goes to a private school in the Hamptons, he or she may be on a school bus for as long as two hours at the end of the school day. In letters and telephone calls, parents told Dr. Hynes they’re hoping a solution can be found, perhaps by sharing transportation with another district, to alleviate the long trip home.

The problem arose when Ross School changed its hours for upper school students so they end their day at 4 p.m. rather an 3:30 as they did last year. Other schools there end classes between 2:30 and 3:20, according to Dr. Hynes. That has forced students picked up from the other schools to wait for the Ross students before the bus heads back to the Island.

What’s more, because students get back here later, they miss out on some extra-curricular activities.

It costs the district $45,000 for a single bus that transports students to and from the schools in the Hamptons and that cost would double if Shelter Island has to offer its own second bus, Dr. Hynes said. It’s not required to do so, either by district or state policy, but the superintendent agreed to set up a meeting with the parents to discuss options and  explore whether sharing buses with another district might present an opportunity to keep costs in check.

Gap Elimination Adjustment
Dr. Hynes and BOE President Stephen Gessner agreed to sign a letter to Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. requesting his support in rolling back a state Gap Elimination Adjustment  enacted by former Governor David Paterson. The aim was to cut state aid to education to close what was a $10 billion deficit. The district was “cheated out of” $300,000 in state aid over the past three years under the policy, Dr. Hynes said.

It’s unlikely the GEA will be repealed in time for the 2014-15 budget, he said, but by taking action now, he and other Long Island superintendents, who have been the most hurt by the cuts, might see relief the following year.

Teacher Walter Brigham and students Carter Brigham and Tommy Card gave the BOE a lesson in how technology is being used in school

Offering what he called “a snippet” of the use being made of technology in classrooms and among teachers and administrators, Mr. Brigham said it has encouraged greater collaboration and a richer, more engaging educational experience.

“My goal is setting seeds to get the gardens planted,” Mr. Brigham said about his effort to expand the use of technology and the support he is trying to give to the faculty and administrators. “You have to be technologically literate to teach in the 21st century.”

Students showed how they use various programs to communicate with teachers and work together on projects.

Oral comprehensive exams
For the first time in the school’s history, seniors will be participating in oral comprehensive exams that will afford them the opportunity to enhance verbal presentation skills, Dr. Hynes told the BOE. The initial presentations — to be made to a board of nine adults — will have each student presenting his or her thesis and discussing it with the examiners. The second part will be a discussion with each student about the educational experience on Shelter Island. That will give teachers and administrators helpful information on how to strengthen the educational program for future students, Dr. Hynes said.