School Superintendent says Island students are on right track

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Shelter Island Board of Education met Monday evening.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Shelter Island Board of Education met Monday evening.

While Shelter Island School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik remains skeptical about the value of Common Core testing, he told the Board of Education Monday night that students appear to be a step ahead of their peers throughout Eastern Suffolk.

The one area where Island students need work is in writing, an area the district previously identified as a weakness. Administrators and teachers have already begun to ramp up the effort to raise students’ writing abilities.

“We know more about our kids than the tests show,” Mr. Skuggevik said.

At the same time, he noted that Island students who were tested outperformed others in terms of numbers of correct choices they made on multiple choice questions. But in revealing the state’s overall scores for the district, the superintendent called it “Common Core math,” since although they showed improvement for Shelter Island in all areas, the overall score was slightly below what the state released for the previous year.

That’s because the state keeps moving the bar, making it impossible to compare student progress from one year to the next, Mr. Skuggevik said.

But the superintendent can see programs and methods in place here that are yielding success.
“The things we’re doing are starting to work,” Mr. Skuggevik said.

At the start of each Board of Education meeting, a member reads the district’s mission statement, reminding all that the goal is to have students cherish their small community while engaging in the wider world.

“To do this, they must be: ethical and moral individuals; respectful and responsible communicators; creative and analytical thinkers; knowledgeable and literate readers, writers, mathematicians and scientists; participants in and audiences for art, drama, music, athletics and other artistic, cultural and social activities; skilled and successful workers and consumers; and committed and active citizens.

On Monday night, following a retreat by board members the previous week, Board President Thomas Graffagnino added his own statement:

“We are a united board. Our number one goal is the education of our students. Although we are seven members, we strive for consensus while being respectful of each member’s thoughts and feelings on all matters. In our near future, we will be immersed in our budget process, as well as contract negotiations and will oversee much needed building renovations. I look forward to working with you all.”

Except during summer months, Board of Education meetings are generally held at 7 p.m. But members will consider a resolution at the October 13 meeting to move the sessions to a 6 p.m. start time as suggested by Linda Eklund. The concern some voiced was whether an earlier start might inconvenience some residents who want to attend the meetings, although at most sessions, there are few, other than school staff, who attend.

In other actions, the board:
•    Appointed Connor Rice as the student liaison to the Board of Education.
•    Adopted policies relating to smoking and tobacco use on and around school grounds; instructions for English language learners; and use of a district credit card. All policies appear on the district’s website.
•    Approved field trips for student to see the opera “Die Fledermaus” on December 1, “The Nutcracker” on December 16 and the Broadway play “Wicked” on May 18.
•    Approved a Block Island biking field trip for October 2.
•    Heard from Todd Gulluscio that Sunrise Buses, which handles the contract for busing students, is short-staffed and has had to temporarily cut some runs. The result is some students are or will be getting home a bit later than they have in the past, he said. He’s optimistic the situation will be resolved shortly.
•    Approved new signs provided by the county to be posted on and around school grounds reminding people there is no smoking on campus. That applies to parents who sometimes drive up to watch their children in various sports and sit in their cars smoking, Kathy Lynch said.
•    Approved the appointment of Laurie de Poto, Lillian Klupa, Fred Marienfeld and Peter Waldner as substitute teachers who are certified or have a four-year college degree. They would earn $110 per day.
•    Appointed substitute nurses Peter Rauchut, Karen Spencer and Sharon Wicks at $110 per day.
•    Appointed substitute aides Callie Atkins, Mary Boeklen and Lillian Klupa at a salary of $95 per day.
•    Appointed Sharon Wicks as a substitute cafeteria worker at $10 per hour.
•    Made a retroactive appointment of Debra Brewer to provide extra duty during the summer school program this year at the rate of $15 per hour.
•    Appointed Peter Miedema, Laura Leever, Janine Mahoney, James Dibble, Michael Cox and James Bocca as mentors to new teachers. Mr. Cox and Mr. Bocca will share responsibility for mentoring a new teacher and earn $750 while the others will each mentor one new teacher and earn $1,500.
•    Appointed guidance counselor Martha Tuthill as DECA Club adviser at $737.