Parent asks school board to eliminate ‘weighted grades’ policy

JULIE LANE PHOTO Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik speaking at the November 18 meeting of the Shelter Island Board of Education meeting.

JULIE LANE PHOTO Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik speaking at the November 18 meeting of the Shelter Island Board of Education meeting.

Are students being awarded more credit than they deserve for their performances in honors courses?

That’s the concern of at least one parent father who questioned the Board of Education about so-called “weighted grades” that are given to honors students at Shelter Island School.

Greg Martin asked the Board of Education at its November 18 meeting to reverse its policy and not weight grades so that parents have an honest assessment of how their children are performing.

It’s a common practice in many school districts to add to a student’s grade if that student takes honors or advanced placement classes. But Mr. Martin doesn’t think that will help students when they get out into “the real world” where they are judged on the basis of actual performance.

If honors classes weren’t weighted, what would be the purpose of having sections of the same course, said Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott.

Honors courses are more rigorous and the curriculum is different, she said.

“We want all students to challenge themselves,” she said.

Both Ms. Rylott and Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik noted that the grades students received on tests and papers prior to report cards are actually “unweighted” numbers and these are available to parents from school guidance counselor Martha Tuthill.

Mr. Skuggevik promised Mr. Martin that his concerns would be taken seriously as administrators and teachers discuss further the use of weighted grades.

CONTRIBUTIONS
The district received an anonymous $10,000 contribution from a parent to be used to benefit the educational process in any way Mr. Skuggevik deems appropriate.

The money will be used to offset the cost of field trips, transportation and special programs and assemblies to bring in outside speakers to address students on subjects deemed important to their education.

The district received 58 used Hewlett Packard laptop computers from Computers 4 Kids, an organization that recycles and refurbishes used computers to distribute to low income families. The computers were fully loaded with necessary software and will be distributed to students who need them, Mr. Skuggevik said.

BIDS DITCHED
When bids received from two potential general contractors and four mechanical contractors came in “a bit high,” according to Patrick McClave from McClave Engineering, it was back to the drawing board.

He has reworked specifications to seek new bids and hopes that bids might be awarded by early January.

The project in question is related to a new HVAC system to replace the faulty building heating and cooling system, all to be covered by a $1.6 million bond voters authorized in 2014.

THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS
Timothy Laube, the district’s new business manager, brought some good news to teachers and staff who live off Island and must commute by ferry. While they pay a decreased amount equal to what Island residents pay to use the ferries, they will now be eligible for a pre-tax flex spending plan to pay for their tickets.

Similar to flex spending plans many companies offer employees to pay medical co-pays and other expenses with pre-tax dollars, the off-Island residents who work for the district can save money by having an amount deducted from their pay checks before taxes are calculated.

The flex travel plan will also save the district money in FICA taxes, Mr. Laube said.

The business manager had another piece of good news for the district about its Moody’s Investor Service bond rating. The district has an “Aa2” rating, making it low risk for any bond it might issue.

As for concerns the district faces in its finances, the business manager said recent draws on reserves — unallocated money — have left that fund low. The money was used to offset spending during the last few years as the Board of Education struggled to stay within the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap.

Rising fixed costs are also a challenge, he said.

Mr. Laube’s reports will be ongoing at Board of Education meetings, Mr. Skuggevik said.

POLICIES
The Board adopted revised policies dealing with non-discrimination and anti-harassment issues, information security breaches and notification, data networks and security access, equal employment opportunities and sexual harassment of students. All had been previously introduced and the new policies appear on the district’s website.

Members also had the first reading of a policy pertaining to public access to school records. That draft also appears on the website.

EYE EXAMS

Ten Shelter Island students will be getting new eyeglasses thanks to a program Nurse Mary Kanarvogel brought to the district through the National Association of School Nurses.

Sound Vision, with offices in Greenport, Riverhead and Southampton, provided eye exams for students and determined the 10 students needed glasses that will be provided without charge.

In the past, the Lions Club has filled that role, but with Sound Vision stepping forward, the Lions instead paid $150 for Ms. Kanarvogel’s membership in the National Association of School Nurses.

Ms. Kanarvogel reported that Dr. Nathanael Desire would be functioning as the school’s doctor. He and his wife, Dr. Anthonette Desire, have offices at the town-owned Medical Center.

SAVING HISTROY
Third and 4th graders who participate in Mary Dwyer’s 2Rs4Fun writing program at Shelter Island Library will see their works preserved in the archives of the Shelter Island Historical Society. Board member Kathleen Lynch said current and former students who participated in the program will celebrate the inclusion of their writings in the archives on December 9 at 4 p.m. when representatives of the Historical Society will join them at the library.

The idea came from archivist Phyllis Wallace.

“If we value the writings of children 200 years ago, why not now?” Ms. Wallace said.

In other business, the Board of Education:
• Approved tenure for Natalie Regan a teacher’s assistant.
• Appointed Matthew Mortillo as a substitute teacher, at $110 per day.
• Rescheduled the December 14 Board of Education meeting to December 16 to accommodate a vote for a member of the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Board. Meetings are now at 6 p.m.

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