Education

Students seeking dress code changes; seek to eliminate gender bias and clarify vague language

Student Council members asked the Board of Education (BOE) Monday night for a re-examination of the district’s dress code. At issue for the students is a code they said reflects gender bias and language that is vague.

Student representative to the BOE Nicholas Mamisashvili said the way in which the policy is written, each teacher is able to interpret it as he or she sees fit. What’s more, according to the students, the existing policy is unclear about consequences for violations.

Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., said he will meet with the students  — members of the Student Council and the Unity Club —  for more input before the policy comes back to the BOE for further discussion and possible revisions.

Monday night’s meeting was totally virtual, a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases in town plus a school district staff member testing positive, which resulted in having to close the building for a single day last week.

Meet the Islanders

The Board of Education formally adopted Islanders as the new name for school teams previously known as the Indians. It was a controversial move for some who had long thought of Indians as an honorific to those who first occupied the town.

A few years ago, a student raised the issue, but it failed to gain traction. This time, as result of surveying current students and staff, families and former students, Islanders proved to be the popular alternative for the majority of respondents.

New septic system

Pending the permit process by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the school building could have a new septic system installed next summer.

Because of the population of the school, both during the school day and sometimes on nights or weekends for special community events, the need for upgrading the septic system is vital to reducing the nitrogen content in water in the Center.

Careful spending and money saved during the pandemic resulted in funds being in hand to pay for installation. BBS Architects & Engineers in Patchogue has been chosen for the job.

District goals

Mr. Doelger told BOE members that although the work that started early in 2020 to establish goals for the district had to be curtailed, some of the early work has proven effective even during the pandemic. At the same time, he said the goals need some fine tuning, something he hopes he and the Board can begin to address shortly.

Basic goals are:

• Education designed to ensure students continue to make progress through courses designed for ongoing growth.

• Fiscal practices that balance what is needed to support the educational process without overburdening taxpayers.

Because of some savings that occurred during the pandemic and a generous contribution from an unnamed donor, Mr. Doelger said the district has already upgraded the tennis courts; has plans to renovate two science labs next summer and convert a storage area into a working area for teacher Dan Williams’ science students; and plans to upgrade the septic system.

• Enhancing communications through ongoing weekly messages and outreach through Facebook and local media.

• Enhancing a culture of leadership and improved trust with staff, students and the community. The outreach to the community has necessarily been cut during the pandemic, because students can’t safely participate in activities as they have in the past.

Grants

The district has received two grants, one under Title III for $31,691 to be used to enhance learning experiences for immigrant students and the other under Title IV for $10,000 to finance programs aimed at social and emotional support programs for all students.

One such program dealing with drugs, vaping and COVID-19 is slated for Dec. 18, according to Director of Pupil Personnel, Data & Instruction Jennifer Rylott.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio told the Board that he is proceeding with applications and procedures necessary for winter sports, if they will be allowed to be played in January.

The state is currently prohibiting what it’s labeled “high risk activities” that include basketball and cheerleading, he said. Winter track is not on the restricted list, but will occur only outside, so those who want to participate will have to dress appropriately for cold weather. He promised to inform students, parents and the community as circumstances change.

Mr. Gulluscio also announced the annual toy drive is underway and those who want to assist in distributing toys should let School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel know of their availability on Dec. 14 between 10 a.m. and noon.