Featured Story

35% of Shelter Island students are economically disadvantaged

After 34 years, Julie Davis Lutz, Ph.D., retired at the end of June as the chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). Before leaving the helm of an entity that serves 51 school districts covering all of the East End, including Shelter Island, she gave a presentation sponsored by Long Island Metro Business Action.

The presentation by Ms. Lutz, who also has been chairperson of the Legislative Committee of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association (LIMBA), featured a large amount of significant data. Ms. Lutz is a “staunch advocate for data driven, effective practices for maximizing student outcomes,” said LIMBA’s description of her Zoom talk.

The data included how “economically disadvantaged” students now constitute “approximately 37.4% of the students enrolled in Long Island school districts.” Between 2013 and 2021, there was a 27.4% increase of “economically disadvantaged” students — kindergarten to 12th grade — in Suffolk.

Statistics on specific school districts weren’t provided, but at my request Brian Doelger, Ed.D., superintendent and principal of the Shelter Island school, provided the figure for the Island. Some 35% of Shelter Island’s students are considered “economically disadvantaged,” or just slightly below the Long Island average.

The New York State Education Department defines “economically disadvantaged” as students “who participate in, or whose family participates in, economic assistance programs” including “free or reduced-price lunch programs, Social Security Insurance, food stamps, foster care, refugee assistance …”

Information provided by Ms. Lutz on school districts with enrollment with more than 20% of English Language Learners in 2020-20212 had Wainscott (46%), Brentwood (36%), Riverhead (34%), Central Islip (33%), Wyandanch (31%), Bridgehampton (29%), Hampton Bays (29%), Huntington (25%), Greenport (24%), Tuckahoe (23%), Amityville (23%) Springs (21%), Southampton (20%) and East Hampton (20%). According to information provided by Mr. Doelger, on Shelter Island 7.5% of students are English Language Learners.

As to “Public Education — Why It Matters,” a presentation by Ms. Lutz declared: “It prepares our next generation for college, for work, for the world. It educates all students.”

A graphic headed “What We Need to Reshape Our Future” was presented, saying: “Understand the communities and students that we serve. Partnership with the business community to insure we are preparing students for the future. Continue to provide high quality, well-rounded educational programs.”

The BOCES concept came to New York State in 1948. There are now 37 BOCES in the state. Eastern Suffolk BOCES provides a wide variety of services to school districts along with undertakings that include adult and continuing education programs and operating the Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology which has a site in Riverhead delivering occupational education.

On its website, Eastern Suffolk BOCES describes itself as “an inclusive educational cooperative” that “provides regional leadership and advocacy, direct instruction, management, and support through quality, cost-effective instructional programs, and shared services.”

It says it offers “a full spectrum of cost-effective educational and career learning programs and services. These services include those that empower school districts and other educational providers to build capacity for teaching and learning, ensure equitable access to the best education for all students and achieve excellence.”

Under the word “Vision,” it says: “Eastern Suffolk BOCES: Educational Services that Transform Lives.”

Mr. Doelger said, “Shelter Island is blessed to work with Eastern Suffolk BOCES. They provide us with so many opportunities that we would never have without our association with them. We send our students there for career and technical education. They provide special education services that we may not be able to offer on a yearly basis. They also provide a great deal of professional development opportunities for our staff and myself personally.”

Of Ms. Lutz, he said, “I had the privilege of working with Julie over the past couple of years. She is a true leader in education and, more importantly, is a tremendous person. You could always count on her to be at the forefront of advocating for schools and for our students. She will definitely be missed.”