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Consultant hired to lead Guidance Department: District deals with scorned school program

Shelter Island School official continue to work to remedy a program that left students upset and parents angry after they were ordered to participate in a “Cross the Line” guidance lesson meant to teach empathy that instead forced students to reveal personal information about themselves and their families, and resulted in what some parents said was bullying of their children by other students resulting from their responses to the session.

Some parents said after the program, children were subject to bullying by classmates because of information they revealed during the class.

Monday night, on the advice of Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., the Board of Education took hired Edward Caswell to run the Guidance Department. He is a consultant with more than 35 years of educational experience as a teacher and administrator.

The superintendent said the hiring was put into place to deal with scheduling, class advising, college applications and working with students are struggling academically.

Mr. Doelger said he, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Rylott and Todd Gulluscio,  Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness & Personnel, are leading the effort to deal with the fallout from the lesson.

Mr. Caswell is slated to begin his work on the Island Feb. 28 and continue through June 30 at a salary of $750 per day.

The superintendent repeated his door has remained open to parents and students and there has been outreach to deal with the trauma that resulted from the lesson for students in grades six through 12 — ages 11 to 18.

As for the teacher who ran the session, that is a personnel matte and can’t be publicly discussed.

Mr. Doelger apologized to the parents, promising to take steps to help students affected and indicated the program was not vetted by the Board of Education in advance.

Without specifics, Mr. Doelger confirmed Monday night there have been and continue to be additional efforts to deal with the situation. 

In other School Board news: The Board gave unanimous approval to a schooner trip aboard the Alabama for 7th and 8th grade students. Special education teacher, and vice president of the Shelter Island Educational Foundation Janine Mahoney told the Board ten 7th graders and four 8th graders plan to take the five-day trip that leaves from Martha’s Vineyard on June 9 and returns on June 23.

The Educational Foundation is paying $15,500 to cover many expenses of the trip, while families will pay $250 per child plus the cost of the Cross Sound Ferry and ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and a lunch on the first and last day of the trip.

Board member Kathleen Lynch thanked the Educational Foundation for its generous contribution and called the trip one of the best programs the school offers.

Thanks to custodial staff

Students thanked Mike Dunning and his custodial staff members — Miguel Mendez, Jose Montalvo, Julietta Santos, Brian Springer, Greg Sulahian and Jacqueline Suriel.

They honored the crew for all their hard work and their friendship at a coffee and doughnuts gathering at which they showed a video they created featuring the staff.