The Lynbrook Public Schools Board of Education met on Oct. 14 in the Lynbrook High School auditorium for its regular monthly meeting. Special recognitions were presented to the community, along with important district updates.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa Burak kicked off the meeting by sharing some recent student achievements. She commended Lynbrook High School students Camilla Bahri, Emily Bergin, Joshua Christian, John Kelhetter, Ricki Rizzo and Alicia Villadiego for being selected as All-State participants and/or alternates by the New York State School Music Association. Dr. Burak also announced that 112 Lynbrook High School students were recognized as Advanced Placement Scholars by College Board.
In honor of Board of Education Appreciation Month, middle school family and consumer science classes baked treats for the board members and included recipes for success to show their appreciation for the board’s hard work and service to the district.
Board President William Belmont announced that Chris Pendergast, the ALS Ride of Life founder and advocate for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research, passed away. Mr. Pendergast had been a friend of the district, serving as a role model for students each year. Board trustee David Yaker expressed his sympathies and shared some history about Mr. Pendergast and the inspiration that he was to Lynbrook students.
During the meeting, four dedicated staff members had their retirements approved. This included messenger Patrick Norcott, computer aide Loretta Rattner and monitors Bryna Paskoff and Catherine McCaul. They were each congratulated and thanked for their commitment and service. Mr. Belmont also welcomed some new staff members to the district: David Dubin, Elizabeth Glaser, Amanda Irizarry, Stacey Langer, Noelle Santos and Patricia Schwetz.
It was announced that the Lynbrook School District was awarded with the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Association of School Business Officials International. The district was recognized for this prestigious honor for its transparency and for going above and beyond in its financial reporting.
In addition, Dr. Burak discussed the remote learning model during the meeting and recapped what was stated at the previous board of education work session. In July, the district issued a survey to families asking if they would send their children back to school if the district had proper safety protocols in place. Forty percent of the survey participants stated that they would keep their children home. The survey results were used by the district’s reopening task force to create a comprehensive reopening plan. Dr. Burak stated that even if half of those 40% of children returned to the buildings, the schools would be at around 80% capacity. This is why the district’s reopening plan which was announced on Aug. 12, was laid out the way it was to the community. Families made their final decisions after that meeting, whether to have their children learn remotely or in-person and that roughly 80% opted for in-person instruction. Dr. Burak commended the task force for following the department of health guidelines and executive orders and for making many members of the community feel safe. After a thorough analysis of space availability in the buildings, the announcement was made last week at the board of education work session that unfortunately, not every fully remote student could return to the buildings at this time.
“We all want these kids back as soon as we can,” said Dr. Burak. “A lot of people have voiced their concerns and I completely understand why you feel that way. Therefore, I think it’s time that we need to continually evaluate what we are doing so I’m going to recommend that we bring back a task force.”
The task force would address what the district would do to its existing models to be able to have 100% of students return to the buildings. Volunteers would be asked to join the task force to look at the district facilities, health and safety protocols and instructional models once again. The group would then present their recommendations to the board and after they are approved, families would be asked to make a decision on whether or not they would send their child back to in-person instruction. After explaining the process and its importance, the board of education agreed to establish a task force.
With regard to virtual clubs, Dr. Burak announced that clubs at the primary and secondary levels are meeting virtually with some executive members meeting in-person and connecting with other members virtually to maintain social distancing. She also reminded the community that Oct. 21 is National Unity Day. Students and staff, both remote and in-person, are encouraged to wear orange that day and will be participating in activities related to diversity and inclusion. Dr. Burak also announced that Superintendent’s Conference Day will be held on Nov. 3 and will focus on staff development. With regard to use-of-field permits, she shared that the board has agreed to issue field permits on a limited basis for weekends and practices only.
Following her report, Dr. Gerard Beleckas, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, shared a curriculum update. The district continues to revisit its plans and practices. At the elementary level, a cross section of the original remote instruction subcommittee met to revisit the full remote plan developed back in May. If elementary students have to pivot to full remote for a few days or for an extended period of time, the district would like to maintain students’ current schedules. All current services and specials would remain fully intact and occur at their typical times in the cycle, and classroom teachers would engage with their classes in various formats during their assigned times – whole group, small group, individual conferencing, independent work, etc. To help families manage the schedule, the district will have the teachers post it on Seesaw or Schoology and review it at the daily morning meetings.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Paul Lynch, assistant superintendent for finance, operations, and information systems, shared a capital projects update with the community. The elevator installation at Waverly Park Elementary School is progressing and is expected to be completed by November. Construction on the Lynbrook High School extension is also progressing well. Steel is up and hallways and rooms are already taking shape.