Learning how their children are taught

Lawrence holds first of four town hall meetings


In an intimate setting where an assistant superintendent sat on a stool in the middle aisle of Lawrence High School’s little theater, district officials presented an overview of its academic initiatives to a small audience on Oct. 4.

Using information that was part of a district staff development day in August, Superintendent Gary Schall, assistant superintendents Dr. Ann Pedersen and Pat Pizzarelli, and high school Principal Dr. Jennifer Lagnado addressed how teachers will go about educating students throughout this school year.

Pedersen, who is the district’s assistant superintendent for academic affairs and the principal at the Number Four School, said that younger students need to learn how to be organized and pay attention to detail. She also said that positive actions are being taught and reinforced. “State what you want to see,” Pedersen said, “it’s not ‘don’t run’ say ‘walk, walk’.”

Pizzarelli, who also serves double duty as the assistant superintendent for Student and Community Affairs and is the district’s athletic director, reiterated Pedersen’s message about being positive and spoke about Lawrence trying to be flexible with its eligibility policy for athletics and other student activities.

“Academics is the most important thing,” he said, noting that students cannot take part in sports and other activities if they failed two or more classes and/or are not maintaining a 70 average. However, Pizzarelli, said that the district is taking into consideration what he called “extenuating circumstances” to keep the students involved. But they are monitored. “Our goal in athletics is to help students reach their fullest potential,” he said, adding there are 170 varsity athletes and more than 87 percent have an 83 average or higher.

He also addressed the district’s emphasis on literacy and said that in physical education classes the teachers are reviewing and reading written material with the students using newspaper sports coverage to demonstrate how one specific athletic event or game is viewed by two different writers.

The change from a nine to an eight-period day that has longer periods — now 57 minutes, up from 41 — is working out well, according to Lagnado. With 990 high school students this year, only 15 have study hall during the school day compared with 300 last year, she said. A portion of students opted not to have a lunch period and eat during a class, Schall said. “The longer period allows the teacher to go much more in-depth,” Lagnado said, which she added, blends well with what is needed with the new common core standards.

Lagnado also said that the high school has begun working toward the new state graduation requirement regarding community service. Students need to perform five hours per school year to have the required 20 hours of community service for graduation. “We want them to give back to the community,” she said.

Several parents asked questions, including North Woodmere resident Althea Muhammad, who wanted to know about classes for college-test preparation. “I would like to see the schools in Nassau County offer these types of programs,” she said, adding that the meeting was productive and the district should continue holding them.

This was the first of four town hall-style meetings the district is expected to hold throughout the school year. The next three are slated for Jan. 8, March 5 and May 7.