The Freeport school board November 6 meeting touched upon several recently discussed issues, most notably the Common Core.
Superintendent Dr. Kishore Kuncham offered congratulations on several bits of good news:
• Noted the district’s large number of AP scholars.
• Congratulated Freeport’s music students for their success at the All County Music Fest.
• Announced that exchange students from Germany would arrive in Freeport later in the month.
• Expressed pleasure at the dedication of the new playground at Giblyn School (see page 13), noting that this means that all of the district’s playgrounds are in good repair.
Matters economic and educational
As has been the case in recent meetings, a large portion of the superintendent’s report has been under the heading of “educational and fiscal challenges.”
Dr. Kuncham’s announcements included:
Budget instructions have gone out to the various schools, and will be returned to administation in December. It is expected that budget committee meetings will begin in January.
Negotiations with the teachers association are ongoing. After a recent “exchange of information,” a negotiation session has been scheduled for December 2.
Rates of contribution to the Teachers Retirement System have been announced; the rate for 2014-15 will be between 17.25 and 17.75% of each teachers salary; a large amount but the rate of increase (9% over the 16.25% in 2013-14) is less than it was the previous year.
Superintendent Kuncham and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Gerard Poole then spoke about the Common Core. Although the state has waived a little of the required testing (eighth graders will be able to substitute a Regents math exam for the state exam), the requirements are still an ongoing concern. A group of superintendents and school boards will be lobbying with the state regarding certain test-related issues:
• More money from the state, to help with the testing expenses (although it was reported that the PARC testing, which would require students to take tests by computer at some expense to the schools, has been delayed a year to 2014-15).
• Reducing the number of tests or the amount of time spent on them.
• Address school district concerns related to testing.
In other matters, the board:
• Heard a Policy Committee report announcing that the district has concluded, in light of repeated requests for coverage of school board meetings on Cable Channel 18, that “it would not be in the district’s best interest”
to do so.
• Approved a resolution regarding the recent Chapter 11 Bankruptcy declaration by the bus company Atlantic Express. The district has a contract with Courtesy Bus, a subsidiary, running until the end of the 2013-14 school year. Although assured that this will have no effect on current school busing, the board authorized its legal counsel to to take all necessary steps to represent the district’s interests in all future proceedings related to the bankruptcy.
• Announced the first reading of the revised district policies.
• Adopted the district’s 2013-14 Annual Professional Performance Review (teacher evaluation) plan.
In public comment, Frank Grossman asked about a line in the 2012-13 audited financial statement that appeared to indicate a $70 million unassigned deficit. Dr. Kuncham explained that the line was an accounting requirement, an indication of potential payment that could need to be made in the future, and insisted that the district was not in deficit.
A student asked about the necessity of post exam reflection, which he called “a waste of time.” Dr. Kuncham responded that this reflection was a vital part of the testing process, whereby mistakes could be learned from.
The next board of education meeting will be Wednesday, November 20, an action meeting at Dodd Middle School.