BOE Talks Enrollment, Tenure

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Rising enrollment in the Westbury School District continues to be a top concern for administration, board members, teachers, parents and area residents, who are seeking solutions to address inadequate space to accommodate the growing student body.
Superintendent Dr. Mary Lagnado addressed the continued enrollment growth during last week’s board of education meeting, saying the district has already had an increase of 123 students, or 2.37 percent, from last year. The enrollment as of Thursday, Sept. 15, was 5,302 students, a number that was only expected to increase. Since Sept. 1, more than 106 new students have been registered, according to Lagnado.

To accommodate the growing student body, the district has added 28 new faculty members this year (including the replacement of 13 retirees). Transportation needs have also increased. The district added one large bus, bringing the total to 41, and three large vans, total of 23, to meet the needs of the 4,156 in-district and private parochial students who were issued bus passes. Last year, approximately 3,800 bus passes were produced.
When asked if the district was continuing to investigate students who may be coming in from out of Westbury, Lagnado said that investigations are now few and far between, in part because of a recent settlement with the Attorney General, who said the district was asking too many questions and delaying or barring unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth from entering the district.

“There’s no more deferred enrollment or registration. When a child comes before us, the expectation is in 24 hours they must be enrolled in a class,” Lagnado said. “We have a lot of restrictions when it comes to checking residency and denying entrance to public schools. We’re very careful so we’re not cited as being not welcome to youngsters.”

While there have been no updates on the bond the board of education proposed last year, which included the building of a new middle school and improvements at all of the schools, the superintendent noted that she has been meeting with the bond committee to discuss alternative solutions to the overcrowded schools. Those options include a split schedule or the addition of seven to eight portables at the middle and high schools, which house 1,100 and 1,600 students respectively.

At the meeting, resident Jackie Caines said that teachers could not educate overcrowded classrooms.

“We can get portables, but if children are coming in the district at the rate that they’re coming, we’ll need more than portables. The portables will outsize the schools,” she said. “We either need to build bigger schools or rally at Albany and ask them for the money.”

Conversations of overcrowded classrooms seemed to go hand-in-hand with another major subject of the night, which was addressing a rumor that the board of education was considering no longer offering tenure. The rumor arose after the board tabled a decision to grant two people tenure at a recent meeting.

“That is not our intention, nor it is the actions of all the persons sitting here,” said board of education president Robin Bolling to the crowd at the meeting, which included approximately 100 teachers. “We stand behind our teachers and support them.”

“There was a discussion about process that needs to be revisited,” said board trustee John Simpkins. “We have new and old board members and there were questions about the process that were not clear. The decision was to table it so we can get those questions answered. It’s not about the caliber of the teachers, we’re reviewing the process.”

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