Three months after members of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee presented their recommendations for the district’s school-choice policy, the Valley Stream Central High School District’s Board of Education voted on which recommendations to accept.
“Over the past several weeks, I’ve been working with my team and [legal] counsel on analyzing the various recommendations that came forward,” Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said at the Board of Education’s committee meeting on May 1. “There were upwards of nearly 20 recommendations, and what I’d like to do is walk the school board through my preliminary analysis and give board members the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have.”
Heidenreich started his analysis by saying that “many of the recommendations that came in were outside of the scope of the committee.” The Citizens’ Advisory Committee was formed last August to “review information regarding enrollment and projected enrollments, to consider alternative attendance areas and to recommend alternative attendance areas if appropriate,” according to Heidenreich. It was formed after the board received a petition signed by parents, students and teachers asking them to review the district’s school-choice, or waiver, policy.
The board decided that a number of the committee’s recommendations were outside its reach. These included ensuring that students still live in the district by having parents reregister each year; issuing a press release correcting the Herald’s inaccurate reporting in reference to a story about the architect’s functional capacity numbers; checking the validity of the signatures on petitions to review the school-choice policy; allowing students to stay with their peers from elementary school, rather than splitting them between two schools; and rezoning the district into three K-12 districts.
“More than outside of the scope of the committee, what would have to happen is that you’d have to have a public hearing, put it up for a vote in each district, and they would all have to agree, and after [the vote], it would have to be cleared by the state education department,” President Bill Stris said of the latter proposal. “It’s not going to happen.”
However, Stris was in favor of studying the effects of restructuring the school district so that every student would attend Memorial Junior High School. “I always support a study, as long as the study is not too expensive,” he said before he polled the board on their perspective.
The motion passed with a vote of six-to-three. Stris admitted that restructuring the district was outside the area of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
One of the proposals asked to change the language of the waiver letter sent to sixth-grade parents — which some parents thought was too suggestive. Included in the recommendation was an alternative sample letter. “I think it’s certainly something we could use,” Heidenreich said.
Another proposal nixed mailing the waiver letter, and proposed having it available online instead. Vice President John Maier said that he thought the proposal was fair.
Others disagreed. Trustee Ingrid Wyllie-Dacon offered, “People wouldn’t see that [the waiver letter] because they don’t check the site.” Trustee Kenneth Cummings said, “It’s really not fair to not let parents know they can do that.” Trustee Sean Douglas expressed his concern that the district would be sued if parents missed important policy information. In the end, the board voted 5-4 to continue sending the letter.
The board did, however, vote to eliminate publication of the letter in the Herald. Trustees Cummings and James Lavery were in favor of having the letter published. “The more information you put out there, the better,” said Cummings.
Trustee Lisa Pellicane was against publication. “If you’re mailing it to the house, that should be enough,” she said.
Heidenreich will now provide board members with a summary of their decisions, and the board will vote on a final report at its business meeting on June 12.