Last night was the last board meeting that will be recorded for Cablevision public access channel 22 by volunteer Laurie Downs of Riverhead.
“Tonight is my swan song,” Downs said. “I will still be here, but I will not be shuffling back and forth with any discs.” Downs, who has been video recording the Board of Education meetings for 15 years announced last night.
There’s no clear plan in place to continue the recording, though it’s something the board and district officials want to continue and hope to make the recordings available on the district’s website.
Downs likes that idea and noted that this is something that school community activists have been trying to get done for years. She cautioned against making the recordings available exclusively online. “I would like it to stay on [channel] 22 also, we all know there are many families in our district without internet,” Downs said.
The Board of Education for her many years of volunteer service. Board member Laurie Hulse suggested the district approach the town about filling the void with funds that are set aside for recording public meetings, including educational meetings.
“Riverhead is currently negotiating its franchise agreement with Cablevision, it’s renewal. It’s a 10-year contract,” Hulse explained. “There’s a certain amount of money that’s set aside for public access … and part of that is the educational portion of it. There really doesn’t seem to me to be any reason why the grant money that comes into the town, that some of it can’t be apportioned to provide a camera person, or some services so that we can have this filmed by someone – other than a volunteer – it’s an obligation, it’s a public obligation. I think this is something that we should pursue with the town.”
Carney responded that she agrees that the timing is good and it should be pursued with the town, noting that the district has pursued this in the past as well.
“I think at this juncture if we don’t have any video we have an obligation as a board of education to provide this to the public,” Hulse said. “For the limited amount of people that can actually be here to attend these meetings, it’s something that’s necessary.”
McKillop field will be ready for graduation
Graduation ceremonies will go on as planned at McKillop Field on June 27 at 9:30 a.m.
“I just wanted to begin by letting the board know that I was questioned by a few parents who have concerns that McKillop Field may not be ready for graduation. I just want to assure you that we’re on schedule and the field will be ready for graduation. As long as the weather agrees with us, we’ll be having the graduation ceremony at McKillop field,” Carney said.
Questions about staff EpiPen training
Riverhead High School nurse Dan Hull and Transportation Supervisor Amala Cain presented the district’s plan for allergies and safety on school buses as well as the overall allergy plan for the district. The presentation was in response to questions about the plan at the May 12 board meeting, where parents and board members asked who is trained to administer EpiPens.
Currently the district relies on employee volunteers who seek training, board member Hulse said. “They have to volunteer, it’s not something that we can impose on them,” he said.
The district maintains that teachers, coaches and bus drivers are made aware of students with life-threatening allergies and are given a plan which is in place for each student with a documented allergy on a case-by-case basis.
Wading River resident Doreen Moore asked how bus drivers are notified of students with allergies. “Does the bus have a roster with an indication that the child has a medical need?” she asked.
“How do they address the substitutes on the buses?” Marguerite McCabe of Wading River added. “Have they been trained? How do they handle confidentiality?”
Board of Education president Greg Meyer noted the questions and stated that he would find out the answers to be addressed at a future meeting.
Coverdale: Family Life Center moving forward
Shirley Coverdale, president and CEO of the Family Community Life Center, was on hand last night for a brief discussion. Coverdale stated that the YMCA has reached out to her stating that they would like to partner with the center moving forward. Coverdale previously attended the Jan. 13 board meeting, when she and the Rev. Charles Coverdale described in detail the proposed facility.
Schools Superintendent Nancy Carney stated that the district has a draft resolution which has been given to the attorneys to review, and that the district is waiting for any proposed changes to the language after which the resolution should be ready to go forward. Greg Meyers added that he is excited to see the project move forward and said “I feel comfortable if it all goes smooth, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to put it on the agenda for the next meeting.”
Home instruction not happening?
Robin Southard, parent of a 10th grade daughter battling Cystic Fibrosis, gave an emotional plea to the board last night, requesting that her daughter receive home instruction through the summer to allow her time to prepare for Regents exams in August.
Southard explained that her daughter’s health has deteriorated over the past three years resulting in her missing much of the school year – she has been out of school since December and is “still not getting the home instruction that she needs,” Southard said.
I have one tutor right now that is teaching her AP world and English. And that is it. My daughter has taught herself Spanish for the past three years, by herself, and maintained a 90-something average,” Southard explained, adding that “the doctors asked to extend the school year for her until August so she can take her Regents. So she can be prepared. And, every time I call, I get, ‘I’ll get back to you, I’ll get back to you.’ The school year’s almost over. Something needs to be done.”
Southard also expressed her frustration over the district’s response to giving her daughter access to exams, saying that she’s been told that because her daughter missed her chemistry classes, not completing the in-class labs, she is not able to sit for the boards.
“That is incorrect, because I called the Regents myself and they said that as long as the school gave Erin labs to do over the summer she can sit for those boards. It’s not fair to her to take another science for another year.”
In addition, Southard said, the school already denied her daughter the ability to take the AP exam in AP World. “Again, I was told no proctor is coming to the hospital – that was also incorrect. All the school had to do was fax a letter to the college boards asking for permission and the proctor would’ve been there. Again, my daughter’s now not able to take that exam. It’s unfair to her.”
Carney asked Southard to leave her contact information so that they could discuss the matter saying that she would call her the next day.
Raquel Ortiz of Riverhead spoke immediately following Southard to express her frustration with the length of time it’s taking for her daughter to receive home instruction. “My child is not receiving any instruction at all,” Orttiz said.
Ortiz said she knows that the board is aware of the situation because she has copied them on all email communication over the past month as she has been requesting information.
“My question” Ortiz said, “why you allow our special ed director to break the rules? She’s not providing any home instruction right now. When my daughter asks me, ‘When are we going to have school mom? Why aren’t I getting any services right now?’ I do not know what to tell her.”
According to Ortiz, Riverhead’s director of pupil personnel services Elizabeth Chappell told her in email correspondence that she does not have the authority to provide home instruction any more. “Who does?” Ortiz asked the board. “I want to have your answer please.”
“Ms. Ortiz we obviously are very aware of the situation,” the superintendent responded. “I am not going to publicly discuss your child. It’s not appropriate. You obviously have been in contact. We’ve been in contact. We’ve provided you with options and alternatives. Obviously we’re going to continue to reach out to you. As I said, I just can’t discuss this in a public meeting. It is not right. I think that you need to come and see me. I’m happy to meet with you again. We have offered to provide services for your daughter, as you are well aware, and will continue to do so.”
“Let me ask you this, Ms. Carney, if you are willing to provide service, why are you not doing so?” Ortiz said.
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