Starting out on a positive note

By TED WADDELL
Posted 9/28/21

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The Sullivan West Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 22, started off on a positive note with the swearing-in of Dylan Sager, the …

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Starting out on a positive note

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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The Sullivan West Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 22, started off on a positive note with the swearing-in of Dylan Sager, the student representative of the class of 2022.

In his introductory remarks, Sager, 17, a senior and three-sports scholar athlete, said in reference to allowing the stands to be packed with fans at outdoor athletic competitions, “All the students, especially the senior class, are ecstatic over the lifting of spectator restrictions. So many of us have lost out on these fun events for a year-and-a-half to two years.”

“As the fall months continue, we get ready for homecoming, in which we hope to give all the senior athletes a proper farewell.”

Moving from the fields of sports to the classroom, Sager said that to date, he’s heard “very minimal feedback from our student body,” noting the only exception is the lack of student planners.

“I have been told that they will be coming in shortly, but for many people this first month without them has been a struggle, as they have depended upon them since seventh grade.”

Prior to the meeting, Sager shared a few thoughts with the River Reporter about his role on the board.

“I want to focus on getting the student body what they want. I tend to be pretty vocal, and I’m not afraid to let people know when things need to change,” he said, adding that when students talk to him in hallways about issues they feel should be addressed, he will pass them along to the administration and board.

On the effects of the pandemic, Sager said one of “the good things is that teachers weren’t so hard on us, and I think that needs to continue this year... kids are not perfect, and before COVID, I think teachers expected us to be, but since COVID, they have allowed us to evolve at school.”

Superintendent’s Report

“The board of education and community can be proud of the work of our students and staff in enabling our school to begin the year on a positive note,” said Sullivan West Superintendent of Schools Stephen A. Walker in his report to the board.

Landon Bauernfeind was recognized as Student of the Month for June 2020 at the elementary school, and in Walker’s words, “checks on classmates if they’re not feeling well or need help, pays attention in class... and is still getting used to the middle school.”

Mike McKeen, an evening cleaner at the elementary school, was named Sullivan West Standout, the first such award in the new school year.

Walker described McKeen as a behind-the-scenes professional, adding that the cleaning specialist “has the ability to spread calmness throughout the people he contacts by his innate nature.”

“No task is too daunting, cumbersome or out of his range. He is quick to support something and offers his own expertise in problem-solving unique situations. Whether he helps clean out a fish tank at the end of the year, or adds ease in switching bulletin boards before the year starts, he works with his head up and a smile on his face.”

In other announcements, Walker named new additions to the academic program: Spanish language instruction at the elementary school; drone piloting, agriscience and music production courses at the middle/high school; students are using their 1:1 devices; and seventh graders are “adjusting to their new school, with supports from our middle school program.”

Among the athletic accomplishments: the girls varsity soccer team won the annual Flannery Memorial girls’ soccer tourney in Downsville; the varsity football squad won their first game of the season by defeating Spackenkill; Reece Maopolski placed eighth in the recent cross country McDaniel-Baxter State Meet preview race; Amanda Dirig is the district’s first fall dual-sports athlete, participating in both volleyball and cheerleading.

Walker announced that through the  American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), a federally funded program to help school districts nationwide respond to the effects of COVID-19 on education, that the district was awarded $2.2 million, which must be spent by September 30, 2024. Twenty percent of the funds must to spent to mitigate the impact of reduced in-person learning time.

Public comment: cool kudos and hot pitchforks

Cheryl Graham, a veteran high school mathematics teacher and mother of two Sullivan West grads, Ryan and Kayla, said, “During my 25 years of teaching, I have seen many positive, effective, and productive results come from our district.” She added, “We have a staff who puts our students first and gives them an education we can be proud of, no matter the work environment around us..”

After the kudos in her opening remarks, Graham tossed in a few “torches and pitchforks,” noting “We seem to be short on teaching staff, but never on administrative staff.” In her opinion, there are not enough special education teachers and art education instructors.

“Our district needs to consider hiring such needed teachers, otherwise the overload gets put onto our current staff, who then gets overburdened, and the students are the ones who suffer the most.”

On the topic of the $2.2 million ARP-ESSER funding, Graham told the board they should address what she views as shortcomings in how air conditioning is provided to classrooms.

“We have documentation of our classrooms exceeding 85 degrees, we have up to 25 students per room, plus a mandatory mask rule. These are ingredients for disaster,” she said.

According to Graham, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that room temperature “should not exceed a maximum of 76 degrees.”

The board said they would look into the matter, and take appropriate action to address her concerns.

The next regular monthly meeting of the Sullivan West school board is scheduled for October 21 at 7 p.m. in the middle/high school.

For more information, and to keep current on events in the district, visit the district’s homepage at https://www.swcsd.org, or see its postings on Facebook and Instagram.

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