Sullivan West promotes Scott Haberli and discusses remote learning 

By TED WADDELL
Posted 1/27/21

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education (BOE) January 21 meeting, held via Zoom, started off on a somber tone with a moment of silence in remembrance …

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Sullivan West promotes Scott Haberli and discusses remote learning 

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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education (BOE) January 21 meeting, held via Zoom, started off on a somber tone with a moment of silence in remembrance of Joey Ducey, a former student who passed away earlier this month. 

Second-grader Ryan Ahnstrom was recognized as Student of the Month. Teaching assistant Cathy Hart was selected as the Sullivan West Standout for January, Superintendent of Schools Stephen A. Walker remarked, “For her dedication to the kids in our district.” 

Abigail Gaebel, student member of the board, reported that, as of this week, the newly formed Ag class held its first meeting, winter sports practices have started following COVID-19 restrictions and “students are feeling involved again.” Gaebel also reported that a student tutoring program sponsored by the National Honor Society, in which designated upperclassmen lend an educational hand to underclassmen, is underway.

The board approved and congratulated Scott Haberli, the current assistant high school principal, for his appointment as the middle school/secondary principal, effective July 1.

In a letter to parents and guardians dated January 15, Walker announced the details of the district’s seventh- and eighth-grade-team approach that was instituted at the beginning of the school year, and the appointment of Haberli. “We know that young adolescents have unique developmental and learning needs that are different from those of elementary students younger than them, and also different from the high school students older than they are,” he explained.

In his new position, Haberli will focus on the continued development of the middle school program, maintain a role in supporting the high school and, along with high school principal Mark Plescia, “collaborate to advance the entire grade’s 7-12 school program...”

In other personnel matters, the board accepted the retirement resignations of Marianne Hegge and Patricia Roche (effective July 1, 2021); appointed Joseph Seidl as head coach of the boys’ and girls’ varsity indoor track teams; designated tenure areas for Dr. Kathleen Bressler and Daniel Parisi; extended leaves of absence, approved coach and extracurricular positions, appointed substitutes and accepted the resignation of elementary school art teacher Emilia Licata.

The hot-button topic of the regular monthly meeting was a back-and-forth open discussion among board members about the ups and downs of current remote learning platforms at the elementary and high school.

“I think the teachers are trying to work really hard under the circumstances... I’m concerned about students in the higher grade classes having sufficient instructional time,” said BOE member Jennifer Nystrom.

According to board member Ken Cohen, at this time a year ago, the 11th grade posted 10 to 12 students on the superintendent’s list; last month, there was only one junior who achieved the honor for academic excellence. “That’s not a coincidence; that’s something structurally going on with the courses they’re trying to take remotely.”

Walker noted that, while the district has been forced to adjust to COVID-caused remote learning, not all families have the proper equipment, reliable connection to the internet and, in some cases, access to sufficient child care.

“It’s an overwhelming challenge,” said Walker, adding that developmental issues arise when students need to potentially spend four to six hours per day on a computer.

Discussion then switched to open-book testing: Is it cheating or not?

As a math teacher, Nystrom said she believes in the open-book approach to learning and testing; in light of remote-learning methods forced upon educators by the pandemic, she thinks it’s not cheating at all. 

Fellow BOE member Lucas Arzill chimed in, “Playing devil’s advocate, is that really cheating, or is it using the resource you have available? It’s up to the teacher to empower them to go out and find the resources that will allow them to do their homework, like when they get to college.”

Nystrom responded, “I do open-book. It’s about the process, not always about the right answer. Everybody gets open-book, in class or at home; it evens the playing field.”

The next regularly scheduled Sullivan West Central School District BOE meeting is set for Thursday, February 18, with the public session starting at 7 p.m.

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