By OSCAR FOCK
It took three meetings, but on Tuesday night the Port Washington Board of Education unanimously agreed to three board goals for the 2023-2024 school year, focusing on academic excellence, positive school cultures and communication with parents.
The “vote” was more a formality than anything, the board acknowledged.
Trustee Rachel Gilliar jokingly asked if they “really need to vote on it” following a presentation of the goals that yielded neither comments nor objections. The answer was yes and the board concluded a process that began almost two months ago with its approval.
The three goals, which were shrunk from last year’s six, include supporting students, staff and community striving for excellence, cultivating a positive school culture and climate, and improving communication with parents and guardians.
At the board’s Aug. 1 meeting, Superintendent Michael Hynes suggested that narrowing the goals would allow the board to focus better and spend more time on the three goals.
“The board goals will set the broad direction of the school district, and all the superintendent’s goals will fall under the board’s goals,” Board President Adam Smith said.
By finalizing the district goals, the board also approved the superintendent’s priorities.
“When you couple the board goals with my priorities, I think that’s going to elevate what our students will be able to do in our school district,” Hynes said.
Vice President Julie Epstein, who led Tuesday’s meeting with Smith participating virtually, said measurable outcomes will come at a later time.
“The superintendent and his team are very aligned on working toward the goals that we set so I think there’s going to be great progress this year,” Smith said.
For the first time, the board meeting’s agenda also included a report from two student liaisons.
In their address to the board members, Anna Drews and Milan John, both seniors at Paul D. Schreiber High School, gave an update on the first three weeks of classes.
While some of it was positive, like the 9/11 remembrance ceremony where both the symphonic orchestra and the mixed choir performed, the students also raised concerns with the board. In particular about the heat and poor air conditioning.
“Especially by the last few periods of the day, the heat in these rooms became unbearable,” Drewes said.
She explained that on some occasions, relocating to a different room was the only feasible option.
This was not the first or the last time the air conditioning was put in the limelight in the auditorium Tuesday night.
The superintendent himself brought it up, mentioning that he had heard from several parents “how uncomfortable some of the classrooms have been.”
Later, when community members had the chance to make a remark, Michael Bitalvo, co-president of the South Salem Home School Association, pleaded to the board.
“We have rooms that are borderline uninhabitable. Kindergarten classrooms should not be exposed to this,” Bitalvo said. “I’m imploring you to, please, work with us and find a way to make this better.”
After the meeting, Hynes said this is an issue that will be addressed.
“It is something that we’re focused on as far as creating a really good learning environment,” Hynes said. “This is something we’re definitely going to tackle in the very near future.
Assistant Superintendent Christopher Shields also shared the new enrollment numbers, with 5,035 students enrolled this fall. That is 54 more than this time last year.
The next Port Washington Board of Education meeting will be held on Oct. 17.