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South Country Central School District Board Notes - July 1 Reorganization Meeting and Business Meeting

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The Board of Education reorganized for the 2020-2021 school year during its meeting in the administrative offices on July 2, the first time the trustees have met in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was called to order by district clerk Christine Flynn who presided until Board officers were elected. Newly-elected trustees Gena Ancona and Cheryl A. Felice were then sworn in for a three-year term, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani repeated the oath of faithful performance. The Board nominated and elected E. Anne Hayes as president for a second term and Cameron Trent as vice president.

During the Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Giani thanked the elementary school principals and faculty for organizing and making the moving-up car parades special for students, as evidenced by the smiles on their faces. He also thanked Bellport High School Principal Timothy Hogan, his administrative team and faculty who made the senior car parade and “spectacular” graduation special for the graduates, families and community. Dr. Giani also told the trustees that he is awaiting guidance from the New York State Education Department regarding the opening of schools in September. Dr. Giani said he believes students will return in-person or with a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning. Face coverings have been purchased for all employees and the district is considering the use of face shields for confined areas and situations where social distancing is difficult. The district is also considering one-way hallways, staggered release times and other ways to reduce density in common areas. Classrooms will also be arranged to address social distancing.

The district administration will review results from the Needs Assessment Surveys and that data will assist in developing subcommittees moving forward. The Board Advisory Committees will also be involved beginning with the August meeting. There will also be an elementary and a secondary committee comprised of administration, faculty and staff who will study building operational items. Once the survey results are analyzed and guidance is provided by the state, the district will formalize its operational plans and determine which committees will oversee the plans.

The Board approved a change to the school calendar. Through recent negotiations, the district is able to add an additional Evening Parent-Teacher Conference date for elementary, middle school and high school.

Dr. Giani said he has no plans to increase support staff for social emotional issues, based on the current survey data. He notes that the current number of faculty can adequately handle any issues that might arise on the return to school. However, he will recommend to the Board that the trustees consider three areas when formulating their 2020-2021 Board Goals and to include equity in education; technology and remote learning, which would guarantee connectivity and placing a technological device in the hands of each student; and an emphasis on social-emotional strategies for both students and faculty.

The Board determined who would serve as representatives on the Board Advisory Committees: Strategic Planning (Cheryl A. Felice, E. Anne Hayes and Cameron Trent); Finance and Facilities (Clyde Parker and Chris Picini); Health and Safety (Gena Ancona, Chris Picini and Cameron Trent); and Teaching and Learning (Melissa Aruta and Cheryl A. Felice).

The Board also determined who will serve as liaisons to the district’s schools: Brookhaven Elementary (E. Anne Hayes), Kreamer Street (Cameron Trent), Verne W. Critz (Cheryl A. Felice), South Haven Early Childhood Center (Gena Ancona and Cheryl A. Felice), Frank P. Long Intermediate School (Melissa Aruta), Bellport Middle School (Clyde Parker) and Bellport High School (Gena Ancona and Chris Picini).

Vice President Cameron Trent was appointed as the official South Country Central School District representative to the New York State Countywide Shared Services Initiative. Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone previously invited school districts to elect a representative to the countywide shared services tax savings plan panel, known as SuffolkShare, for municipalities to save dollars through shared services and procurement of goods and best pricing.

The Board discussed options for the annual Board mini-retreat. They are considering holding the retreat on a weekday evening sometime in late September or early October.

Dr. Giani informed the Board that three employees have been called back on the Recall List.

Vice President Trent thanked the South Country Education Foundation for its generous donation of $20 gift cards to each high school Class of 2020 graduate, which the Foundation called a “mere token for the sacrifices made in adjusting graduation festivities to accommodate a global pandemic.”

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on July 22.
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