To commence the May 13, 2020 virtual Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani recognized trustee Lisa DiSanto and Board President E. Anne Hayes, who both received the Level 1 Board Achievement Award and certificate of recognition from the New York State School Boards Association. Ms. DiSanto and President Hayes both participated in professional development opportunities in their efforts to expand their governance knowledge and skills as members of a school board.

During the Superintendent Report, Dr. Giani reported that the District is in the process of preparing mail-in ballots to 18,000 voters for the June 9, 2020 school budget and trustee election, as per the Governor’s executive order.

Dr. Giani also discussed end-of-year grading protocols. At the elementary level, students will not be penalized if they are experiencing barriers to connecting with the Continuity of Learning plan, and work that is completed will support or improve the student’s grade from the second trimester. The District has also put a system in place for dropping off completed hard copy elementary packets. The packets will be organized and prepared for teacher review. At the secondary level, fourth quarter grades will be calculated based on four possible grades a student can earn (100, 87, 75 and 63). Students will be assigned one of these four grades based upon the grading rubric that includes evidence of effort, assignment completion and Continuity of Learning engagement. Dr. Giani also noted that the District has been doing home visits for students who have not been connecting through remote learning devices. Some of the reasons for not connecting was not from lack of internet, but instead being away from home, parents unable to get students to do their schoolwork and laziness. Dr. Giani said the District will continue to make connecting the unconnected a priority and provide devices and support for internet access when needed.

Dr. Giani also designated May 22 and May 26, originally designated as snow days, “Social Emotional Days” in which there will be no new assignments given and all faculty and staff will be offline. The remote learning site will continue to be open and available for social emotional activities, if families want to visit the site. Dr. Giani’s recommendation is to shut off the computer, put down the packets and take time for social emotional wellness. He said, “This new normal has been simply exhausting for everyone, and we all need some time for our own mental health.” He also believes that this designation stays in line with the governor’s executive order requiring school districts to use vacation and snow days to be eligible for the 180-day instructional requirement.

Graduation and moving up plans were also discussed. Dr. Giani reported that the administrative teams are working on plans to celebrate traditional moving up ceremonies for pre-K, grade 3, grade 5 and grade 8 in a nontraditional way. Bellport High School Principal Timothy Hogan and his administrative team worked with senior class advisers and student representatives to provide a memorable, although nontraditional, graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 25, with Friday, June 26, as a rain date. All graduates, one per car and with family members, will gather at the middle school parking lot to line up for a processional from the middle school to the high school soccer practice field. The parade will include the fire departments, ambulances, police, etc. All graduates, who have been lined up by security in the high school parking lot, will receive a graduation program upon entering the high school soccer practice field. Design Audio Visual will set up a large projection screen, sound system and FM frequency radio connection. The grounds and staging area will be decorated to ensure a memorable experience. The principals and student speeches (student council president, valedictorian, salutatorian and essayist) will be live on a staged platform and certification of diplomas and the ceremonial moving of the tassel will be done live over the PA system. There will also be a video presentation of all senior graduation photos to go along with the announcement of each graduate’s name. Cars will then be released in single file to pass the front of the high school as Mr. Hogan, Dr. Giani and Board President E. Anne Hayes hand a diploma booklet to each graduate. Actual diplomas will be mailed home.

The Board adopted the District’s proposed 2020-2021 budget, totaling $138,330,713, with an allowable tax levy limit increase of 2.11% or $1.3 million. Although adopted, the District will continue to determine efficiencies and cost savings in order to fund pre-K transportation. Dr. Giani explained that the District bridged the budget’s previous gap by appropriations to the designated fund balance ($4 million) and WC, ERS and TRS reserves ($950,000) and through a debt service transfer totaling $600,000, as well as other efficiencies. The budget, which realizes a broad area staffing decrease of 24.6, is program driven with no programs eliminated, preserves elementary class sizes, provides for fine and performing arts and interscholastic programs and continues to support K-12 intervention programs with no reduction in student support staff. Budgetary concerns include possible mid-year adjustments in state aid, unfunded and underfunded mandates and changing and increasing student needs. Dr. Giani also discussed the contingency budget, if the proposed budget were to fail. He noted that $1.3 million would have to be cut from the current spending plan, which could have a devastating effect on the District’s educational program.

The Board also discussed revisions in the Board Meeting Calendar, which includes a business meeting on May 20, a business meeting and Budget Hearing on May 27, the Budget Vote and Election on June 9 and a business meeting/tenure and retirement reception on June 10.

The Board’s last piece of business included discussion and approval of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association’s proposed 2020-2021 budget and proposed slate of officers and executive committee members.