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August 2001
Freeport Schools Ignore Rules - Latinos - Again 
August 31, 2001

Summer Commencement Has Students Smiling
August 29, 2001

August 31, 2001

Freeport Schools Ignore Rules - Latinos - Again
Basic Requirements of SAVE Ignored

By Stewart Lilker

The August 22 Freeport School Board meeting began on an upbeat note when the new Superintendent, Dr. Eversley, announced that Spiro Coliatis, the district’s Director of Buildings and Grounds, was the father of a new baby boy.

The Board’s upbeat mood changed noticeably when the composition of the District-wide Safety Committee was brought to Board’s attention. The committee was established sometime last year to satisfy the requirements of the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (SAVE).

The SAVE Act was passed into law last July to address the issues of school safety and violence prevention. The state found that creating and maintaining safe learning environments is everybody’s business.

To ensure compliance with the new legislation, the New York State Board of Regents approved amendments to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education as emergency measures in November 2000. As a result of the SAVE legislation, all schools were required to develop school safety plans at the district and at the building levels, as well as completing district wide Student Codes Of Conduct.

The state called for the plans to be developed and adopted by the Board of Education by July 1, 2001. The Freeport School Board couldn’t accomplish this.

The District-wide School Safety Plan is required to be developed by a District-wide School Safety Team and the Building-level plan is to be developed by a Building-level School Safety Team.

Legislation required that the District-wide School Safety Team be appointed by the Board of Education and "shall include, but is not limited to, representatives of the School Board, student,
teacher, administrator, and parent organizations, school safety personnel and other school personnel."

The Building-level School Safety Team is required to be appointed by the building principal and "shall include, but is not limited to, representatives of teacher, administrator and parent organizations, school safety personnel, other school personnel, community members, local law enforcement officials, local ambulance or other emergency response agencies, and any other representatives the School Board deems appropriate."

Finally, the School Board may adopt the plans only after at least one public hearing has been held. There is nothing in the legislation or the Commissioner’s regulations that limit any school board to only one public hearing.

The Freeport School Board Did Almost Nothing Right

The Board never reached out to the community to inform it of the requirements of SAVE. The past Renken/Grover Board, with holdovers Ellerbe and Muscara, ran the Board like a private club. None of the Board members of the Renken/Grover Board took any initiative to be informed of the basic requirements of SAVE.

At the August 22, 2001 Board meeting, your reporter asked Board President Muscara, "Can this Board tell me, the old board members, when they appointed the District Wide Safety Team? I was at a school Board meeting a few months ago, when Superintendent Nydick, in response to the same question, said ‘I did’ [appoint them]. It should now be clear to you, as it is to me, that state law requires that the School Board must appoint the District-wide Safety Team. Can you tell me when you did that?"

Muscara responded, "We left that up to the superintendent. He didn’t make that point clear to us. And we moved forward, based on his input."

In an apparent effort to make it appear that the regulations were complied with, Assistant Superintendent of Business, Kishore Kuncham said, "There is a district wide health and safety committee. This is a committee chaired by me. This has been in existence for many years."

No Latinos Here

Your reporter, ignoring Kuncham’s diversion, said, "Besides there not being any School Board members on the committee, let’s not forget that approximately 48 percent of the district is Latino." Holding up the list of committee members, your reporter asked, "Can you tell me what Latino members are on the District Wide Safety Team?"

New Board member Michael Raab asked, "Could you read out the names?"

As the names were read, Board member Ellerbe, the past president of the Board, objected. Everyone ignored him and the list was completed.

Your reporter told the Board, "Not one Latino is on the list, a group that represents almost half the school district population. So much for the School Board and the Administration paying attention to the law or reaching out to the community. I ask that this Board go back to square one and appoint the District Wide Safety Committee, as you are required to do by law. And that the District Wide Safety Committee not only have members of the School Board, but that you reach out into the community --"

Muscara interrupted, "We are reaching out into the community on our meeting on September 12th. This committee did a lot of work for us on this project and I am not going to push it aside."

New Board member Cattano spoke up, "This issue is going to be addressed."

Board Vice President, Sunday Coward, was on the Board during the selection of the District-wide Safety Committee. In a separate discussion earlier in the evening, she explained to a resident that the Board is trying to be "as inclusive as we possibly can." Throughout the discussion of the exclusion of the Latinos, Coward sat silent.

This past Wednesday, FNYN asked new Board member Joe Cattano if he knew about the SAVE committee when he decided to run for a seat on the school board. He said he didn’t know about it.

FNYN asked Cattano, "In light of the fact that the community was left out of the loop regarding the selection of the committee members and that there is apparently no Latino representation on the committee, would you be in favor of reaching out to the community to give those who weren’t included a chance to participate."

Cattano responded, "If the process was not done appropriately, then I, as a Board member, feel that the issue of how the members were selected has to be discussed in an open forum, with the possibility of including additional members."

This past Thursday afternoon, FNYN spoke with the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Eric Eversley, regarding the SAVE committee. Your reporter asked the Superintendent a number of questions.

FNYN: How do you feel about Latinos not being represented on the committee?

Eversley: If there were some stakeholders that weren’t adequately represented, then that is certainly something that we are going to look at for the future.

FNYN: How do you think that affects the results of the committee? Do you think that they should take a deep breath and try get some inclusion of those groups that were left out?

Eversley: We are going to continue to take a look at the composition of that committee as it formally gets appointed by the Board.

FNYN: So the Board will formally appoint them?

Eversley: Yes. Our intention is to hopefully do that on Wednesday, the fifth.

FNYN: Where will the Board get nominees for that committee?"

Eversley: We will be bringing forward names for the Board’s consideration. Our intention is to appoint a committee that meets the requirements of the statute.

FNYN: Do you feel that the Board should reach out to the rest of the community?

Eversley: "I don’t want to prejudge what the recommendation is going to be for the Board’s consideration."

FNYN: So you feel it is up to the Board?

Eversley: It’s up to all of us to try and put our heads together under the current circumstance. At this point, I am not fully prepared to articulate who is going to be recommended.

FNYN: My concern is that the community never really understood who was going to be appointed to the District Wide Committee.

Eversley: I understand that things might have proceeded in a different fashion.

FNYN: How do we rectify that?

Eversley: That is what we are going to try and do as we put this together.

FNYN: Would you be in favor of taking a little extra time in order to give those people a chance to participate in the process and hold off on the approval of the Code of Conduct?

Eversley: The people who are formally appointed to the committee will have a chance to participate in the final product. Our preferred time line, as we have already published it, is to have something prepared for the Boards action on the 25th of September. We want to operate in concert with the law and with our own policy.

FNYN: Thank you for your time.

Code of Student Conduct • Not In Spanish • Not Anywhere

During the August 8th School Board Planning meeting, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Dr. Tony Ciaglia, presented the draft copy of the Code of Student Conduct (Code of Conduct) to the School Board. Ciaglia is the district administrator, who has been in charge of the project since its inception last year. After presenting the Code of Conduct, Ciaglia told the Board and the few members of the public that the draft material would be available in all the "District’s school buildings and in the Administration building." He also advised that the information would be available in both Spanish and English. Ciaglia pointed out that the response form was dual language. He advised the Board that the SAVE legislation required a Public Hearing which was scheduled for September 12th.

During the August 22nd School Board Action meeting, there was no mention made regarding any time line regarding the availability of the Spanish version of the Code of Conduct or the District Wide Safety Plan. The public was advised that the material was in all the schools for inspection and that copies of the Code of Conduct could be picked up at any of the schools or the Administration building.

This morning, August 31st, your reporter called the District Administration building to inquire about picking up a copy of the Code of Conduct. After I was advised by the receptionist that she didn’t know what the Code of Conduct was, I asked to be transferred to somebody who might be able to help me. After speaking to four people and then being disconnected, I discovered that I was connected to the high school. I was reconnected and was eventually told by a member of the office staff that they didn’t have the Code of Student Conduct available, but that I could pick up the old one, as "we are making copies of that now." When I asked how I might acquire a copy of the new one, I was told, "You might try Dr. Ciaglia’s office.

At 12:30 p.m. I went to the Administration building to pick up the Code of Conduct, expecting it to be on the counter. When I saw it wasn’t there, I asked the receptionist if she knew where I might get one. She told me she didn't know. I told her it was no problem, that I was really looking for the Spanish version. I suggested that she might call the District Clerk, Dr. Mary Bediako, to see if she had a copy in Spanish. I was told, "She doesn’t have it."

The receptionist next called Ciaglia’s office. The receptionist said, "Nobody up there has a copy in Spanish either, but they are working on it."

I thanked the receptionist and left the building. In the parking lot, I ran into Mary Ann Ross, one of Ciaglia’s secretaries. After I inquired about the Spanish translation, she told me that they had sent it [Code of Conduct] "out last week" and she wasn’t sure when they were going to get it back.

After I returned to my office, I called Dr. Ciaglia at the Administration building. His secretary advised me that he was in a meeting. I asked her to ask Dr. Ciaglia when the Code of Conduct was sent out for translation and when it would be ready. She told me she would give Ciaglia the message and that he would get back to me.

By 5:00 p.m., Ciaglia still had not returned the call.

Late this evening, Latino community leader, Cristoval Lopez, told FNYN, "You can see how the people of the School Board are working. Over forty-five percent of the students are Latino. They might be ignoring us now, but they won’t be ignoring us forever."

(Photo - left to right - Board members Ellerbe, V.P. Coward, Supt. Eversley, Bd. Pres. Muscara and member Raab. Bd. member  Cattano arrived later)


August 29, 2001

FNYN Photo
Rubin Altamirano at the podium, addresses his classmates and onlookers during Freeport's first post summer school graduation

The first ever Freeport High School post summer school commencement took place this evening in the Freeport High School auditorium. Parents, teachers administrators and members of the school board were on hand as the students, who earned enough credits in summer school, graduated in full regalia. Senior spokesperson, Rubin Altamirano, explained one of the secrets of his success when he thanked his parents telling the audience, “They have always been there for me.” Lilker

August 2001 Graduates

Carmen Acacia
Javier Acosta
Caroline Adams
Ruben Altamirano III
Hope Ament
Betty Andujar
Yinalda Batista
Ottis Boyce
Elizabeth Brundage
Michael Buckles
Shaneiqua Butts
Ana Cabreja
Michael Cameron
Jamie Campbell
Mayra Cantres
Walter Cruz
Arcenio Espinal
Yancar Espinosa 
Joseph Esposito 
Megan Etter
Jayro Garcia 
Vincent Garrett 
Brian Hinton 
Richard Holtje 
Jill Isadore 
Anthony Jones-Miller 
Jomo Lennon
Maria Marinho
Alex Martin 
Jessica Mattei 
Alexander McManus 
Jean Marc Mednard 
Menelik Mullings
Faraly Napoleon 
Abby Ogando 
Vanessa Ortiz 
Ronell Paltoo 
Merlin Peralta 
Raymond Quesada 
Francisco Reyes 
LeShelle Riddick Wellesley Roberts
Hamilton Rodriguez 
Daena Rosa 
Dominick Scaley 
Jose Serrano
Dania Suazo
Michael Suchan
Bryan Thomas 
Ingry Valdez 
Chablis Waring 
Natasha Witherspoon
Long Fen Zeng

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