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
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
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
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
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
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?"
"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
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
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
FNYN: So you feel it is up to
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
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
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 •
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
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.
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
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
(Photo - left to right - Board
members Ellerbe, V.P. Coward, Supt. Eversley, Bd. Pres. Muscara and
member Raab. Bd. member Cattano arrived later)