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Freeport Schools
January 2002

Investigation Doesn't Help ē Students Stuck On Bottom
January 23, 2002
Frpt School Board Ignores Law
While Residents Sleep
January 6, 2002
January 23, 2002 (Posted Feb. 2)

Investigation Doesn't Help ē Students Stuck On Bottom


By Stewart S Lilker


The first School Board meeting of the year, January 23, 2001, did not bode well for parental involvement in the district. The Freeport schools educate over 8,000 students. When the meeting was gaveled to order, only two parents were in attendance, along with fifteen staff members and five other community residents. Attendance continues to suffer as the Board refuses to reach out to the community and maintains an ineffective and confusing policy of bouncing its meetings from building to building.

The eveningís big news was that the investigation of the dismal student regents results, begun in October 2001 under the direction of the new superintendent, was finally completed.

The district had led the public to believe that the original test scores given to the State Education Department and to Newsday were incorrect and that there was the possibility of a vast improvement in the regents scores being revealed at the completion of the districtís investigation.


Supt. Eversley reads from press release.

Superintendent Eversley read from a prepared statement, pausing to advise those in attendance that, "At any moment a representative from our public relations firm will be here with material that will supplement this conversation."

Eversley said, "The State Education Department accurately reported the information that was given to them, accurately to Newsday."

Eversley continued, "We asked the High School to take a fresh look at the data. To get into their data sources. They identified problems with the data, as it was maintained in our computerized data records going back to 1996."

Eversley said, "Some students had missing regents data or they had missing data in the studentís computerized data base. If the student took a regents test more than once, the data might not have been in the system."

Eversley explained that after they went into the studentsí folders and reviewed their permanent records, the district corrected the data and that new data was accepted by the State Education Department.

Eversley did not explain, nor did the Board inquire, as to how the data was incorrectly entered into the system.

The districtís press release said, "Due to errors in the computer data system which have since been corrected, the Freeport School District Regents results originally reported to the State Education Department (SED) and subsequently reported in Newsday on December 20, 2001 were incorrect."

In an informal poll conducted by FNYN, all who read the press release, thought the problem was in the software or hardware. No one even considered the fact that the district incorrectly entered the studentsí test scores. When it was explained that the grades were entered incorrectly, all those polled were amazed. One parent sighed and said, "Why didnít they just tell the truth?"

At the conclusion Eversleyís presentation, Board member Michael Raab asked Eversley, "Where does this corrected data put us?"

Eversley answered, "Certainly not near the bottom."

The December 20, 2001 Newsday chart showed Freeport Schools at or on the bottom of the list of the forty four schools reporting in Nassau County. The corrected data moved Freeport from at or near the bottom, to third from the bottom.

 

January 6, 2002 (Posted Jan. 12th)

Frpt School Board Ignores Law
While Residents Sleep


by Stewart S Lilker


Board President John Muscara asks for a motion for executive session as Board members Joe Cattano (left) and Sunday Coward (right) look on. Superintendent Eversley and Board member Raab talked in the back of the room. Board member Ellerbe arrived thirty minutes later.

Following in the footsteps of the Roosevelt School Board, Freeport has now also sunk to calling emergency meetings for early Sunday morning, while Freeportís residents sleep.

On Saturday night, January 5, 2001, FNYN received a call from Freeport resident Carol Nelson. She said that she had just seen a meeting notice posted on the school district administration building calling for a Sunday morning meeting to discuss "personnel and negotiations." Your reporter asked her to check again, as he had received a call earlier in the week from past PTA Co-president Stephanie Cieslik. Cieslik said there was a notice of a special meeting posted at the high school. According to Cieslik, the meeting was to discuss a "particular matter of personnel."

Nelson rechecked the notice and said, "It definitely says Sunday morning for "matters personnel and negotiations."

At 09:20 a.m. Sunday morning, your reporter arrived in the board room at the districtís administration building. The heat was blasting and the inside temperature was eighty four degrees. As Mary Bediako, the District Clerk, finished setting out a huge spread of food for the Board, your reporter asked, "Were there any other notices for this meeting?" Bediako answered, "No, this is the only notice."

The first line on the notice posted on the administration building in big bold type states, "amended notice."

Before the meeting was called to order, your reporter had a brief conversation with the new superintendent, Dr. Eric Eversley, asking him the purpose of the meeting. Eversley said, "We are meeting for matters of personnel and negotiations."

Your reporter pointed out that the law requires specificity and that the number of matters, as well as a reasonable description of them have to be identified. Eversley said, "No they donít."

Your reporter told Eversley, "I have already sent letters to the district explaining this. The Commissioner of Open Government, as well as the courts have been clear. The Board knows what they are supposed to do."

Eversley smiled and said, "You prove it and Iíll do it."

Robert Freeman, the New York State Commissioner of Open Government has said, "...descriptions of executive sessions as "negotiations and personnel" are vague and do not necessarily indicate that executive sessions were properly held.

Regarding personnel, Freeman explained, "Public bodies often convened executive sessions to discuss matters that dealt with "personnel" generally, tangentially, or in relation to policy concerns. The Committee consistently advised that the provision was intended largely to protect privacy and not to shield matters of policy under the guise of privacy."

According to the courts, a public body may conduct an executive session to discuss collective bargaining negotiations with a public employee union. As such, Commissioner Freeman has recommended that a proper motion might be: "I move to enter into executive session to discuss the collective bargaining negotiations involving the teachers' union."

At 09:45 a.m., secure that Commissioner Mills, who has repeatedly claimed that he does not have jurisdiction regarding Open Meetings Law violations, except in Roosevelt, Muscara ignored NYS law once again by asking for a motion to go into executive session "for matters of personnel and negotiations."

 

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