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Northport Teachers Have Their Say

Educators discuss new tech initiatives, the IB program, and a general feeling of disrespect at the first public Board-teacher relations meeting since last year.

Teachers got a chance to share their pent-up frustrations before the Northport-East Northport Board of Education, colleagues, and members of the public at Monday's first Board-teacher relations meeting taking place outside of executive session since last year.

Curriculum changes were a key topic of discussion. Scott Shutka, a science teacher at Northport Middle School, wanted to know if the district is definitely moving to a Regents curriculum for eighth grade students beginning in 2012, an initiative which he said he first heard about at a faculty meeting in September.

Shutka said he and other staff members were caught off guard by the announcement, and urged the district to slow down. "If we’re going to do this, let’s do this right,” he said, voicing concern for seventh grade students who might not be prepared for the change.

Superintendent Marylou McDermott said that New York State’s tougher core curriculum underscores the need to elevate students to make them both college and career ready, but said the initiative is in the discussion stages. She invited Shutka as well as other faculty members to attend the new curriculum council meetings which began in September. 

Possible changes to the English language curriculum also came under fire. Robert Feinstein, an English teacher at Northport High School, wanted to know why none of the faculty had been included in the discussions about possibly making IB (International Baccalaureate) English mandatory for all eleventh grade students.  “Where’s the respect?” Feinstein asked rhetorically, adding that teachers hadn’t been included in discussions about eliminating Honors English classes for ninth and tenth grade by 2014.

In response to Feinstein’s question as to whether Northport is being converted to an IB school, McDermott said the possibility is being discussed because of the rigors of the IB program and the emphasis on writing skills.  She spoke highly of the program, and said she would be happy to meet with the English department as well as IB Coordinator David Storch and Principal Irene McLaughlin to discuss the matter.

At one point in the exchange, Feinstein wanted to know, “Where’s the Board on all this?”

Waldenburg said he was on the Board when it was decided to include the IB program, and Vice President Donna McNaughton voiced her approval as well, saying that she liked the idea of raising the standard for students. But McDermott took full responsibility for IB, saying it was part of her vision for the school.

Technology was a source of much debate, with several teachers saying that they weren’t given any clear directives for the use of the new Netbooks they were given this year, and expressing frustration at the inability to access wi-fi throughout many of the district’s buildings.

Both McDermott and Waldenburg said the goal was to get the laptops into teachers hands early so they could begin to work with them while the wi-fi rollout was completed. McDermott asked for patience, and said that the decision to make sure all teachers received laptops was hers. “It was about respect for the entire faculty,” she said, adding that it would have been unfair not to distribute Smartboards and laptops to all teachers.

Some Board members expressed surprise that the teachers seemed caught off guard about the impending technology initiatives. Trustee Jennifer Thompson said she remembered painstakingly discussing the topic at earlier Board meetings.

McNaughton said that it was important to remember that the “half a million” she kept hearing people repeat about the cost of the Netbooks is actually $487,000 spread out over five years, with $130,000 being spent in the current school year.

At the close of the meeting, both Blanck and Waldenburg thanked United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport member Dr. Nina Dorata for suggesting the open forum, and agreed to discuss a schedule for future Board-Teacher Relations meetings.

Lin December 07, 2011 at 10:45 PM
A glimmer of transparency - nice job!
Tammie Topel December 08, 2011 at 12:46 PM
I would like to clarify the number that we hear being talked about as the cost of the netbooks is "3/4 of a million" or $750,000, not 1/2 million as stated in the above article. The true number, as stated by Vice president McNaughton, is $487,000 spread out over five years, with $130,000 being spent in the current school year. I would like everyone who came out for this meeting.
Lisa McLoughlin December 08, 2011 at 01:07 PM
"In response to Feinstein’s question as to whether Northport is being converted to an IB school, McDermott said the possibility is being discussed because of the rigors of the IB program and the emphasis on writing skills." What exactly is that supposed to mean? Northport HS has been an IB World School since July, 2002. http://ibo.org/school/001404/ In other words, since 2000, Northport taxpayers have been shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to a Swiss based/UNESCO affiliated organization. Part of Northport's agreement with IBO includes aligning Northport's "mission statement and philosophy" with the IB. IB operates under Swiss Law. It is proprietary, non-transparent, outrageously expensive and comes with a political agenda that preaches UN goals and values. Under IB, the IB Coordinator rules the roost. Does Northport have an AP Coordinator? In fact, how many AP courses does Northport still offer? I'm willing to wager, not many. I think the bigger question Northport residents need to be asking their BoE is: Do you have plans to expand IB to the Middle School and elementary schools? Trying to force ALL 11th grade students to take IB HL English is unconstitutional. IB is unconstitutional: http://truthaboutib.com/images/The_IB_Program_2_.ppt Has a decade of wasteful IB spending and indoctrination radically improved Northport's ranking? Learn the facts about IB at: http://truthaboutib.com/home.html
Lisa M December 08, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Lisa, I agree with you 100% Many in Npt. have always gone along with whatever has come down the road. Where is the UTN-EN when you need them to expose the cost/benefit of this program? One size does NOT fit all in education. I know the district likes very much what it states on their web site or what it did say. “Only school public or private with IB-PLTW etc...”We are a PUBLIC school district and we need to reach ALL our kids. Please people get involved for your kids’ sake.
Chris December 08, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Lisa, I am sorry. You lost your credibility when you turned this issue into a campaign for Ron Paul. You're not sharing an opinion, you are linking to a manifesto. I'm sure that the program can be debated on a matter of merit and value and not be turned into political fodder for one candidates agenda. 1) Is it cost effective? 2) Does it provide a value to the college bound student? 3) Are other programs, tracks of study suffering as a result of this program? As a parent, IB has been a positive for my kid, with a challenging rigor of schedule and very positive feedback from admissions officers. It doesn't mean the SD cant do better, inform better or consider other options and points of view, we all know that their communication can stink at times, but I don't think we need to start a revolution over it. We have enough political nonsense from Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh etc. How about we focus on whats really best for the kids.
Lisa McLoughlin December 08, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Chris, Who mentioned Ron Paul other than yourself, a pro-IB parent? 1) Is it cost effective? - No. IB is the most expensive "programme" on the market 2) Does it provide a value to the college bound student? - Debatable. To the handful of students who earn the full diploma and score 30 or higher, I would say yes. For the rest of the students, AP is a much better value if we are determining value as far as college-credit, content based knowledge and recognition. 3) Are other programs, tracks of study suffering as a result of this program? - Yes. AP courses are almost non-existent and I'm sure Honors courses were eliminated in 11th and 12th Grades at the HS as they were in Locust Valley. To even suggest that it be "mandatory" for EVERY 11th Grader to be forced to take IB HL English demonstrates total disregard on the part of the school district for children with special needs and those of average or below-average ability. This is a PUBLIC school system, not a private country club.
Jerry Hannon December 09, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Aside from the absurd nonsense related to the UN, and the equally absurd claptrap claims about being "unconstitutional" (sounds like someone likes to use that word for things she simply doesn't like), I would agree that a study of IB contrasted with AP would seem warranted when considering public school expenditures. That is even more appropriate in this time of ever-constricting financial resources, while the State ties the hands of districts and BOE's without relieving the numerous unfunded and underfunded State mandates, and without relieving districts of ridiculous constraints in personnel management.
Nick Folger December 09, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Lisa McLoughlin, Could you please fully disclose the motivation for your IB statements on numerous Patch blogs? Why the crusade? Is your motivation only about tax money and value for IB education, in particular for the NPT-ENPT school district? Please clarify. http://northport.patch.com/users/lisa-mcloughlin just lists some of your comments...google does a good job too.
Pam Robinson (Editor) December 09, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Lets try to keep to the issues at hand for Northport readers in the context of this story.
Old Fisherman December 09, 2011 at 04:56 AM
Pam you are absolutely correct. The majority of the readers would drop this out as it is getting out of hand. Lisa McLaughlin, and I don't know the lady is just trying to overcome any ensemble of a discussion that does not agree with her ideas in this matter. Leah, you are the greatest. Some of this is now out of hand and is beyond your original intent, I am certain.
Chris December 09, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Hey Lisa, thats nice. I have spent the last 7 years and then some making sure that my kids get the best education possible. Thats why I live here, and thats why I don't spend all of my time worrying about the next occupant of the White House. Your first link was a Ron Paul organization, and the second is just plain scary - warning us of the threat that is EUROPE!!!! Most of us don't sit in our homes worrying about the threat of Europe co-opting our educational system. Frankly, many argue that statistically on a global level, we could do better. I see no reason to not try and do so. Clearly, there are NO redeeming qualities to this program as far as you are concerned, and God knows that this European educational threat will have us all speaking French if its not stopped... I however speak from experience that as an individual student my kid has benefited. Maybe Yoga is just the ticket, Madam.
Karen D'Angelo December 09, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Neither of my two daughters is in any IB classes. They have done fairly well but have struggled at times with their class work. As one poster stated our district is a Public school system and must address students from top to bottom, or if you prefer, bottom to top. A square peg does not fit a round hole. In our quest to “raise the bar” what harm might we do to those that would, could, fall into the cracks? Why rush? What safety nets have the district put in place or will put in place? Good questions that have no answers to date. I was at the BOE meeting and I left with a sense that the Board was going to do what it wanted no matter the input of our community. I understand that the teachers that deliver the content and curriculum to OUR children should be in the decision making process but shouldn’t we too as the parents of these children? This is a big step and change. Forget France and all that for a minute and look at the question of is this district a runaway train in the making? I truly hope not. Change can also be made at the polls next May. In this sense, change very well may be a good thing.
carole December 10, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Parents need to speak up, now is the time. The potential top down mandatory curricular changes scare me and they should scare you too? Who is making these instructional changes and what will our students be losing in the process? The next BOE meeting is this Monday. It is time to step up and speak out.
East N'ptr December 10, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Our district's administration does a sound job of fiscal planning. Unfortunately they are too busy forcing things down the throats of both employees and taxpayers to realize their proposed improvements can be counter-productive without a cooperative effort. The current school board doesn't question anything the Superintendent's office tells them, its all taken as the final word. The "goals" of smaller class sizes in core classes, technology (netbooks and smartboards) for all staff and the proposed curriculum changes all sound like good ideas, but wouldn't it be better for management to get the teachers on board before making a final decision? I really hope the Administration will rethink the dictatorship mentality and the Board will start LISTENING and encouraging a cooperative effort for the sake of our district.
East N'ptr December 10, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Lisa, it is very unfortunately that people such as yourself troll Patch threads to promote a radical political agenda at the expense of our children's education. Those who look at the "truthaboutib" website will quickly realize that the author's "truth" is distorted and bigoted, and the program is criticized for no other reason than for the fact that it was not created in the U.S. And somehow this means other countries are trying to "infiltrate" our youth in order to take us over or diminish our power?!? All from an educational program?!? And for the record, you are mistaken about many of your facts related to the IB program. Our district still offers AP classes and have not reduced or substituted AP class options since implementing IB. The testing and administrative costs are not much higher for the IB program than it is for the AP program. And IB class credit (NOT just the IB diploma) is accepted at most Universities and Colleges. It works exactly the same way as AP credit. If you get a certain score, you will receive college credit and advanced placement for the IB class (assuming the class is required for the student's major). As Jerry H. mentioned, the costs should be analyzed, but if you eliminate IB at this point, you have the potential to decrease college readiness in exchange for what would probably amount to very little cost savings.
Lisa McLoughlin December 10, 2011 at 03:55 PM
The Northport district should form an independent committee to evaluate AP and IB in the HS. I believe there have been eight (8) IB graduating classes. This is a sufficient period of time over which a district should evaluate whether a program is successful, cost effective and worth the money being spent on it or whether it is an educational ideological boondoggle that is choking the taxpayers. It should be easy enough for administration to produce accurate numbers as to: Cost to run IB vs. AP # of IB Diploma candidates/recipients per Class Mean IB Diploma score earned per year # of AP Scholars per Class Overall mean SAT scores for Northport HS Rate of Ivy League acceptance beginning in 2000 to present
East N'ptr December 10, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Lisa, I agree with you that a cost analysis should be performed to justify the program. I would love to see this data. There are people that have been requesting this data from the BOE for some time now and their requests fall on deaf ears, which is a transparency problem. Now if you directed your efforts at obtaining this data instead of trying to convince people that the IB program is "Progressive brainwashing", you might get alot more support.
John McQ December 10, 2011 at 06:03 PM
One change I know we CAN make is at the polls in May as has been stated above. I'm ready for a change, are you?
Chris December 11, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Hi Lisa, I'm glad to see that you have altered your approach to the criticism of IB. Oh wait, you didn't. We are still discussing ideology. I don't think it's possible for you to post anything without mentioning it. I suspect that even if IB was free you would be railing against the progressive euro-threat. Meanwhile, it is a more than healthy thing to make sure that we have a top to bottom accountability to ensure that the best possible education is being provided by the most qualified teachers at all levels. Costs are a concern, but then it is a concern for many things at the SD, not just one political perspective. Salary, Logistics, Non-Educational Services, Logistics, Facilities, Full Day K, etc.

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