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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.

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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