by Kathleen Duff
The Grand Island Board of Education held its first meeting of the 2014-15 school year Monday evening in the Professional Development Suite at Grand Island High School. The agenda included reports on personnel, the district's capital project, the dress code and curriculum and instruction. Trustees Donna Tomkins, Glenn Bobeck and Matt Green had been excused from attendance, but the board did have a quorum with four of its members, including the president and vice president present at the meeting.
Search for new VCMS principal
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence updated the board on the hiring of a principal for Veronica E. Connor Middle School. Former principal Jerry Parisi took another position downstate just prior to the start of the school year. Director of Pupil Personnel Services Cheryl Cardone is interim principal at the school while the district conducts an active search for a new administrator.
Lawrence said that the district has received about 50 applications and more are coming in. Many are from "seated principals and assistant administrators," she elaborated. Submissions close Sept. 15, with a first round of interviews beginning next week. Lawrence expects to approve and hire the new principal with the executive session of the October Board of Education meeting.
Student dress code
Lawrence and Cardone also spoke about the student dress code. Lawrence said that after committee discussions and consultation with legal counsel, the dress code stands intact, but content displayed on garments such as T-shirts should not be educationally disruptive. In other words, students have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, but should be encouraged to display speech that "supports the educational environment."
Review of dress code comes after public outcry last school year about a student who was disciplined for wearing a T-shirt regarding Second Amendment rights. The discipline was later rescinded. Lawrence added that Grand Island is officially a no alcohol, drugs or tobacco school district and will continue to prohibit dress that would promote those substances. A fuller explanation and illustrations of the dress code is on the district website: www.grandislandschools.org.
In related action, the board unanimously approved the district's code of conduct.
Capital project update
In other business, Vaughn Maracle of Campus Construction reported that the renovation of the high school auditorium will be complete by Nov. 30. Concerns over construction lags at the Library Media Center at Kaegebein School are being accommodated by Kaegebein Principal Mary Haggerty's creative use of available space to facilitate instruction uninterrupted. Extensive work continues in the science and general education classrooms at Veronica E. Connor Middle School.
In her report to trustees, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Cuddy-Miller reported that this year's round of new teacher orientation centered on the practical details of teaching on Grand Island with an eye toward retention of educators, teaching standards and a solid mentoring program. The three-day agenda included a bus tour of the Island.
In addition, Cuddy-Miller reported that she had competed the current year's curriculum calendar, and that teachers are working toward acclimating students to computer-based testing through gradual exposure within the various subject areas. She also gave an extensive report on state assessment results for the schools, the results of which will be posted on the district website.