Board/Superintendent's Inbox

On this page, we will provide answers to reoccurring questions, concerns or issues received by email from community members throughout the school year. The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Robert Shaps, will use the Board of Education's regular meetings as an opportunity to provide these questions and answers -- with the idea that when multiple people ask the same question, the answer is most likely relevant to the broader community. As always, we appreciate our community's involvement and interest in our schools.

Questions from the Community

Will Changes be Made to the Hommocks Team Structure/Schedule in '19-'20?

See Letter from the Superintendent, sent to the community on Feb. 25, 2019.

 

Dear Community Members,

I'd like to extend a special welcome back to all of our District families after the school break and hope the change in routine offered opportunity for rest and good times spent together.  Congratulations to our Mamaroneck High School debaters (freshmen) who captured 1st Place at the Harvard debate tournament and to our student athletes involved in playoffs over the break.  This is indeed a busy time for all of us. 

At tomorrow evening's Board of Education meeting, I will present my 2019-2020 Superintendent's Recommended Budget.  I look forward to articulating our educational plan and laying the foundation for rich, relevant teaching and learning during the next school year and in the years ahead. 

As part of the budget discussion, the Board will continue to look at how best in the future to optimize Hommocks Middle School learning with fluctuating enrollment.  The Administration shared two potential strategies at the Feb. 5 Board meeting, but based on further consideration and community feedback over the past several weeks, I have decided to recommend to the Board that we add a fifth 6th grade team to meet the incoming cohort of 479 students while maintaining the existing school-wide schedule. Core team teachers will continue to teach four 55-minute periods per day. The new team will include four core subject teachers (ELA, mathematics, social studies, and science) and one guidance counselor. 

We are committed to meeting our goals of delivering educational excellence and addressing our system challenges. Towards this end, we expect to work closely with the Hommocks Administrative Team, teachers, our school scheduling consultant and stakeholders to design a sustainable schedule for the 2020-2021 school year and beyond that will strengthen the middle years program and respond to enrollment fluctuations. 

Previously Presented Strategies

While growing enrollment and financial considerations were the catalyst for exploring middle school scheduling options, the overarching aim was to explore how changes could improve teaching and learning, enhance school climate and culture and better prepare students for high school and beyond.

The Feb. 5 presentation included:
- Description of middle school enrollment history and projections;
- Review of the current Hommocks schedule for both students and teachers;
- Outline of two potential strategies:
* Strategy #1: incremental addition/subtraction of half and whole teams as warranted by enrollment
* Strategy #2: expansion of core teams to include world language and adoption of new, modular middle school schedule, including uniform 44 minute periods for core subjects and unified arts classes, together with the addition of an advisory period designed to provide differentiated support and enrichment, promote inquiry, focus on organizational, social & emotional skills, and build relationships between teachers and smaller groups of students over the course of a school year
-  Discussion of the inherent benefits and tradeoffs in the existing and proposed schedules

Further Review

Since February 5th, we have engaged District staff to review the tradeoffs inherent in both proposed strategies. Additionally, we have considered the comments and questions collated by the Hommocks PTA, PT Council and SEPTA, along with individual letters from parents. Shared concerns about the following issues have led us to the decision to implement Strategy #1, in this case the addition of a full team at sixth grade. 
·  Loss of core subject instructional time (shifting from 55 minute to 44 minute classes);
·  The restructuring of "Office Hours" or small group academic support that is currently offered during lunchtime;
·  The expansion of team size (100 to up to 125 students) and total teacher/student load; and
·  The need to further develop the specific advisory program.

I hope you will join us for the budget presentation tomorrow evening, Feb. 26, at 7 pm in the Tiered Classroom at Mamaroneck High School.

Regards,

Dr. Robert I. Shaps
Superintendent of Schools

 

What is the progress of the Enrollment Task Force?

Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps provided an update to the community on the work of the Enrollment Planning Task Force at the January 8, 2019 Board of Education meeting. See his PowerPoint presentation here. 

What is the status of teacher negotiations?

The following communications was sent from the Mamaroneck School District on January 24, 2019:
We are pleased to inform you that the new agreement between the Mamaroneck Board of Education and the Mamaroneck Teachers' Association (MTA) has now been ratified by both parties and will be in place for a seven-year period. "The District appreciates the hard work and dedication of the negotiating parties in developing a new contract that fairly compensates our highly skilled teachers, is fiscally responsible to our taxpayers and enables the District to continue to provide an extraordinary educational experience for our students," Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps said. 

The following letter was sent to the community on January 3, 2019:

Dear Community Members,

Welcome to 2019!  We hope you had a nice holiday with time to relax and enjoy family and friends.

As we begin this new year, we are pleased to announce that on December 19th the District and the Mamaroneck Teachers' Association reached an agreement on the terms of a new contract.  Both parties worked hard to deliver a fair and equitable agreement for our teachers that is fiscally responsible to our taxpayers and maintains the outstanding educational program the community has come to expect.

The Mamaroneck Board of Education would like to thank the MTA negotiating team for its hard work and commitment to come to an agreement that meets the needs of both parties.  Additionally, we appreciate the dedication of Dr. Shaps, who served as the lead negotiator, and our District administrators, Carol Priore and Sylvia Fassler-Wallach, who worked beside him.

Details of the settlement remain confidential until the agreement is ratified by the parties. This will occur no later than thirty working days from December 19th.   

As always, we appreciate the opportunity to serve the community. Our best wishes for a wonderful 2019!

Respectfully,

Mamaroneck USFD Board of Education

Steve Warner, President
}aul Bulova, Vice President
Rina Beder
Ariana Cohen
Gladys Di Vito
Sam Orans
Sari Winter

 

Can installation of air conditioning in all spaces be considered for this bond?

In response to parent emails, the Board of Education and Superintendent asked LAN Associates to explore the cost of installing air conditioning in all District spaces as part of the capital bond recommendations. LAN's calculated costs for air conditioning in all buildings came to $60.4 million, an amount equal to more than the entire amount of the recommended capital bond. Knowing that classrooms can be uncomfortable on hot days and potentially impact student learning, the Board also asked administration to look into the number of school days over the past five years that have included 85 degree+ conditions. In the past five years, the average number of school days 85 degrees and above was 7.4, and the average number of school days included in that number that were 90 degrees or above was 2.

With the exception of Murray Ave. and Chatsworth Ave. schools, each of the District's schools currently have air conditioned areas that can accommodate a larger number of students. To ensure that larger air conditioned spaces are available in each of its schools, the current capital bond proposal includes air conditioning for auditoriums in both Chatsworth Ave. school and Murray Ave. school. Installation of air conditioning in these spaces was determined more cost-effective than just replacing the air handling units that are currently at the end of their life cycle.

What is the difference between "greeters" and the new security personnel?

Our new security personnel is employed by Summit Security, a firm that has been providing security for more than 40 years and works with school districts such as Scarsdale, Eastchester, Chappaqua, Bedford, Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry and area colleges, including Princeton, Columbia Fordham, and CUNY. The firm hires many retired or former military and law enforcement professionals, and the individuals are trained in following security protocol; their sole responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Our emphasis is on securing the school perimeter, coordinating response with local law enforcement, and limiting building access. We see this change as one that will help strengthen the security at all of our schools.

What goes into Principal hiring decisions? Why has the District been hiring internally recently and promoting APs to the Principal position?

The Mamaroneck School District advertises all administrative vacancies nationally and regionally and works with consultants who are familiar with our district to identify and recruit the most qualified candidates. Similar to many other prominent area districts, our district in recent years has promoted from within following comprehensive nationwide searches that have been led by search groups consisting of administrators, teachers and community members.

Typically, out-of-state candidates consist of beginning administrators or retired administrators since NY State has a closed pension system, which means that experienced administrators’ prior service and pensions are not eligible for transfer to New York. In-state candidates must go through a “probationary period” if they are appointed. Giving up a tenured position for a new district is uncommon, particularly if one is currently working in a high-performing district. Additionally, many candidates are reluctant to engage in the search process since ultimately the news becomes public, and if they do not end up getting an offer, it becomes politically problematic.

Thankfully, given our reputation, we do see high interest in our administrative vacancies. Almost all of our probationary principal searches have included experienced principals. We look for candidates who have demonstrated strong instructional leadership, advocacy for children and systems-thinking -- individuals who we feel confident will grow as building leaders.

How does the District support new administrators?

Unlike most school systems, we offer our administrators year-round (12-month) professional development. In Mamaroneck, we invest in and grow leaders and hold them accountable, evaluating them carefully with ongoing support. It is worthwhile to call attention to the track record of Dr. Shaps: In his 16 years as Superintendent, he has successfully hired nearly 20 principals (and many assistant principals) who continue to lead and serve with distinction. We are grateful for the strong group of building leaders we currently have in place. Read PowerPoint presentation delivered by Dr. Shaps at Sept. 25, 2018 Board of Education meeting: Leadership, Supervision & Evaluation of Administrators.