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Nyack Supt Asks More Time For No Lunch Prog.

Schools Superintendent Asks To Extend Controversial Test Thru November

by Mark Hussey

Nyack’s interim Superintendent of Schools has asked the Board of Education to extend the two month pilot program which keeps 9th and 10th grade students on campus for lunch until the end of  November.  School officials says the cost of implementing the program for a year is $300,000.

In a letter welcoming families to the new school year, interim Nyack Schools Superintendent Jason Friedman said that the pilot program which closed the campus for 9th and 10th graders will be evaluated ‘€œwithin a few months.’€ Given that no one has yet voted to extend the pilot, this claim might seem premature, at least to anyone who heard the apology read by Board of Education President Michael Lagana on Sept 21. Acknowledging the absence of community input in the process that led to the July vote to suspend the longstanding open campus policy, Mr. Lagana pledged that the board would do better in the future.

A vote on the superintendent’s request is scheduled for the Oct 5 board meeting. In the past six weeks many questions have been asked of the board, and very few have been answered. For example, we still have not been told where the money is coming from to pay for additional hardware and personnel. It was not in the budget we voted on in May, but it is apparently there now. How did that happen? And why is this money considered well-spent when we have been told repeatedly that there is no money for the many requests made over the years by students and parents? Why is it better to hire security guards rather than teachers or psychologists?

Other unanswered questions include: what specific data drove the decision made July 6 (a 2008 task force examining the open campus policy concluded that ‘€œThere are no empirical studies that say unequivocally that a certain type of campus increases achievement’€). Mr. Lagana spoke on Tuesday evening about the dangers posed by young people driving. Why, then, does the pilot program continue to allow teenagers to drive during the school day? Trustee Mark brought up the drug and alcohol abuse known to go on in the woods surrounding the high school yet, astonishingly, Mr. Friedman said that issue has to be treated separately from the pilot program. If the pilot program is not intended to address the drug problem, then what is? We have also asked for an account of the liability exposure an open campus entails, but have heard nothing.

In 2008, Board Attorney Ralph DeMarco said that ‘€œenforcement of district policies does not have to be perfect, but there is an obligation to reasonably supervise students in exercising due care. If there is a case, it has to be demonstrated to a judge that the district acted to prevent a problem from happening. He does not recall an issue of liability coming to him in the past 10 years.’€

The interim superintendent has asked the Board to extend the pilot through Thanksgiving. It would be better to scratch it and start over, this time with the full participation of all concerned and a carefully planned program to assess what works and what doesn’t to achieve whatever it is this board is trying to achieve. Explaining that would be a good start.

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