Mineola schools seek OK for $4.2 million in capital spending

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Mineola school Superintendent Michael Nagler.

By Kristy O’Connell

The Mineola school district will ask voters to approve $4.2 million in spending for building projects alongside the school district’s budget in May, officials said Thursday.

The district wants to withdraw and spend $4.2 million from a capital reserve fund established in 2010 for the purpose of funding districtwide improvements and renovations.

If permission to spend this money is granted, it will fund the cost of capital projects at the Meadow Drive School, an elementary school, including a new cafeteria and improvements to classroom spaces; and at Mineola High School, including construction of a second gymnasium that will serve as a fitness center with rubberized floors for the purpose of improving durability, district Superintendent Michael Nagler said.

The money in the fund has already been saved and will not affect the district’s 2017-18 school year budget or taxpayers, Christine Napolitano, the Mineola school board president, said.

The board simply needs permission to use that money, she said.

“I am hopeful that taxpayers and parents will realize that the money is there and goes directly into the buildings,” Napolitano said at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Nagler said he will have further details of the projects, including pictures and renderings at the next board meeting on April 6.

In 2015, Mineola voters approved $7 million in capital reserve spending to pay for a new technology lab, additional storage space and a renovated athletic field and track at Mineola High School; and a new classroom, an addition to the cafeteria, a bus loop and a new athletic field and concession stand at the Hampton Street School, another elementary school.

Residents will also vote in May on the 2017-18 budget, which will maintain all current district programs and propose several new enhancements, district officials said.

Nagler he has worked with the principals and officials of Mineola’s schools to establish a list of such enhancements, he said.

They include the addition of an Advanced Placement, or AP, capstone course, expanding the district’s English as a new language, or ENL, program and offering professional training in coding to the district’s teachers.

Nagler has said the district will likely not increase property tax revenue more than 0.89 percent, the maximum allowed this year under the state’s cap on property tax hikes.

The AP capstone course is a new course offered by the College Board, the organization that adminsters the nationwide AP program. The course provides students with AP credit while offering practice with research and independent study.

The course is made up of an AP seminar and an AP research class, in either science or humanities. Since the district already offers an AP science research course, the district plans to expand into humanities, Nagler said.

Students who take the class will receive AP credit, and those who score a 3 or higher on the AP exam will obtain an AP Capstone certificate.

Those who obtain the certificate along and complete four other AP classes will receive a capstone diploma.

Nagler said he also plans to introduce a robotics team at the high school.

The space is available, along with participating teachers, Nagler said. He said he is hopeful that the robotics team will participate in Hofstra University’s annual robotics competition.

With the growth in programs comes a need for an increase in staffing, and the district expects to hire three full-time employees in the upcoming year, Nagler said.

One of those is expected to be a short-term employee who will assist for about a year with training teachers in basic coding and developing lesson plans that can be used each year thereafter, officials said.

Also on Thursday, a group of visitors from the Mineola Middle School attended the board meeting to spread the word about their new initiative, “The Growth Mindset.”

Jennifer Maichin, a teacher at the middle school, said she became determined after reading Carol Dweck’s novel “The Growth Mindset” to instill a mindset in her classrooms that applauds effort and growth instead of ability.

Maichin said she believes rewarding improvement and growth from one’s current level of ability is more effective for a student’s learning than rewarding high achievement alone.

To implement this idea, she and two other teachers began teaching students that learning is more effective when mistakes are made, Maichin said.

They now reward time and effort with incentive programs, such as handing out of stuffed-toy neurons.

Several sixth-graders attended the meeting, demonstrating the growth and improvements they’ve made under the growth mindset.

Several cite their mantra, “Easy is boring.”

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