Floral Park parent Roni Kropf is making her second run for the Floral Park-Bellerose school board against five-year incumbent Trustee Denise DellaCorte.
Kropf, a licensed social worker and Valley Stream Memorial High School teacher, said she aims to bridge what she sees as a gap between the school board and the community and reduce the district’s emphasis on standardized tests.
“It’s a key component for a successful school district to have parent involvement,” she said. “It has to be whatever you’re doing at school is venerated at home, and vice-versa. You have to have that common support.”
DellaCorte, a 31-year district resident and retired nurse, said she is proud of the district’s balanced budgets despite the difficulties of the state’s tax levy cap, such as this year’s state-mandated 0.47 percent tax levy decrease.
The school board and administrators constantly evaluate their implementation of Common Core standards, she said, and test results show students’ achievements are “soaring.”
“I do agree that without taking the test, it is difficult to get a real measure of that achievement level,” said DellaCorte, who is running for a third full three-year term.
Kropf ran for a school board seat last year against current board President Laura Ferone. She was still new to the district then, she said, but she thinks more people know her and her efforts now.
She is part of a group of parents who have advocated for a formal social studies curriculum in the district and for schools to teach cursive writing. The district formed a teacher committee to discuss the former, she said.
While she thinks the Common Core standards are valuable, Kropf said the district’s curriculum is “driven” by test preparation, and it could benefit from a stronger writing program and the effective use of classroom technology.
“You can incorporate all the standards and all the learning objectives directed by the state in an enriched curriculum,” she said. “You don’t need to test prep 24/7.”
Floral Park-Bellerose’s rate of students opting out of state tests stayed flat this year at about 28 percent, DellaCorte said.
The Common Core standards challenge students in a good way, DellaCorte said, and the state tests associated with them have proven to be a good measure of learning in the district.
The narrowing gap between special-education and general-education students’ achievement in recent years is proof of the of the tests’ efficacy, among other successes, she said.
“Based on the feedback we’re getting from the state, the fact that our one school is a school of excellence, the fact that the gap is closing with special education and general education students — I think all these things have contributed to the success of our programs and our district,” said DellaCorte, who has had four daughters go through Floral Park-Bellerose schools.
DellaCorte said families praise the district’s special education program, and the district has lobbied state lawmakers for additional special education funding.
The district recently added three special-education classes, she said, and special education teachers spend part of the school day with general education teachers in a new program.
“Socially and academically, it’s been much better for those children,” DellaCorte said.
To improve communication between the community and the school board, Kropf said, she would establish parent committees and intergenerational programs to connect students with senior citizens. She would also support starting a special-education PTA, she said.
The district is in a strong position, Kropf said, but adjustments such as those she is proposing could make it even better.
“My whole thing is assessing the needs of the community and then acting upon those needs, and you can only do that when you have a relationship with the community,” she said.
School board Trustee Doug Vigo is also running unopposed for a second three-year term.
District residents will vote on the school board seats and on 2016-2017 budgets for the Floral Park-Bellerose and Sewanhaka Central High School districts on May 17.