Floral Park school superintendent resigns, first grade classes grow

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The Floral Park-Bellerose school district has some changes to face in the coming school year: appointing a new superintendent and confronting larger first-grade class sizes.

At the June 6 Board of Education meeting, members had some news to discuss after granting tenure to educators and making emotional farewells to retirees.

The board announced that Superintendent Michael Dantona was resigning effective Aug. 30. He has been superintendent for two years.

Laura Ferrone, president of the board, said, “The board extends its appreciation to Dr. Dantona for his service to the school district and wishes him well in his future endeavors.”

“Appointing a new superintendent of schools is one of the most critical responsibilities of the Board of Education. Please be assured, the board takes this responsibility very seriously and has made it our top priority. Knowing how soon the new school year will begin, the board has begun the search process for a new superintendent,” Ferrone said. 

The board did not announce any potential candidates. It has not been revealed why he is stepping down.

While Dantona did not issue a statement, he said in a brief interview after the meeting, “When you make some changes, you know you’ll miss the people.” 

Due to the size of the third-grade class in the district’s elementary schools, Ferrone and the other board members announced that a first-grade teacher would have to be moved to the third grade. According to the board, the average size of a first-grade class in the upcoming school year will go up from 18 to about 21 to 22 students. Without the change, third-grade classes would have been as large as 25 students across five sections.

“It’s a process. I know it’s a source of disgruntlement for parents.” Ferrone said at the meeting. She lamented that more classrooms are not a viable option for the district at the moment.

Linda Beck, whose 5-year-old goes to school in the district, did not hide her concern. During the open forum after the board meeting, she said she worries about the quality of the education her child will be receiving with larger classes. “All children should come forward despite the budget,” she said.

Ferrone explained in an interview the morning after the meeting that while the district is seeing rising numbers in the kindergarten classes, she is awaiting new expansion projects planned for the district’s two elementary schools. The $14.7 million bond project to expand both elementary schools has been approved and is awaiting approval from the state Department of Education. Ferrone said she expects the project to break ground by September 2021 and create more classrooms.

Ferrone said she believes this expansion will help the John Lewis Childs Elementary School, in particular.

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