By Samuel Glasser
Approximately 200 Herricks faculty and staff members sporting distinctive blue union T-shirts packed the Board of Education’s meeting Thursday night in a show of solidarity with the union negotiating team trying to reach a new contract with the board.
The Herricks Teachers’ Association has been working without a contract since June 30.
“The negotiation process has been difficult and I am dismayed that for the first time there is no contract at the start of the year,” union President Nidya Degliomini said in an interview.
The turnout necessitated moving the meeting from its usual venue – the board room at the Herricks Community Center – to the auditorium, where the board faced a “sea of blue,” Degliomini said.
“We told the board that we told our members to save the date” and then, earlier on Thursday informed the board of the expected turnout, prompting the move to the larger room, she said.
Superintendent Fino Celano opened the meeting noting the “smooth” opening of school and then called for public comments.
Addressing the board, Degliomini said that the teachers and support staff “are undeniably part of the Herricks success” and in a rousing speech cited the numerous academic awards and recognitions earned by the high school and middle school departments in nearly every course of study, asking the members of each department to stand as she recited the list.
After the meeting, Degliomini said that the union “is committed to achieving a settlement that is fair to the community, students and teachers … We always worked amicably with the board.”
In an interview, Celano said that “the board is committed to a settlement that is fair and equitable, not only for the teachers but to the Herricks community.” When told that was the same thing that Degliomini said, he replied, “it’s good to hear that we are both on the same page.”
He said that a mediator is working with both sides to reach an agreement.
Neither Celano nor Degliomini would discuss which issues are the sticking points in the talks.
In a scheduled presentation, Gary Gonzalez, vice president of Park East Construction Corp., the construction manager for the district’s $29.5 million capital improvement project, said that Phase 2 involving the new high school cafeteria, the athletic field grandstand and the comfort station was about 75 percent complete.
The cafeteria received approval from the Nassau County Health Department last month and was operational with the opening of school, although there are a few odds and ends that need to be finished, he said. The comfort station and grandstand are expected to be completed in October and a new driveway and drop-off loop at the Denton Avenue School were also completed, he noted.
The completed Phase 1 involved installing new artificial turf on the high school athletic field and replacing about one-quarter of the interior doors and all of the door locks districtwide. Phase 3 will entail replacing windows and continuing the door replacement throughout the district.
The capital plan is largely funded by a $25 million bond issue that was approved by the voters in December 2016. The rest of the funding comes from capital reserve funds.
Also on the agenda was a review of the district’s administrative goals for the current school year.
Celano noted that goals are not “themes or flavors of the month” but are expected to have a lasting impact on the district and become measures of accountability. Some goals can be targeted for completion year by year while others are continuous over several years.
The goals apply to a few broad areas: Curriculum and instruction, communication and culture, human resources, business and facilities, and technology integration districtwide.
One important continuing effort, Celano said, is to use data analysis to benchmark student achievement to measure Herricks against the top districts in Nassau County as well as increase student participation in taking advanced placement exams.
Celano noted that nationwide only 40 percent of college students graduate in four years and that, to address this, the district participates in a cooperative effort of college presidents and schools superintendents through the Long Island Regional Advisory Council on Higher Education.
The effort seeks to develop a “real world” definition of college and career readiness that includes academic skills and knowledge, nonacademic traits such as key behaviors and attitudes, and career knowledge connected to college majors.