Online portfolio shows off Mineola school programs, achievements

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Matthew Gaven, the Mineola school district's assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, technology and assessment, speaks at a school board meeting on Thursday, May 4, 2017. (Photo by Rebecca Anzel)

By Rebecca Anzel

Two Mineola school district officials unveiled a preliminary online portfolio showcasing student work and school programs in a presentation to the school board Thursday.

Matthew Gaven, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessment and technology, said the website’s purpose is to illustrate to parents and community members how the district teaches its students using a variety of methods and technologies. It also aims to satisfy a goal the board set to “actively engage” parents in their children’s education, he said.

Gaven and Superintendent Michael Nagler have been discussing this project since last summer.

“We really wanted to highlight the unique programs and projects that our students experience to give parents an understanding of how learning takes place here in Mineola,” Gaven said. “We want to be able to show this is an engaging, educational experience for all of our students.”

The website’s homepage features a photo of students visiting Mineola from the Franklin Square school district and a brief explanation of why the district built the online portfolio.

The menu across the top directs viewers to the page for each of Mineola’s school buildings; a slideshow of images depicting memories from various events; a link to the district’s YouTube account; the district’s Twitter feed; a page describing programs, such as dual language and athletics; and a gallery of student artwork.

Each school’s page has a grid of nine to 14 photos that, when clicked, leads to either a gallery of images with captions explaining the project or videos. For example, Meadow Drive’s portfolio has a photo of a “tech-savy [sic] second grader” holding a tablet that leads to four math-themed videos students created.

“[The website] gives an explanation of who we are,” Christine Napolitano, the school board president, said. “You don’t necessarily have to be a parent just to see what the activities are and all the things we’re doing, all the links to YouTube, all those things that sort of define who we are.”

The board’s vice president, Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion, said the online portfolio is a good way for the district to show taxpayers how the district is allocating funds to provide educational opportunities, such as coding and 3D printing projects, for students.

Nagler prefaced the presentation by saying that he and Gaven were seeking feedback from the Board on several things — what to title the website, how it compliments the district’s existing online presence and how to launch the project.

The board discussed potentially adding a feature to the website that allows community members to receive email alerts whenever new content is added. It also proposed several options for how the portfolio could be linked to from the district’s main website.

Other than these details, Nagler said, the portfolio is ready to be published and presented to parents.

Also at the meeting was a budget hearing, which lasted about 15 minutes. Nagler gave the same budget presentation he went through at the board’s last meeting on April 20, highlighting his $94.4 million proposal that the board previously approved.

The budget, which would increase the tax levy by 0.89 percent, focuses on capital improvements at many of the district’s schools and expanding several educational and athletic programs. There were no questions from meeting attendees.

The public vote is on Tuesday, May 16. Also on the ballot are school board candidates, including Ballantyne-Mannion, who is seeking a second term, and Patrick Talty, who is running unopposed to replace resigning Trustee Nicole Matzer.

Another proposition would allow the district to spend $4.2 million from its reserve fund to build a second gymnasium at Mineola High School and additional classrooms at Meadow Drive School.

“That’s money that’s already saved — I can’t stress this enough,” Nagler said. “You’re really voting on whether you like the projects and are giving permission to spend the money, which is already encumbered and sitting there.”

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