By Kristy O’Connell
An East Williston School District committee developing a plan to expand the district’s athletic programs is seeking residents’ views on setting priorities.
A public forum on Thursday was expected to cover the Athletic Strategic Planning Committee’s ideas and accept feedback from the community that will go into developing a long-term plan, district Superintendent Elaine Kanas said at an East Williston school board meeting last Wednesday.
The committee has been meeting regularly, and after the forum, it will create a public survey to solidify the community’s preferences and priorities for the athletics plan, Kanas said.
Some of the topics to be discussed at the forum included the committee’s five-year goals; coach hiring, training, evaluation and staff development; the role of outside professionals in school athletics programs; and the role of guidance counselors in athletics, Kanas said.
“Like our fine and performing arts programs, the athletic program is an integral aspect of the district’s focus on
the whole child,” Kanas wrote in her districtwide newsletter last week.
More than 70 percent of East Williston students in grades seven through 12 participate in at least one extracurricular sports activity, Kanas’ newsletter says.
Last May, residents voted to allow the district to put $4.9 million in a capital reserve fund to eventually spend on upgrades to its athletic facilities.
Under that plan, the Wheatley School would get about $3 million worth of work, including a new track, synthetic turf field, wood gym floor and other improvements, district administrators said last year. The Willets Road School would get a new soccer field for about $150,000.
Also at last Wednesday’s meeting, Danielle Gately, the assistant to the superintendent for instruction and personnel, said a change in state law has reduced the continuing education requirements for certain educators.
As of July 1, 2016, classroom teachers, educational leaders and some teaching assistants must fulfill 100 hours of acceptable continuing education training to maintain their teaching certification, down from the previous requirement of 175 hours, Gately said.
The hours must be satisfied over a five-year period, and opportunities to fulfill those hours will be provided through training offered by the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services and occasional sessions provided by other approved continuing-education providers, Gately said.
The new law requires teachers to record and submit their own hours, while the district previously did so for them, Gately said.
Teachers are now subject to random audits and should maintain proof of their hours for about seven years after completing them, she said.
Sean Feeney, the Wheatley School principal, also updated the school board on the first year of the implementation of a new Advanced Placement capstone diploma.
The goal for the AP capstone curriculum is to unify students’ studies in college-level courses, Feeney said.
Feeney said his support for the program stems from concern that “students can graduate having taken many AP courses, with nothing to unify them.”
In order to get the diploma, students must complete two new courses, AP Seminar and AP Research, in addition to any other four AP courses, and obtain a score of at least three out of five on each AP exam.
Feeney said he thinks Wheatley’s execution of the initiative is unique and different from many other schools because it is more cross-disciplinary.
Feeney also emphasized the independence and student-driven format of the classes.
School board Trustee Alan Littman asked Feeney whether part of the reason for launching the program was to improve national rankings, as a higher number of students taking AP courses can improve the school’s ranking.
Feeney said the sole impetus for the program was the educational opportunities that stem from the courses.