Manhasset BOE to extend virtual meetings for six months

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Jill Pullano, far right, and Erin Royce, far left, were ceremonially sworn-in as trustees on Manhasset's Board of Education last Wednesday evening. The meeting marked the first time in-person public attendance was allowed since March 2020. (Photo by Samuele Petruccelli)

Manhasset’s Board of education held a swearing-in ceremony for new trustees Jill Pullano and Erin Royce last Wednesday evening, marking their first public meeting and the first meeting open to in-person public attendance since March 2020.

Pat Aitken and Christine Monterosso kept their seats as president and vice president of the Board of Education.

A major topic of discussion among the board members was how future public meetings would implement virtual conferencing technology, such as livestreams and recordings posted on YouTube.

“I think we all know that our numbers, our attendance numbers, went up dramatically,” trustee Regina Rule said about meetings broadcast online. “Not because we’re rock stars by any stretch of the imagination, but the public wanted to be able to see what was going on. To be able to participate and understand what was happening.”

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Under an executive order signed by Gov. Andrews Cuomo, Board of Ed meetings were livestreamed for viewers online as well as posted on the district’s YouTube channel. Trustees and the public could also call in via video conference to participate.

That order had expired two days prior, bringing the public and the new board face-to-face in the district’s office.

But after the discussion, the board voted to hold the next six months of meetings with both in-person and virtual options. After reviewing attendance data, a decision will be made to continue or end the practice.

Rule pointed out the flexibility of participation that was achieved by allowing residents to call in via Zoom video conferencing. She called the convenience invaluable and said she would like to continue to offer that option for residents.

“The way I look at it is let’s go for it and keep going with something that seems to be working and give it three or six months,” Rule said. “We’ll at least be able to do a more intelligent cost-benefit analysis with some data.”

Monterosso also voiced support for offering virtual attendance, noting teacher participation in meetings previously was rare given some travel far distances and leave campus at the school day’s end.

“We reached last year segments of our community that never had an opportunity to speak: teachers, students, parents with small children,” Monterosso said. “I just feel like we owe it to them.”

At the Board of Education’s annual organizational meeting July 7, Pullano and Royce were ceremonially sworn in as trustees. Additionally, Aitken and Monterosso were re-elected as the board’s president and vice president.

Manhasset’s Board of Education is poised to have a packed agenda for the next academic year. Upcoming this fall are community discussions about the school’s mascot, which are set to include representatives of local Native American tribes, school officials said.

They said it is unclear whether Superintendent Vincent Butera, who remains on leave after allegations of sexual misconduct, will return in the fall. Currently the district’s administrative structure consists of Acting Superintendent Gaurav Passi, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson and Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Allison Rushforth.

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