Mineola Middle School students’ give Board of Education taste of Albany

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Seven students from Mineola Middle School were selected to participate in the YMCA Youth and Government Program in Albany, New York, in November. (Photo courtesy of Mineola Union Free School District)

Mineola Middle School students gave the Board of Education a taste of what it’s like to be a state official Thursday night.

The seven students, selected from the school’s Speech and Debate Club, were selected to participate in the YMCA Youth and Government Program in Albany in November. During the trip, students learned about the American democratic process by participating in re-enactments of bill ratifications, like the one they presented to the board at the regularly scheduled meeting.

“Will the sponsors of bill 26 please come forward?” Dylan Bouti said, banging a special gavel he received when he was voted in as governor of the group. Students proceeded to explain the bill, which sought “to ban one-time-use plastic bottles in an effort to help the environment,” honorary Clerk Gabriella Lisboa said.

Students then gave speeches for and against the proposed legislation.

“Here in New York, lots of plastic is recyclable,” Eunice Lee said. “Over millions of marine animals die due to plastic floating in the ocean.

“To make the environment for today and especially tomorrow, we should cut down or even ban nonrecyclable plastic and plastic in general.”

“While your proposal is addressing an issue that affects us today and certainly in the future, this does not make sense from a business standpoint,” Conor Scott said in opposition. “No company is going to willingly stop producing plastic bottles as it would negatively impact their profits.”

Bouti dismissed the session with a second ceremonial banging of the gavel after the bill passed.

“As evidence by our simulation, participation in government is not discriminatory by age,” student adviser Michael Chin said. “Rather all that is required is the concern for the collective good and the will to speak up with your voice.”

After the presentation, Matthew Gaven, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, technology and assessment, told the board that he had met with several other school districts to organize a “hackathon” league. Hackathons, large competitive events focused on coding and computer programming, have grown in interest, particularly in districts like Mineola that prioritize integrating technology into education.

The district’s middle school students will participate in a tentative Hackathon March 29 at Stony Brook University with Syosset, Manhasset and East Williston students, among others, Gaven said. Students would be asked to complete challenges in HTML and Python, he said.

“It’s a very interesting and exciting development and we’re hoping to get this to expand to a regularly type of league,” Gaven said.

Superintendent Michael Nagler also announced that the district is planning to have full day pre-K at all three elementary schools, Hampton Street, Meadow Drive and Willis Avenue, but details are being finalized. Half-day pre-K would still be available in certain sections for interested parents, Nagler said.

David Tellier of Nawrocki Smith LLP also briefly presented to the board the findings of the district’s annual external audit and issued an unmodified opinion, an auditor’s top finding on a district’s finances.

At the board’s request, Ralph Amitrano, district supervisor of health and physical education, presented the policy and procedures on student athletes’ head injuries and concussions.

Concussions occur across the board in all sports, Amitrano said. A new term that is gaining traction is subconcussive injuries, or injuries that are not in themselves concussive, like heading a ball in soccer, but over time may compound and have similar effects to concussions, Amitrano said. A concussion, swelling or damage to the brain, can result from a blow to the head or violent shaking of the brain cavity.

“One header might not be a concussion, but many headers over the course of time can lead to that one concussion,” Amitrano said.

The district was also one of the first to provide impact testing and concussion assessments on a biennial basis for student athletes nearly 10 years ago, Amitrano said. The testing, done in 9th and 11th grade, measures potential impacts that involvement in athletics may incur as a continuum.

A Shadowman Sports tackling dummy. (Photo courtesy of Mineola Union Free School District)

Mineola’s football teams have also implemented the use of a Shadowman Sports tackling dummy to eliminate some of the risk of concussions in practice. The dummy is attached to a strap and can be dragged as well as hit while stationary, Amitrano said. The district purchases Riddell Speed and Speed-Flex helmets, four- and five-star certified models meant to cushion impacts to the head, he said.

The board passed all agenda items unanimously, including substitute teacher appointments and allocations for club stipends. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Thursday, Dec. 13.

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