Whittling Down District Goals


The annual summer retreat is an opportunity for the Sag Harbor School Board and the school administrators to sit down and discuss goals for the upcoming year. This year two meetings were slated for Tuesday and Wednesday night.

“I can’t believe we will get all of this done in one meeting,” said board president Walter Wilcoxen on Tuesday night.

“I can’t believe we would need more than one,” responded new superintendent Dr. John Gratto.

What followed was a discussion of everything from how the district can better communicate with the public to the need to identify which after school clubs are viable to ways the district might cut down on transportation costs. When all was said and done the group had identified roughly 10 goals.

“And that’s on top of the 16 goals from last night,” said Gratto.

At Monday’s board meeting, the new boss laid out a list of academic goals based on recent test  scores in the district. The goals were very specific and focus on certain grades improving their test scores by a particular percentage, such as increasing the number of students attaining mastery level on the math exam in eighth grade by five percent. He also mentioned two communications goals including the establishment of a “key communicator organization” and a “profile of a Pierson graduate.”

On Monday Bob Schneider pointed out that the goals seemed to put too much weight on the tests and that it appeared as if not enough attention was being paid to the character of the children.

“Acknowledging those exams are a fact of life, they are not necessarily a great fact of life. Those goals need a counter balance,” said Schneider. “It seems to me that they overemphasize achievement and success on state examinations to the exclusion of many other important things like character and service.”

Gratto said that was where the profile of the Pierson graduate would come in.

The new superintendent wants to reach out to the community for input on what attributes, intellectual knowledge and knowledge of the arts a Pierson graduate should be expected to have. He then wants to look at the programs currently being offered in the district to see if that profile can be met.

“The administration and I talked about that very issue, about educating the whole child and certainly character education is not going to go by the wayside,” he said.

Recent graduate Drhuva Corrigan brought up the need to analyze the success of the other programs like music and art and not only try to improve on science and math scores. Speaking specifically to the music program he said, “we have the information now. We can ask the students ‘What were you playing four years ago, what are you playing right now?’”

At the retreat on Tuesday the board and the administration continued the discussion.

“I think adding a performing arts goal is a very good idea,” said board member Theresa Samot.

They briefly talked about how one measures success in the arts and Wilcoxen pointed to the annual art show that is exhibited in the gym on election night. Elementary principal Joan Frisicano said she thought it was already being done with portfolios. She said she felt everyone agreed that there was more to a student than just test scores.

“Look at the goals now and they are all academic and data driven,” said Frisicano. “Do you want arts data driven too?”

“What they saw last night was we were raising the bar, in a tangible way, with the test scores,” said board member Mary Ann Miller. “They were thinking we might be leaving that out with the arts. I think they are concerned that’s not part of the vision.”

On Tuesday the group also discussed Gratto’s “key communicator organization” in terms of better ways to get the good word out about what goes on in the school district. Gratto wants to create an organization with one representative from community groups such as the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Lions Club, the Noyac Civic Council, as well as members of school groups like the PTA, which would meet with him on a monthly basis. The representatives could then carry the information back to their respective groups. Gratto said he established such an organization when he was the superintendent of the Brittonkill School District in upstate New York.

At the end of the meeting Tuesday, Wilcoxen said the board planned on whittling down the list of roughly 26 goals next month and present the final list at an August board meeting.

Above: Members of the school board and the administration discuss district goals last Tuesday night. Bayles photo.