East Hampton School Board To Expand ESL, May Cut Back On Graduation

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The East Hampton School Board continued its mission to keep the 2014-15 budget within the 1.46 percent tax cap at a budget workshop session on February 25.

One area subject to cuts, and a point of contention for board members and the administration, was graduation ceremonies. The sound system for the eighth-grade graduation, said School Board President Patricia Hope, is budgeted for $995, comparable to the sound systems budgeted for the fifth-grade and high school graduations.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a few years, and multiple times a year, it adds up,” said Ms. Hope in a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “Each graduation requires flowers, chair rental…the sound system.”

Consolidating the ceremonies into a 24-hour period and holding them all at the high school, said Ms. Hope, would alleviate multiple rentals of the same equipment and cut down on cost.

Traditionally the high school graduation is held on a Friday underneath a tent on the football field, she said. The board suggested holding the fifth- and eighth-grade graduations underneath the same tent on a Thursday, while the kindergarten graduation would be held at the elementary school.

“It’d be one tent, one set of flowers, no chair rental,” she said, but added that members of the administration felt strongly about students graduating from the school they attended.

The board also flagged a proposed $30,000 character-education program called WhyTry for the middle school. The program’s initiative is to train sixth-graders in one character-building concept a month, said Ms. Hope, and each concept comes with a poster in addition to training from Utah.

“We’re trying to shift the fulcrum from time spent on soft, social activities to things that are…firmer, a little bit more comprehensive,” Ms. Hope said. “We are increasing our expectations for our children to bring them up to what they are actually able to accomplish.”

However, the board did approve a $10,000 increase in ESL Director Elizabeth Reveiz’s budget for supplies to improve the high school’s ESL curriculum—a 23.2 percent increase from last year.

“The program we had in place was inadequate for a certain percentage of our students,” Ms. Hope said, noting that some students enter the school with interrupted or very little prior education, making it nearly impossible to obtain all the necessary credits to graduate before the state-mandated age of 21.

The $10,000 in supplies includes word-to-word dictionaries as well as “manipulables,” said Ms. Hope.

“She’s bringing critical thinking exercises to grades 2 and 4 that can be shared with grades 1 and 3 Her budget is including all the books, textbooks, supplies…It’s quite a sizable increase but that’s because she’s making our program more complete.”

The board was scheduled to hold its next regular meeting on March 4 and its next budget workshop on March 11.

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