Despite generated in recent weeks by actions taken by the Malverne Board of Education last month, Tuesday's business meeting was very tame.
There was no direct mention by the board or the few residents present to the district's administrators, the contract extension awarded to Superintendent James Hunderfund or created this month requesting the board rescind both.
The meeting agenda alluded to the issue, stating the board received emails "related to Central Office Salaries." However, when BOE President Peg O'Connor arrived at this item, the only correspondence she mentioned were two letters -- one from NYS Assemblyman Brian Curran, which appeared to be positive, and another from the village of Malverne about its 9/11 tribute.
Curran, who was in attendance, spoke up, congratulating O'Connor on her recent appointment to president, saying, "You couldn't have picked a better person to lead the board.”
He also congratulated Hunderfund on "another successful" year, and said school board members “have the toughest job.”
“They care about our kids ... and it's not an easy time to be on this board, particularly because of what we are doing up in Albany,” Curran said, adding that his party is fighting the unfunded mandates placed on districts.
Related to the raises backlash, O'Connor asked Business Administrator Thomas McDaid to address salary increases Malverne teachers received.
"There's a misconception out there that people did not get raises last year," McDaid said. "Every bargaining unit received a financial raise last year with the exception of central office."
According to McDaid, Malverne teachers received an average salary increase last year of 3.07 percent and the district anticipates they'll be getting a 2.25 percent increase in 2013, making their total for the two years 5.67 percent, not including stipends.
The district was able to reinstate most of the teaching positions originally cut or downsized by the , explained Hunderfund. They were brought back after the district calculated the number of students who need mandated Academic Intervention Services (AIS) and other support based on state test results.
"Although the budget had to go through the process of restraint, because of the tax cap laws, we did reserve money for these replacement positions should they be mandated under law, and they were," he added.
The meeting included presentations on the renovations of Malverne's elementary schools (Click for the story.) and the district's performance on the state tests, Regents and AP exams, improvements in graduation and suspension rates, and other progress. (Click for a summary and look for a more detailed report Monday.)
The district's financial rating also improved, earning one of the highest scores from Moody's, McDaid stated. Thus, the district received a better interest rate on its bond (2.5 percent) and became less dependent on Tax Anticipation Notices, saving taxpayers money.
A motion made by O'Connor for the district to consider raising the passing grade in Malverne's middle and high schools from 65 to 70 (It's 75 in the elementary grades), garnered support from some residents who spoke up.
"Our children have the ability," she said. "When we raise the bar they come up to that new bar.”
The meeting’s discourse pleased Hunderfund, who said, "We have leadership on the board that can take us to new heights. If we start to focus, all of us, on just what's good for the kids ... we have the makings of the best district around."
He added, "Constructive criticism helps, but it can't be criticism that's damaging in that it's all we focus on ... We can agree to disagree on things, but we have to do it in the right way."