The West Hempstead Middle School cafeteria was transformed into a think tank Tuesday night, as a team of parents, students, educators, administrators and engaged residents worked on shaping the district's future.
The committee, which was split into three groups on Nov. 30 to discuss key issues affecting the West Hempstead school system, is part of a 44-member council. It includes four board of education members, five students and several volunteers from the community. They have been working since early November on crafting a three-year strategical plan for the district.
The current plan, which was instituted nearly three years ago, will be expiring in June and it is the job of the Strategic Planning Council to present a new one to the Board of Education.
"They are talking about 'How can we do things better?'' Superintendent John Hogan said. Hogan explained that each member was assigned to a group, which was charged with tackling one of three topics: technology, community relations and curriculum and data. They did their best to place people in a group that was the best fit for them.
The curriculum and data committee is especially concerned with bolstering state test scores following the drop that West Hempstead, like most districts throughout New York, experienced last year when the Education Department changed the threshold for students to be deemed proficient in Math and English.
"They are looking at data and testing results district-wide," Hogan said. "They will be recommending areas to look at and testing goals."
One issue the technology group focused on was where to draw the line when it comes to incorporating it into the classroom. One member said that too much technology could actually diminish students' academic development, making them too dependent on software and gadgets without knowing how to use their own brain power.
The community relations committee looked at ways the district would work better with local organizations, including youth groups, and residents who may not have a child enrolled in the public schools.
This was just one of several weekly meetings the council will hold over the three-month planning process. Overseeing the meeting was Assistant Superintendent Ann Peluso, and the district brought in an experienced educator and Dowling College professor to mediate. He walked the members through the last strategic plan and taught them ways to use consensus building and systems' analysis to create their proposal for the board.
Hogan added, "I have every hope that the board will adopt it."