The Homer Central School District Board of Education (BOE) recently met to discuss Summer Programming and plans for the new school year.
The board first heard from Jeff Evener on the Summer learning programs Homer offered this year. Over 260 students participated in Summer Reading, Summer Enrichment, and Extended School Year, which consisted of an average student-teacher ratio of 8 to 1.
There is a focus on taking the stigma away from “Summer school” as it has been known in the past, as the programs are not meant to be punitive but rather are enrichment-focused as the new name suggests. Students have the opportunity to not only make up credits needed to advance, but are also able to participate in book clubs and visit Phillips Free library. Teachers are encouraged to pitch ideas for sessions they would like to teach, which keeps the content fresh and engaging.
High School principal Doug Van Etten was happy to report there were no accidents or incidents during the driver’s education course. Instructor Lynne Renner guided 17 students through the course this year, sending them into the community as “educated and skillful drivers” as Van Etten described to the board. The program can host up to 20 students with current staffing, and sign-ups are announced beginning in March.
The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department assisted throughout the course, at one point staging a routine traffic stop in the high school parking lot. The department also lent impairment goggles to the program which mimic the effects of alcohol or marijuana. Students wore one pair or the other while attempting to drive carts through a course set up in the parking lot.
Principals from each of the schools reported a smooth opening day and discussed overall goals for the social-emotional development of students at their individual buildings. The elementary school has a goal of modeling good behavior for their students. The intermediate school is focused on building positive relationships both between students and faculty and among students, reinforcing treating others with kindness and respect.
The junior high school is striving to demonstrate a positive school community, so everyone can have “Blue Pride”. They started by having the student council hand out treats on opening day to welcome students back, and are establishing a mentoring program to give students extra guidance from staff. The High School has a simple slogan to combat bullying –“We don’t do that here” – cementing the message that kindness and respect are central to the school’s culture.
Proactive Program for Officials
The athletics department is taking proactive measures against the shortage of officials in school sports and is forming a pilot program under NYS guidance to train students to fill the roles. Initially the program will only be open to those at least 18 years of age, but there are plans to accept younger students soon. The course will be a six-week after school elective. Once the module has been completed, students will be licensed as umpires or officials in baseball and eligible to officiate modified games as paid professionals. It is hoped that once positive results are established the program will expand to include lacrosse.
The athletics department also reported that enrollment in sports had once again reached pre-pandemic levels, even surpassing numbers just before the pandemic began.
Fundraising activities for the Environmental Club and the Future Farmers Of America (FFA) were announced during the informational portion of the meeting. The Environmental Club will be selling Christmas plants and wreaths from Sept. 28-Oct. 14. The FFA is partnering with Pee Jay’s Fresh Fruit to offer fresh citrus and New York-style cheesecake from Oct. 14 through Nov. 22.
Student BOE Member
Superintendent Thomas Turck presented options for how to move forward with adding a student member to the BOE. New York State Education Law provides guidance for several avenues, and the board indicated a preference for investigating an interim option while pursuing the most “official” route of adding a proposition to the ballot in May.
NYS law determines that the student member will not vote, participate in executive sessions, or be paid for their participation. It also stipulates that the student must be a senior and must have attended the district for at least 2 years prior. While the term of position lasts one year, the proposition must be renewed on the ballot every other year.
There are several options for selecting the student member, including by appointment or election. Election could mean a school-wide vote specifically for the position, or simply bestowing the student body president with the duties of the ex-officio member. Other options could include being selected by the principal, student council, or the superintendent.