Waiting for State Approval

The Springs School Board was told on Monday that the school’s capital improvement project continues to proceed on schedule, and Principal Eric M. Casale and Superintendent Debra Winter explained to members what the New York State Education Department’s latest guidelines for the Every Student Success Act could mean for the school.

 Kevin Walsh, a partner in BBS, the school’s architectural firm (Burton Behrendt Smith of Patchogue), updated the board on the timeline to get necessary permits from the State Education Department to begin construction by early 2019. If the approvals come through by the first week of January, the board could solicit contractors’ bids for the $23-million project as soon as Jan. 7, and vote to approve the winning bids in February.

Responding to a question from the audience about what his firm has done to ensure that Springs won’t run into the same cost increases that forced the Bridgehampton School District to ask taxpayers to authorize another $4.7 million (they did), Mr. Walsh said he was confident BBS has built-in safeguards to assure the school “can maneuver with changing marketing conditions.”

Mr. Casale and Ms. Winter also updated the board on the state’s latest requirements for ESSA, the federal program which Mr. Casale said has essentially replaced the No Child Left Behind Act that was enacted by the George W. Bush administration in 2002. ESSA, he said, allows each state to set its own parameters for academic achievement and graduation rates, and then collect data from each school. 

 In New York, the accountability system is designed to identify “where schools and districts need support to improve” as well as “recognize successes,” he said. Underperforming schools invite state intervention if certain numbers aren’t met.

“This is going to be a lengthy process for us,” the principal said. “If we don’t meet the targets the state assesses . . . basically what the state is saying is if your school is identified as low-performing, then your school must ask the parents how to work together to make the school better. . . . And the state will also help those schools ‘adjust’ funding. Which is a very vague statement.”

That said, Mr. Casale added, low performance “is not our designation, and it never has been. . . . We’ve been hovering around ‘highly effective’ to ‘most effective’ the last several years. We just want to make sure we don’t get caught out.”