Tucked before the Board of Education’s biweekly meeting was a citizen comment which prompted perhaps the biggest news of the night:
Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith announced that what many see as a curse has been lifted: pending the official arrival of our report cards from the state, Sleepy Hollow is no longer considered a District In Need of Improvement, but In Good Standing.
Curse is a harsh word, but that’s how many parents felt.
Including Ken Torosian who spoke during one public comments portion of the meeting about the district’s "perception" problem, and perhaps a more lasting one at that.
Torosian was worried that this bad grade would reflect on the entire district’s permanent record. And if not permanently, at least longer than he feels comfortable with. We are still listed as a District in Need of Improvement on the state's website, he said.
Torosian noted that we are surrounded by four of the top school districts in the state. Blame it on No Child Left Behind and policy that doesn't necessarily help our students, but the status still has its impact. “Is there anything the state can do?" Torosian asked. "From my perspective it’s a perception problem. The education is just as good or as bad as it was before.”
He wondered how long the information lives on the state website before it gets updated, and "does that change anything in terms of how the district views us?"
Smith said Torosian's concerns were valid, even if he didn't seem to embrace them to the same degree. Getting the Improvement designation was “more annoying than anything,” Smith later said. He assured Torosian that the state would update their website with our new status soon when the report card results get published. And he pointed to the time lag of all such information.
"It's not going to undo 2011-2012 [based on scores from 2010-2011], but our official status going forward is in good standing," Smith said. "Archivally, it is still there."
Smith is about to send out his regular newsletter to the residents with the news, once it's official.
The rest of the meeting regarded many things that go beyond just test scores and comprise a "more comprehensive" education, as one parent of a special needs child noted.
There was talk of replacing tennis courts with some sort of playing fields, a 100-year-old high school accreditation process that has morphed into a very holistic criteria for success, across-the-board prohibition of secret societies in the schools, and academic requirements for extra-curricular participation.
Board Vice President Mimi Godwin praised the the High School Marching Band for their outstanding behavior and performance at 2 p.m. on a recent Sunday for the North Tarrytown Reunion Veterans Memorial.
"The attention and reverence they paid was outstanding," Godwin said. "We should recognize them, they've been really terrific."