We were pleased to see such a challenging list of goals pitched by the Sag Harbor School District administration this week for the coming school year. Its ambition alone is impressive and we look forward to charting the progress of a school district we hope will continue to push boundaries and improve education for our children.
While we do believe each and every one of the school goals presented this week are worthy of focus, a few are certainly worthy of note.
Starting with an initiative that will aid our youngest residents, we applaud Matt Malone and Donna Denon for taking the next six months to assess the possibility of expanding the pre-kindergarten program in Sag Harbor.
According to the Center for Public Education, several national and state studies have shown a clear benefit for children able to participate in a pre-k program. In a 2004 national study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a study that will follow 22,000 children from school entry through eighth grade, students who attended a pre-k program scored higher on reading and math tests than children receiving only parental care.
This is one of many studies that highlight the advantage found in pre-k education. Attendance, testing scores and retention statistics grow when pre-k is in the picture. When a child excels, the actual cost of education is impacted.
While the district does currently offer a pre-k program through SCOPE at two-and-a-half hours long, it is unreasonably short for most working parents. Expanding to offer the option of a full-day for those parents will likely improve the pre-k’s already growing enrollment, but more importantly achievement in the elementary school. It may require a larger discussion about school spaces – expanding any more grades into Pierson Middle High School is not something we would support — but we look forward to seeing the data-driven results of Denon and Malone’s study.
We were also pleased to see the school board push for the inclusion of wellness as an ongoing goal for the district. Nutrition, physical and mental health, and the district’s ongoing push towards addressing substance abuse are all more than worthy ventures that should remain a focus for the district moving forward. These are issues that directly affect our student’s lives not only in the classroom, but also in our community as a whole.
With the introduction of a new GLBT center in Sag Harbor we also see the potential for expanded programming with that organization – an organization that has proved itself successful in Bay Shore and Garden City and will provide what we believe to be a much needed resource on the East End.
Lastly, we were pleased to see board member Mary Ann Miller suggest Sag Harbor be a champion for exploring what is possible in terms of shared services and school consolidation. Not advocating a position on consolidation – and Miller was not either – these are issues that must be explored. We would be proud to see the district serve as a torchbearer for surrounding communities on what is an emotional issue for most of us.
At the end of the day, as the cost of education rises and we strive to provide more educational opportunities for our children as we also face mandates from New York State and a property tax cap that has already cut many school budgets to the bone, these are the uncomfortable conversations we need to have. We should strive to have those conversations as informed individuals, with research-based knowledge. We believe this discussion should begin in a very public way – by inviting our state leaders and neighboring school districts together for a forum dedicated to this very topic.
To be the school district that makes that happen would show the kind of initiative we believe has set Sag Harbor apart in so many other ways.