Recapping the Feb. 2 North Salem Central School District Board of Education Meeting

On February 2, 2022, North Salem Central School District held its bi-weekly board meeting. Attendance was small and the highlights included approval for remote learning days, current Equity, Diversity, Inclusion work (EDI), and the hint that a later start time may be on the horizon for the district’s middle and high school students.

Dr. Ken Freeston, Superintendent of North Salem Schools, kicked off the meeting by asking for approval to convert any future snow days to remote learning days. As of Friday, February 4, Pequenakonck Elementary has no snow days left, the 6th grade has one, and students in grades 7 through 12 have two. Freeston said that PQ principal Mary Johnson had taken an informal poll during the school’s monthly Coffee with the Parents meeting and parents had “unanimously” opted to convert future snow days to remote learning days rather than pluck days off from the April vacation for in-school learning.

Dr. Freeston explained that if the district has a snow day in which the town’s electricity is compromised, it would not be feasible to have a remote learning day, but perhaps those April vacation days can then be used as remote learning days. The North Salem Post asked Freeston whether remote learning days would consist of asynchronous or synchronous learning. He responded that those details had not yet been worked out.

In other news, Dr. Adam VanDerStuyf, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services, shared that there was a decline in reported COVID cases and on some days the school was reporting zero cases. VanDerStuyf also mentioned that his work with the Mental Health Awareness Team (MHAT) may begin coordinating professional development with parents/guardians. In follow-up, VanDerStuyf explained that he will be reaching out to the Parent-Teacher-Organizations (PTOs) to “ascertain topics of interest.” He explained that the Family Services of Westchester, through NY Project Hope, offers professional development and support groups to families struggling with the effects of the pandemic on mental and emotional health.

The district’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) work was referenced widely during the meeting. Multiple board members and administrators contribute actively to the ongoing work in partnership with faculty and parents. VanDerStuyf expressed that meetings were “well attended” and that the larger group has splintered into subcommittees - communications, celebration, resources, and accessibility. Dr. Julio Vazquez, Director of Instruction and Human Resources, who is on the resources subcommittee, commented on the organization of resources on the district’s website. Vazquez stressed that how the resources were organized would be important and promised to partner with the communications committee to move this effort forward. According to VanDerStuyf, the website which would house those resources among other things, is being updated and due to be refreshed as early as this weekend.

Board of Education trustee and EDI committee chair, Brandy Keenen referenced the work being done at PQ. Members of the EDI celebrations subcommittee representing PQ shared EDI work being done in EDI work in the classrooms. In this application of EDI committee work, the committee prepares a person of the day in celebration of Black History month and links it to activities which become part of morning announcements and curriculum.

In facilities news, families that have been angling for a later start time for middle school and high schoolers got a little bit closer to having this become a reality. Facilities Director John Sieverding, expressed that there was progress with the School Smart Time Exploratory committee, saying that he had developed four different options that could make “everyone happy,” but that he had more work to do in understanding the specifics of timing on the buses.

Finally, Athletic Director Denise Kiernan shared that Wednesday was National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and she also reminded families that spring sports registration opens on February 12.

Public commentary was brief. Parent Carol Ann Hughes asked the district to consider printing The Compass, a digital newsletter that highlights district news, so that everyone in the community could receive it.

Freeston told The North Salem Post that he would address all public commentary questions at the next Board of Education meeting

For a recording of the Board meeting, please view the board docs. The Board of Education will next meet on February 16 at 7:30PM.

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