During the Jericho Union Free School District Board of Education meeting on Sept. 22, the first reading of a policy on diploma and credential options for students with disabilities was discussed. At the center of that conversation was the Board of Education’s involvement with a waive of certain requirements for some students to participate in graduation activities
Students with learning disabilities who do not receive a diploma, and who often stay in high school until they’re 21, with the superintendent’s and Board of Education’s approval, can walk in graduation with their cohort. They are not recognized as a graduate in the graduation program booklet or local papers, but the district has often allowed the student to walk at their request. But what came under debate at the Sept. 22 meeting was the Board of Education’s involvement with that decision, and whether or not non-graduates could walk. Superintendent Hank Grishman explained that historically whether or not a student could participate in graduation activities had been a decision of the Board of Education.
“The board has spent a lot of time reviewing and updating policies in the last 12 months,” said board trustee Samuel Perlman. “And I expect that to continue this year. I think one theme has been in many policies just a lack of clarity whether intentional or unintentional.”
Perlman wafted back on if he had an opinion on whether or not non-graduating students with disabilities should be allowed to participate in graduation activities. But, he made it clear that he believes that an exception that allows a student to obtain a degree and the resulting participation of graduation activities, should be at the board of education’s discretion, not just the superintendent even though Grishman made it clear that the board is involved. The policy does currently read that it’s just the superintendent’s decision, however.
“Our brand is our graduates and declaring yourself a graduate of Jericho,” Perlman said.
Board President Jill Citron disputed
Perlman’s claim of what Jericho’s brand is. “A big part of our brand, which we talked about a lot today, is doing what’s best for each student and what they need for success and their mental health,” Citron said, referencing a presentation on student mental health given earlier in the meeting. “I don’t want our district to be limited if this is what a student needs for their mental health… We’re not diminishing the brand.”
Jericho Union Free School District Attorney Christopher Powers said he could add language to the policy that in these particular cases, there can be a recommendation from the superintendent of schools and then the decision of the Board of Education.
The board of education ultimately decided to table the first reading of the policy around diplomas for students with learning disabilities to next month’s meeting.
About the policy on students with learning disabilities
receiving a diploma:
Under a current policy, the district will provide student with disabilities appropriate opportunities to earn a diploma or other exiting commencement credential in accordance with the New York State Department of Education Commissioner.
Under the district’s current policy is an effort to collaborate with guidance personnel or Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to make sure students meet credit requirements and are considered for vocational opportunities; a review of special educational instructional programs to make sure it’s equivalent with the same courses taught in general education programs and providing diploma options for students with an Independent Educational Program (IEP).
Students with an IEP, under the policy, may receive what’s known as a local diploma under a low-pass safety net option if they achieve a score of 55 or higher on five required Regents exams. They may also receive a diploma if they score a 52 to 54 on two Regents exams and successfully appeal those scores, while meeting other applicable conditions. There is also a Compensatory Safety Net Option for Regent exams excepts for scores on English Language Art and math exams. Students can use one Regents exam score of 65 or above to compensate for a Regents score of 45 to 54. Students must score at least a 55, or successfully appeal a score of 52 to 54, on both the ELA and math exam.
Some students can also receive a Career Development and Occupational Studies commencement credential or a Skills and Achievement commencement credential if they attend school for at least 12 years and if they have attained entry-level employment readiness and other skills, strengths and levels of independence needed for post-secondary life.
Jericho Schools is in a good financial position, according to outside audit
During the board of education meeting, Alan Yu, a Certified Public Accountant and partner of Cullen & Danowski, LLP presented the results from an external audit report.
“I’m happy to report to you that we will be issuing what’s known as an unmodified opinion about your districts financial statements,” Yu said. “An unmodified opinion is the highest level of insurance that we as auditors can give to entities’ financial statements, which means that the financial statements were prepared in accordance with accounting guidelines and principals and that they are free of material misstatements. We also follow the government auditing standards and tested and reviewed your district’s internal controls of the financial reporting and your compliance with laws and regulations; I’m glad to report to you that we did not have any reportable findings on your internal controls or your compliance with laws and regulations. That’s also a clean report.”
This year, Yu said there is only one recommendation from Cullen & Danowski, LLP when it comes to capital asset policy, which was to implement an additional threshold for financial reporting purposes.
“Financially the district ended the fiscal year with a positive fund balance, a total fund balance of about $55 million,” Yu said. “Your district is in excellent financial health… Your district was able to apply almost $6.4 million in fund balance to help keep your 2022-23 fiscal year property taxes at the same total tax levy at the same level of the previous year.”