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Heard Through the Grapevine

Have you heard something through the grapevine and want the official South Country School District response?
Do you want clarification based on actual facts?

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We will review each question and respond on the South Country School District website or you will receive an e-mail response.
Issues dealing with personnel and privacy will not be posted publicly.


Q - Do the new water fountain/bottle fillers stations installed in our schools filter for lead in drinking water?

Yes they do. We have been installing the Elkay filtered ezH2O bottle filling stations in our schools. These filtered systems reduce lead and other harmful particulates that can be found in drinking water.

Q - The School District recently conducted lead testing in school drinking water as part of the 2020 compliance requirement. Is the collection of water samples permitted over weekends or vacation periods?

Yes and No. Districts must collect water samples before the facility opens and before any water is used. Ideally, the water should sit in the pipes unused for at least 8 hours but no more than 18 hours before a sample is taken. Samples cannot be taken "in the morning after vacations, weekends or holidays because the water will have remained stagnant for too long and will not represent the water used for drinking during most of the days of the week." It is permissible for samples to be taken on a Saturday, before the facility opens and provided the water in the pipes is unused between 8 hours and 18 hours. For more information see "Understanding the Sampling Procedures" from the EPA.


Question: What are WEINGARTEN RIGHTS?

Answer: Weingarten rights guarantee an employee the right to Union representation during an investigatory interview.

What is an Investigatory Interview?
An investigatory interview is one in which a Supervisor questions an employee to obtain information which could be used as a basis for discipline or asks an employee to defend his/her conduct. If an employee has a reasonable belief that discipline or discharge may result from what s/he says, the employee has the right to request Union representation.

Examples of such an interview are:

  • The interview is part of the employer's disciplinary procedure or is a component of the employer's procedure for determining whether discipline will be imposed.
  • The purpose of the interview is to investigate an employee's performance where discipline, demotion or other adverse consequences to the employee's job status or working conditions are a possible result.
  • The purpose of the interview is to elicit facts from the employee to support disciplinary action that is probable or that is being considered, or to obtain admissions of misconduct or other evidence to support a disciplinary decision already made.
  • The employee is required to explain his/her conduct, or defend it during the interview, or is compelled to answer questions or give evidence

An employee has no right to the presence of a Union representative where:

  • The meeting is merely for the purpose of conveying work instructions, training, or communicating needed corrections in the employee's work techniques.
  • The employee is assured by the employer prior to the interview that no discipline or employment consequences can result from the interview.
  • The employer has reached a final decision to impose certain discipline on the employee prior to the interview, and the purpose of the interview is to inform the employee of the discipline or to impose it.
  • Any conversation or discussion about the previously determined discipline which is initiated by the employee and without employer encouragement or instigation after the employee is informed of the action.


Question: What is THE TAYLOR LAW?

Answer: The Public Employees' Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law, is a labor relations statute.

What does the Taylor Law Do?

  • grants public employees the right to organize and to be represented by employee organizations of their own choice;
  • requires public employers to negotiate and enter into agreements with public employee organizations regarding their employees' terms and conditions of employment;
  • establishes impasse procedures for the resolution of collective bargaining disputes;
  • defines and prohibits improper practices by public employers and public employee organizations;
  • prohibits strikes by public employees; and
  • establishes a state agency to administer the Law - The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).


Q - What is DASA?

DASA refers to New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act).  This act seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function. 


Who should incidents of bullying, discrimination and harassment be made to?

Reports should be made to any administrator.  Each building principal is appointed as DASA Building Coordinators and oversee all investigations.  The District Coordinator, Mr. Nelson Briggs, oversees the building coordinators. Dignity for All Students (DASA) Complaint Form


What is the definition of a Material Incident of Discrimination and/or Harassment?

A single incident or a series of related incidents where a student is subjected to discrimination and/or harassment by a student and/or employee on school property or at a school function that creates a hostile environment by conduct, with or without physical contact and/or by verbal threats, intimidation or abuse, of such severe or pervasive nature that:

  1. has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional and/or physical well-being; or
  2. reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.


How does the district handle and respond to perceived threats? 

Each School has a Threat Assessment Team to investigate and evaluate reported perceived threats.  Teams determine if perceived threat is founded or unfounded.  Team members and their roles are as follows:

Administrators- Leads the Team

School Psychologist- Team Member, conducts mental health assessments.

School Social Worker or Guidance- Team Member, lead role in following-up on interventions.

Teacher and/or Responder- Team Member, helps to gather information to bring to team

All Staff- Reporters, report threats and provide input specific to knowledge of the students involved.  


Q - Questions and Answers from the Community Forum, April 20, 2017.  

Please click here to view the questions and answers addressed at the community forum of April 20, 2017.   


Q - How was the District's Strategic Plan Developed?

The Strategic Plan was developed by the Board’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Planning.  They received their charge at their first meeting on October 22, 2013.  Committee members included: 

Mr. Picini (BOE)
Mrs. Herrmann (Malin) (BOE)
Mrs. Grossman (Di Santo) (BOE)
Mr. Correa (replaced by Mrs. Huffine beginning (9/17/2014) (BOE) 
Mr. Ginty (SCAA)
Mr. White (BTA)
Mrs. Barthelmess (BTAA)
Mr. Jimenez (CSEA)
Mrs. Virno (PTA)
Mrs. Moodt (Community)
Mrs. Hayes (Community)
Dr. Giani (Superintendent)

At their first meeting, the committee agreed that they did not need to reinvent the wheel and suggested we seek out some plans to review at the next meeting.  Committee meeting agendas and minutes reflect at least three plans were reviewed – West Babylon SD, Wake County PSS, and Austin ISD. On January 14, 2014, the committee indicated that they liked the Austin plan but there were too many charts, and we should try to blend Wake County (charts) and Austin (text), to create our plan.  That work was done with the committee’s oversight at committee meetings on 4/3/14, 9/17/14, and 12/17/14.  An update was given to the Board of Education on 1/14/15, with the final plan presented and approved by the entire Board on 2/4/2015  

It is a common practice in education to research, review and share existing documents that do not have copyright protection.  It is done with Board Policy, Rules, Regulations, and Procedures, even letters and lesson plans.  



Q - What is the GEA and what does it mean for South Country Schools?

The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) is a formula in the state budget the reduces the amount of aid each school district is entitled to receive. New York State introduced the GEA in 2009-10 when it was known as the Deficit Reduction Assessment in order to partially reduce the state's $10 billion budget deficit. It was used in 2011-12 to allocate an unprecedented $2.56 billion statewide cut in aid. Over the past five years, it has been used to reduce state aid to school districts by $7.82 billion. South Country's five year impact is a loss of $25,686,195 and our net loss for the 2015-16 school-year is $2.8 million.


Q - I understand that there was a school called Southaven that was an alternative for students that needed more attention or supervision,  but now is no longer available so those students are back in the mainstream of BHS. Could you address how that facility worked and what statistics or data you have that showed this was not a viable or successful option? Why was the decision made to stop this program?

The former South Haven School housed about twenty 9th and 10th grade students who were identified as “academically struggling.”  Their program consisted of a minimal abbreviated school day program.  There was also a morning suspension program where suspended students in grades 7-12 would attend during their period of suspension.   During the 2013-14 school-year,  the Board’s advisory committee on Teaching and Learning examined the South Haven program.  They advised the Board to close South Haven and recommended creating an intensive instructional program within the high school for “academically struggling” students. The committee also recommended creating an after-school suspension program at the high school to replace the morning program at South Haven.  The Board of Education accepted and approved these recommendations.   The committee did examine data from the former South Haven program that showed students who attended experienced little to no academic growth. More recently, after the first year (2014-15) of the new program within the high school, students who attended demonstrated significantly more growth and achievement.     


Q - Are there enough security personnel on hand in general? What is the ratio of security personnel to students and how is it determined what the trouble areas or times are to post security personnel? 

Yes, there are enough personnel on hand.  During the school day, these individuals are called “Responders” and there are more "Responders" in our schools today than there were three years ago.  "Responders" actively assist and work with our students in each school’s “Response to Intervention” initiative.   At after-school events, “Security Guards” are used.  Since “Responders” and “Security Guards” supervise generally areas, we do not staff based on student ratio, we staff based on need and event as recommended by the principal or administrator in charge.  








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