Leaders in Bedford Central School District arts, athletics and extracurriculars took the mic Wednesday, March 24, at the Board of Education meeting to discuss their 2021-22 budgetary goals. Community members already heard from the district’s academic departments at meetings earlier this month, but as Superintendent Joel Adelberg said, “School provides way more experiences for our students than just what happens from the formal arrival to the official dismissal.” 

Referring to the arts, clubs and athletics, Mr. Adelberg said this week, “we're talking about how we invest in the whole child.” Students achieve more academically when they have “efficacy, engagement and enrichment on our stages, on our fields, in our art studios, in our clubs, and through activities,” he said. “This pandemic, and the feelings of loss, isolation and disconnection, have proven again how important all of these activities and opportunities are for our students.”

Only the athletics director provided specific budgetary figures Wednesday evening; the other department heads spoke more broadly about their requests. 

Matthew Vanacoro, the K-12 coordinator of music and performing arts, said his department has learned to adapt to continue offering programming to students in a safe environment. “It's tough, but we’ve figured it out,” Mr. Vanacoro said on Wednesday. COVID-related costs factored into the department’s budget, which he presented, include storage pods to enhance space as students return to school, commercial grade air purifiers, instrument bell covers and polycarbonate shields and personal protective equipment. Going forward, Mr. Vanacoro discussed the need for updated band equipment and additional staffing. 

Heather Kranz, the K-12 coordinator of visual arts, said her department has managed to cope with the pandemic restriction thanks to additional support from donors like the Foundation for Art and Music in Education. Going into the 2021-22 academic year, Ms. Kranz had just two main requests — funding to help restock depleted art supplies and the purchase of a new pug mill for the district’s ceramic studio. “A few years down the road,” Ms. Kranz said, she would like the department’s budget to accommodate the purchase of new equipment and furniture, increased elementary staffing, the restoration of clerical support and professional development opportunities. 

Adam Lodewick, director of athletics, said the department is seeking a total 2021-22 budget of $450,321, representing 94 paid positions and 66 programs. For comparison, the department’s current year budget is $354,983 and covers 71 paid positions and 52 programs. 

The budget request for 2021-22 includes the reinstatement of $33,758 to bring back coaches furloughed during the pandemic and $31,646 to fund new positions. This would enable the department to have assistant coaches for most varsity programs and hire an athletic coordinator/equipment manager. “That would alleviate a lot of challenges and hopefully provide our student-athletes with an enhanced experience,” Mr. Lodewick said of the requested budget additions.

Literacy debate

This week’s meeting was punctuated by an emotional public forum in which the board heard from several parents involved with Bedford Central School District Kids Identified with Dyslexia, a parent advocacy group dedicated to helping children with learning disorders. The group has been asking community members to support two bills currently proposed in the state legislature: S1293, which requires mandatory early screening for dyslexia in schools, and S1285, which requires teacher certification and training in the area of dyslexia

On Wednesday, multiple parents discussed their family’s struggles with dyslexia, calling for changes to the district’s literacy curriculum, assessments and support mechanisms. Bedford Central School District does not currently have a universal dyslexia screening procedure.

“What is sad for me as a parent is not just that my daughter wasn’t able to meet standards or even excel, but that within the current literacy methods, she was encouraged to hide these challenges,” said Tracy Hirsh, a parent from Bedford Village discussing her child’s classroom experience with dyslexia. Other parents, like Liza Jerrett of Bedford Hills, described delays in receiving evaluations and classifications for their children from the Committee on Special Education. Ms. Jerrett said it took years for her two kids to be classified as dyslexic, despite evident struggles in the classroom. “They missed their window to learn how to read early on and instead floundered in general education classrooms,” she said. 

Assistant Superintendent Amy Fishkin addressed the comments later that evening, stating the district’s “charge is always to make sure we’re meeting the needs of all of our students and this includes our students with dyslexia.” She said the district next year is planning to invest in training and coaching for teachers in the phonics instruction. The district is also identifying a phonemic awareness screener to help flag student’s exhibiting signs of dyslexia early on.

“It’s still a work in progress but we already have plans underway to address some of the things that were raised tonight,” Ms. Fishkin said. 

Jackie covers town government, business, culture, and community happenings in Pound Ridge, as well as the Bedford Central School District. You can send tips and dog photos to her at jroman@record-review.com

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