By Lara Rydesky
Kenneth Rosner was officially welcomed as the East Meadow School District superintendent at the Sept. 20 Board of Education meeting at the Salisbury School. After, discussion quickly turned to classroom space issues at George McVey Elementary School.
“I thank the East Meadow community for welcoming me,” said Rosner in his opening remarks. “I’m excited to do the work, the heavy lifting, and with you this will be a great school year.”
Rosner’s appointment followed a controversy from last March surrounding David Casamento, East Meadow’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. In an undercover video, Casamento discussed covertly incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in schools, as well as potentially excluding conservative candidates from the hiring process.
“The board, through district counsel, has been working towards a resolution between the district and Dr. Casamento,” said Board President Matthew Melnick on Wednesday. “We’ll continue to update the community as more information is able to be provided.”
Casamento was reassigned but will continue to hold his title while the school board investigates the district’s hiring practices.
“He doesn’t have any role in curriculum and instruction, that I will tell you,” said Rosner about Casamento’s current responsibilities.
At the meeting, several parents raised concerns about classroom space issues at McVey Elementary, where the all-purpose room has been split to accommodate three separate spaces: a classroom, storage room and food pantry.
“This is really affecting our kids,” said Jennifer Pevsner, a McVey PTA board member. “They’re losing space to run around, have assemblies. We can’t have our book fairs. We can’t have our spooky walk.”
The day before the meeting, Rosner and a number of school board members toured McVey to “get an updated picture of the storage and space needs for the building,” according to board member Jodi Luce.
“I have been requesting this to no avail for the past two years, so it’s really appreciated,” said Jamie Tobon, a McVey parent who spoke extensively at the meeting. She thanked Rosner, saying he was “a breath of fresh air compared to the dismissive and condescending behavior I’ve been dealing with.”
An expansion of three additional classroom spaces was approved in 2022, and construction is set to begin next school year. Tobon was adamant, however, that more immediate and substantial solutions be put in place, calling the current approach a “rush job” and “a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”
McVey fifth-grader Holly Vardakis spoke about her difficulties focusing in a classroom split by dividers and shared by three teachers. “I know there’s a plan to get three classrooms, but it won’t be enough and I won’t be able to benefit from this by the time I graduate. We need help now,” she said.
A storage pod was scheduled for delivery at McVey the following day, and Rosner said he hoped to arrange for another soon.
“There’s no way I can relieve this now quickly,” Rosner said. “But I have done this before, I have experience with this, and I’m going to involve the parents from day one.”
Melnick also clarified that East Meadow might have to redraw its school lines before the State Department of Education approves any capital projects.
“We don’t want to bring that to the state for them to say, ‘Redraw your lines first, reassess where every student is going to school, and then we’ll consider new buildings for you,’” he said.
The meeting wrapped with some final words by the board.
“I do think that we will expect to have a community forum where there’ll be much more information, and again, I credit [Rosner] as being a visionary,” said Eileen Napolitano, the board’s vice president.