Hauppauge parents blamed school district officials lack of transparent communication about the International Baccalaureate program for skepticism, almost outlash against the academic change.
Parents attending the district's IB program information session Monday night said school officials "dropped the ball" by failing to education district residents about the academic program before moving forward with application process. The school is now completing the second part of a two-year application with hopes of beginning the transition as early as September 2011.
"I would like to state my profound dismay of not being fully informed before this evening that the IB program was fully moving forward," said Siobhan Atkinson.
Atkinson was one of many who stepped up to a mic during a question-and-answer period that said an anonymous flyer against the transition to an IB program delivered to household's mailboxes in early February was their first notification of the pending academic changes. The flyer accused school officials of having a "hidden agenda."
"This struck a chord with me as I had to find out about this through an anonymous letter. That doesn't settle well with me or the common person," said resident Luis Velazco.
Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss defended the district's actions stating a transition from Advanced Placement classes to the IB program has been part of the district's goals for several years, and has been discussed publicly several times.
"I think its grossly unfair to say anyone kept this from anyone. We are responding to the community, " Sullivan-Kriss said. "We were following a prescribed timeline that would have had us reporting to the Board this month, as recommended by IB. Then, we would hold community and student education workshops in the fall."
However, residents expressed the belief that as taxpayers they should have been informed of program's structure, pros and cons, long before more than $44,000 has been spent in a two-year application process.
"You are investing in [teacher] training and we are not yet approved. As a business person, I don't know if I would do that," said resident Ralph Plotke, citing the economic recession and state education funding cuts.
The district has presented the information many times either on its website or at Board of Education meetings. Hauppauge School District's public statement of yearly goals have included mention of the IB program since at least 2008-2009 under "Improving Academic Performance," and again in the 2009-2010 school year's goals.
A presentation titled "The International Baccalauareate Diploma Program at Hauppauge High School" was given at the Feb. 20, 2010 Board of Education meeting, before the district began its application. It was mentioned again at the Oct. 20, 2010 board meeting when a presentation was given on the status of the district's educational initiatives.
Residents asked why more fliers weren't sent home to school parents or more information disseminated through local media sources including Newsday, Smithtown Messenger and Patch.
Requests were made for AP classes could be kept within the curriculum longer, to allow students more time to readjust schedules and provide an easier transition.
At the conclusion of Monday night's meeting, school officials said they would consider all comments made but would be moving ahead with the IB application process as a candidate school.