Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector was one of the most impacted in the country and New York State. As schools and state officials position themselves toward the fall semester, Gov. Andrew Cuomo established a Reimagine Education Advisory Council, which will help districts and educators look toward the future. In addition, the state education department established a Reopening Task Force, aimed at solving problems presented in reopening schools in the fall.
Two representatives from the William Floyd School District were named to these boards—the only district in the state with a person on both. Science teacher Martin Palermo was named to the Reimagining Education Advisory Council, and board of education president Robert Vecchio was named to the Reopening Task Force. The Reimagine Education Advisory Council will look at ways to leverage what we’ve learned during the pandemic, combined with emerging technology to make recommendations for the future.
“Like everything else, when we do reopen schools it’s not just about reopening as they were before, it’s about building back even better than before,” Cuomo said in his announcement. “The collective expertise and experience of this new advisory council will help answer key questions about how we can strengthen New York’s entire education system for decades to come.”
Palermo was approached by the Governor’s Office to join the council—one of 19 members statewide and one of two K-12 educators in the group. In 2015, Palermo earned the NYS Master Teacher recognition. He has been at William Floyd High School for 14 years—four as a living environment teacher and the past 10 teaching chemistry.
“We have the Tom Brady of science teachers here in William Floyd,” said superintendent Kevin Coster of Palermo.
In his work on the council, Palermo said he would bring his teaching experience to the table and make recommendations on behalf of the William Floyd School District. Right now, the council is looking at ideas for reopening in the fall, with guidelines expected to be released soon. The council is looking at what has been learned through the experience so far and what have been the most successful pieces that should be looked at moving forward.
“We don’t know what the future looks like,” Palermo said. “We want to make sure we [take] away some of these best practices.”
“I was honored to be asked to sit on the task force for the state education department,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio, a longtime board member, is one of three people representing Long Island school boards. His work on the board will focus on equity, he said, making sure that funds, resources, opportunities, and more are available to all students. Vecchio added that the pandemic has shown that there is not equal opportunity in New York State schools, and a person’s zip code gives them a different set of opportunities versus another.
Vecchio will also request that the state allow more local control over policies and procedures, noting that there are often different procedures from building to building in the district, let alone district to district or region to region. He also wants to prevent any mid-year budget cuts from happening for schools, as it would severely impact programs in the district that are reliant on state funding. He added that the presence of a Floyd voice on both of these councils confirms that the district is in a position to make its voice heard.
“We’re looked at as a district that can be counted on to bring solutions,” he said.