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Sleepy Hollow Schools Create Community Task Force

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow parents have said they wanted to help find a solution to the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns' lagging school ratings , and soon they'll get their chance.

The Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns is starting a community task force, School Board President B. Joseph Lillis said. Superintendent Howard Smith said the task force won't just look at how to improve the district's “In Need of Improving” rating, but will also focus on reinforcing and generating excellence.

The task force comes a few weeks after parents learned the school district would once again receive a negative school rating during the annual student performance review report at a Board of Education meeting. More than 100 parents showed up to the meeting to hear this year's results and expressed outrage and frustration at the rating.

Some parents at the meeting had asked how they could help. “We don't understand the issue,” Parent Jill Schurtz said. “We don't understand the solution. But we want to, so please include us directly.”

Smith said he and other parents have quickly realized in the past few weeks that “not being in need of improvement is not the same as being excellent.” The task force will be “doing everything we can to move ahead of the kinds of project benchmarks that are necessary for the designation we want for the district,” Smith said.

It will be made up of a small group of representatives from the school board, parents, administration, teachers and community members. Although the group will be small, Smith said there would be “lots of opportunities through other committees to get involved. One of the things we're beginning to appreciate about folks in the community is sort of the can-do spirit,” Smith said.

School board members were pleased by the task force's formation. “I'm always excited when people get involved,” school board member Sheila Conklin said.

Some had suggestions for possible representatives. School board member Mimi Godwin pointed to the RSHM Life Center in Sleepy Hollow as one potential organization, saying they've done many things to help students in the school district through after-school programs and other things.

School board member Craig Laub commended Smith on the proposed construction of the task force, saying it cut across a wide swath of the community. He said the ideas the task force would bring forth would “go a long way.”

Parents also suggested potential members. John Payne asked that representatives for special education students be considered. “Because I understand that was a performance area that had some challenges,” he said.

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