Good News for District on Finances, Scores

    Unlike past contentious meetings of the East Hampton School Board, Tuesday night’s board meeting was replete with gold stars and green lights, with a positive auditor’s report, good financial news, and an encouraging presentation on the middle school’s test scores.
    Charles Soriano, the assistant superintendent, followed up last month’s report on the elementary school with the middle school report. Next month it will be the high school’s turn.
    Once again, Dr. Soriano cautioned the board and the audience against drawing conclusions from the scores. “School is more than just a couple of tests,” he said. “Data is an important part, but it’s not the only part.”
    The test scores for the middle school were higher than New York State’s scores, and generally in line with or above other local districts.
    The scores are measured on a scale of 1 to 4, from “not meeting learning standards” through “partially meeting learning standards” and “meeting learning standards,” to “meeting learning standards with distinction.”
    The 2011 sixth-grade English Language Arts test last spring showed 79 percent of the class passing, 12 percent of them at level 4, compared with the state at 56 percent passing and only 4 percent at level 4.
    Seventh-grade E.L.A. scores showed 73 percent passing, compared with 48 percent at the state level. Eighth-grade scores in the same subject were at 79 percent passing, compared to just 47 percent statewide.
    Compared with other local districts, East Hampton held its own. In sixth-grade E.L.A., where 79 percent of East Hampton’s 82 students passed, 27 sixth-graders in Montauk had 74 percent passing. Of 60 students in Sag Harbor, 80 percent passed. Out of 106 students in Southampton, 69 percent passed, and in Springs, with 55 sixth-graders, 85 percent passed.
    In grade 7 E.L.A., 73 percent of 123 students in East Hampton passed, 70 percent of Montauk’s 27 students passed, 68 percent of Sag Harbor’s 77 students passed, 52 percent of Southampton’s 93 students passed, and in Springs, 67 percent of 64 students passed.
    Grade 8 E.L.A. offered up the highest levels in the area. East Hampton’s 98 students in last year’s eighth grade had 79 percent pass, compared to 65 percent in Montauk, 66 percent in Sag Harbor and Southampton, and 56 percent in Springs.
    Mathematics scores brought more good news. In grades 6, 7, and 8, no students scored at level 1, compared with 8 percent or over on the statewide rankings.
    Grade 6 math test scores saw 86 percent of East Hampton students pass, compared to 89 percent in Montauk, 78 percent in Sag Harbor, 84 percent in Southampton, and 91 percent in Springs. Grade 7 tied with Montauk, with 93 percent of the students passing the test. In Sag Harbor, 69 percent passed, in Southampton, 77 percent, and in Springs, 86 percent.
    In eighth grade, with 99 students in East Hampton, 88 percent passed, compared with 91 percent in Montauk (34 students), Sag Harbor with 63 percent (70 students), 74 percent in Southampton (96 students), and 89 percent in Springs, with 56 students.
    “The school is, essentially, a $60 million dollar a year organization, and an organization of this size would usually have a P.R. person, but we don’t,” Dr. Soriano said. “So we would like to tell you, our kids are doing really well.”
    He mentioned again that it was “useful to look at comparative data, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”
    Dr. Soriano also commented on what he perceives as a bad rap the district gets on its students’ performances. He acknowledged the poor test scores in last year’s third grade, but said, “I’ve been a school administrator for 22 years, with 10 years here in East Hampton. For some reason, there are some really stubborn myths about East Hampton’s performance. People have taken one piece of data and made it emblematic of the whole district, but that shouldn’t be the calling card of the school. Let’s stick with reality.”
    Also on Tuesday, Joseph Klimek, an external auditor from the firm Toski Schaefer, said the district remains in a solid financial standing, with a “very, very good audit report.”
    Isabel Madison, the district’s business administrator, added that the net interest rate this year on the tax anticipation note had dropped to .3 percent, which would save the district substantial money.