A school comparison study recently completed by Remsenburg-Speonk School Superintendent Ronald Masera—along with the pending expiration of a tuition contract with the Westhampton Beach School District—might give some parents a reason to reconsider the secondary education choices for their children.
Even though they have had the option of attending either Westhampton Beach or Eastport South Manor school, nearly every graduate of Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School has traditionally gone on to attend the Westhampton Beach School District. In fact, the most recent enrollment data shows that Remsenburg-Speonk is paying $19,100 per general student, and $58,166 per special education student, in tuition this school year to send 172 middle and high school students to Westhampton Beach schools.
In comparison, only 10 students from Remsenburg and Speonk currently attend Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School, even though that district charges considerably less than Westhampton Beach—about $9,500 per general student and $43,803 per special education student. Sixteen of the 182 tuition students have special education needs.
Dr. Masera, who took over the helm of the elementary school in January after spending 14 years as principal of Westhampton Beach Elementary School, said most parents automatically send their kids to his former district because, for many years, that was the most viable option.
But a recent evaluation conducted by Dr. Masera that compares the academic qualities of Westhampton Beach and Eastport South Manor could give parents a reason to think twice about the secondary school options for their children. At the same time, the tuition agreement requiring that Remsenburg-Speonk send at least 95 percent of its students to Westhampton Beach schools after graduation expires on June 30 and, according to Dr. Masera, won’t be renewed.
“Last year, I saw a [newspaper] article about how Eastport South Manor was cited for increasing AP offerings,” Dr. Masera said, explaining why he decided to conduct his study. “I brought it to the Board of Education.”
Although they have had Eastport as an option—prior to the opening of the new high school in 2003, Remsenburg-Speonk students could have attended the old Eastport High School—many parents automatically send their children to Westhampton Beach because of its long-standing reputation as one of the best districts in Suffolk County.
But, according to Dr. Masera, Eastport South Manor has taken steps in recent years to level the playing field, in terms of academics. He noted that, over the last five years, Eastport South Manor has more than doubled its Advanced Placement classes and now offers almost the same level of programming as Westhampton Beach. Last year, ESM offered 18 such classes compared to Westhampton Beach’s 22.
Dr. Jennifer Hart, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Eastport South Manor, said her district has been recognized as one of just nine schools on Long Island to increase AP class offerings while also maintaining passing rates above 70 percent for the past two consecutive years.
Joseph Steimel, the principal of the high school at Eastport South Manor, said the number of his students taking AP exams increased from 280 in 2009 to 429 in 2011. He added that the district is looking to include two new classes next year: AP studio art and AP psychology.
It was these changes, Dr. Masera explained, that prompted him to take a closer look at the educational experiences offered by both Westhampton Beach and Eastport South Manor. After receiving the go-ahead from the Board of Education, Dr. Masera spent two weeks in February comparing the academic, athletic and extracurricular activities offered by both districts. He said both forwarded him their most recent AP and Regents results and he collected data from their respective websites regarding athletic and extracurricular activities. Dr. Masera said his study compared the districts’ Regents passing and mastery rates, AP test results, as well as athletic and extracurricular program offerings.
Looking at all the available statistics from last year’s New York State Report Card, Dr. Masera said he considered 26 different Regents exams given in both districts over the last three years and covering 11 subjects. They included: comprehensive English, integrated algebra, geometry, global history and geography, U.S. history and government, living environment, Earth science, chemistry, physics, French, and Spanish.
At a Board of Education meeting last month, Dr. Masera shared his results and concluded that both districts performed well. He noted, however, that on the 26 Regents exams that he examined, Eastport South Manor students had higher passing rates on 23 of them. In addition, he said students attending Eastport South Manor had higher Regents mastery rates on 15 of the 26 exams when compared to their Westhampton Beach counterparts.