School Board Member Claims New Health Curriculum Conflicts with “Family Values”

In a recent meeting that covered an array of topics from construction to educational initiatives, River Vale School Board member Louan Austin stood apart when she expressed concerns about the district’s new health curriculum. Austin questioned its appropriateness for specific grade levels to its potential conflict with “family values, people’s personal beliefs, and religion.”

Austin, who voted “no” on general resolutions during the board’s voting process, articulated her reservations. “I have a great respect for Miss Dowling and Miss Signore for the dedication and hard work that you put into writing our curriculum, but I have a major issue with the new health curriculum,” she said.

Austin also expressed that she would have voted against incorporating this health curriculum when it was first introduced if she had been on the board at that time.

Ultimately, the health curriculum passed despite the objections.

Other board members, including Cheryl Berkowitz, provided updates on summer construction projects. Berkowitz lauded the “bright and airy” atmosphere in the renovated buildings, crediting the removal of chair lifts and railings for the improvement. The improvements also included new floors, lighting, and ceilings in every classroom at Hold Room School, which caught the eye of board president Steven Rosini. “I’ve never seen so much copper,” he said, reflecting on the advancements in the construction process.

The board’s efforts to update the technological infrastructure of the district were also discussed. Board secretary Mrs. Ibalito reported the delivery and set-up of 250 Chromebooks for grades 2 to 6 and 90 laptops for teachers. New speaker systems and interactive panels were installed in the classrooms, part of an overall technology overhaul aimed at modernizing the learning environment.

Superintendent Melissa Signore outlined educational and wellness initiatives for the upcoming school year, emphasizing tailored instruction, data-driven instructional times, and a ruler approach to wellness. “We have some really great educational and wellness initiatives that we will focus on for the upcoming school year,” Signore said. She also announced a community newsletter set to be released on September 1st, providing more details on these initiatives and introducing new staff.

In other updates, Kim Dowling, the Supervisor of Curriculum, briefed the board on the Wida language proficiency test for ESL or ELL learners. She noted that fewer than ten students had completed the assessment due to FERPA protections but promised a more detailed report in October.

Public comments during the meeting touched on community members’ concerns over construction and board responsiveness. One resident questioned the appearance of scuffed and damaged green siding on the exterior of the school, while also expressing dissatisfaction with the board and superintendent’s previous lack of responsiveness to emails. Board members assured they would look into the construction issue and noted that individual trustees could not respond to emails but that responses had been made.

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