It’s hard to believe that the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us once again. This is the time of year when families come together to give thanks for our blessings and for the positive things in our lives.
Thanksgiving has been a tradition in the United States for several centuries, but the tradition actually extends beyond our country. In fact, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Chinese and Egyptians held harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations. Though the traditions may differ, there are common elements.
Remarkably, the first quarter of school has ended and secondary report cards will be sent home. Report cards! Yes, it is report card time already. I can remember dreaded school report card. Oh, the anxiety associated with carrying home my report card. Admittedly, this can be a terrifying experience for some (like me) but for others like my three sisters - the pride, the joy and excitement of showing off their stellar performance and of course, a guaranteed ice cream treat at Friendly’s. Well, as my Irish grandmother used to say, “The worst of boys…make the best of men…”
In my elementary school, Carmen Road in Massapequa Park, the teachers would hand out report cards prior to dismissal. I can vividly recall taking my second-grade report card from my teacher and grabbing the wooden bathroom pass where I could examine my report card in private. After all, we were told not to open our report cards on the way home and to bring them straight to our parents. Well, before I left the sanctuary of school I wanted to know if I had anything to be concerned about before my mother examined each letter grade and scrutinized my work habits. Would I end up with an even lower grade in penmanship? “A what? Oh no!” What did Mrs. Marcinkowski write about me this time? “Charles needs to slow down, take his time, and write more neatly.” Well, my secretary can attest 37 years later that my handwriting is still illegible. And most importantly I would wonder, “Was it good enough for Friendly’s?” At 7 years old – it could go either way.
At its Wednesday, Nov. 3 meeting the Levittown Board of Education reviewed a comprehensive analysis of school district finances covering the entire history of the Levittown school district. The report analyzed annual tax levy increases for each of four 15-year periods during the last 60 years. The facts contained in this report are good news for the residents of our school district, and challenge some mistaken assumptions about school taxes in Levittown.
Data covering four time periods, 1950 to 1965, 1965 to 1980, 1980 to 1995, and 1995 to the present reveal that annual school tax increases in the past 15 years (1995-2010) have been at the lowest levels than in any other period in the history of the school district, averaging over ten percent less per year than in the prior fifteen-year period from 1980-1995, and over twenty percent lower than the fifteen years preceding that (1965-1980). The average annual school tax increases for each period were as follows: 18 percent from 1950 to 1965; 7.9 percent from 1965 to 1980; 7 percent from 1980 to 1995; and 6.2 percent from 1995 to 2010.
Island Trees students have many choices for lunch this year, but as long as the choice is made in the Island Trees High School cafeteria and not at McDonald’s, Gino’s, Taco Bell or any of the other fast food restaurants lining Hempstead Turnpike. The high school is now a closed campus, meaning no student may leave the school campus during the day. Once the homeroom bell rings, students are expected to remain in the school for the remainder of the day. The closed campus concept has been discussed in the community many times; however, no one believed the idea could be implemented or for that matter even work in our high school. Fortunately, Mr. Grande, our high school principal, the faculty, and our students have worked together to make the concept a reality.
Last year, the Island Trees Board of Education and school administration expressed serious concern about the safety and well-being of students leaving the campus during lunch. During any given lunch period, we had with students speeding out to lunch and racing back to the high school for their next class. Equally concerning, we had scores of students dashing across Hempstead Turnpike - labeled one of the most dangerous roads in New York State. These reasons alone were cause for closing the campus in order to prevent an unforgivable and tragic student fatality.
On Saturday, Oct. 30 Nassau County legislature adopted the 2011 budget at a special session. This new budget shifts the responsibility of millions of dollars of costs from Nassau County to local municipalities, including school districts. Most notably, Nassau County ended the “guarantee” where the county would be responsible for all taxes billed incorrectly because of the property assessment mistakes. In the future, if there is a residential or commercial assessment error, the school district would now be responsible for the refund. This is particularly troublesome since property tax assessment system is riddled with problems. In fact, two weeks ago the Nassau County Assessor was fired for a million dollar mistake in Garden City. Under the new law, the school district would be responsible for an error like this, not Nassau County. If this is the way assessments are handled when the county is liable, one can only imagine with great fear what will happen when they bear no responsibility for its blunders.
As we all know, distracted driving has become a very serious problem for our state and our country. In New York State at least one out of five motor vehicle crashes has distracted driving listed as a contributing factor. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than 440,000 were injured.
As commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, I was honored to be invited recently to attend U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s second Summit on Distracted Driving in Washington, D. C. Also participating at that meeting were leading national transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement agencies, industry representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related crashes. Together we addressed challenges and identified opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts.
Just who should New York voters elect in this upcoming election? Long Islanders are faced with three main issues that make all others irrelevant by comparison and the candidates hardly even touch upon them save in the most superficial and politically correct ways: government, jobs, and education.
Government. We are governed by local yokels via 200 special districts between JFK and the Montauk lighthouse and by distant bureaucrats in dysfunctional Albany. We need to restore the power of the county and township at home while working for greater autonomy from the rest of New York State. A 15-minute drive shouldn’t be a journey through a dozen governmental jurisdictions and the potholes we encounter on that drive shouldn’t wait for a green light by a DOT bureaucrat who can reach Quebec before he can reach Quogue. If we can’t find a leader or party willing to address this issue, our services will decline in quality as they go up in cost until we are left with bankrupt states and municipalities.
(This letter is in response to the “Hannon Opposes Mosques Near Ground Zero” letter from Senator Kemp Hannon that appeared in the Friday, Aug. 27 edition of the Levittown Tribune.)
To my knowledge, 71 percent of New Yorkers are against the building of the mosque near Ground Zero.
No one is arguing freedom of religion. There are all denominations of churches, temples and I read, over 120 mosques in New York alone; and many other denominations I don’t even know about, and nobody objects.
This November 15th marks the 233rd anniversary of the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first national constitutional document and, coincidentally, the 322nd anniversary of the arrival to England of William of Nassau-Orange and the dawn of constitutional monarchy. People these days, especially in the Tea Party movement; speak much of ‘returning to the original meaning/spirit of the Constitution.’ But maybe we should think about a return to the Articles of Confederation. I don’t think an American perestroika is likely within the current constitutional framework and I don’t think the United States can avoid a Soviet-type collapse without the kind of radical political and economic restructuring that the socialist Democrats and corporatist Republicans are never going to give us.
The Articles of Confederation has been all but forgotten. In high school, if it’s even discussed at all, it’s presented as some ad hoc, crude attempt to govern the thirteen colonies that resulted in weak national government. But the Articles did not give Americans weak national government; it gave them decentralized national government. Under the Articles, the United States fought a war on its own soil, established its armed forces, printed its first currency, and forged diplomatic ties and military alliances with other countries.
(Editor’s note: The opportunity to submit a regular ‘From the Desk’ column in the Levittown Tribune was offered to both districts’ superintendents.)
Since I no longer have children in the school district, it’s hard to keep up with issues I once had instant access to. On a fairly immediate basis, I no longer hear how the school is doing in any of its sports programs, any of its educational challenges, any of its personnel changes, any of its adult programs or generally how things are going in the halls. In subscribing to the Levittown Tribune I have noticed that Island Trees has a column wherein the superintendent addresses problems, initiatives, successes, etc. that his constituency may want to hear about - but not so with the Levittown district. Yes, I actually do read a newspaper (not Newsday), go online, check the district’s website, etc. but I’d like to have more information available in closer-to-real time than that currently allowed by a monthly newsletter. Is there any possibility, Dr. Sirois, that our school district will employ this fairly easy way of keeping me in the loop?
Mary Ellen Orchard
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