A few weeks ago I attended an Island Trees Library Board meeting. Clearly, sitting in the audience observing the meeting dynamics was a new experience for me. It’s a lot easier watching the interaction between the Library Board and public than being directly involved. At the meeting, there was a motion and vote that supported an earlier library closing time on Friday evening. Apparently several years ago, the Island Trees library extended their hours from 7 to 9 p.m. Unfortunately, due to concerns about budgeting, funding and taxpayer affordability, the library will revert back to the 7 p.m. closing time on Friday night. Admittedly, this was a very tough decision for all involved in the decision-making. Naturally, many people in the audience were upset by the decision; however, understandably in these difficult times, difficult decisions will be made.
The reality is that I learned a lot about our community library. After the meeting, I went to the Island Trees Library website http://www.islandtreespubliclibrary.org/index.php to look at the programs offered to our children. I wanted to see how the change in closing time would truly impact the programs and services offered to the community. Well, I knew the library had many wonderful programs for children and adults. In short, it is unbelievable! The Island Trees library has so many outstanding programs running on a regular basis for the children of Island Trees. It is quite impressive. There is so much more for children than what we all experienced years ago.
On this really cold, snow packed, ice-tinged day I just happened to open up an article online from an ABC News website, dated Feb. 2, about Governor Cuomo’s efforts to rein in school superintendent salaries. I didn’t think much of it until I continued to scroll down wondering how we ranked in the statewide list. Well, that certainly warmed me up...actually it caused me to boil! This is just a very general overview of the listing and I’ve included some of our comp areas as well as some North Shore schools for comparison.
Superintendent salaries: Massapequa $247K, +58K, +20.5K; Wantagh $218K, +45.8K, +4K; Levittown $383.5K, +60K, + 5.6K; Merrick $285K, +25K +3K; E. Meadow $205K, +52.9, +6K; Syosset $386.8K, +67K, +5K; Jericho $281K + 60K, +60K. The first figure is salary; second figure is usually health, life, auto, etc. insurances and many other freebies; 3rd figure is “miscellaneous.”
A few weeks ago I stopped by my sister’s house and saw my niece trying to complete her homework assignments in their family room. Caitlin was wearing her IPod and swaying back and forth listening to her favorite tunes while writing down some thoughts in a notebook. Funny enough, my nephew was playing videogames directly across from her. This is why I said, “trying.” My sister grumbled about how she despises homework and how she often needs to torment her daughter to complete her assignments. Surprisingly, my Ivy League educated sister carried over very few, if any, of the simple lessons from our own childhood into her household. In truth, my mother was able to have four children sit around the table of our small eat-in kitchen in Massapequa Park with little fanfare.
Twice in Levittown’s history, we have been at the epicenter, albeit indirectly in the first instance, in a constitutional issue brought before the U.S. Supreme Court: the 1949 Shelly vs. Kramer case, and the 1976 Pico vs. Island Trees Board of Education case. The Constitution has been on everyone’s mind these days.
I’m glad that people nowadays - especially members of Congress on the floor of the Capitol - are actually reading the Constitution. It’s unfortunate that it takes such doctrinal faction to stimulate what should be an act of anyone interested in history, literature, and political philosophy. I find it especially interesting even though I think the American continent would have been better governed under the Articles of Confederation and even though I consider monarchy and aristocracy superior to republics and democracies; more conducive to sustaining the cultural and intellectual values and institutions of civilized society.
In September, Island Trees restructured our elementary schools from the traditional K-4 schools to the “Princeton Plan” model, K-1 at Sparke Elementary School and grades 2-4 at Stokes Elementary School. With the new plan, the elementary schools were reorganized by grade levels, not by geographic local. At the time, we calculated a $450,000 savings from the long-established K-4 model. Clearly, this cost-saving measure was welcomed in the challenging economic climate we face in New York.
From the start, the district understood we were entering uncharted waters. During the summer, we had many concerns about moving classrooms, materials and supplies from one to school to the other. After all, we needed to move some grade levels from Sparke to Stokes and others from Stokes to Sparke. In fact, the Princeton Plan caused almost every elementary classroom to be moved in some manner. This enormous physical task and tremendous undertaking was completed before the start of school in September. Kudos to all involved! Additionally, there were the non-physical changes that we had to overcome. Although the cosmetic alterations were formidable, the emotional task of changing schools for students, staff, and parents was equally challenging. It’s not easy to change almost 60 years of tradition overnight without having a few bumps in the road or tears in the eyes for that matter.
A few hours before the town board meeting on Jan. 11 Hope For Hempstead Shelter (HHS) was notified that public comment would not be allowed due to weather. A short while after HHS arrived, the town released a statement saying that public comment would not be permitted due to a security risk.
Residents of the town came to speak publicly on behalf of animals that can’t speak for themselves and for taxpayer rights.
I believe the citizens of Nassau County should know that under the Suozzi Administration they elected to close down the Cedar Creek Process Control Lab in Seaford, which tests sewage and sludge daily for both Bay Park and Cedar Creek Sewage plants.
These plants are huge and help treat waste waters from three quarters of the county. The newer lab was built in the early ’90s, costing over $10 million with state-of-the-art design and equipment. It was run by certified directors and with accreditation from the NYS Health Department ELAP protocol. The Suozzi regulars were thinking to consolidate it with the Nassau County Health Department lab in Hempstead to save money.
I was recently looking at a class picture, a photograph taken of my classmates and me many decades ago in elementary school. In my whatever-happened-to-so-and-so musing, I paused to consider the fate of one classmate. He was a happy, well-adjusted, and eager-to-learn boy the day the photographer came to our class. He died about five years ago, a suicide from overdose after an adult life of addiction and crime to finance it. I didn’t know him that well, but it got me thinking to just how fragile young people are in the teenage years and how, when they are at their most vulnerable, they are the most neglected, ignored, or exploited.
It is at the end of the elementary school years, when youngsters are becoming pre-adolescents, that they are most vulnerable and impressionable and most likely to formulate negative body images and attitudes from the presence of dysfunctional adults. It is, consequently, at this age that many parents, in ever increasing numbers, removed their children from public schools and undertake to homeschool them.
I would like to thank our residents, businesses and the employees of Nassau County for their patience and cooperation during last week’s blizzard. With the storm dumping over 16 inches of snow in our community, County employees mobilized early the morning after Christmas Day to deal with its cleanup. Crews were instructed to plow lanes adequate for travel in both directions. First priorities for snow removal included major thorough fares and access to emergency services. In all, over 100 County employees were involved in clearing roadways and dropping over 2,880 pounds of salt on our roadways. When those County roadways were cleared, snow plowing operations were sent to assist towns and villages who requested such help with residential streets.
In the first line of the NYSSBA’s December 13, 2010 editorial, “School districts face $815M shortfall under tax cap,” they state that in order to meet personnel costs, school districts face a state aid shortfall of $815M over the next four years if a statewide tax cap of 2 percent or the rate of inflation is instituted. In this op-ed taken verbatim from the NYSSBA website, NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy Kremer opines that “a hard tax cap would clearly threaten the quality of public education by forcing drastic cuts in classroom teachers and academic programs.” My initial reaction after reading his quote was to go back and research whether Tim Kremer heads the NYSSBA or is it the president of NYSUT, the 600,000 member NYS teachers’ union. Words like “threaten” and “drastic” and phrases such as “it’s for the kids” are routinely used in NYSUT missives and radio/television ads when addressing these matters. One important word missing from the opening line of NYSSBA’s op-ed is “current.” If local school boards agree with NYSSBA’s philosophy, expect the current financial burden on taxpayers to become even more overwhelming. In the coming months, tough decisions have to be made and these decisions cannot be made by school administrators, by NYSSBA or NYSUT, but by your locally elected school board members. They control the purse strings.
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