Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 15 May 2009 09:25
A resident of Roslyn Heights, John McGrath is a veteran of the Mineola School Board, having been a member for 11 years. In that time, McGrath has seen many changes in the school district. He feels the district’s educational program is on the right path, which is why he voted in favor of hiring deputy superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler to take over as superintendent when Dr. Larry Licopoli retires at the end of June. It is also why McGrath has been adamant about not closing a school. He feels there isn’t enough of a savings for taxpayers to warrant potentially hurting the educational program.
A resident of Roslyn Heights who has had two daughters go through the Mineola School system, McGrath has been a part of the board that has hired such school administrators as current superintendent Dr. Licopoli, new superintendent Dr. Nagler, Cross Street School principal Devra Small, Hampton Street School principal Dr. SueCaryl Fleischmann, Meadow Drive principal Pat Molloy and Mineola High School principal Ed Escobar as well as all of the instructional leaders.
McGrath believes the school district has made significant progress in its educational achievement and student improvement in recent years and wants to continue on the board to safeguard the strides the district is making. He recalls a time back in 1997 when there weren’t many Mineola graduates going to top-level colleges and universities. “Now, we have a significant number going in and our state test scores are superior to what they were in 1997,” he said, also pointing out that the district has made significant improvement in its test scores on the middle school level.
McGrath has been a part of the board that put out a successful bond referendum to build the Willis Avenue School for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten back in 2000. He also supported initiatives to create a school-community-based finance committee to help make the budget more understandable. Ironically, his opponent in the election serves on that committee. McGrath also supported allocating $500,000 each year in the budget to go towards the upkeep of school buildings and facilities.
“Clearly, we are headed in the right direction and that is a result of the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten program and the strong programs at the elementary schools. They’re producing the results we always thought they would,” he said.
McGrath has been a proponent of keeping all of the elementary schools open and not closing any. He feels the financial benefit of $17 a month to the average taxpayer does not warrant putting the educational program at risk. “The educational detriment of even closing one school would go far beyond the benefit of $17 a month. It’s also easier to neglect schools not being used by students,” he said.
In the area of finances, McGrath believes the board of education and the administration have made efforts to raise revenues and cut expenses. He believes it has gotten to the point where the board cannot cut make additional cuts to the budget without closing a school.
McGrath believes strongly in the talents of Dr. Nagler, who will take over as superintendent in July. He also points out that the board was able to save money by not hiring a search firm to find the next superintendent and the board saved money by hiring Dr. Nagler at a salary that is among the lowest for superintendents in the county.
McGrath also is running because he feels the board should have some experience as it goes forward with a new superintendent and four other board members who have less than three years experience each on the board.