Friday, 28 May 2010 00:00Thank you for your letter signed by members of the community. I do appreciate the time and effort that you put into this, but I would like to share with you some of my own personal feelings. As you stated twice in your letter, we are elected by the community, and as such are accountable to the community. I am well aware of my obligations and do not take the future of the Mineola School District lightly. The decision to reconfigure schools is certainly the most serious and formidable task this Board of Education will probably undertake. Though your letter certainly makes very good and valid points, they are not issues that we have not already thought of or considered.
However, the intent of this petition seems to be that many in the Hampton community do not want to see their school closed, in any scenario. I therefore must ask, if I am obligated to the community, how do I then explain to parents in the other elementary buildings that my vote would not consider Hampton closing because their parents want their building to remain open?
There are many members in the community who feel that Willis should remain open. Should I discount those opinions because that may include having to close Hampton, Meadow, Cross or Jackson for that matter? Those parents love their schools as much as Hampton parents love theirs.
When the CCC (Community Committee on Consolidation) met in front of the Board, I specifically asked the question, “When you came up with these recommendations, did you have specific buildings in mind that would be kept open or closed?” My question was answered with a resounding no.
Since that meeting, it seems apparent to me that the scenarios that were given by the CCC are in fact, supported or not supported by some, based solely on what buildings would close. That seems somewhat disingenuous to me since I specifically asked the question and not one person in the room answered that they would only support these scenarios based on what buildings would remain open.
Though we have listened to the public at large through many different venues, an exit survey done at the polls should hopefully prove to be insightful. It is truly a shame that such a small minority of possible voters actually do take the time to cast their ballots. That being said, however small the numbers, it will be these voters who have the potential to make the biggest impact – if a bond was needed, it would be those registered voters who would decide that. The survey was prepared with the most important and relevant issues that resonated through the many presentations and meetings the board has held.
Dr. Nagler met with many residents throughout the district in order to foster better communication. In addition, the CCC did an excellent job of identifying those issues that were of most concern. The information was gathered and we developed the survey with all of that work behind it. It may not have been perfect, but if residents have been keeping abreast of what has been going on (and this BOE has worked very hard to get as much information about reconfiguration out as possible), it was a very straightforward survey.
I have always felt from the beginning of this process that as a Board of Education trustee, I cannot and will not advocate for any one area of the community, including my own. With regard to reconfiguration, I cannot and will not advocate for buildings – I can and will advocate for the children but this also has to be done with a fiscal responsibility and an eye toward seeing which buildings truly work in terms of space and yes, finances. In a perfect world, we could create a perfect configuration but the cost would be overwhelming to the community.
I truly do understand your concerns (and they are certainly valid and are being explored) but parents must also understand that I cannot make this decision based on emotional attachments to buildings. Under any reconfiguration, each elementary building has the potential to be an entirely different school. The Cross Street School, the Meadow Drive School, the Hampton Street School, etc. will no longer be the schools that they were so I do have a bit of difficulty understanding attachment to buildings. I believe the heart and soul of a school are its children, staff and parents. Those things will not change and whatever new identity each building assumes, children will have old and new classmates, old and new teachers. The one thing that will remain constant is the support and love of their parents who, I feel, must be positive in handling any new transition.
This has been a fair and open process from the beginning and we are glad to have input from all members of the community, including Hampton parents. I ask all parents to think about the monumental task the Board has at hand. We must come up with a decision that is the most fair and best for ALL children and one that taxpayers can afford. This is a wonderful community filled with loving and concerned parents who care deeply about their children. I too am a member and parent in this community and I realize that the decision we make will not make everyone happy, but I am confident that the decision will be as fair as possible to all the children and they will continue to receive a high quality education in any configuration.
Chris Napolitano, Mineola Board of Education Trustee