Friday, 18 June 2010 00:00
I am happy to see residents expressing their opinions about school configuration options. I greatly respect the right of Ms. Navarra to express her opinion on this issue. However, I too was a member of the CCC (Community Committee on Consolidation) along with Ms. Navarra and while I agree with much of what she had to say in her letter, on some important points, my opinion differs.
I do agree that the CCC did look at possible configuration options with an effort to put aside differences and make recommendations to best serve all children in the district. I believe the CCC accomplished this goal and I stand behind the recommendations made by the CCC and that I supported as part of the CCC. Ultimately, the CCC did recommend two configuration options to the Board. These recommendations are public (not confidential) and can be found on the Mineola School District website under Superintendent’s Blog at http://www.mineola.k12.ny.us/blog/?paged=2. While I will not repeat in full both options here, but I would note that both options included “two buildings, one on each side of Jericho Turnpike” for grades pre-K to two to reflect the community’s desire for neighborhood schools, especially at the lower grades. I would also note (and Ms. Navarra failed to point out in her letter) that as reflected on Dr. Nagler’s blog, under the CCC’s recommendations, “Both options will begin with closing Willis Avenue in September 2011.” This too was recommended by the CCC at least in part because Willis Avenue was not considered a neighborhood school.
Thus I was more than a bit surprised when shortly after the CCC recommendations, Dr. Nagler presented information at a board meeting about a configuration option that contemplated Willis Avenue staying open as a pre-K to grade 2 building. It surprised me and other members of the CCC. Thus, I sent an open letter to the Board (published in the May 12 Mineola American) signed by over 100 residents seeking more information about aspects of configuration options being considered, including aspects related to Willis Avenue. Many other residents have approached me since the letter was published to indicate that they too have similar questions. To assert that all questions about this last configuration option have been answered and made available publicly to the community is simply not true.
I understand that the Board is under no obligation to simply accept the CCC recommendations without undertaking whatever inquiry they deem sufficient. However, to the extent that the Board is now considering rejecting a recommendation of a group specifically formed to reflect the community’s views, I believe the Board, at the least, owes the community an explanation of the facts it is reviewing that would lead it to consider rejecting the CCC recommendations.
I think this is even more true when the option that is apparently being considered involves the northern part of the district attending a pre-K to 2 building (Meadow Drive) that has adequate fields, green space and other features we in the Mineola School District have come to expect in our community schools while the southern part of the district is potentially being asked to send their children to Willis Avenue, a school in a commercial area with no fields or green space and without other types of features that would be present in a neighborhood school like Meadow Drive. Frankly, I think those residents who live in the southern part of the district are owed a detailed explanation on this point. All I am seeking is more information so the community understands what facts the board is looking at to make this decision.
And this brings me to my last point of disagreement with previous letters to the Mineola American. I recognize that the board and administration have made efforts to disseminate information about configuration options. What I do not understand though is why there is such resistance to the idea of providing more information to the community. As was stated much more eloquently than I could in a previous letter to the Mineola American, “…we are all quite capable of receiving and processing information that is most critical to the future of our community.” It saddens me that those opposing requests for information apparently don’t share this view.
Anne Marie Egan