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From The Desk Of Senator Jack Martins

Where Is The Students’ Lobbyist?

You may recall that I recently called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King. The initiatives he has undertaken in his brief tenure as Commissioner of the State Education Department, including his roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations, and gathering of student data, are shaping up to be among the most controversial issues I’ve ever dealt with as a public servant. It’s easy to see why. These changes have created confusion among parents, anxiety for our children, and put life-long educators at odds with the department of education in Albany. This was only exacerbated when he canceled town hall meetings on the issue.   

 

So on Wednesday, Nov. 13, I moderated a forum, coordinated with the 15 school districts from our Seventh Senate District, at Mineola High School. Dr. King attended and fielded questions from parents, educators, school board members and even students on the Common Core standards and rollout, teacher evaluations, testing, and student privacy. We had more than 800 in the audience and over 2,000 watching on a live feed via the Internet.    

 

Reporting the event’s conclusions is a challenge best summed up by a letter I received from an attendee who said it was like blind men trying to explain an elephant by describing just one body part at a time. The issues we’re facing in education in New York are multidimensional and require a holistic approach to appreciate and address them. 

 

 It’s not just the rollout of the Common Core and its impact on students and teachers. 

 

 It’s not just the teacher evaluation system that has created conflict and anxiety without any apparent purpose or meaningful result.  

 

 It’s not just the overreliance on testing and its impact on a child’s educational experience and the teacher’s role as educator.

 

 It’s not just the concern of parents for the protection of their child’s privacy.

 

It’s all of these things individually and collectively and much more. It speaks volumes to the reality that we are moving too quickly with no apparent purpose other than the claim that it will all be better when we get “there”, wherever “there” is.

 

The writer went on to conclude “that no care was invested in a process” that should have been conducted with “years of close observation and input from actual teachers and administrators in the classroom.” I agree.

 

Most importantly, we are left asking the most basic of questions: How does any of this improve the educational experience of our children? 

 

In theory, as the Commissioner explained, it may. 

 

 In reality, as we heard from parents, students, teachers, and educators, it has not and will more than likely have just the opposite effect. It seems wiser then to re-evaluate these initiatives as a whole and take the time to phase in only the parts that work.   

 

While we all want higher and more rigorous standards for our children, it must be rolled out gradually, allowing teachers to properly prepare and give students the advantage of growing with the new curriculum. Judging by the

temperature I took in that auditorium, parents and educators are more than up to the task should Dr. King care to work with them and I hope he will.  

 

While I feel the evening was productive in identifying these issues, I know full well that political pressure will ultimately be necessary to institute any changes. The powers that be seem entrenched in their position, however wrongheaded they may be.  

 

Which brings me to the title of this column: “Where Is the Students’ Lobbyist?” 

 

You may remember that a few years ago during his “State of the State,” Governor Andrew Cuomo remarked how students were the only group in schools that didn’t have a lobbyist and valiantly volunteered to take on that responsibility. He recognized then that our children had to be protected from special interests more intent on exploiting education for gain, than furthering learning and life opportunities for students. He pledged to do so.  

 

But he’s been notably silent.

 

Let’s hope for our children’s sake that he has not abandoned his post as the students’ lobbyist and that he’s not counting on blind men to tell him what the elephant looks like.      


News

Howard Kroplick was just settling in to his new position as North Hempstead’s town historian in April of 2012 when a phone call from a resident who found an old headstone led him into a comprehensive study of all 28 cemeteries within

the town’s boundaries.

 

Kroplick, an East Hills resident for 29 years, serves in the unpaid role as an advisor to the North Hempstead board, out of his longtime love of history. His exhaustive study of the area’s cemeteries has helped him complete a history of

North Hempstead that will be published in January, which will coincide with the 400-year anniversary of the discovery of Long Island, by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block. It was Block, according to Kroplick, who first identified Long Island as an actual island, not a peninsula as many believed back then. The 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing is the first ever written about North Hempstead.

For the time being, much of the Roslyn area is without representation on the Town of North Hempstead council. Recently, Thomas K. Dwyer, who has represented Roslyn on that body since 2002, announced that he would step down from the board while he is in negotiations with a Manhattan-based consulting firm.

 

Dwyer, who is the chief operating officer of Syosset-based American Land Services, would not identify the firm he is talking to, but he said that the new job would represent a conflict of interest with his work on the town board.


Sports

SUNY College at Old Westbury recently named Dr. Anthony DeLuca of Levittown as the College’s NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR), beginning at the start of the 2014-15 academic year.  

DeLuca, now entering his third year at Old Westbury, also holds the position as director Old Westbury’s Honors College.

 

“We are thrilled that Dr. DeLuca will serve as Old Westbury’s Faculty Athletics Representative,” said director of athletics Lenore Walsh.  “He is a champion for intercollegiate athletics and has been involved with our program since his arrival at Old Westbury.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with Dr. DeLuca in support of our students’ academic and athletic pursuits at Old Westbury.”

Albertson resident and Kellenberg sophomore Gabby Schreib qualified for the Millrose Games in New York City. Schreib qualified as a member of the Sprint Medley Relay along with Danielle Correia, Bridget McNierney, and Jazmine Fray. 

The Kellenberg relay’s close second place finish in January’s Millrose Trials has moved them closer to defending the title they won in the same relay at last year’s Millrose Games. Schreib and her teammates time is currently second in the United States for girls track and field performances.



Calendar

Pete Hamill Lecture - December 5

Chazak Celebration - December 7

More Mussar Programs - January 8


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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