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Letter: We Need A Plan

I have been reading with great interest as well as with some amusement, the weekly letters submitted to The Westbury Times by a former Westbury Board of Education Trustee, Mr. Larry Wornum, regarding for the most part, the Westbury Union Free School District’s spending and performance.

I must admit that while I do not always agree with Mr. Wornum’s views, and less often his presentation of his perspectives, in light of the recently published July 17 issue of Newsday, which featured the 2011 Long Island math and English test scores, I now wonder if Mr. Wornum has not cast the Westbury School District’s performance issues in the correct (if not new) light.

Even should you not have the time to review the details of this year’s published reports, those results are pretty much summed up with Island-wide test results in English rising to 67.1 percent from 64.2 percent the prior year and math scores improving to 75.4 percent from 64.8 percent. Nassau County scores are even higher and both Nassau and statewide, scores have reflected similar improvements over the prior year’s scores.

Once again, however, Westbury has not risen in the standings and we compete with a handful of the poorest performing school districts for the “bottom spots” in the statistics.

It occurs to me that in the last several years, we, the residents and taxpayers of Westbury, have witnessed school budgets that have passed, either on the first or second attempt, school budgets that have failed, contingency budgets, as well as a Westbury School operating budget that has effectively doubled in 10 short years.  One must conclude that “throwing dollars at the problem” is not the solution.

So where is the answer?

The Westbury Board of Education and administration over the years has consistently cited both demographics and “parental involvement” as major contributing factors to the Westbury student’s performance.

While it is fairly easy to sit back and use those as an excuse, I’m afraid I must dismiss both arguments.

Certainly in Westbury our population is diverse, multicultural and multilingual perhaps more than most on Long Island; however we cannot be the first, and we will certainly not be the last, school district to encounter this particular challenge.  Come up with a plan to overcome the challenge and give our kids a chance to succeed.

The argument about parental involvement cannot even be taken seriously as any comparison of parental involvement levels when I was a child in public school to now is purely coincidental. Back then, we (the then students) went to school, came home, went to our rooms and (sometimes) did our homework, and the extent of parental involvement was when our parents were called in to discuss either disciplinary issues or our performance which resulted in either a pat on the back or a beating (as it was called back then), and then back to business as usual. Yet even Westbury was successful several decades ago under those conditions.

We have a new school year, a new superintendent of schools and a change in our Westbury School Board representation. All of these factors I consider to be a positive step and I am especially pleased that our new school board with our new superintendent appear to be trying to work together more positively than during prior regimes.

That said however, I must implore the board of education and Ms. Lagnado not to get bogged down in the day to day issues of running the district which, though important, seem to drain the resources which could be looking at the district’s improvement plan. Involve the community, even if that means the same people who attend the board meetings month after month. That small group may not perfectly or equally represent the community ethnic or cultural distribution, however it would be a good start.

Now is the time.  We need a plan.

Stan Ercolano
Westbury resident
Poets’ Corner Neighborhood Association