There is no doubt that the poor economy is placing significant challenges on all of us. The unprecedented significant economic downturn is forcing state and local governments to take drastic and unpopular actions to address substantial budget deficits. School districts fall into this much dreaded category. Recently, during budget deliberations conducted by the Levittown School District Board of Education, the local Vocational Education (VOCED) Program maintained at Levittown Memorial came under thorough scrutiny. Rumors circulated that the Board was considering closing the entire program. I was pleased to hear during the March 25 budget hearing that such drastic action was not being considered. The Board conducted its business and deliberations on the program in a very transparent and thoughtful manner, which brought to light the significant financial challenges that face the community.

Being a former school board member, I certainly understand the pressures of providing a budget that balances the needs of our students and taxpayers. The assessment of programs and financial viability on a periodic basis is both proper and prudent. Therefore, I encourage the board to expand such thorough assessments and audits to all major programs throughout the district. I also encourage the board to continue to conduct such assessments and deliberations in a public forum. Such open discussions may not be easy or popular but must be conducted nonetheless. I must compliment the board during this fiscal year for not being complacent and conducting business in a transparent manner. This is a valuable lesson for our state legislature to follow.

The recent deliberations concerning the VOCED program left the potential elimination of individual courses on the table. One such course that is under the microscope is the highly successful Architectural Drafting program. This program holds a personal importance to me and countless students and graduates of the highly successful program. Therefore, as a 1983 graduate of the Levittown Memorial Design Drafting program (which is now the Architectural Drafting), I hope to provide some personal insight and facts on the importance of sustaining this vital program.

On a very personal level, having a VOCED program within the district allowed me (and countless other graduates) to obtain both a Regents and vocational diploma. An out-of-district program would not have afforded me such an opportunity. I firmly believe that such a local program is vital for providing essential diversity in educational opportunities. As many in the community well know, education and student achievement is not a "one-size" fits-all approach. The opportunities I had back in 1983 put me on the right track to enjoy a successful and productive engineering career. I must acknowledge that one of the present board members was also on the board back in 1983 and was no doubt influential in promoting progressive educational opportunities. The seeds of home-grown educational diversity, planted over 25 years ago, has made the mission statement of "success for every student" a reality for countless children.

My engineering and architectural firm, H2M Group in Melville has hired many students of the program to work in our firm as architectural interns and CADD technicians. Many have become architects that presently work for my firm and other professional firms on Long Island and in New York City. Despite the poor economic conditions, there is still a strong need for engineers and architects. Eliminating or scaling back the Architectural Drafting program will add to the challenges of recruiting highly skilled homegrown technical personnel that engineering and architectural firms across our great nation need. This program is highly successful by virtue of the students that are enjoying successful technical careers. These graduates are now contributing to the rebuilding of our infrastructure, which will in turn stimulate the economy.

Overall, the VOCED program has helped to make Levittown both successful and unique based on its progressive nature. I am appreciative that the School Board recognizes the intrinsic and economic value of the highly successful vocational program. As the board continues to deliberate on specific programs, such as architectural drafting, I simply request that their decisions be predicated on the public deliberation of the facts and figures while employing careful consideration of the short and long-term impacts to our students and the community at large.

Paul J. Granger

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