(The following letter was sent to the Manhasset Board of Education and is printed here at the writer's request.)
We are writing to express our vehement opposition to the redistricting plan, once again, presented to this Board.
Some members of the board will recall, from personal experience, that this is not the first time this issue has arisen. In or around 1997 this exact scenario was encountered and the "solution" has now been deemed a total failure. The information trickling down is that some blame the failure on liberal "grandfathering." This fails to appreciate that grandfathering is now almost completed. In the fall of 2002 only grades five and six of Shelter Rock will have children in attendance from the previously redistricted area. Yet now, as then, the school population of Shelter Rock is higher than acceptable.
This is not the fault of "Grandfathering"; it is a failure of the demographics upon which the redistricting was based. Nonetheless, rather than take the time and analysis to find and solve the root of the imbalance for the benefit not only of the children in attendance now, but future students, we seem to be rushing to apply the same "band-aid" approach that has been proven unsuccessful.
There is much data before this board as to the harmful emotional, social and educational impact of disrupting elementary aged school children. The board, with the same data, correctly opted, in 1997, to allow children who commenced their education at Shelter Rock to see it through. They recognized the development of even a handful of children cannot be compromised for the supposed good of the whole. These children, most especially in the upper grades, have established security, routines, friendships and some receive special services that will be disrupted with a school change. As adults it is easy to say they will adapt, but child development evaluations have shown that is simply not true. To sacrifice even one child's stability, even for a short period of time, must not be acceptable to this community. This goal is not mutually exclusive of a long-range redistricting plan, but should be the highest priority in considering the long-range plan.
It has been shown in the past that demographer's reports are wrought with erroneous predictions. Any report prepared now will be no more reliable than the one from five years ago. We are blessed with a vibrant community that attracts and holds young families; we support the need to find a long-term solution that will endure over time instead of revisiting these same issues year after year. We do not minimize the task, but implore this board not to simply re-enact a redistricting scenario with undue haste before considering the harmful effects of student displacement.
Please put the welfare of our children first.
John and Laura Papa