When I left the School Board last year, after serving six years (three of which I served as Vice President), I was frustrated by the rumors and innuendos about the Board and the School District that would often sweep through the community. Often these rumors were started (or fueled) by claims made in letters which appeared in the Manhasset Press.
Over the last year there has been a plethora of letters in the Manhasset Press complaining about the costs of education in the Manhasset School District. The richness of the Manhasset educational program - ranging from Advanced Placement courses, an outstanding music/theatre/art program, outstanding athletic programs (where virtually every student is given an opportunity to participate) and special programs like the Intel Science research project - affect the district's costs, but many things, which are beyond the control of a single board and are mandated by New York State law, drive our budget. Among these driving forces are (1) State-mandated tenure (virtually a life-time job guaranty) with the concomitant direct and indirect compensation costs that relate to a senior teaching staff, (2) State-mandated defined benefit pension plan contributions, (3) State-mandated retirement benefits, (4) State-mandated retirement health care benefits, and (5) State-mandated special education costs, to name just a few. The broad-based quality education at Manhasset exceeds that of many neighboring districts, and the benefits of the quality of the Manhasset School District are realized not only by students and graduates, but by every homeowner in the District whose property values are enhanced by this factor.
Many people are frustrated by the cost of education, and I am in that group. Some letters in the Manhasset Press that complain about the cost of education in Manhasset, however, overlook the factors I noted above and simply make unfair, unsupported and unsupportable claims...mainly that no one is minding the store and that the Board is unaware (or worse doesn't care) about the economic constraints facing us all.
During my time on the board, I can assure you that was not the case.
Last week a letter appeared regarding a meeting between Dr. Bozzomo and the "Independent Citizens Advisory Committee." I wasn't there, so I cannot address what is claimed to have occurred and been said at that meeting.
I am, however, going to dispute several claims made in that letter. First, the claim that in the past the board has provided a "sweetheart teacher's contract" with "lucrative perks such as 100 percent health care to retiring teachers" -- this was not done by the Manhasset School Board during my six-year tenure. I do know, however,...It's the law in New York State that all teachers who work for a set number of years in a school district must receive health care benefits from that district upon their retirement. A second claim this gentlemen makes is that "the school board provides no guidance or direction", nor does it "give any limits", to the superintendent. Again, in my six years on the board, that was absolutely not the case. Indeed, in each of the years I served, under three different Superintendents, each Superintendent presented to the board a proposed budget which was then reviewed, revised, and pared down by the board before being submitted to the community for approval. During my six years on the board, I spent countless hours in the performance of my duties as a board member. While the decisions that resulted from my effort may not have been acceptable to everyone, claims that I did not carry out my fiduciary obligations and that I simply "gave the store away" outrage me personally.
I do not want to engage in a letter writing campaign to justify decisions I made during my tenure, but I will not stand by idly while implications and innuendos are unfairly hoisted in public.
One sensible suggestion that this gentleman made was his suggestion that people attend school board meetings to express their views. I agree with this suggestion, but would supplement it by urging him and the other people who attend these meetings to also listen to what is said; ask questions but listen to the answers; and base statements on facts!
Thomas J. Killeen