I just returned home from the public meeting regarding the Mineola School District school reconfiguration proposals. It was gratifying to see so many community members in attendance so that they could learn about the options being considered and to ask questions and voice their opinions regarding the topic in general.
As a member of the Mineola School Finance Committee that made the recommendation that the board of education consider closing a school, I would like to express to the community that although the recommendation was based on fiscal prudence, as was our charge, none of us on the committee would have suggested it if we thought for one minute any child would be disadvantaged in the process.
The committee made many other recommendations for achieving cost savings and cost containment with respect to staffing and contractual commitments. This is all in an effort to be proactive when it comes to difficult financial times rather than having to be reactionary. We do not want to see cuts in programs for children! Making these difficult decisions when we have the advantage of time, allows us to do it thoughtfully. This is much preferred to having to do it under pressure and running the risk of not doing it well.
Say what you will about the board of education and the administration, but, in my opinion, cost savings has not been one of their strong suits. However, the welfare of the children always has been, so accusing them of putting cost savings above the children has no merit. They are simply fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities and doing the due diligence necessary to make sure that their decision is a good one for all the Mineola community: students, parents, senior citizens, merchants, etc.
What seems to escape those who believe that the current configuration is optimal is that there are significant inequities in Mineola's education delivery system. Why should one child be in a class of 13 while another child in the same grade who may only live two blocks away be in a class of 22? This is what our "neighborhood schools" have produced. Consolidation would provide more equity and, as indicated this evening, create a benefit of having full-time staff dedicated to a particular school rather than being split between and among schools. Small schools are no guarantee of excellent outcomes. There is way more that goes into achieving excellence in education.
I must say the numbers of people who seemed to be unwilling to even consider a change dismayed me. Would we want our children to be so closed minded when presented with a perfectly reasonable question? To those who feel saving $250 a year is not important, would you throw away $250 if someone asked you to do so? That is in essence what you are doing when you fail to even consider the options presented.
Via this letter, I am supporting the board of education as it considers the indisputable fact that the Mineola School District is operating too many schools to responsibly balance the needs of the children and the resources of the community.