Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
The new school year is well under way.
I admit that I personally dread the week it begins. Maybe because I remember that sinking feeling as the days of summer would wind down and we prepared for homework, books and bedtimes. Nowadays, it’s the never-ending lists of school supplies and the coordination of jam-packed calendars that puts a damper on things.
In that light, many of you have asked me about recent efforts to implement a more rigorous core curriculum and a shift in what many perceive as an overreliance on testing. While I wholeheartedly agree with raising the bar for everyone—students, teachers and parents alike—I actually have reservations about how all this was implemented. I’ve spoken to parents and educators and while there are lots of opinions, this we know for sure: Long Island has consistently produced some of the finest schools in the country. I’m certain that foisting a cookie-cutter approach onto those who’ve already achieved this success is not necessarily helpful. This isn’t political theory, just common sense. Academic rigor is not something we shy away from, but the reality is that we have great schools and the results of our children’s achievements speak for themselves.
Yet there are some districts here that need help. I’ve personally visited many of them and met with everyone: children, parents, teachers and administrators. I’ve seen firsthand that each is unique and requires individualized remedies for very specific challenges. It’s nonsense to think each district or even schools within a given district have the exact same problems. In fact, the inverse is true. There has to be an effort to examine districts on a one-by-one basis, then tailor approaches that solve specific issues. That’s why local school boards exist, because they understand those issues better than anyone. Unfortunately, the truth is they are not always equipped to meet the challenges.
For example, local educators tell me the new standards are worthwhile when students begin their academic career with them and have the advantage of the system the whole way. But they also know that blindsiding older students and asking them to suddenly switch gears and do well without preparation is fruitless. The result has been dismal scores in districts that were historically successful with more challenged districts marred by outright failure. Unfortunately, the
Governor threw fuel on the fire by recently proclaiming a “death penalty” state take-over for those failing schools. It seems these students are inadvertently being set up for failure by a system that required our children be taught certain curricula and now tests them on material they were not even taught. If the State Education Department has decided to roll out a new standard, would it not make better sense to roll out the new tests to those who have had the benefit of the more rigorous lessons?
Here’s some food for thought: I recently met with a local district superintendent who explained that the local high school’s graduation rate hovered at around 97% each year. Yet just a few blocks away, across the district border in Queens, the graduation rate is 47%. Demographically, the two communities are identical so how do we explain the marked difference in performance? I don’t have an answer. It’s an open-ended question, but I suspect that leadership, expectation, and aspiration have a great deal to do with the results.
Success is a manifestation of a community’s combined resolve—those best wishes we have for our children for a better tomorrow and our confidence conveyed through our words and actions that our children can achieve whatever they put their mind and effort to do. We have seen this success cut across demographics in varied communities. But why do some succeed where others do not? That deserves an answer but discovering it and achieving it will take time and great concentrated effort.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The work of government is tedious and we must engage it thoughtfully or we run the risk of doing more harm than good. Hopefully, officials, educators and parents alike will demand the same improvement in our approach that we expect in our children’s grades.
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00
A new proposal by interim Town of North Hempstead Supervisor John Riordan seeks to hike pay for elected officials. Riordan's plan would have board members’ salaries jump by $15,000 to a total of $55,000, an increase of approximately 37.5 percent. Other proposed salaries would be $138,000 for the supervisor, $115,000 for the receiver of taxes and $105,000 for the town clerk.
Riordan introduced the proposal at the last town board meeting, on Nov. 19, requesting that a resolution be placed on the agenda setting Dec. 10 for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amendment that would enable the salary increases for the 2014 calendar year.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The spirit of giving during the holiday season is ramping up and two Mineola-based organizations were one of the first beneficiaries. The Family & Children’s Association and the Winthrop Cancer Center for Kids recently received 325 Toys
“R” Us gift cards totaling $8,125 from MSC Industrial Direct Co., a metalworking supply company headquartered in Melville. The two groups have received gift cards from MSC’s Annual Toys “R” Us Holiday Gift Card Program for the past several years.
The Family & Children’s Association is a multi-faceted organization that helps foster children, homeless youth, runaway teens, struggling families, veterans, and even senior citizens. While the association has a hand in many types of community outreach, it started out as an orphanage and still places an important emphasis on housing. The goal is simple—to keep families together.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
MAA Travel Soccer teams wrapped up their respective fall 2013 seasons recently. Two MAA teams won titles this season in the Long Island Junior Soccer League; the BU13 Mineola Empire went 9-0-1 and the GU14 Red Bulls enjoyed a 8-1-1 campaign to each win first place trophies. The GU11 Honey Badgers went undefeated (6-0-2) and finished in second place in their division, as did the GU15 Mini-Mustangs with a 7-1-1 season record.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Mineola 12U fall intramural baseball team celebrated their fall season and tournament championship with a pizza party/awards dinner on Nov. 20. In addition to celebrating a great fall season and tournament championship, the boys were treated to an inspirational talk by coach Ken Conrade, the 2013 New York State High School Coach of the Year.
Conrade, the Kellenberg Memorial High School assistant principal for academics and girls varsity softball coach, was the keynote speaker for the awards dinner. He presented a very talked about baseball and youth sports.
Conrade’s talk was framed around each inning of a baseball game. He used stories and examples from the first to an extra “10th inning” to drive home both a sports and life lesson. For example, as part of the seventh inning stretch, he had each player stand up, stretch their legs and then go and thank their parents for their support and commitment to their baseball playing.