Friday, 17 September 2010 00:00
In response to recent letters by Artie Barnett and John McGrath, I offer my own thoughts as a resident of a school age child in Mineola regarding the subject of school closings.
First, I’d like to point out that there are many members of our community including myself who are not altogether sold on any of the current proposals. Many of the residents I encounter whether at the pool, the library or other public places have expressed discontent with the reconfiguration process and its latest outcomes. I have heard sentiments describing the reconfiguration proposals as being “too drastic” or “… do we live in the city that Willis should have a rooftop playground?” While the importance of saving money is recognized by the majority, it is felt that the concessions which go along with the purported savings will take away from the quality of education that our residents and generations of Mineola children have long enjoyed. Now, it appears that the financial mistakes of the past are dictating the consequences of our future school children.
The proposal of closing three schools in conjunction with placing fifth graders in the middle school and eighth graders at the high school goes against well-researched educational philosophy. As a teacher myself in a local school district, I have sat through numerous staff developments, attended workshops and participated in collegial circles presenting data showing the adverse effects of the very things that our board of education and superintendent are attempting to put forth. National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities published Kenneth Stevenson’s Educational Trends Shaping School Planning and Design: 2007. In that piece it discussed the positive aspects of small neighborhood schools and how “… small schools are particularly good at improving the academic achievement for students … have higher graduation rates, promote greater student involvement in co-curricular activities, and experience improved student behavior (Wasley, 2002; et al.)” In addition, the article points out how multiple transitions to a new school adversely impacts learning for our children. (Renchler, 2000) Have our board members and superintendent taken the time to consult this latest research? Can the district afford to fly on a whim driven by the almighty dollar? In the long run it is the reputation of our school district and its academic accolades that will stand against competitive neighboring school districts.
It should be noted that my opinion is not intended to diminish the hard work that has been done in good faith to bring our school district forward. Rather, it is simply a reflection that all of us should consider as we embark on these major decisions that will alter the district for many years to come. Would it not be wiser to be more conservative in these uncertain times rather than back pedal later when we realize that the new reconfiguration option is not working? Already with our newest addition, Willis Avenue School, there is regret and that is just opening one building not closing three along with floating a bond for construction. The bond option to be voted on this coming October appears to be a dichotomy of spending money to save money.
It is unfortunate that the choice of those who share similar views will be stifled on voting day. If the bond option does not pass in October then the board and superintendent revert to an alternate option with similar concessions. If the alternate option fails to pass, it also cleverly reverts to yet another alternate option. If our vote to each option is “no,” it still equates to a green light for the district to move forward with one of the options on the table. I encourage all those who are disheartened to write to our board members, superintendent, and the Mineola American . Our words need not be accompanied with anything other than “Let us be heard!”
In closing, I am reminded of a quote of Teddy Roosevelt that I heard last week which resonated with me as we begin another school year – “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”