On May 16, we will determine the future of our town's children, but also Port Washington itself. The school bond vote has emotionally divided our townspeople.
Again, I have to vote to ensure that our town's children have an opportunity to experience a high quality educational process. My family moved to Port Washington from Arlington, MA, last June because the school system is top-notch. Holly, my wife grew up in Port and had a wonderful experience. However, the Town of Arlington's school district had its act together better than ours. We had to override what is known as Prop. 2 1/2, which limits increase in property taxes to 2.5 percent. It took several votes. The override succeeded because:
1. The school board is united.
2. The school board understood the town's demographics.
3. The public schools and town members worked together to communicate the future vision of education in the town.
4. The public school administration worked to improve the quality of education provided to its students.
I have read articles and letters to the editor in the Port News along with attending school board meetings. I am appalled at what I am experiencing. I have listed my observations that I feel are the root cause to our town's dilemma:
1. Our school board is divided both in private and public.
2. It appears that the school district has not included town members in determining the future vision.
3. The school board may not understand the town's demographics and the impact of the bond issue on the people opposed.
4. The timing of tax reassessment in Nassau County.
5. The lack of attendance of school board meetings by local townspeople.
So what should we do?
1. The school board must be united. A divided board sends the wrong message. Mr. Sussman and Mr. Zimmerman do not realize that their actions make the Port Washington School Board a laughing stock. They should either support the majority or resign. If they felt that the board's plan is too expensive they should have provided an alternative plan that had more details than the one they presented. Again, either keep quiet or resign.
2. Create a committee that represents the parents, school administration, teachers, local business people, and other members of the community to develop a future vision for our school district. By taking this action, you will create buy-in from the community. In addition, by including the community in the vision process, the school board and administration may understand some of the issues that face the community and opposition.
3. Tax reassessment in Nassau County is a few years away from being implemented. No one knows the impact. Not knowing creates uncertainty and fear.
4. Attend school board and PTA meetings. Voice your opinions at these forums. Take action and do not let apathy rule your life. If you do not vote, other people will make decisions for you.
Finally, for the people who oppose the school issue because they cannot afford the tax increase, I empathize. However, I do not have empathy for people who feel that they have done their duty or have no interest in support of our town's vitality. You are only fooling yourself. If the several bond issues fail, our property values will decrease and people will not consider Port Washington an attractive place to live. Families that can afford to send their children to private school will and this will create apathy among them. Our schools are overcrowded and need renovation. We do not want our school system to make backward progress.
What gives a community life? People of all ages. Remember, the children in our schools are our future. Let's not forget them. Give them the support and opportunity they deserve. Vote yes to the bond issue.