I am happy to report that the superintendent of our school district has informed me that he is no longer mandating that new students involuntarily transfer from the Guggenheim School. I would like to believe that it was my public (and even more vocal private) lobbying that had something to do with this decision, but it was probably just the good judgment of our superintendent to rethink his position. Although Richard Sussman may have written in his letter last week that these kids have no "roots or friends yet" in the community, that was probably more a reflection of Mr. Sussman's own insensitivity than the overriding feelings of the rest of the school district. Although I have never met those affected families, reading Mr. Sussman's temper tantrum in last week's paper is certainly a small price to pay for knowing that I have done the correct thing as a trustee of the Board of Education by standing up for the rights of two families and their children.
However, for Mr. Sussman to say that I lobbied against adding teachers or TA's to the budget is ridiculous. It was Mr. Sussman who publicly stated he was against my proposal to add back the TA's to the resource rooms. For him to have written that I "didn't care if the children would have been stuck in a class way over sized or not" is ludicrous. It was Mr. Sussman who specifically wrote in last week's paper that he was opposed to adding extra teaching support for Guggenheim, but instead he supported the involuntary transfer of students as a solution. Let me be perfectly clear to Mr. Sussman. I think it is unfair to children that the certain classes at Guggenheim (and Sousa) are 35-40 percent larger than similar classes at other Port schools. Unlike Mr. Sussman, I don't think classes of 25 kids are acceptable, nor do I agree with his false assertion that our class size is in-line with our peer school districts. When I publicly supported the second budget in this newspaper, my impression was that the intention of the board was to include extra teacher support at Guggenheim. Perhaps Mr. Sussman should consult with these old board members as I have done.
In his letter Mr. Sussman makes a mention of a resolution passed by the board which allows the superintendent to mandate that children attend other schools outside of their home-school area even if it is against their will. What Mr. Sussman did not tell you was that this motion was not passed by this board, nor was it passed by the last board, but by the board of two years ago when neither myself nor three other board members were even on the board! However, when you read Mr. Sussman's letter you get the false impression that it was this board which took a vote and approved these moves - which is just not true. What is shockingly true, is that Mr. Sussman claimed that it was somehow "bureaucratically" OK to exclude kids from going to the same school with their neighbors just because they "were new" to this community. In my opinion, moving kids against their will was wrong, and this board should have voted on it directly rather than using an almost two-year-old resolution as some kind of a scapegoat to shuck the responsibility.
Yes, Richard and I worked very well together last year on the common sense plan, but I do not want to be a part of his agenda if it calls for significantly raising class size as he has previously suggested at board meetings. Nor do I favor Mr. Sussman's attempts to limit public commentary at board meetings as has been reported in the press. Mr. Sussman has even made the suggestion that some school districts (namely, New York City) require that audience members submit their questions to the board a day in advance! In summary, you would expect the president of the Board of Education to be a little more candid about the facts in his recent letter to the editor, rather than relying on his usual modus operandi of character assassinations - as anyone who has been on the board or at board meetings for the last four years can attest. Rather than quibbling over semantics or exchanging insults in a "Sussman style," I would simply like to suggest that Mr. Sussman stick to the issues, allow good faith discussion on differences of opinion, and refrain from making nasty comments about his fellow trustees just because their opinions may differ from his.