For the first time in recent memory, the school board elections are quiet. With only two issues of the paper left before the election, not one letter in support or opposition to a candidate has been written to the paper. Nor are advertisements flooding it. With two positions opened, those of Alan Baer and Dean Nardone who chose not to seek re-election after serving one, three-year term, only three candidates threw their hats into the ring.
Most likely this is due to the fact that with the long-term school facilities bond finally out of the way, and the financial fiasco from the mid '90s settled, few "major" burning issues exist ... for the time being at least.
The board that will be constituted as of July, however, still has important challenges. Overseeing the financial end of the $66 million bond just passed is certainly one. Construction oversight, including design approval, bids and construction timelines, is another.
The unenviable task of negotiating a contract for Port's beloved teachers, while factoring in the kitchen table economics of taxpayers looking at an $80 million budget and annual tax increases over the next few years generated from a $66 million construction bond, will fall to the new board also.
In addition, the board will have to negotiate civil service and administrator's contract, fill administrator's positions and be responsible for implementing recommendations of the Civil Rights Resolution Agreement.
Three residents' names will be on the ballot on Tuesday, May 15, in the Flower Hill All-Purpose Room at Weber Middle School from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.: Nancy Cowles, Michael Meehan and Laura Mogul.
Voters can hear their ideas and ask them questions at the annual "Meet the Candidates Night" hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset. This annual event is scheduled for Monday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Weber Middle School Auditorium.
I am a 14-year resident of Port Washington, married with three children. My daughters attend three different Port Washington schools: Sousa (2nd grade), Weber (6th grade) and Schreiber (10th grade).
Over the years, I have taken advantage of every opportunity to be part of my children's education, including ten years of class parent duty, three years as chair of the Sousa Book Fair, two years as the Sousa "Orchestra Mom" and a member of the selection committee for the new Sousa principal. I created the Weber Bulletin Board (parent newsletter) and produced it for two years. I am currently the layout editor of the Schreiber Scribe.
This year, I completed my third term as president and co-producer of the Port Summer Show. During my tenure, we staged three enormously successful musicals with teen casts of over 50 kids. I instituted the procedures, budget controls and fund-raising efforts that allowed our show to be financially self-sufficient.
Through my kids, I am also an active supporter of community-based youth activities, including PAL and PYA sports, the Port Washington Soccer Club, At Last, Brownies and the Parent Resource Center.
While a member of the Community Synagogue, I served on the board of trustees as the nursery school co-chair and as the administrator of a religious school of over 300 students. I currently work on the education committee at the Reconstructionist Synagogue.
Before becoming a full-time mom, I had 14 years' experience in marketing communications, advertising and marketing research including VP Advertising at Revlon, VP Account Supervisor at J. Walter Thompson and Marketing Director for the Telefirst subsidiary of ABC Television. In those positions I was responsible for developing and introducing new products and managing multi-million dollar advertising budgets. I continue to work as a freelance writer and marketing communications consultant.
I was a Rotary Club Exchange Student in Japan during my senior year in high school. On my return, I studied Oriental Languages at Barnard College and received my BA in Japanese from UCLA in 1976.
In January 1973, I was the youngest-ever adult Jeopardy champion.
My platform is one of individuality and consensus. I believe I have the qualifications to do a tremendous job as a board member, and to bring much-needed consensus to its deliberations.
As an individual, I believe in the mission statement of our school district. It asks us to recognize and value our students as individuals, and to "provide a comprehensive educational program that is responsive to the more rigorous learning standards required to meet the needs of all children."
For the past few years, the Board has spent an enormous amount of time on critical facilities issues and less and less on educational programs. As a result, programmatic decisions are often made hastily at budget time, and not as part of a long-range vision of how and what we want to teach our children. We must always be mindful that it is the taxpayers' money we are spending and we need to work harder at getting full value from our educational programs. Bottom-line cost is one measure; successful preparation of our children for life is another.
The job of the school board is to deal with the big picture, not to micromanage district operations. We need to give clear direction and specific goals to our educators and administrators, stand back and let them do their jobs and then evaluate the results. Now that we are into the next phase of our facilities activity, I would like to see the Board engage in more long-term planning for our educational programs. We need to look ahead at least five years to anticipate the changes that will be required to allow all of our students to meet state standards and to achieve to the best of their abilities.
The introduction to the superintendent's presentation, "An Educational Vision for the Port Washington Schools: Its Impact on Facilities Planning," contains a more detailed statement of our educational goals. I would have the Board use this mission statement as the basis for reviewing every program, plan, expenditure and decision.
Time, money and public trust are squandered when the Board engages in personal attacks and confrontations. Each Board member will bring his or her own perspective on the strategies and tactics needed to achieve our goals, but agreement on basic objectives will help us move forward effectively and efficiently.
Individuality and consensus might appear to be mutually exclusive ideas. I believe we can and must recognize both. We cherish our diversity in Port Washington - it's what makes this community so special. If we can come to consensus on our goals, we will be well on our way to creating a school system that reflects our community and supports our youngest members.
I'm a 40-year resident of Port Washington. I attended Flower Hill, St. Peter's, Weber Jr. High School and graduated from Schreiber High School in 1978. After high school I attended four years of college in the SUNY system attaining my degree in theater. After college I attempted a professional career as an actor. I became a very good waiter.
I then accepted a position with the Port Washington Postal Service. What I once thought would be a stopover has become a 17-year hitch.
During this tenure I have had a variety of experiences. I have served as an elected official for the union and settled grievances with management. I also have switched sides to the management representative with labor. Currently, I am the liaison between the passport agency and the public in Port Washington. One of the aspects I enjoy about my job is my relationship with the Port Washington School District specific to the school's display of artwork at the Post Office. I also enjoy being the tour guide to all the young children from the various schools within our district that visit the Post Office throughout the year.
I'm married to Sara and have three daughters, two of whom attend Port schools, Weber and Manorhaven, and the youngest will begin pre-kindergarten in September.
As a school board member I would like to reduce the senseless bickering at board meetings. I am proud of our school district and bring a sense of civic pride to the table. I am proud that our district produced an Intel winner, but I am also saddened some people in the district feel disenfranchised.
As a homeowner of modest means, I understand how high taxes can hurt those in our community who are least able to afford large tax increases. I am committed to providing the best education possible for the kids and believe money can be saved by filing for federal grants that have been going untapped. I would also like to challenge our wonderful community to lift some of our financial burden by expanding volunteer programs that serve our schools.
I have an uncanny knack for bringing people together and believe this community would be well served with me as a board member.
My love for my hometown motivates me to represent my community and serve our children with all my heart.
The Port Washington School District is excellent. However, Port Washington is a diverse community and the schools represent that. During the same wonderful school year that our community celebrated the accomplishment of an Intel winner, we also saw a few children go upstate to serve time due to gang related activity. Both ends of the spectrum have my attention.
Programs such as PEP, a program for the academically gifted, plant the seeds for proficient achievers. My philosophy on education is that we must stimulate, challenge and motivate our students to the maximum of their potential. Programs that address the needs of the gifted should never be compromised. As a society and as a nation, we have always been well served by our abstract thinkers. I believe that we have a vested interest in providing the gifted with a motivated peer group.
What has a front, has a back. We also have a problem understanding children. If one were to peruse the PRIDE report, some glaring tendencies would be painfully evident. Parents believed that 4.7 percent of the children "experimented" with marijuana. Out of touch. Has the advent of gangs in our schools been related to a sense in some of our minority communities that they are indeed disenfranchised? Do we just close our eyes to these social problems and hope that we will remain unaffected? What about the Office of Civil Rights report that indicates that minorities in our district represent a disproportionate percentage of our Special Education program. Will we dismiss these findings and simply say that we are "doing enough" for minority groups?
This school board needs to hear all the voices of the community. Should I care less about the opinions of members of the community who will be not voting on May 15th? Certainly not!
The majority of students in this school district are very productive. The basic tenet of my message is that all our students are special and should be given every opportunity to develop.
I would like to characterize my perspective by saying that I have no ax to grind. I have no allegiances and am truly an outsider in regard to the recent history of BOE tumult. I am in essence a centrist seeking balance for our community. Education is paramount in this equation. I will consider all perspectives while representing this fine community as a member of the board of education.
Education is a priority for Nancy Cowles, a 33-year resident and community activist, who moved to Port Washington because of the excellent reputation of its schools. Her three children went through the Port system. Now she has two grandchildren attending: a 10th grader at Schreiber and a 5th grader at Guggenheim.
Nancy has a master's in education and a professional diploma in school psychology. She has taken additional courses in administration and supervision. Prior to retirement, she was a member of a school based support team and committee on special education in New York City and an adjunct field supervisor at St. John's University. Currently, she is an associate in an architectural firm.
Nancy served on the Board of Education from 1997-2000. During her tenure, she chaired its Community Relations and Facilities Committees and was a member of the Curriculum Committee.
Among Nancy's many other community activities are the following:
-Served on board of Daly and Sousa HSA; member of the Schreiber PTA.
- Co-chairperson for district's Special Services Committee- Project Redesign.
(This citizens' committee was instrumental in improving special education services in Port schools and having legislation introduced and passed recognizing Learning Disabilities as a legal handicapping condition.)
-Former volunteer tutor in Port Schools
- Gambol chairperson 1978, 1980 and 1984.
- Member AGATE; SEPTA
- Former Scout leader
-Trustee and past President PW Community Scholarship Fund.
- Board Member Community Chest
-Former member board of directors of North Shore Child Guidance
-Committee chairperson Cancer Care
This year the Board of Education is confronted with making many crucial decisions that will have significant long-range educational and financial implications for our community and its children. Since a majority of remaining board members will have served less that a full year, it is vitally important to elect people who demonstrate understanding of the complexity of the issues facing the board.
To me, a primary function of the board is to institute policies that are in line with government mandates, reflect educational vision and provide direction for district operations. The board's role is one of oversight and appraisal, not day-to-day management. Members must work collegially and be willing to thoroughly and critically review and analyze all information, ask relevant questions, fully and reasonably discuss the merits and impact of options, and then have the courage to vote for those that are most appropriate.
Although facilities construction will require ongoing vigilance, we must reorient our focus, concentrate on the educational needs of all students and become proactive proponents for strengthening educational programs; yet, remain cognizant of the financial impact educational decisions have on the community.
The board cannot ignore the concerns of our community. We have an obligation to seek increased value for every dollar spent. Our budgetary process can be improved. There must be sufficient time allowed for community input, review and revision as warranted. We must find ways to improve communication, utilize the wealth of talents and expertise which exists in the community, and work together in delineating and resolving problems.
The knowledge and experience I acquired as a former trustee has provided me with requisite, valuable skills that would be of benefit in resolving these challenges. I believe I can provide much needed continuity and be a responsible, effective member of the board. I pledge the time, energy and commitment necessary to appropriately serve both students and community well.