News Sports Opinion Obituaries Contents
News

The League of Women Voters of Port Washington/Manhasset sponsored its annual Candidates Night for the contestants in the upcoming Port Washington School Board elections last week. All those seeking election to the school board were invited and citizens urged to come, ask questions and learn about the candidates.

As the Port News ran an extensive piece on the candidates' views last week, asking each one several questions in addition to publishing the bios they were asked to submit, we will be limiting this article to essentially new topics raised by audience members at the LWV's forum.

The school budget vote and board member elections will be held on Tuesday, May 18, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Flower Hill All Purpose Room in Weber Middle School on Campus Drive.

At the beginning of the forum, rules for this LWV's event were outlined by the moderator. Audience members had to fashion their questions without long commentary that essentially stated their opinion. The LWV also does not allow personal attacks.

One dispute occurred during the evening when Alison White asked candidate and former School Board President Richard Sussman about a comment made by NYS Commissioner of Education Mills, when he passed down his ruling of Dec. 23, 2002 on whether or not the district had to pay Mr. Sussman's legal bills resulting from his conflicts with board member John Zimmerman. The commissioner had written that Mr. Sussman "engaged in conduct inappropriate for a school board member." Resident Hank Ratner vehemently opposed this question, calling it a personal attack on Mr. Sussman. At first, the moderator allowed the question, and was then overruled by a League of Women Voters official who was present at the forum.

Following are the audience's questions.

How do you feel about the level of community input in the district?

Bowser:

It's important to "build alliances."

Calenda:

District needs more and better attendance: "Nobody shows up." He feels that executive sessions should not be closed

(Note: Mrs.Cowles clarified the executive session rules. She advised that the BOE only meets and discusses items in executive session which are permitted by exception under the "open meetings law." There are a limited number of specific topics which are allowed, such as specific personnel, negotiations, litigation, etc., she noted.)

Cowles:

Community forums and open meetings are very important. She pointed out that executive sessions deal with matters of litigation, personnel and contract negotiations, which can leave the district open to legal exposure.

Posner:

It's a critical aspect to the process. "Constructive input is very important."

Sussman:

Contends the current board does not follow the rules.

Zausner:

"We serve the public and they should be involved." He noted that the community seems to be interested in the schools at budget time. "We have to knock on doors," he feels.

What is the appropriate cost per pupil?

Bowser:

Spending approximately $17,500 per pupil, "if this was a private school, all students would be scoring high." The kids aren't receiving the full focus of the dollars and they should be better spent.

Calenda:

"As much as we can afford. If we can't afford it, we shouldn't spend it."

Cowles:

Feels that the cost per pupil should reflect the (1) values of the community and difference between what is expected and what community can afford. She also pointed out that Port has many high need students, for which they don't receive extra money. She suggests looking at programs for their effectiveness.

Posner:

"An exact figure is not possible. It's a balance between what we can reasonably afford and what are the community's expectations."

Sussman:

The cost per pupil should equate with student performance.

Zausner:

Look at other districts (i.e Herricks, Syosset, Carle Place) that perform well for less.

Debbie Odell asked a question specifically to Richard Sussman, who was on the board for six years, from July of '96 to June of 2002. Why did he vote to approve the $68 mil. construction bond, when he told voters (when he ran for his last term of office) along with then board member John Zimmerman, that they had a $35 mil. "Common Sense" Plan?

Sussman replied that the $35 mil. Common Sense Plan was a "possible plan," and only a proposal. He said he presented a $40 mil. bond, but claims his fellow board members kept adding things to it (i.e. parking). (Note: The $40 mil. figure contradicts what he stated in his bio in last week's issue, when he reported that he proposed a $45 million bond initially.)

If the budget fails, what specifically would you cut?

Bowser:

Changes would be hard to make, but would attempt to avoid items that harm children. Restudy budget.

Calenda:

Put up the same budget. If board doesn't, it implies waste. Don't know what specifically what to cut.

Cowles:

Review budget for cuts that are least damaging to educational items. Also seek community input to find out exactly what they want cut.

Review the budget again.

Sussman:

Would look to contracting out buses and return to doing a line-by-line analysis. Would also eliminate copier people, a job he claims the teachers used to perform. He would also reinstate after school programs.

Zausner:

Look for alternate funds. Outsource ancillary departments.

Should we create athletic fields and/or leave open space (to be used for environmental educational purposes) at the property that was gifted to the school district near the Guggenheim School?

Bowser:

Try to use town and Nassau County parks for fields rather than Guggenheim property.

Calenda:

Use half of the property for athletic fields.

Cowles:

Referred to this as "Solomon" questions. She noted that playing fields are also "open space." The district needs fields, but the question is where to put them. "I prefer somewhere else. Perhaps we could pay for other property with grants."

Posner:

There are many things the community wants. "We're not united on the use for this property. We should try to come to consensus on what is the best use of this parcel."

Sussman:

Favors using the fields for only our students in Port Washington.

Zausner:

Keep open space and use soccer fields at Harbor Links.

The current board is known for its civility, decorum and respectful way the board members treat each other. How will you continue this?

Bowser:

"I will behave in a professional, responsible and mature manner. All should be heard and respected"

Calenda:

"I will try to control myself."

Cowles:

The current board members listen to each other. "While we disagree a lot, we follow the rules, respect each other and set a good example for the kids."

Posner:

The board should work together, with each member conducting themselves appropriately. "We should have respect for each other and deal with the work at hand."

Sussman:

Alluding to the problems on the boards he was on, he reported that he personally went to Albany to ask for an expert to observe the board. He said that the expert said that the people in the audience were the problem and suggested that the board meet up on the stage with their backs to the audience.

Zausner:

Treat people with respect, and conduct oneself in the utmost professional way. He also quipped that we shouldn't pay any money for the kind of experts that Sussman told the audience about.


LongIsland.com Logo
An Official Newspaper of the
LongIsland.Com Internet Community


| antonnews.com home | Email the Port Washington News|
Copyright ©2004 Anton Community Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

LinkExchange
LinkExchange Member

Farmingdale Observer Floral Park Dispatch Garden City Life Glen Cove Record Pilot Great Neck Record Hicksville Illustrated News Levittown Tribune Manhasset Press Massapequan Observer Mineola American New Hyde Park Illustrated News Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot Plainview Herald Port Washington News Roslyn News Syosset Jericho Tribune Three Village Times Westbury Times Boulevard Magazine Features Calendar Search Add An Event Classified Contacting Anton News