Despite the heavy rain and strong winds, over 200 people came to the library to celebrate "The Asian Experience in Port Washington" on Saturday, April 2. This was a special event planned by the library's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.
Students from Asian countries read their heartwarming stories about coming to live in Port Washington. Moe Hein, from Myanmar, told his story of life as a political prisoner and his path to freedom in the US.
Students from Japan shared their expertise in origami and making sushi. What a joy to watch children learn the art of origami and to see the smiling faces of adults practice making sushi (and get to eat it, too!). Japanese students also prepared a chorus of beautiful folk songs, a presentation on Japanese culture and a hilarious rendition of YMCA in Japanese. Thank you, Toshiko Hayashi and Manabu Nakamichi for organizing those wonderful activities.
Schreiber student, Senyeon Song, delighted the audience with her delicate playing of the Gayakum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument. ESOL student, Shui Lin Ngai from China sang a lovely aria from the Chinese opera, The Red Lantern.
I would like to thank the Friends of the Library (FOL) for their generous support of the ESOL program. Their mission is to extend the services and programs of various library departments, and last Saturday's event certainly was a unique experience. Aside from the above, the night was enlivened with world Tai Chi champion and Port instructor, Master Sitan Chen, and the mesmerizing rhythms of DDKY, traditional Korean drummers from Stony Brook University. One of the performers, Kevin Park, is a Schreiber graduate. Both performances were made possible with FOL funds.
I would also like to thank Toyo Foods, Restaurant Yamaguchi, Dynasty and Green Leaf Restaurant for their delicious donations of food. Having more people than expected, it was a special gift to have enough food for everyone.
This program would not have been possible without the participation from many students who prepared homemade food, from Rhoda Garbo, Bob Drew, Mary Gesualdi, Takashi Yoshida and Genevieve Maeyns who all helped immensely at the event, and Lingfen Kung, Yun Young Heo, Rye Ma and Haydee Buitron who helped with translations, decorations and gave many hours in organizing this very memorable evening. How lucky we are to live in Port with so many giving people.
Peggy Kyrkostas O'Hanlon
Our school board continues its stalwart march toward fiscal insanity. The latest proposed budget increase of 9 percent, with a tax increase of 10 percent, is grossly unfair to the community at large. It may pass, but only because too few turn out to vote. At the rate of increase these past three years, our school budget will reach $200 million by 2012. Of course, as one parent recently mentioned at a public forum, "As soon as my kids graduate, I'm out of here. These taxes are absurd." That's all well and good for those with no intention of remaining in Port. It's OK too for wealthy residents who aren't terribly bothered by high taxes. But for average homeowners paying $10,000 in taxes, and soon to be paying $20,000, this is getting serious.
Here are some facts gleaned from the March 22 PWSD budget: our 474 teachers will earn an average salary of $91,000, with health/pension benefits of $27,000, for a total of $118,000 per teacher. Schreiber teachers still only teach 17 hours a week, in spite of a contract allowing 20 hours. This costs us $2 million a year.
Our 76 maintenance/custodial workers average $63,000 in salary and $26,000 in benefits, or $89,000 each. Can we increase productivity by getting this work done with fewer people, as private companies have done? If not, can we contract out this work? Do we need 14 principals and assistant principals at $250,000 each, or could we manage with 10?
With regard to educational quality issues of increasing concern given recent disappointing test results, should we not consider the extent to which this problem may not be due to our teachers or programs? The problem may be related to family situations which exacerbate educational problems. And parents may make unreasonable demands of teachers. Case in point: a teacher does her job properly, but a student fails to do the work. The parent complains and pressures the principal to "change the grade." Incredibly, the principal complies. Is this fair to other students? Is it fair to the teacher? Also, there are too many disruption problems in grades six - 12 due to poor discipline policies.
Our school budget is clearly out of control, and part of our poor educational performance is due, not to a lack of money, but to home and family-related problems, and to problematic policies pertaining to classroom discipline and respect for teachers. If you'd like a copy of my budget analysis, just send a self-addressed stamped envelope saying, "Budget," to PO Box 203, Port Washington, or e-mail FJRussoJr@cs.com.
Frank J. Russo Jr.