I write this letter in response to a principal's recent request to the school board for additional "assistant principals" to be hired in all elementary schools. When one realized that 80 percent of all Long Island school districts spend less per student and that Port Washington's expenditures exceed the Nassau County average, this request is irresponsible. As a teacher I have always supported funding for direct student instruction. This administrative largesse proposal is another example of unnecessary school expenses. The average compensation package for the 14 principals/assistant principals is $160,000 without adding more personnel.
I feel the compensation for administration is overly generous when one realizes that between 2003 and 2004 there was a 3 percent drop in the pass rate for eighth graders on the NY State Math test. Furthermore, the passing rate on the eighth grade English Language Arts Test between 2003 and 2004 went from 78 percent down to 69 percent. In comparison to other districts on the 2003 fourth grade math test, 35 Nassau School Districts scored higher and spent $3,400 less per student. New York spends more per child than any other state, and yet test results place us in the middle of all 50 states - so lack of spending is not the problem.
As a longtime educator, I know all too well how school districts push for the ratification of exorbitant school budgets and falsely use rhetoric that a budget rejection hurts children. In our upwardly mobile community parents are the primary educators and as such, parental supervision plays the prominent role in a child's success. The Roslyn School District, for example, having larger class sizes of 23 students than that of Port Washington was identified as 1 of 9 Long Island districts which outperforms its peers (Newsday 4/7/05).
In January 2004, our superintendent commented on the necessity for a $6.4 million bond referendum. He stated, "We have no choice but to address this great need," On March 16 this bond was overwhelmingly defeated. This was not surprising in light of the fact that voters had just approved a bond referendum in 2001 for $66 million. The bond defeat sent a mandate to the superintendent and the school board that fiscal restraint is in order.
It has been proven in neighboring Long Island districts that more can be done with less and still provide for exceptional student success. On Tuesday May 17, Port Washington residents can send another mandate to cut costs and elect school board members who support budgetary restraint, And why not!