Many of us have become accustomed to the negative spin the media puts on schools in general and on teachers in particular. Those of us who are educators try to ignore it, believing that if we do, perhaps the negativity will diminish. We continue doing our best to educate the children in our charge. We go about our business, seeking ways to develop and nurture the very best qualities, skills and talents in our students. We seek to inspire. Many of us are fortunate in getting enough positive feedback from our families, our colleagues, our students and their families to offset the negative press. However, the attacks continue. They are particularly aggressive at certain key times: when test results are published in Newsday, during contract negotiations, and around the time of school budget votes. Unchallenged, these attacks lead to the kind of cynicism that pervades and destroys healthy systems.
Recently, the president of the Port Washington Teachers Association has been referred to derisively by several school board candidates. Two letters with a similar negative tone appeared in this newspaper on May 26. What may have once been dismissed as an annoying form of bullying has become a publicly accepted form of abuse.
When the motives and acts of someone of the caliber and character of Mary Anne Cariello are impugned, it is time to set the record straight. Let us put aside the fact that personally, Ms. Cariello is a consummate professional, working tirelessly with students, teachers and other colleagues, administrators, school boards, educational foundations, statewide organizations and government agencies to forge a public school system of excellence in New York State and in the country.
Let us focus on the real issue here. When Mary Anne Cariello speaks, she is speaking on behalf of over 450 teachers in Port Washington. She is our voice. She represents us, and when she is disparaged, we are disparaged. When she is belittled, we are belittled. When she is attacked, we are attacked. Ms. Cariello has worked to ensure decent working conditions and fair compensation to the staff of the Port Washington schools. She has worked to that end with dignity and fair-mindedness. It is in all our interests to recognize and celebrate that fact. We must not allow pettiness and negativity to get a foothold in this community. Whether it is born of ignorance, narrow-mindedness, or malice, it has no place here.
The teachers of Port Washington will not be distracted by insults or innuendos. Those of us working to maintain our excellent educational system will keep our focus on what is true about our schools and what is true about ourselves.
First Vice President
Port Washington Teachers Association