His letter to the editor in last week's paper in which he links his dissatisfaction with the teachers' salaries with the Parent-Teacher organizations in town is filled with misinformation.
I have just completed serving three consecutive years as the HSA (Home & School Association) Vice President and then co-President at Daly Elementary School. I came into the organization as a working mother and continue as a working mother; not only working but as a business owner of a one-woman enterprise here in town. My co-president this past year (who is continuing on next year) is also a working mother. Several other working parents served as co-presidents here in Port last year, not only mothers but also working fathers. We at Daly had several committee chairs who are working fathers as well, and many, many working mothers serving as committee chairs and volunteers. In my four years at the school I have never heard complaints about tension between working parents and 'non-working' parents (actually, there is no such thing as a non-working parent, as parents are the hardest workers I know!). Those parents with time available to dedicate themselves to the betterment of education work for all children of all parents in this town. The people who serve as volunteers are deeply dedicated to the welfare of all the children in town, and work tirelessly and with much criticism and little thanks for their selfless dedication.
Where Mr. Schill gets the idea that PTAs and HSAs are somehow run by the teachers is beyond me. I do not know what school his children have been attending but at Daly the HSA is entirely run by the parents, and our teachers do not even vote in our elections. I personally chaired the nominating committee for next year's board, and recruited a very diverse group of nominators from very different social groups within the school to ensure the widest possible recruitment effort. It is often a difficult task to recruit people with the time available to devote to this work, which for me (remember, a working mom) entailed an average of seven 2-3 hour long meetings each month (evening and day time, to include people with different schedules) plus another 20-30 hours of phone calls, writing, and emailing each week (co-presidents all have this same schedule, though board members at other levels have fewer mandatory meetings). This kind of time commitment is common to every PTA/HSA in town.
The Parent-Teacher organizations this year have chosen to remain silent on the matter of the contract negotiations. We discussed this strategy in closed-door meetings at which no member of the district staff at any level was present. There are very strong opinions held by individual members of the leaderships of the PTA/HSAs and, frankly, we are not all on the same page on the negotiations. But it was our studied choice to take no sides on the negotiations, other than to urge both sides to work hard to find a way to resolve their conflicts and come to agreement. What that agreement should include is not our place to determine or to influence.
If Mr. Schill had attended the principals and presidents meetings this year with Dr. Gordon and the administration of the district, he would have heard the parent leadership argue for conservative budgeting, proposing specific cuts to budgets, and recommending that many cuts from the contingent budget not be restored, in order to better serve the community as a whole. It is, in fact, largely because of the parent leadership's voice in such meetings as these that the district has heard the message from those in the community that budget increases hurt most.
Finally, I would like to point out that Port Washington should be deeply proud of itself to have such a strong culture of service. I am a second generation Port Washingtonian and, not only that, but I am a second generation parent-teacher organization president. My mother, Terry Stocker, was in fact one of the first people in Port to have been awarded an honorary Lifetime Membership in the National PTA for her many years of service at Flower Hill, Weber, and Schreiber schools. I am proud to continue to offer my energies to this community, and hope that unfair, unfounded, and bitter criticism such as Mr. Schill's does not deter others in Port--including the next generation--from proudly offering their services to the greater good of the larger community.
Susan (Stocker) Sturman