At the June 5 BOE meeting an event deserving of consequence occurred. The meeting subsequently, as is routine, was reported in the local newspapers. For weeks following I read the newspapers anticipating the letters of concern. I waited for the sound of the dropping of the other shoe. Yet, not a single word of written concern did I find.
At the June 5 meeting, the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, presented his staffing recommendation that the district hire 14 additional full-time teachers. Dr Gordon qualified, "We only ask for what we need and I won't apologize." The school budget, as recently approved in May, had been presented to the voters with the addition of only one teacher. Is the school superintendent running too far ahead of the trustees?
Following the staffing request board member Larry Greenstein was reported to recommend reform of the 'modeling metrics' for anticipating class enrollment to better incorporate immigration. Board member Dr. Roy Nelson was reported to suggest using 'information from realtors' to assess immigration. BOE President Rob Seiden was quoted, "It's going to be a very painful process." Leadership and control in this instance do not appear to be present. Was the projected increase in enrollment of 25 students short by a few hundred?
What on earth had occurred? How could a school district so badly underestimate, of all things, its teacher staffing needs? If $75,000 is used as the annual minimum cost for one teacher, including benefits, then the difference for 14 teachers is $1 million! If only three additional teachers were to be hired then the error in staffing might only be 300 percent. Dr. Gordon, immediately following the vote, tells us that instead of one, 14 teachers are now needed. Did not Dr. Gordon and Mary Callahan, the asst. supt. for business, immediately preceding the budget vote repeatedly stress how stringent the budgeted amount was? Were we not told, over and over, that every penny on every expense line was needed? The authorized budget is a fixed $116 million. Where will the additional money come from? How could anyone so badly miscalculate the budget? Where are the professionals?
If the school district can afford a sports director and an arts director, which we previously functioned without, at approximately $150,000 each, then why are we so deficient in budgeting and planning expertise? Why has the district so badly failed in planning from one year to the next? What would the board of directors of a private corporation want if their comptroller miscalculated the budget by $1 million? What should the shareholders (taxpayers) demand? Who is in charge? Who is responsible? An open examination of the facts and an explanation is, without apology, manifestly required. In the public and private sectors forced retirement and or resignation for incompetence may be expected.
(Writer's note: This letter does not in any way represent the position or opinion of the General Council of Homeowner Associations of Port Washington, of which separately, I serve as president.)