Opinion

Mark Twain once said that if we try to save money by spending less on schools, we won't save anything because we'll have to spend more on jails. His point is as salient today as it was in the 1800s. Mark Twain also believed in self-reliance and rugged individualism as his Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer embodied. In New York State these days, school districts have very little choice but to heed Twain's thoughts. The Port Washington school district receives very little financial aid from the state and yet faces enormously growing pressure on our budget. Many taxpayers are stretched and the school board certainly recognizes this. Yet, we are entrusted with the vital task of ensuring that our children are able to face a fast-changing and globally challenging world. No one is going to help us in this delicate balance but ourselves. Over the past several years, we have created many efficiencies and other initiatives to help keep our budget contained, despite a reduction in state aid and growing student enrollment. We have reduced and combined staff positions, we have created a fraud, waste and abuse task force and a whistle blower hotline, and we have seen the benefits of this. This school year, we have started our budget planning process much earlier in the school year. Our discussion [at the] last meeting was the earliest it has been discussed in public in many years and the process is as transparent as has been seen in Port Washington . The board discussed the various options for tackling a complicated budget. We have lots of experience on the board in this regard and will continue to weigh the best way to plan for 2008 - 2009. No answers were given or decisions made. This will happen after we have evaluated the financials, heard from our auditors and educators, garnered community input and have a chance to weigh the competing issues. We appreciate the community's patience in this long, deliberative and important process.

The school board has many things to report. Our students are off to a great year thus far. All of our personnel are working under mutually agreed upon settled contracts. This is very unusual in New York State and we thank our staff and appreciate the hard work that has gotten us here, especially Dr. Gordon and Mr. Sallie. We welcome Dr. Nick Stirling to our district who has worked tirelessly since summer to ensure our curriculum is cutting edge and meets or exceeds the state standards for our kids. We want to thank the staff, parents and police for the collaborative efforts in the past few weeks to help keep our kids safe in the wake of recent "stranger danger" incidents. Our sports teams are doing well and our varsity football team came from behind for a spectacular victory over Syosset in the Pride in Port home coming game. Thank you to Dr. Fitzgerald and the entire Pride in Port staff for making the day a great success for our town.

We should all be proud of the unity and great partnership we have created together in the Port community. We welcome your input and advice in this regard. There is still much work ahead this year. But together we can do it. No less than 5,000 young lives and the future of our society lies in the balance. On behalf of the board of education, thank you for your support.

Robert Seiden

School Board President

On Behalf of the Board of Education


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