This year there are six candidates for three seats on the school board. Incumbents Rob Seiden and Mark Marcellus are seeking re-election. (Rocco Andreoli, who replaced Patrick Foye, has chosen to leave the board, leaving a one-year term remaining.) Former board members Dean Nardone and Sandy Ehrlich have thrown their hats into the ring. Newcomers Sue Sturman and Reverend Alfred Burt are also on the ballot this year.
The Port News asked each candidate to submit a bio and mission statement, and to also answer some questions. At press time, Reverend Burt had not responded. However, here's what the other five candidates wrote.
My husband Mike and I fell in love with Port Washington on first sight almost 18 years ago. My three children, David, Daniel and Alison, have all attended Manorhaven, Weber and Schreiber High Schools. I have been a leader in the Port Washington community for 16 years. My service started with the Parent Resource Center Board, where I was president in 1993 and 1994. I was a member of the Landmark on Main Street Board at the opening of the building as I am again today. I have been President of Port Jewish Center and a member of the Sands Point Board of Zoning and Appeals. I serve on the Board of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. After six years' experience as a technology manager in the financial industry, I partnered with my husband in a successful small business which provided document production and management solutions to business clients for over nine years and where I served as chief technology officer. For the past two years, I have enjoyed the satisfaction of working as Executive Director of the Parent Resource Center, where I combine my management and financial skills with my love of children and the Port Washington community.
The candidates differ significantly from each other. We have candidates who are incumbents. I am not an incumbent and I look at the school district from the perspective of a parent and community member, rather than an insider. We have candidates who have never been board members. Having served before, I will be able to more quickly come up to speed and be able to bring my past experience to bear on current problems. I have a combination of skills and experience in business, in the not-for-profit sector, in local community activism and in the issues confronting the Port Washington School District that, I believe, makes me the best person to serve on the board of education.
We need to have an annually updated five-year facilities plan, created with the collaboration of the building principals, buildings and grounds departments and superintendent. The plan should serve the educational mission of the district and contain specific milestones and objectives with time and cost estimates attached. For each item, it should be decided by the board with at least two years' lead time how the item will be financed, whether out of the operating budget of the school district or by separate referendum. The factors controlling this decision should be primarily the cost of the item and whether it is a capital improvement or a maintenance item. The public should be made aware of the plan as it evolves from year to year. Funds should never be diverted from the capital needs of the district to cut the costs of the operating budget without clear, open, public discussion. The plan should be flexible enough to take advantage of periodic increases in NY state aid for construction projects. Taking advantage of state funds can make a big difference in the local cost of construction and maintenance.
I support the current budget. We need to pass it in order to run our schools properly. That said, it is very difficult for anyone not currently serving on the BOE to get enough detail about the budget to understand its strengths and weaknesses. In fact, since the BOE no longer reviews the budget in line-by-line detail, it may not even be possible for board members to fully understand what they are voting on. I am very concerned that the last minute cut of over 1/2 of 1 percent that occurred at the very last budget hearing was an example of careless budgeting that will have unforeseen consequences for our children and programs.
Again, it is difficult for an "outsider" to get a clear view of the details of the budget. There are a few areas that I have been told that cuts have been made or increased costs incurred where I would ask very hard questions. First, I am concerned that funds have been cut for our membership in Nassau County School Boards Association. This is a very minor expenditure and does not help us balance our budget in a significant way, but if we are ever to see a more equitable distribution of state aid to our local school districts, which are net exporters of school funds to the rest of the state, we need to support and participate in the only voice we have that lobbies Albany to effect change in school funding. I would restore funding for the Parent-Child Home Program. Again, the dollars at stake are not large, but the improvement in educational outcomes for these very young children from low-income, at risk families is very significant.
In the area of budget reductions, I see that every year more functions are being performed by teachers and paraprofessionals that could easily be accomplished by volunteers. Assignments such as chaperoning field trips or parties, extra help functions such as individual help with reading and elementary math, and guest lectures by local experts in fields as diverse as writing fiction and nuclear engineering could add significantly to our educational success while maintaining or even improving budgetary integrity. It would be wonderful to see our senior citizens reading to children in our elementary schools again.
As a former BOE member, I think I have a very clear vision of the role that a board member should fill. I perceive myself as a representative of the Port Washington community and as the person best able to articulate the needs and hopes of its members. I consider it an important part of the role of a board of education member to maintain a dialogue with all community members who wish to engage him/her in discussion of district issues. It is the responsibility of a board member to speak clearly, directly and publicly to the school administration on issues of educational excellence and to hold the managers of our school district accountable for both fiscal responsibility and educational outcomes.
I originally moved to Port Washington in 1991 with my wife, Marsha Appel, and my two children, both of whom attended Port Washington schools and graduated from Schreiber. I have been a computer programmer and systems manager for almost 30 years. I started my career with Air Tariffs Corp. here in Port Washington, and I currently work for Sandata, another Port Washington company. I received my BA from SUNY Albany in 1974.
Once in Port, I got involved in community activities. I joined the PTA at my children's elementary school, joined a local temple, became a founding member of PWIG (a local investment education group), and joined the Great Books Discussion Group at the library. And, from the time I first moved to Port, I began attending school board meetings. My father was a school board member and my mother was a teacher, so I know the important role the school board plays in the educational system and in the community as a whole. I strongly believe that educating our children is the most important thing we do as a community.
When I first decided to run for the school board in 2002, it was because I believed that honest differences of opinion in the community were turning into partisanship and rancor. This was destroying our school system, tearing apart our community, and keeping us from making the fundamental changes we needed to make in our district. We have come a long way since then but we still have a long way to go, and we can only get there by continuing to work together.
Every child in our district will receive:
A high quality education that our taxpayers can afford and is best suited to his or her individual needs,
To accomplish this we must:
• Make every decision based on what's best for kids: Everything else is secondary.
• Put our professionals in charge: Building managers and staff should have control over the allocation of the resources available to them and be held accountable for their results.
• Use zero-based budgeting: Our needs exceed our resources. New initiatives must find a funding source, or an offset in expenses elsewhere.
• Use data based analysis: "If you don't measure it, you won't manage it."
• Stay united: We will only succeed as a district, and as a community, by working cooperatively to achieve our goals.
I can't speak for my opponents, but here's what I believe I have to offer:
I am committed to public education. It is the reason I began attending board meetings from the time I first moved here in 1991. It is why I have worked for 14 years as a volunteer in our district, first as an advocate and then as a board member.
I have demonstrated the ability to listen to and understand alternative points of view. This has enabled me to work with different groups toward building consensus. Ours is a wonderful and diverse community, but too often in the past we have allowed our differences be an impediment to our success.
I am a fiscal conservative. We are undergoing a wrenching transition in education today. We have reached the point where taxpayers can no longer support everything we are doing. While we must offer an outstanding education to the children of our community, we must also offer an educational program our community can afford. We cannot remain a diverse community if everyone who lives here cannot afford to keep living here. The only solution is to fundamentally change the way we do business. This is a long, slow, and painful process, but it must be done. This is what we have started, and I hope to see it through.
We have had to strike a difficult balance between maintaining the integrity of our physical plant versus maintaining the integrity of our educational program. A key ingredient of our educational success has been small class sizes in the lower elementary grades. We have continued to support this but, to do so in the face of increasing enrollments, we have been unable to adequately fund our physical plant from our budget. A temporary solution has been in finding creative sources of funding. Through the generosity of members of our community we have been able to build a much needed turf field. Through careful management of our bond money we will be able to replace our badly deteriorated track. Through creative use of state Excel grants, we have funded infrastructure repairs.
We will continue to use creative means to fund our needs, and we will have to start allocating more budget money to capital projects, but this will not be enough to make up for decades of neglect. Over the next few years, we will need to develop other sources of funding. An obvious choice would be another, more modestly priced, bond issue, but we also need to explore other options such as sponsorships, grants, or other sources of outside income.
An increase of 4.95 percent is, in my opinion, the most we can reasonably ask our taxpayers to bear in this difficult year. As it turns out, this is almost exactly the average increase for all of Nassau County. This is one of the toughest budgets I've worked on; as I'm sure our staff would agree. Even a baseline budget, with no changes to our program and having only increases in mandated spending, gave us a number that was unacceptably high. There are two major causes for this: increases in mandated state costs, and the continued growth in our enrollment (as opposed to the declining enrollments experienced by other districts).
One item we wanted to be sure we got right was the special education budget. Due to unprecedented increases in our number of classified students, we have come up short on this line in each of the past two years and had to make up the costs elsewhere. We want to be sure that this does not happen again, and I believe we have done so.
Beyond that, we have had to tell our managers that this is all we could give them, and leave it up to them to decide how to allocate their scarce resources. This is an important point. In the past, the process has been for the board to decide where to find savings and then tell our managers that this was how they had to do it. I have always believed that this is an ineffective way of budgeting, and this is certainly not how successful businesses do it. I have found that the best way to achieve success, especially in a time of budget constraints, is to give our front line managers their total budget, and then let them figure out the most effective way to allocate it.
With all due respect, I don't think this is a productive way of looking at the budget process. Budgeting and planning should be an ongoing - and multiyear - process, not a selection of items from a wish list. Furthermore, with the limited resources we have, we can't afford to just "add" things. When we make changes to our program, they must either be budget neutral, like our additional advanced placement courses and the Writing Center at Schreiber; or offset somewhere else, such as eliminating administrative positions to fund more teachers.
Having said that, there are certainly areas where we need to do more. Our infrastructure immediately comes to mind. Here we have two choices; reduce our funding for an already stressed educational program, or find more creative ways to make up for the decades of neglect our physical plant has suffered. I am hopeful we can do the latter. For example, we have just won a hard fought legal judgment of over half a million dollars from Nassau County. (Only two of the districts who had money taken away from them by the county fought back. We were one of them.) I believe we can and should dedicate most of this money to capital expenditures.
In terms of reducing our budget, I support mainstreaming more of our special education students. In addition to the educational benefits, this will generate long-term savings, though a budget increase is usually required in the first year to generate those savings. For logistical and budgetary reasons this must be a gradual process. Right now we are implementing a multiyear plan in the middle school and high school, and we need to do still more.
In today's world, being a school board member is a very difficult job. We must deal with two seemingly contradictory truths: Our local taxpayers are overburdened by education costs, and our educational system is not adequately funded to handle the mandates being imposed by the state and federal governments. It is obvious to me that education as we know it has to change, because our taxpayers can't afford the system as it is today. Board members must empower our staff to find more effective ways to provide the resources needed to properly educate our students. We must demand that our legislators change our laws in ways that either provide us with funds to match their mandates, or give us the latitude to find affordable ways to satisfy them. We must ensure that we are equitably meeting the needs of every child in our district. Most important of all, it is the board's job to unite - to reach out and listen to the entire community and build a consensus on how best to meet these challenges. That is how I have always viewed my role as a board member and what I will continue to do if reelected.
Born, raised and educated in PW Schools. Graduated from SUNY Albany with a BS in business administration and a minor in computer science in 1982. Married to MaryBeth for almost 15 years with a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader who are both at Weber. Recruiter who just celebrated 17 years as a small business owner. Active at PYA coaching both boys and girls teams. Port School Board Trustee 1998-2001 and 2003 - 2006, School Board VP 2004-05, Chair Facilities Committee 2004-06 and a member of the Personnel and Planning Committees.
I look at this role as the ultimate in community service. Over the last six months alone, the school board eliminated three of their semi-monthly meetings. I believe this shows they have become the Bored of Education instead of the board of education! I used that line 30+ years ago while writing for the Schreiber Times and I think it has become true again! Having been raised here, I feel the current board lacks that grown in PW flavor that it needs. As part of my accomplishments as the BOE's facilities chair, the district received $2.5 million dollars worth of lighting and other energy work at virtually no cost to the taxpayers. The building construction plan of 2001 was well planned, well executed and was completed $600,000 under budget. I know that I did my part to make that happen. This town needs straight talk from board members who have experience and still have the passion about public education! If they don't want to have meetings perhaps they shouldn't be on the board!
Only the incumbents can match my experience. None of them can match my interest is making board meetings a forum for discussion of education. The board should be discussing with the district's educational leaders what is working well educationally in this district and what can be improved. In 2004-05 as board VP, we created goals with measurable outcomes in the areas of curriculum, personnel and facilities. We used to spend a number of board meetings discussing with the educators their building reports along with their goals, objectives and plans for improvement for the upcoming year. They were written down. That creates accountability. That is the board's job. I also love reading about what other districts are doing so we don't have to reinvent the wheel in PW. Other districts have an email list that all can opt in to find out at virtually no cost to the district what is happening in our school district. How come so many other districts put their annual audit report on their website and we don't?
I feel like I should be nicknamed the half a million-dollar man! After I was returned to the board after a two year break in 2003 there was 0$ in the transfer to capital line in the annual budget that funds construction needs. After two years on the board as facilities chair I got that line raised up to a half a million dollars for much needed roof work and other construction projects. In the last two budgets since my departure that budget line has been reduced back to zero! That shows poor planning and lack of backbone! A district this size always needs capital projects, delayed projects just mean more expensive, complicated ones down the road! Just think of how much all those additions that were completed from the 2001 bond would cost today. Probably close to double!
It seems like the board has played let's make a deal without any real educational or long term strategy. These are from some of the same people that added 10+ teaching positions after last year's budget passed! I'm not buying a used car that I want on sale at 4.95. Any budget (two years in a row) without clubs at the elementary schools is very sad. My children both had great experiences with clubs at the elementary level. Any budget without any money towards construction needs such as roofs is short sighted.
It is obvious that absenteeism is an area that needs to be explored. During the last round of negotiations there were several interesting proposals that were put forth on both sides that we could not get consensus on. Let's research some more what other districts are doing to control absenteeism and then let's act! While the last round of negotiations was difficult for all involved, in the end, the unions cooperated and increased their willingness to make their contribution to health care insurance the second most in all of Nassau County. That saves the taxpayers big dollars and showed how the unions were willing to do their part to keep the district's cost down.
Special Education costs have increased tremendously in all of New York. That is largely a result of court decisions, NCLB (No Child Left Behind), and NYS law. The number of "Exceptional Children Placed out of District" has increased by 25 percent to 105 since I left the BOE. I haven't heard of a board meeting that addressed that very expensive, specific issue.
You need to be a leader! You need backbone! Ten years ago I was elected to the BOE thinking challenge, I now add Lee Iacocca's Courage, Curiosity, Communication & Conviction to the quality a BOE member needs. The lack of discussion at BOE meetings has been appalling! Several times during my six years on the board, I took positions, sometimes alone or in the minority (parking on Bogart, re-districting, the removal of In the Time of Butterflies) that were later shown to be correct. The students of this district need the BOE to once again focus on what is going on in the classroom each and every day. I've done it before, I'd love the opportunity to do it again.
Mark Twain Junior High School for Gifted & Talented in Coney Island Brooklyn
Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn (All City football player on Varsity High School Team)
New York University, BA Cum Laude, 1985
Benjamin Cardozo Law School, JD, 1988
Manhattan District Attorney's Office, 1988 - 1999, Senior Prosecutor
CEO, Fortress Global Investigations & Security
Port Washington School Board member for past six years with past three as board president
Current Board Trustee at the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center since 1994
Past PYA and CYO coach
Member of Temple Beth Israel
Northshore Hospital Infant Loss Awareness Group volunteer in past
Married for 17 years
3 children, one in eighth grade at Weber and twin boys in second grade at Salem school
I have worked very hard with my fellow board members, the administration, staff and the community over the past six years to restore trust and a level of excellence to the Port Washington school district. My vision is that we continue to build on this and ensure every child has a chance to achieve to their fullest potential while balancing this vital function with the scarce resources available and respect for our community.
I believe that I stand for the future and not the past. The past was mired in discord and mediocrity. The present and the present direction that I and others have fought for is imbued with hope and a high level of excellence and integrity. There are those who have accused this board of education of being too harmonious and too filled with compromise. I would disagree. This board is a highly functioning and collegial body. We have accomplished so much because we have worked behind the scenes and in committees to work out issues, iron out differences and build consensus in a respectful and intelligent manner. Indeed our committees have become very well attended, unlike the past. Much work is done at these meetings and I want to recognize the great work of my fellow board members here. I spearhead the emergency preparedness committee to help keep our kids safe (staffed by members of the community and staff such as the fire commissioner, police officials, emergency preparedness experts and the like) and the fraud, waste and abuse task force and consolidated many of the other standing committees to enable greater productivity and less time-wasted bureaucracy. These initiatives have been successful and should be lauded not criticized. In addition, there are some who say that this board has not been as tough on the administration and superintendent as they should be. The board's role is not to be educators. We are an oversight body entrusted to ensure that the administration follows policy, does the right thing and acts with fiscal integrity. The board members are not to micromanage the school district. That was one of the problems of the past. Board members felt like they were there to run the schools and tell everyone what to do. This is a dereliction of the board members duties I would argue. Instead, I believe that this board and myself have balanced our oversight role well. I have challenged Dr. Gordon in public and behind the scenes many times to ensure that things are done right. The mere fact that I am respectful in public to the administration (as I always try to be with all persons at board meetings), should not be misconstrued to mean that tough questions are not being asked and accountability demanded. I and many board members regularly, but respectfully, challenge decisions and probe into issues. Especially in the areas of finance and the direction of the school district.
Our capital needs are exacerbated largely because of the mishandling by the board of education of several years ago before I arrived. They brought forth a bond and a plan that was very short sighted and contributed substantially to the current inadequate state of some of our facilities. In fact, when I arrived six years ago, I spent many long nights working with other new board members and the administration to clean up the mess we inherited and to try to convince our construction management firm not to walk off of the job. Nonetheless, that was then and we have to look ahead. This board previously empaneled a capital expenditure committee of community volunteers and staff members. They had done work but difficulties arose. A new committee is being formed that this board has authorized with the specific purpose of identifying the means to pay for capital needs of the infrastructure. There are many ways to raise the funds to pay for repairs and construction. We do not always have to go back to the taxpayer as has been done in the past. It should be stressed that none of the capital repair issues affect the health or safety of the students or staff. If they do, they are addressed immediately. The facilities issues that are being addressed in this capital planning committee are for roofs and other areas. The funding sources will be looked into and the implementation will follow. Lastly, I worked very hard with the board and administration to bring in the last bond on time and under budget. This resulted in monies being left over that have been used and will be used for things like renovations and possibly a new track soon. Only by working together and being creative, smart and with proper planning can we achieve the goal of dealing with our capital repairs while not impacting the in-class instruction. This process has begun.
Regarding this year's budget, I am very proud of this year's budget. It represents a new paradigm in how budgets are prepared in Port Washington schools. The board worked with the administration to start the budget process much earlier in the school year and involved the building principals and directors from the outset to have a budget built from the ground up. Although there was much more work, the results are worth it. A 4.95 percent budget increase is better than almost all North Shore school districts and it is right in the middle of all Long Island according to Newsday. This is so even with a growing enrollment of students in Port Washington compared to most of our neighbors. This budget keeps all the academic, athletic and other programs fully intact and represents fairness and respect for our caring community. The board held many budget sessions and meetings and even a Town Hall Forum to gather the input of the community. This was unusual and something I am personally proud of. I have spearheaded many of these types of forums and committees over the past several years in an effort to build greater trust and communication with the community. I think we have been successful. The community has supported our budgets under my leadership as board president for the past several years and I hope that this continues. I have used my business and budgeting skills to work with my fellow hard working and dedicated board members and the administration to squeeze the best out of every dollar and find greater efficiencies and private funding where possible to offset costs.
Regarding the role of a school board member: It is my view that a school board member is first and foremost a trustee who is a representative of the community. We must be humble but vigilant watch dogs of the children's education and the taxpayers' dollars. We must also be ambassadors to the community and be available for community and parent input and insight. I believe over the past six years I have achieved this. When I joined the board several years ago, things were in utter turmoil. The board of education was enmeshed in embarrassing infighting and the school system was in trouble. I believe that I have made a difference in changing this and it has been through a collaborative effort of working with the administration, the community, the parent groups, the media, the unions, and most importantly, never forgetting that we as board members are here to act with integrity, vision and to safeguard the funds and the education and lives of 5,000 children. This is a most important mission.
I grew up in Port Washington, attended Flower Hill, Weber, and Schreiber (class of '77). My parents, Terry and Bill Stocker, were very active in community affairs and instilled in me a strong sense of civic service and the value of community connections. After attending Boston University (BS in Public Relations, minor in Organizational Communications) and living elsewhere (both in the states and abroad), my husband David and I chose to return to Port to bring up our two children - Sarah, 10, and Nicholas, 7, both Daly students. We moved back to Port because we could think of no better place to raise children. I knew from experience they would thrive in the strong community spirit and educational system of Port Washington. Professionally, I have years of experience in public communications with companies ranging from Mobil Oil to Doyle Dane Bernbach to The Bank of New York. I also have experience in special events production, and have been an entrepreneur for the past 12 years. Together, these experiences have taught me to effectively manage complex organizational systems, while at the same time keeping an eye for detail and holding a larger context firmly in view. I understand how to work collaboratively and believe that communication and transparency are keys to personal and organizational success. I have regularly attended board of education meetings and board committee meetings for the past five years. I have served five years as a parent leader, first as VP then co-president of Daly's HSA and more recently as co-president of AGATE, allowing me to concentrate on curriculum issues.
Our children and our students are our valuable treasures and our future. The board of education is the steward of their education and opportunity for success in and contribution to the world. It is an important responsibility that we must work hard to fulfill. My personal vision for education calls for strong academics, fostering inquisitive minds, nurturing creativity, and a commitment to finding and fulfilling a purpose in life that contributes to society. Based on such a vision, the board and administration can lay out a roadmap, a plan for how our facilities must conform to that vision, how our curriculum must support it, and how our staffing will deliver it. This planning can guide the community to understand what we are being asked to fund with our taxes, how our money will be spent, and what value our students can expect from their community's investment. At this time of sophisticated educational practices and significant fiscal pressures, we must show that each dollar furthers our educational goals, while taking into account the very real limits on what our citizens are willing and able to afford.
I am neither on the side of those in the community who call for funding all our wish lists regardless of the tax impact, nor on the side of those who call for a reduced tax burden regardless of the educational consequences. What I am committed to is doing the hard work of balancing where there are competing aims, and redoubling our efforts where the community is unified.
Unlike most of the other candidates, I have not yet served on the board of education.
Out of my interest and commitment to understanding the big picture of education funding, I helped organize a 2006 seminar on Education Funding Reform in New York State, under the joint auspices of the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. I promise to work to organize a broad-based community task force to work closely with our state legislators to fix our very broken state education finance system of regressive taxation and unfunded mandates. We need a system that taxes those most able to pay, and gives breaks to those who have spent a lifetime investing in the system but are now retired.
My passion for Port runs three generations deep and I understand the concerns of old and new. We need to keep what was good about Port in the past and adapt to what works in the future.
I would begin by recreating the facilities committee as a separate committee ensuring that the proper time and attention is devoted to establishing a clear plan for maintaining our facilities in both the near and long term. The plan should have a timeline, assign responsibilities and have funding options to achieve the plan.
There are infrastructure projects that, having been delayed year after year, are becoming increasingly urgent, and with every year's delay, more expensive. Options for funding these large projects need to be carefully weighed by the board and the public. Possibilities include creating a capital reserve fund, issuing another bond; difficult choices will have to be made. The longer we avoid these decisions, the more difficult the choices will be. As a board, we need to dedicate more time and energy to discussing solutions to the capital needs of the district.
I have encouraged the administration to set aside 100 percent of the recent tax settlements for capital and infrastructure projects.
I would commit to fund capital line items in annual budgets to protect our school buildings for the future.
Finally, we need to continue to make the 'greening' of our schools a priority. A facilities committee can work with the district to explore energy conservation options, increasing recycling, and using non-toxic cleaning substances to both reduce expense and tread more lightly on the earth.
As a taxpayer, I can appreciate that the increase was kept to a minimum. As a parent, I appreciate the educational priorities of maintaining the scope and variety of curriculum opportunities. That being said, I think that this year's budget process was flawed. It should include a comprehensive, detailed review of past budgets and an evaluation of each component for its effectiveness toward our goals. Only then can a budget reflect realistic expectations of expenditures in the areas of curriculum development, infrastructure maintenance and staffing needs. While we whittle down the budget, are we cutting too close to the bone on some things such as maintaining our buildings? Are we sure that all our curricular offerings are hitting the mark? I would work for a longer-range financial plan, to avoid inconsistencies in budgets from year to year, and to give our citizens a cohesive, understandable idea of what they can expect over the next several years as we work to fulfill our mission to provide the best education possible for all our students.
We have not seen a detailed review of this budget in light of past spending and budget transfers. How this budget was constructed is not entirely clear, and spending plans seem to change dramatically during the course of recent years. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in matters that affect our taxes, and I agree. I cannot therefore make many specific suggestions for either cuts or additions until I have seen a more detailed examination of what each line item represents. This process is painstaking, is best conducted outside of the normal budget cycle, and should be open to the public. While this used to be common practice, the board has not conducted such a comprehensive review in recent years. I would, however, restore the dues for Port Washington's membership in the Nassau/Suffolk and New York State School Boards Associations, which are our political base for lobbying for change with Albany, and for learning of best practices elsewhere. And in future, I would urge the administration to make sure we have adequate money to maintain our buildings and grounds in each year's budget.
The role of the board of education is to set goals and provide oversight to the Superintendent of Schools, in order to empower him or her to manage the district in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The board must provide the resources to achieve its goals as well as evaluate how well those resources have been applied and whether or not goals have been met. Balance and oversight is how a school board can best direct the district.
The role of an individual school board member is to be in constant communication with as broad a spectrum of the community as possible, to hold high standards for themselves and the board and district as a whole, and to speak their mind and their conscience. It is critical that board members earn the trust of the public, the superintendent, and their fellow board members so that they may work with transparency, collegiality and respect, while working out differences in a civil and productive manner.
We can always do better. I set high goals for myself and think as a district we can do no less for our children. If I did not think that Port has what it takes to be even better I would not have spent five years as a parent leader, nor would I be asking to be elected. Fellow Port Washingtonians, I ask for your vote on May 20.