Opinion

There was a curious "press release" style article posted in the Aug. 21st issue of the Port Washington News about the school district generating an alumni directory for the high school.

I say curious because from 1998 to 2001, an effort was made by local school alumni to establish an alumni association for the high school, one of whose main purposes was the publication of an alumni directory (my suggestion) that would make reunions easier to arrange. The idea came apart for two reasons. First, an element of the group was really more interested in creation of an educational foundation to support the financial interests of the school authorities. And second, the school raised questions about access to school records and this led to questions from some alumni about their being uncomfortable having their addresses made public to even a limited degree. My memory is that this feeling was stronger among those interested in the foundation, though not exclusively.

After many large meetings (up to 25 leaders in attendance), the project was brought to a halt by this disagreement and the desires of the foundation group to move ahead with their project. Several years later the foundation floated an idea to create an alumni group under their control, but it got no traction.

In the process of our investigation it became clear that: 1. The interests of the school and the interests of the alumni were not and never had been identical. 2. That truly successful high school alumni directories were the product of independent alumni associations rather than the schools because inconsistent interests were a constant. 3. That most schools could not support these directories on a frequent repeat basis and that those that really served a purpose were those most carefully put together in the first place.

Now the administration of the high school has done a 180-degree turn and decided for its own purposes, to contract for such a directory and to provide information to Bernard C. Harris Publishing to permit it to go forward. I have received a couple of emails on the subject from the publisher (where did they get my current email address?) and one hard copy mailing. Singularly absent was the idea of consent that had been such a major concern several years ago.

For the administration of Paul D. Schreiber High School to take such action without the active support of a representative body of alumni is inappropriate. To do so when such a representative group previously rejected the idea is outrageous. It is also questionable as to whether the action may not cross the boundary into an illegal opening of school records to a commercial organization (see the Buckley Amendment). And then there are the questions that might be raised as to the implications of Harris' normal policies of royalties and gratis books.

The administration of the Port Washington School District is, as usual, high handed and self-interested. They have no legal, moral or ethical right to act in this fashion and should be told to stick to their legally mandated roles - to educate the children of Port Washington - something they objectively do less well than they did 50 years ago.

Robert S. Tarleton

Class of 1964


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