Opinion

Recently, the Port Washington Union Free School District mailed information and bus passes to parents. When the one addressed for my child arrived, I opened it to find a pin-on badge holder (with appropriate student identification) and two pieces of paper. One page was the welcome form letter. The other page contained the list of supplies needed for my daughter's kindergarten class.

The envelope was hand-stamped with two 42-cent stamps, and machine-canceled in Queens.

The seemingly excessive amount of postage for such a light mailing surprised me. A visit to the post office helped to verify that the total weight was 8 ounces the four items (badge, two pages, and envelope). Simply put, 42 cents would have been sufficient to move that envelope from the school district office to my home. Instead, 84 cents was used. Start multiplying that by the number of recipients of such letters, and one can start to see a considerable and careless waste of taxpayer dollars.

The two pages that were included in this mailing contained instructions about procedures to be followed for the opening of school. Instead of two pages, each printed on one side, the school district should use both sides of one piece of paper. Multiply that by the number of recipients, and we can start to see significant amounts of money (and resources) being used ineffectively.

I receive a lot of paper mail from the school district, now that my daughter is entering her first year. Much of this communicated information could (or should) be emailed, saving money and resources. We are in the age of "green." School children's parents/guardians should be afforded the option of receiving district communication via email (much like bank statements and other e-lerts).

Based on this sample of information, these questions must be addressed:

• Is the staff of the mail room supervised and held accountable? In other words, why did the school district allow this careless waste of taxpayer money, sending a mailing that was double stamped?

• Why doesn't the school district conserve and reduce by printing on both sides of the paper whenever possible?

• Why does the school district not use email to communicate with families - or at least offer it as an option?

This reminds me of an instance I discovered when I worked at the (now infamous) Roslyn School District. One day, on a visit to the main office, I happened upon a secretary feeding pre-stamped, unused envelopes into a shredder. I asked what the purpose of doing that was. Her answer was that she was getting rid of the envelopes because the stamp totals were "inconvenient amounts - 34 cents and 28 cents, etc." Upon hearing that response, I was speechless. She was destroying perfectly usable stamped envelopes because it was too bothersome to add postage to make them usable. (Yes, this is a true story.) Was she motivated in any way to avoid waste? Clearly not. Her pay remained the same, even if she shredded $20 bills all day long (an exaggeration, but based on the circumstances, not far-fetched).

The issue at hand is not a 42-cent stamp or an additional piece of paper. It would be missing the point to think: don't get hung up on a stamp - it's no big deal. The problem lies in careless, large-scale misuse of resources.

Are those who are responsible for district supplies motivated in any way to be more careful? If a person uses one - or two- stamps (or sheets of paper), does it really matter, other than personally? On the other hand, some corporations offer incentives to employees who offer viable suggestions for streamlining processes or saving the organization money. Our school district needs to take a lesson from the corporate world on this issue. How are school district employees motivated to save taxpayer dollars, or avoid wasting them?

In many businesses, those responsible for supplies and mailings have the power to waste - or save - tremendous amounts of money for the organization. When unmonitored, paper, stamps, pens, toner, and much more, are all potential sources of lost revenue for the business (through misuse, waste, theft, etc.). I urge our school officials to conserve, reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible. Monitoring and accountability are the watchwords here. I don't expect to see my school taxes lowered as a result of such thoughtfulness (although I wouldn't object), but I would like to see a more effective use of the tax dollars that I pay.

Richard J. Atkins, Ed.D.


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