Opinion

It is a privilege to be able to write to you with a very positive message regarding the opening of school. The students, staff and parents all contributed to as fine an opening of a school year as I have seen. In specific, every school "hit the ground running," and I am extremely pleased with the focus of our students and staff comprehensively.

Regarding our vision of the four pillars of education, we all are aware of the tremendous accomplishments of our students academically and in our sports renaissance. I would like to focus on the excellent history of the arts in Port Washington, and on the initiative and pillar of service/citizenship. Regarding the arts, I could not be more pleased with our curriculum and student participation in the fine arts. I want to especially commend our teachers in all of the fine arts who make such a difference for our students. Specifically, at the high school level, once again we have approximately 10 percent of our student body in Advanced Placement Art and Photography. At the middle school level, the art and music programs are flourishing. The music program, for example, has so many students involved that we are very likely going to have to add a teacher. The elementary programs continue to be the foundation of our flourishing programs at the middle school and high school including instructional music programs beginning in the third grade. The foundations and history of a school district and community that counts among its patrons John Philip Sousa and the Guggenheim family, continues and enhances the traditions of excellence in the arts.

On a personal note, I have always believed in Ernest Boyer's statement made years ago at Princeton University, "a civilization is measured by its commitment to the arts." Here in Port Washington, one of the reasons that we have one of the best school systems and communities in the United States is in significant part due to our commitment to the arts.

Service and citizenship are also vital components of the future of our students and children. All that we need to do is look at the excesses that have taken place on Wall Street to realize how important the values that we teach through helping others are to the overall benefit of our society. I am confident that our district is continuing soaring student achievement on all fronts, and that one primary component of our continuing to raise the bar is our emphasis on citizenship and service. In that regard, the quote of Anne Frank from Anne Frank's Diary, "No person has ever become poor from giving to others" remains a beacon of light after her tragic death in the Holocaust.

With a great staff, student body and community, we will get through these difficult economic times by helping one another and ensuring that our students see our examples of caring. That remains a cornerstone of our educational philosophy. My confidence in our students, staff and community is based on a fundamental understanding and vision that Port Washington can become a nationwide leader in what the bright future of this country can be in all aspects of education and citizenship.

Finally, I am going to ask for your help. We have had two very serious automobile accidents that have taken place in the wee hours of the morning. One ended in a tragic death and both ended with significant injuries to several students or former students. I am asking parents to join us in ensuring that our students know the risks associated with new licenses and new drivers. What all of us always can unite upon is that safety and protection of our children is priority one, but part of that safety and protection involves teaching students to understand that for themselves.

Please join me in talking to our students as much as possible about the dangers that are to be faced in our society in order to climb the mountain of success. We know as adults that there are numerous traps that any of us can fall into and it is our obligation as parents, as educators and as caring adults to ensure that our children have full disclosure as to what those traps are.

I don't have to tell you that drugs and alcohol are a scourge in our society, and I don't have to tell you that Internet predators lurk any time one of our children turns on the computer. But I know, and I have great confidence, that together we can help our children learn and benefit from the wonders and the new frontiers of the Internet, and our future of how students make responsible decisions will be extremely bright. That can only happen if we take the time to talk to our children and students and to set clear parameters so that all of our students and children know that with great opportunity comes great risk. Making decisions and, especially, making good decisions, involves understanding both what the parameters and risks are. So, please, in every way that we can, let us reach out to our students and children together and talk to them about the perils and traps that they must be aware of to reach the mountain top of success that we see clearly in the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Thank you for all that you do and for raising the bar with our board of education, staff and students to the high level that Port students and schools occupy. It is true that we are nationally recognized in many regards. However, it is also true that one of the primary components of the substance of this great community is that caring and determination produce leaders with great citizenship for the future. It continues to be my privilege to serve as your superintendent in now the seventh year of our partnership, and even in these difficult times I am absolutely confident that the best is yet to come for our school system, our community and our country. It will take work, it will take vision, and it will take determination, but together we will get there.

Geoffrey N. Gordon, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools


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