Opinion

Not having had the opportunity to finish my remarks at the April 7 BOE meeting, due to the three minute rule, I wish to share them with the community. Although I was able to mention some during the "public comment" part of the agenda, it might be informative to repeat them in this space.

At the March 3 BOE meeting, Ms. Christine Vassilev, the head of the Teachers Association, publicly stated that the Port Washington community, being what it is...."would understand" and by inference, accept the then 3.87 percent increase in the school budget. This statement begs the following questions. How does one approach a family in Port Washington and ask for their understanding, when the breadwinner got laid off and is on unemployment, whose house is teetering on foreclosure, who had to take their child out of college because they no longer could afford the tuition, how then can such a family be expected "to understand" when so many employees in the school district are earning upwards of five and six figures in salary alone, and will be getting a raise as a result of this budget increase? To ask such a typical struggling family "to understand" is disingenuous at best.

A giant kudos to the district's custodial union, which voluntarily agreed to forego their salary raises. Equally commendable is School Superintendent Dr. Geoffrey Gordon's decision to freeze his salary. With the unprecedented and surely highly appreciated act by the custodians, one wonders, why haven't the other bargaining units followed suit? Are our school district's unions so impervious to being sensitive and responsive to these harrowing economic times? When so many other unions agreed not only to salary freezes but to give backs, all for the sake of preserving their and their fellow workers jobs, and in some cases even their employers' companies as well! One wonders why what is the norm nowadays in the corporate and industrial world doesn't apply to the Port Washington School district. A statement at the April 7 meeting, by Ms. Mary Callahan, assistant superintendent for business, district clerk, that mandated salary increases must be honored, is clearly negated by the foregoing mentioned action by a number of unions. That being said however, prudent and responsible budgeting should not impede the quality of education, including the necessary education tools such as state of the art communication technology, language arts, improved facilities, etc....all necessary for our young people to compete effectively in the global society. That type of very modest budgetary increase deserves the community's support.

Also at the March 3rd meeting Ms. Mary Callahan, made a very impressive PowerPoint presentation illustrating Port's ranking of cost per student compared to other districts. Quite frankly, this writer couldn't care less where we stand. What Ms. Callahan, the Administration and the BOE should care about is to control this cost so it doesn't get above the $23,209 which it is now, but to strive to reduce it! The same applies to the comparison of the latest budget percentage increase with other districts which Ms. Callahan presented at the April 7 BOE meeting. Both are meaningless comparisons. What matters in the final analysis is what the financial burden of Port taxpayers will be irrespective of that borne by other communities. And that fiduciary responsibility unequivocally rests with the BOE, the district's Administration and the district's employees. The custodians, to their credit, have led the way to reduce this burden. Will others follow?

Stan Ronell


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