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Letter: Port BOE Takes State Senate to Task for Wasting Time on Power Struggle

(Editor’s note: The following was sent to State Senators Skelos and Samson and printed here at the writers’ request.)

We write on behalf of the students, taxpayers and voters of the community of Port Washington, New York, in consternation about the deep dysfunction we see demonstrated in the state senate. As leaders of your respective Senate parties, and as instigators of this situation, we hold you, personally, responsible. We do not hold the entirety of the Senate culpable; in fact, we have been well and honorably served by our Senator, who has passed legislation restoring funding to our district, and who has been very proactive in supporting public education in the Senate.

The functions of state government are grinding to a halt, and this is having a direct effect on the lives of your constituents, both immediate and long-term. Monies that have been set aside have been blocked, and projects that are of a timely nature are being stalled or even cancelled. These are projects that have taken a great deal of time and effort to prepare and to develop, and in many cases are projects that have already been approved by your own members and other governing bodies.

As one single example among many, we are now informed by our state senator’s office that money has been held up for a long-needed refurbishment of our high school track, which is used by the entire community. This project was approved by SED, and RFPs have been issued according to regulations. We had the funds available to use due to excellent husbandry and management of resources by our district administrators, who managed our bonded construction projects in such a way that a number of ‘b-list’ projects could also be funded. This track project cannot be fully underwritten with our remaining funds; the remaining portion was to be funded though a grant obtained for us from the Economic Development Assistance Program administered by the Dormitory Authority. Those funds have been put on hold due to your political rivalries, and your inability to resolve them.

As a result, we are perilously close to having to scrap this project altogether until next summer, when the costs will undoubtedly increase beyond our ability to pay for them. Our track has deteriorated to the point where we cannot host track meets, and our athletes are suffering for it. This is a great pity: not only does our district pride itself on excellent fiscal management (and this pride is reflected in our recent state audit) but on excellence in academics and sports: for the second year in a row, Schreiber High School has been named a school of distinction because all of our varsity teams are scholar-athlete teams. How can you, in good conscience, continue your bickering, knowing that your behavior hurts the children of those families you swore to serve?

We are loath to ask our local taxpayers to shoulder an increased cost burden that is entirely out of our hands and that could have been avoided. Your actions, and your inability to resolve your internal conflicts, are having a direct and deleterious effect on our students and our community.

This situation is, undoubtedly, mirrored by far more dire situations across New York State, and is almost certainly causing more serious harm elsewhere. Allowing this situation to persist is a clear case of dereliction of duties, and we count on you to bring this to immediate resolution.

We call on you to act like the responsible, mature representatives that you claimed to be at election time. Resolve your differences, put service before politics, and get back to work.

The Board of Education

Port Washington School District