I read with great interest, Westbury School Board Trustee Larry Wornum's letter to the editor in the Jan. 22, 2009 edition of The Westbury Times, and I would be remiss if I did not add my voice to what I know about some of the concerns that he raised, in order to give the public another perspective on the issues.
First of all, as a fiscal conservative, with a penchant for accountability of public funds, I applaud anyone that is courageous enough to challenge and expose irregularities or recklessness in public spending, and who is willing to suggest viable alternatives.
As a public official who was elected to assume a position of trust, Trustee Wornum has every right to expose discrepancies that he believes are not within the public's best interest. If Trustee Wornum knowingly distorts the facts or otherwise makes unjustifiable claims that cause unnecessary anxiety to the public, then that's an entirely separate issue.
In his article, Trustee Wornum referenced the proposal by the school board to construct a press box with funds accrued from the sale of Coca Cola products during sports activities on school compound; a total of $120,000, and which is referred to as the pouring rights according to the contract with the company. My recollection of the justification put forward by the board is that such monies have historically been used for athletic programs. I am not certain if this money is earmarked for such purposes per se, and therefore, like a grant, cannot be used for anything else other than what it was intended, nevertheless, it was never publicly stated that this was to be a "VIP press box for the school board trustees, and administration staff" as per Trustee Wornum. If this assertion is true then the board must publicly defend why this is necessary.
Both Director of Athletics Doric Capsis and High School coach Ross endorse the proposal for the press box, and stress that it would be a welcome augmentation to the state-of-the art athletic track at the high school. Mr. Capsis pointed out that since the opening of the track in the spring of 2006, there has been an average of 15 invitational meets per year including the Nassau County Coaches Association, and All-state and All-county championships, attracting approximately 1,500 participants, and another 1,500 spectators. He also stated that the press box would house well-needed computerized equipment used for tabulating scores, and capturing visual images, that under the current system are at times compromised.
Trustee Wornum does not seem to be saying that he is totally against the construction of this press box, but apparently thinks that this is not the most pressing need in the district at this time of economic uncertainty; a notion that is probably shared by a lot of people, and should not be that difficult to arrive at a reasonable compromise.
Trustee Wornum's questioning of the number of consultants (24) the district currently has on its payroll may well reflect the views of the wider community, and may force the board to revisit this issue. If the cost/benefit analysis proves that this is justified, then so be it, but at least it keeps the issue on the table. Other issues raised by Trustee Wornum such as the district running at a deficit; a wrong choice of word, and definitely not true, since in the past several years the administration returned $2 to $3 million of unspent money to the residents, and the district's position on the academic ratings scale should not be outright dismissed because they are the opinions of Trustee Wornum, because these are talking points in the community, and we must find ways at arriving at a common accord to provide fair and balanced accountability and working towards reasonable solutions.
My word of caution to Trustee Wornum is to guard against telling only half of the story, lest he loses the audience. Once it is learnt that there is another side to the story, people may stop listening.
Westbury PTA Council