Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00The mid-summer news that CNN/Money magazine has once again rated Westbury to be among the top places to live in the U.S. (the second time in three years), came as a timely consolation to an otherwise bruising series of unwelcome realities that residents have been forced to contend with over the past several weeks.
First came the news back in June that, after two attempts at the polls, residents elected not to pass the school district’s budget, thereby resulting in the adoption of a contingency form of budgetary operation for at least until next May. Then there was the Newsday published school districts test scores that appeared in the Aug. 9 edition of the paper, which showed less than satisfactory performance on the state mandated tests in English and Math for grades three through eight, that was given this spring.
This is the second consecutive year that these test results came up short of what was expected. At least there was a plausible reason last year, as school districts across the state, including New York City, collectively blamed the Board of Regents for what was tantamount to being sandbagged after the decision was made to establish new cut score levels without prior notice to school districts. Nevertheless, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Constance Clark-Snead expressed optimism that the district would meet and exceed the new proficiency standards by putting mechanisms in place to facilitate the plan of action. It is not clear whether the problem is lack of implementation, or one of inadequacy, and it remains to be seen what sort of explanation is forthcoming.
What is clear, however, is that not everyone is willing to accept the statistical realities and lopsided availability of resources that exist among school districts, and which are often offered up as limiting factors that impede our progress. Former school board Trustee Larry Wornum publicly campaigned against the budget, urging people to vote no against the proposed increase as there was too much waste and mismanagement of resources in the district. Wornum also quoted confidential information on matters that were discussed in executive session of the school board meeting, and defended his action by stating that this was necessary in order to assist the public in making an informed decision at the polls. The strategy apparently worked, and in an open letter to the community (published in this newspaper) he thanked the public for their action.
So far there has been no pushback from the administration, or rebuff to Wornum’s assertions, that the perceived consequences of failed school budgets, and the reasons given for low test scores are vacuous, and “baseless excuses” that are without merit. If the public has become numb to these “excuses,” passing school budgets going forward may pose a real challenge. At the same time, we cannot afford to be fatalistic about our current situation because the contributory factors supporting the social, cultural and economic dynamics in our community are not expected to dramatically change overnight; in fact they are what make Westbury the diverse place of interest that it is and therefore we must resolve to search for a workable solution; the challenge is finding it. I am convinced, however, that if we are successful in this pursuit, Westbury will begin to inch closer to becoming the number one place to live in America.