Teachers Need to Exercise Restraint
As most everyone knows, the country is undergoing a time of economic stress. Millions of people have lost their jobs; millions more have accepted lower salaries and benefits. Evidently the teachers in Sag Harbor have not heard the news as they are demanding not one but two raises, plus unending medical benefits that will burden the taxpayers forever. The remark to an older person that the teachers were paying that person’s social security income is true, of course, but it is also true that that person is paying the teacher’s salary.
We all realize that the teachers perform a valuable service, but they are not the only people who do. Somewhere along the way, teachers have become our sacred cow. Anything they want, they should receive. Have they stopped to think that the average salary of a teacher in Sag Harbor is over six times that of the average Social Security paid to a retiree?
Consider, too, that most people who are lucky enough to have a job these days earn far less and work about 220 days a year as opposed to 180 days. Shouldn’t this be a year to exercise some restraint?
Superintendent of Schools John Gratto is doing his best to exercise economies. The demands of the Sag Harbor School District are great, particularly in the area of transportation costs which are proportionately greater than in most school districts in New York because of the number of private schools in the area. It is my understanding that thousands could be saved in transportation costs if Stella Maris adapted their school hours to those of Sag Harbor’s public schools. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?
Let me end by saying that I am not criticizing the work that our teachers do, I’m only asking that they try to understand the economy a bit better and see why some of the citizenry are somewhat appalled by their demands.
What Do They Really Want?
I wanted to comment on your article in this week’s Express regarding the school budget discussion at Tuesdays Noyac Civic Council meeting.
Before I comment, it’s important to share with you my general perspective on the evolution of our current school board and the budget process our community has gone through over the last few years. In the public input segments of past board of education meetings, Noyac Civic Council members, to their credit, constantly asked the BOE about small class sizes, updated teachers’ contracts, percent of special needs students and other escalating district costs. As taxpayers in our community, they were angry with the continually increasing school budgets and the seeming lack of communication from the district as to the justification for the increases.
The replies from both the BOE and the superintendent along with printed materials available to the public at the time were frustrating to most in attendance. Parents, teachers and other community members really wanted to know where the money was going and if the district was being efficient with our resources. Most parents were happy with the school environment and student achievement, but wanted to know if we were effectively managing our budget. When the report from the independent auditors came in and there were over two million dollars of unaccounted-for funds floating around the budget, we all cried out for fiscal responsibility and accountability. Â
Fast forward to the present and you have an entirely new group of BOE members that campaigned and won on the principles of academic excellence, transparency and fiscal responsibility. In this balanced and reasonable group we have an accountant, a corporate executive, an architect, a teacher, an attorney, a small business owner and a health administrator. Thanks to their efforts we have a new superintendent, more open communication with the community, a transparent budget process and our students are continuing to test at the highest levels in the county. Efficiencies have been identified; significant sums of money have been saved and/or more accurately accounted for without negatively impacting the current program available to students. We can now clearly see where our tax dollars are going and that they are being well spent. I’m sure additional efficiencies will be realized in program delivery in the months/years to come!
So why are we still hearing complaints? It seems from your article that once again the members of the Noyac Civic Council are considering a vote against the school budget. In addition two individuals from the council, Ed Drohan and Elena Loreto are running for the school board in an effort to further this agenda. This seems crazy to me when next to Bridgehampton, the Sag Harbor School District boasts the lowest taxes in the area and our students are achieving at the highest levels.
Our current BOE and administration have delivered exactly what the community has asked for…a quality education for our children at a responsible price. So what does the Noyac Civic Council really want? Do they want to undo the last ten years of remarkable progress, slash school programs and hope to trade a quality education for a marginally lower tax bill? All of us who understand the great progress that the district has made both in advancing sound and successful educational practices as well as cutting out unnecessary expenditures should be celebrating and supporting our BOE.
Steve Clarke, Parent
Examining School Issues
My name is Ed Drohan. I have been a summer resident of Sag Harbor since 1978 and mived peranntly into our residence here in Decembe of 2006. My three children were raised here in Noyac during the summers of their childhood and my family has always loved this community. Two of my children make their home in the Hamptons. My oldest son lives in Sag Harbor with his wife and our two-year-old grandson, who will attend local schools sometime in the future. We have become transplanted summer residents after 28 years of enjoyment and beautiful memories here in the community.
In the last two years I have been active in the Noyac Civic Council and I serve on their educational committee. I have attended almost all board of education meetings over the last year and six months ago was appointed to the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC). The Noyac Civic Council is a community organization, not a special interest political group. The council does not endorse candidates, and I would not accept their endorsement if offered. I feel it would be compromising to all concerned. I am running on a completely independent basis. An examination of my qualifications and agenda will bring clarity to my position with the voters.
I am a graduate of Gorton High School in Yonkers, N.Y., and I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Manhattan College. I have a business background and have spent over forty years in the data processing industry. I have been a salesman, district manager, sales and marketing vice president, general manager, consultant, business owner and general partner at various stages of my career. Currently I work as a partner for an information technology corporation that does subcontracting and project assignments for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and staff augmentation placements for end users.
I spent seven years as a consulting vendor manager for a large international bank and during that assignment organized and then chaired a group known as the New York Technology Round Table, composed of mostly financial service firms to compare best practices through shared data and benchmarking efforts. Some of the efforts of the BAC are dedicated to benchmarking with other educational systems in order to compare best practices and achieve cost and quality educational efficiency. To that end I feel uniquely qualified to serve on the school board.
The following highlights my agenda as a prospective member of the Sag Harbor BOE:
Foster a positive mindset in the school district and bring the entire community into the education process.
Take advantage of the wealth of experience within our 20 percent senior population.
Advance the school district to recognize the 50 percent population of second home owner taxpayer base to participate in summer programs and student activities and be an ambassador of the town’s good will to this valuable asset who over time may transition into permanent residents of our community.
Initiate benchmarks that compare and analyze the taxpayer base with the demographics of other school districts. This could be the beginning of real fiduciary responsibility. The financial success of our community is strongly linked to the business of the community. We are a vacation, recreational community, dependent on a strong summer seasonal business for our success. If the school district played a stronger role in recognizing and communicating with this valuable taxpayer base, the district could be indirectly adding needed support to our local business efforts.
Encourage the school board to work harder through various committee and mindsets to deliver serious benchmarks to the educational system that will guide future strategy. Cost comparing information in exchange with other districts can be invaluable to all participants.
Overhaul and transition the curriculum, preparing our students to be lifelong learners. This is, after all, the centerpiece of our mission statement. In the 2001-2008 seven-year time frame, the district budget grew from $13 million to over $26 million, while the enrollment was relatively flat. In 2008/2009, per pupil expense exceeds $30,000. The elective curriculum now exceeds 40 programs. We must realize we are in the midst of an information revolution, with bilingual skills a necessity in the future work force. More focus must be placed on computer science, language arts, Spanish and an upgrade and expansion of BOCES training programs.
Bring about a slow and reasonable transition driven by a human resource effort in strategic planning, that would encourage the advanced training of teachers in multiple subject skills with improved incentive for teachers with course versatility. I would hope to increase student load and class size slowly with quality performance checks and balances along the way. This increased efficiency could justify the growth of the previously stated programs necessary to the district.
Promote transparency. I, along with the rest of the public, would like to know the true role of the teachers’ union, TASH, in the Sag Harbor School District. I believe in the union practice of defending their teachers against injustice and support the union in their activity to negotiate equitably for their members in contract efforts. However, I feel there is a line that should not be crossed and that the administration should be able to manage the business of the school district unencumbered by any special interest barriers. I would hope that when these negotiations are over, there would be a forum sponsored by the school board, in conjunction with TASH, open to the public. The community needs an answer to this new and expensive contract in these trying economic times.
I encourage the Sag Harbor community to vote for me based on the principles I represent and issues I intend to address.
I attended the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Mashashimuet Park. I am kind of curious as to whether I was the only person who observed pure mayhem during the 1 – 3-year-old hunt?
It is pretty amazing to me that on Easter Sunday, no less, such an unorganized “free for all” would be encouraged. I did not stay around for the older children’s hunt. The toddlers group was really all I could handle.
It is only a matter of time before some child us seriously injured. I would like to propose the following suggestions:
1. An egg hunt for the toddlers that lasts five to eight minutes instead of one minute.
2. A “no adult” area where the eggs would be placed.
3. The Easter Bunny “actually participating and interacting” with the children.
4. The bunny could give an egg to any little one who may be too afraid.
5. Let me be the first to volunteer to plan, organize, set up, clean up — whatever. I will be more than happy to help out. But to step into that “ring of terror” next Easter —Â no way.
It is my simple opinion, if your child isn’t ready to participate… older family members don’t get to pinch hit. The worst that could happen is your child will be outdoors with other children, and the Easter Bunny will give them an egg.
And toddlers —Â if you don’t think your parents can behave appropriately, leave them home! A kiddie cab will come and get you.
Thanks for Help
The family of Stanley Benfield wishes to thank the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps for their excellent and care given at the time recently.