Letters September 4

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107

Wishing John the Best

 

Dear Bryan:

I had a great summer. Locals, natives, and visitors relished in a treat like no other before: competitive baseball played in our own Mashashamuet Park. I can say with certainty that anyone who came to even one game couldn’t help but feel the electricity while watching and following favorite players. If you couldn’t be there, you could certainly read about it on Thursday as if you were.

It was because of the Southampton Whalers Baseball team that I had the opportunity to meet and get to know John Bayles, one of Sag Harbor’s “newest locals”, in my opinion. Over the past year I have enjoyed reading his many articles. John’s writing style, enthusiasm, and dedication for reporting the facts put the reader at the meeting or the game or whatever event he covered. His personal commitment to our community was obvious.

John will be moving to Brooklyn at the end of this week. He will be sorely missed as a person, a writer, and a friend to many. I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing him good fortune in his new pursuits and hope that he may return someday, at least for a visit.

Sincerely,

Linda Reiser

North Haven

 

Attack Dog

 

Dear Bryan,

An nnswer to the letter to the editor (Obscuring Truth About School), the August 21st edition.

REFERENCE DOCUMENTS:

·      Letter to the Editor August 21 Edition

·      “School Super Grilled” Article August 14 Edition

·      Sag Harbor Union Free School District 2008-2009 Budget Presentation

 

After reading Peter Solow’s letter to you, in the August 21 edition of your newspaper, I felt a moral obligation to respond to it. Mr. Solow, a teacher at Pierson High School, is using your “Super Grilled” article as a sole source for his complaints and condemnations. Doctor John Gratto was the guest speaker at the meeting held on August 12 at the Noyac Civic Council. Dr. Gratto’s presentation was enlightening to the audience and more importantly, he was sensitive to all of the questions and opinions of the audience and responded with intelligent insight to every issue.

Your article gives fair coverage to some of the highlights of the meeting, but does not address in detail the substance of the entire meeting. That was not its purpose. Unfortunately, Mr. Solow chooses to further dilute your report on the meeting by taking the article out of context to attack almost every point made at the meeting and personally attack everyone who made these points, to suit his own mean spirited agenda. His views represent a serious case of extreme intellectual dishonesty. That’s about as charitable as I can state it.

He begins his letter with the following quote from John Dewey, the father of American educational philosophy, “A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a form of associative living.” From here, Mr. Solow immediately ascended to his bully pulpit to address your readers. He launched into a lecture on his philosophy of education quoting John Dewey, Robert Westbrook and Olivia Sage to support his agenda. His presentation becomes self-serving, self-righteous, condescending and arrogant as he proceeds to lecture your readers in a patronizing manner, on his educational views and how they apply to the Sag Harbor School District. He then applied a generous sprinkling of his own accomplishments as he proceeded. He then used the credentials in which he tried to establish himself as an expert on all phases of education to launch into an all out attack on the August 12 meeting of the Noyac Civic Council. He spared no one, and no issue put forth at the council, as reported by you in your article, “School Super Grilled.” He did not hesitate to move past the issues and personally attack the motives as he perceives them and the character of the participants.

At this point in Mr. Solow’s letter I felt that he fell from his lofty bully pulpit and the high road he was trying to establish with your readers. Mr. Solow transformed himself from an idealistic, self-serving, credible educator, into a cheap political hack.

His first target was a senior citizen who resides in Georgia, but has been paying taxes for his vacation residence here for 47 years. At the meeting the man made some disparaging remarks about our graduates not attending prestigious colleges. Our school board president, Walter Wilcoxen, corrected the man and very eloquently set the record straight.

Even so, Mr. Solow could not resist piling on. In his letter to you he decided to resurrect the incident and rehash the issue going on “ad nauseum” in regard to the institutions of higher learning our graduates are attending with special emphasis, of course, on fine arts, his own educational specialty. I do not expect Mr. Solow to support or agree with the taxpayer from Georgia, but he could at least empathize and try to understand his position. Mr. Solow after all receives a direct benefit from the school district by utilizing a great environment to educate his children and also benefits directly as an employee of the school district. The man from Georgia has paid taxes for 47 years without receiving any such benefits. However, we all benefit indirectly from the school system. The education of our children today is the basis of our work force, economy and culture for the future. Without our education system there would be no future and we don’t need Mr. Solow to lecture us on that point.

Despite his disdain for the taxpayer and especially for the senior taxpayer and the second home vacation taxpayer (who unfairly have no voice or vote in our education system), he could show a little respect and appreciation by refraining from  “Biting the hand that feeds him.”

Mr. Solow then shifted his criticism to Patrick Witty who had innocently inquired to whether New York State had mandated  advanced placement courses. The question seemed innocent to all who heard it. Mr. Solow in his letter to you asks the question, “Was Mr. Witty suggesting that we reduce our kids’ educational opportunities to the minimum required by the state?” The question by innuendo implies that Mr. Witty is not acting in the best interest of our children’s education. This is another example of the political style of Mr. Solow.

He moves on but not in an upward direction. His attack on Elena Loreto is as low as it gets. Elena had a question regarding special education and how it was being monitored. She asked the question on my behalf trying to bring clarity and a ray of transparency to the special education program and to continue a line of inquiry that I had started earlier. I have been a part of the Noyac Civic Council’s education committee with Elena for the last four months. Elena is a sensitive, honest, intelligent person with integrity. Her attitude toward the taxpayer and the school district is objective and fair.

Mr. Solow again ascends to his bully pulpit. First he publicly lectures Elena on community responsibility to education then asks the question, “Would Ms. Loreto like to cap special education classification at a certain level and take away services from some of our most needy kids in an effort to save herself some money?” He then condemns the attitude that would inspire the question and, by inference, Elena along with it. He asked the question, Elena did not. This is a great example of a cheap and vicious political dialogue. It is designed to abuse, intimidate and personally attack the character and integrity of the person and avoid at all cost addressing the issue. In this case, Ms. Loreto was only inquiring about the movement and success within the special ed program and its effect on the educational gains of the students involved.

Here is where I come in. My name is Ed Drohan. I addressed Superintendent Gratto and Board President Wilcoxen at the Noyac Civic Council meeting. Since Mr. Solow decided to totally distort my statements in an effort to create a platform for the final sermon in his letter, I feel justified in restating the points which I addressed to the superintendent and board president.

I have taken exception to the 2008-2009 budget presentation not limited to, but centered around the following page: CRITERIA FOR BUDGET DECISIONS

·      Support student achievement; Maintain and protect existing programs; Retain existing personnel; Ensure fiscal responsibility; Spending increase less than 2%; Zero based budget model and transparency

 

I did state that there are a number of different groups with different interests, that are part of the educational process, the Superintendent, the school board, the administration, the teachers, the PTA, the Union, the taxpayers and most importantly the STUDENTS.

In my opinion, although these groups are very diverse, in order to achieve positive results working together, there would have to be a common denominator behind all their decisions. That common denominator would be to make decisions together in the best interest of the STUDENTS relating to their education. This idea was at the center of the presentation and did not appear in the article.

 

Two statements in the budget criteria are not consistent with acting in the best interest of the STUDENTS.

 

Maintain and protect existing programs; Retain existing personnel

 

In the best interest of the STUDENT, the school district should be constantly improving the caliber of personnel and the staffing. Existing programs should be scrutinized in terms of educational effectiveness as the program applies to the STUDENT. Programs should be modified, upgraded, expanded and replaced on an ongoing basis. New programs should be justified and initiated if they are of value to the STUDENTS’ curriculum. I said that the two statements which I opposed “should be part of the mission statement hanging in Union Hall” and not part of “Criteria For Budget Decisions.” That’s my opinion! I have a right to it! Mr. Solow’s ravings, ranting and political attack dog tactics will not change that. While I remain open minded to reasonable logic from a credible source, these opinionated self-serving tactics have failed to sway me.

I did question Mr. Wilcoxen and Mr. Gratto, in regard to the special education program. There is concern over the size of the program (19.2% as compared to a 12% figure state-wide.) I felt that given our education system and the fact that we live in the nicest community in the state, the number should be below the state average, not above it. I do realize, however, that each and every enrollment in special education should be considered singularly, and on its own merits.

I further stated that I had been advised that inquiring into the special ed program would be viewed in some quarters “as knocking over a baby carriage with the baby in it.” I closed by criticizing the lack of transparency in the district and a concern that “the mindset of the school district needed to be changed.”

Later, I did feel that I may have overstated the issue when I said that an inquiry into special ed could be viewed “as knocking over a baby carriage with the baby in it.” Mr. Solow’s uncalled for attack on Elena Loreto’s motives and character not only validated the statement, he made the statement a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I accept the criticisms Mr. Solow has of my presentation. The final sermon in his letter reviews the progress he feels the district has made in the last decade. Although it is somewhat self-aggrandizing, it does demonstrate a passion and pride in the school district with particular emphasis on the accomplishments made in arts and music curriculum, his area of expertise.

He closes out his sermon by lecturing your readers on the moral obligation we have as a community and school district to sustain the best possible educational system for our children. In one of his final statements he writes, “To find this sustainability will require a board of education that embraces community participation, and acts transparently and honestly.” I could not agree more. Sadly, while Mr. Solow recognizes the need for community participation, his actions undermine this objective. Based on his letter, I do not believe Mr. Solow has any understanding of the negative impact he has created.

Hopefully, Mr. Solow writes representing only his personal opinions and is not an attack dog with a following.

Bryan, I would hope that you would print my letter in its entirety and reprint Mr. Solow’s letter next to it. Unity is all-important in any educational effort. Your readers need to be able to digest the discord that exists in the district and participate in the process as informed citizens and taxpayers.

Respectfully,

Ed Drohan

Noyac

 

A Tune Called Obligation

 

Dear Bryan,

I read with interest a letter to the editor recently written by the president of the Noyac Civic Council, Chuck Neuman, discussing the creation of a community center in Noyac. This was the second letter written on the subject in as many weeks; the main issue apparently being the possible renovation or demolition of the Noyac School House for this purpose.

There is a profound irony that this discussion is happening at all and that the Noyac Civic Council or at least some of its members are seriously supporting this initiative.

More than any community organization the Civic Council has helped shape discussions at Sag Harbor School Board meetings. Not a week goes by without a member of the organization  pronouncing in your paper or in other public forums that their support was responsible for electing Board Member Wes Frye to the School Board  (a new school board member whose greatest claim to fame is his failure to attend three consecutive board meeting in a row and his propensity for voting no on nearly everything that might affect his own property taxes).

Members of the Civic Council continually claim that our high school’s students’ performance on standardized tests is horrible and our school is mediocre. They point to our cost per student, one of the highest in the nation, a circumstance shared by several surrounding districts and many on Long Island, as evidence that our school is inefficient or worse and that economies can be made. Not a week goes by when these self-anointed protectors of our community wealth demand that our school board cut the budget, possibly by increasing class size, cutting staff and benefits, limiting or dispensing with school trips, or consolidating our district with others. If not cutting, the Civic Council has made it clear that they demand minimal increase in our school’s budget.

They have embraced the notion that our community has reached a “tipping point” and is simply unable to afford to spend more on our school and children’s education.

I think we can all agree that it is the obligation and imperative that the school board carefully review all district spending and if possible find economies in the way our school functions and in its operation. They should look at shared services and consolidation not because they hold the promise of extraordinary hidden savings but because they may provide additional resources for our children.

Having said that, there are two aspects of the Civic Council’s conduct I find particularly objectionable.

First is the propensity of members of the Noyac Civic Council to grossly misrepresent the quality of our school and the performance of our students. Even based solely on standardized test results, which are a crude and misleading way of judging any school, our kids do very well and in some areas excel. More importantly, our school has continually and irrefutably improved over the last ten years. Where Pierson was once considered second rate in comparison to both East Hampton and Southampton, it is now on a par with both and in some areas superior.

Secondly, inextricably linked to the Civic Council’s criticism of our kids’ performance, is a sea change in an underlying belief on the part of a segment of our community. Where we all once agreed that the education of our children was our community’s shared responsibility and obligation, there are some in our community who simply see it as a burden. It is much easier to reject spending and share sacrifice if you can convince yourself that it’s going to a corrupt and mediocre institution. There was a time that we all aspired to make our children’s lives better than our own and understood that the key to that better life was education. There was a time when we all understood that the cornerstone of our democracy was public education, an institution that, to flourish, required engagement from the entire community. There was a time not long ago when we put the public good,  and our children’s future ahead of personal interest and passed a bond to enlarge and modernize Pierson.

While the Noyac Civic Council debates a community center for Noyac, millions of dollars of maintenance and remedial repairs remain unaddressed by the Board of Education. In addition, Pierson houses an auditorium which is potentially unsafe, inadequate in many ways. It remains a disgrace to the community.

One hundred years ago the cornerstone of Pierson High school was laid. According to The Express every business in town closed and the ceremony was attended by thousands of people. It was a demonstration of community and civic pride. Contrary to conventional belief, the Pierson construction was not paid entirely by Mrs. Russell Sage. It was paid for in part by the community including newly arrived immigrants, because, in the words of the then school board president Charles Wels “…the children of the poor as well of the rich, shall be prepared for their life work by reasonably good education, and knowing that many parents are not willing and others not able to educate their own, and that many of the wealthy are not public spirited enough to voluntarily assist their neighbors in this work the Compulsory Education Law was passed ”

It would be truly ironic if today we chose to turn our back on what needs to be done at our school when, in spite of the sacrifice that will be required by many of our neighbors, Sag Harbor has never been more affluent. And it will be terribly unfortunate if the board chooses to listen only to the shrill and self serving voices of a few and not hear the melody of their historic obligation.

Peter Solow

Noyac

 

Drop the Cop Plan

 

Dear Editor:

Please publish this letter to Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot.

Dear Ms. Kabot,

I was outraged to read in The Sag Harbor Express that you wanted to fire six police officers who, because of duty-related injuries, were absent more than normal.

Where are your brains? Surely not where they should be. When you accept a policeman’s job, you are accepting the danger as part of the job. And the thanks you get for injury on the job is to be fired.

This does not pass the smell test.

The two officers pictured in The Express are both fine, upstanding citizens. They are the brains and the backbone of your police force. I know Kevin Gwinn personally and have the highest regard for him. 

Your campaign highlighted transparency. This is the just opposite. Drop this dumb idea!

Donald W. Mole

Sag Harbor

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