The East Williston School District Board Members–Past and Present

December 29, 2011

              Folks, and those who are presently incarcerated or institutionalized.  This one is about the School Board of the East Williston School District (EWSD).

            The EWSD is presently in decline with its national ranking having plummeted, rampant teacher absenteeism, a present superintendent that is both unqualified and incompetent plus an embarrassment to the District, difficulty in placing Wheatley seniors in the school of their choice, $150,000+  annual teacher salaries plus massive additional benefits, $30,000+ annual cost per student, a 9.75 student to teacher ratio that continues to decline, a refusal to eliminate waste, a refusal to eliminate self-serving polices of Israel (earlier) for himself and (presently) his wife Bartscherer, etc., etc. The end result is that EWSD residents pay the highest average school taxes in Nassau County( because of the massive waste), the economic effect of which has been to unnecessarily depress property value.   In order to explain this shocking predicament, one needs to examine both the past and present members of the EWSD Board.

Well, what about the past.  Here’s my take on what came down earlier.  It was Entine who started the massive giveaway program.  She was followed by Bergtraum who was possessed by a quest for power despite her incompetence.  It was Bergtraum, more than anyone else, who is responsible for the District’s present problems by allowing the self-serving policies of former teacher and Union President David Israel to run the EWSD; further, she refused to act on any recommendation that did not agree with her misguided agenda.  Then there was school board members Karol, Wasserman, Roher, Kaplan (a total incompetent), Ritz (a Delilah), etc.  This was the group that supported the teachers and their union and most of the measures discussed above that fostered the District’s present situation.  It was this same group who were campaigning/pushing for a fourth building (Bergtraum/Entine were on the board; Wasserman/Kaplan co-chairs of the campaign).  Where would our District (and taxes) be now with a 4th building?!?!  Other districts are closing schools, i.e. Mineola.  Thankfully, they lost that election—and no 4th building.   Along the way, the District was fortunate to have the services of Eleanor Zatlin, Robert Kushner, Sigi Huhn, and John O’Kelly who attempted—but unfortunately were unable—to mend a broken school district.

            The present Board?  I shudder every time I think of them.  Once again, here is my take (on the five of them).

  1. Kamberg:  He is President of the Board.  Some of us justifiably refer to him as Konberg since he is an untrustworthy, sweet-talking, self-serving con man.  My file on him is almost as thick as those for Superintendent Lewis and former President Ritz.

These cases come to mind regarding Konberg:

  • He used any and all tactics to get elected to the Board.  Some of us consider his tactics to be borderline fanatical.  He and his supports spread vicious and (false) anti-Semitic rumors attributed to Huhn.
  • This desperado, in his frantic attempt to get elected, also courted the senior vote with a free luncheon at Jonathans.  I wonder what those seniors who got konned and voted for Konberg think now. 
  • Following Wasserman’s removal from the Board, he refused to allow an election.  Instead, he and his cohorts “interviewed” prospective and interested individuals.  He/they chose Freier, Konberg’s yes man.  Despite the Board lacking any financial background/ experience/ expertise, Huhn was bypassed.  I also interviewed for the job and outlined how they could better assist our high school seniors in gaining admission to the school of their choice.  They frantically took notes, but in the end, they apparently did nothing since it involved work on the part of some of the Administrators (guidance counselors, associates, etc.), a part of the fat on the staff who are there to simply cash their checks.
  • Refused to ask teachers for any givebacks in 2010-11.  Provided Lewis with a 5-year extension, thus tying the hands of the District.  Also provided the teachers this year with a sweetheart contract extension.
  • Lied to the community about the real salary increases the teachers received and will be receiving in the future.
  • Refused to comment when Lewis publicly drew an analogy between me and the Gestapo.

Of course, there’s more. There are some of my academic and business ethics lectures (based on my book) where I have used Konberg—along with Israel, Bergtraum and Ritz—in case-study analyses.  But as far as I am concerned, Konberg should presently be barred from the school grounds. 

  1. Freier:  Strictly Konberg’s stooge.  No experience with education or finance.  Where did Konberg find this guy?
  2. Keefe:  Keefe was “elected” when he ran unopposed.  He is a former teachers’ union president who is obviously a teachers’ union man.  Make no mistake.  He is there to represent the teachers—not the taxpayers, senior citizens, and, most importantly, the schoolchildren.
  3. Fallarino:  As a former Board member put it, “he has tried desperately to play both ends against the middle, and failed miserably.”  A major disappointment and an individual not to be trusted.
  4. Slone:  “Elected” when she ran unopposed.  An absolute zero, totally devoid of the minimum necessary qualifications, who simply should not be on the Board.  If she had any pride, she would resign.

Why do these people serve on the Board?  Reasons have already been documented but I believe they are there to primarily gain an advantage for their kids or grandkids at the expense (as noted in an earlier article) of the kids of other members of our community.  If you don’t believe that statement, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  What parent believes that if their youngster and the child of a Board member were being considered for valedictorian, that—given how the District operates—their kid would be selected (I’m still trying to locate The New York Times when this happened at another District).    For example, Keefe’s daughter was recently hired for a EWSD position.  Innocent?  Was the hiring process truly objective?  You make the call.

      I close by issuing a call to members of our district who are concerned about taxes, seniors, and (most importantly) schoolchildren to consider running for the Board this May.  I hate to put it this way, but almost anybody would be better than what we have now.     

Next month:  Superintendent Lewis


The King is Dead–Long Live the King

December 28, 2011

            Three years ago about this time I came to the realization that there was a special basketball player at Hofstra.  His name?  Charles Jenkins.  It was then, as a sophomore, that I started touting him as potential NBA material.  Here are some earlier clips from past articles I wrote about him while he played for Hofstra.

December 19, 2008:

“Two years ago several NBA scouts converged on the Mack Sports Arena, home of the Pride, Hofstra’s basketball team.  The drawing card was Loren Stokes, Hofstra’s All-Conference guard.  The scouts reappeared last year to see Antoine Agudio in action.  Both are currently playing professionally inEuropeand looking forward to another NBA . . . The scouts will not be back again this year.  But they will be back two years from now.  Why?  To give a careful look at Charles Jenkins, Hofstra’s 2007-8 Freshman Conference Rookie of the Year.”

November 27, 2009:

“Does Jenkins have a shot to make it in the NBA?  He might.  His performance this year and next year will no doubt determine his future.  He’s 6’3” with excellent speed and the body of a linebacker, a tenacious defensive player, an excellent rebounder but only (at this time) a fair shooter…all the minimum credentials required to make it at the next level.  But, what has impressed me more is his “learning “ curve which I would dub as exponential…he was good as a freshman, great last year, but looks absolutely super this year.  There’s still room for improvement since it appears that Jenkins has yet to peak.”

December 22, 2010:

“I think he has a better than 50-50 chance of making the NBA.  He’s built like an oversized fullback, a fearsome driver, an excellent shot, and solid defensively; actually, a sight to behold.”

February 11, 2011:

“But I have a guy who in my judgment is more deserving of this (Player of the Year) award.  My selection?  Hofstra’s 6’3” guard–Charles Jenkins, who I also refer to as Sir Charles.  Before you call me crazy, hear me out . . . For starters, the criteria for selection requires that the candidate be a full-time student with a passing GPA, has made outstanding contributions to team play, and be a model citizen both on and off the court. Despite every opponent keying defensively on Charles, he is currently averaging 24 points per game (4th in the nation) with 19 in the second half, 4.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 50% on 3-point field goals, 60.3% on field goals, 2.3 steals and an assist turnover ratio of 1.8:1.  But all the others under consideration have equally impressive statistics.  Here are a host of intangible factors one will not find with the others.

  1. A versatile player, he has played the role of a 1 guard, a 2 guard, and a small forward.
  2. He appears to enjoy assists more than scoring.
  3. Unlike the scam perpetrated by the NCAA with some of the stars, Charles is a legitimate student-athlete.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, he has made his teammates better.
  5. Finally, he has single-handedly converted the team into not only a winner but also one that can compete with most NCAA teams.

The bottom line is that Charles is the quintessential team player who is not solely interested in scoring.  Twice at the end of a game that Hofstra had already won, Charles was in a breakaway situation and chose not to take the easy lay-up.

November 18, 2011:

Gone is their once-in-a-lifetime superstar Charles Jenkins.  I can still hear the student body’s haunting chant of “Char – les Jen – kins.”  The relentless passage of time has unfortunately altered Hofstra’s comfort zone.  Everybody thrilled to Charles’ last-minute heroics as he, time and time again, extricated the team from certain defeat.

December 18, 2011: 

            Here’s the latest on Charles.  He just signed a $550,000 first year contract with the Warriors, with an option of $650,000 for the following year.  The Warriors brass have indicated that he will initially serve as a backup guard but feel that he has the potential of becoming a premier guard.  But, as far as Hofstra is concerned, the King is dead.

            Long live the King.  Well, maybe.  I commented at an early press conference, that Michael Moore might be the heir apparent. And, he might be.  A transfer from Fordham, his high school and college statistics are as good if not better than those of Charles.  There has also been a significant uptick in performance from last year.  And, from a former scout’s perspective, ability is important, but it is improvement over time that trumps all other factors.

            IsMooregood enough to make the NBA?  I think he has a reasonable chance of being selected late in the second round.  He is very athletic with a wiry 6’5” frame (he looks taller to me), an ideal physique for an NBA player.  He is an exceptional shooter with excellent speed, solid defensively, and superb floor savvy.  On the negative side, he has yet to demonstrate the same intensity as Charles, and they will be keying on him in Conference play.  It’s also a rebuilding year for a team that has demonstrated surprising ability on occasions, but their shooting has been sporadic, have appeared confused against zone defenses, and one can only hope that the big men will develop as the season goes on.

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Once Again, It’s Hofstra Time

December 28, 2011

It is mid-November.  That can only mean one thing:  it’s time for Hofstra’s men’s basketball.

            Athletic Director Jack Hayes told me that this is supposed to be a rebuilding year for Hofstra.  Gone is their once-in-a-lifetime superstar Charles Jenkins.  I can still hear the student body’s haunting chant of “Char – les Jen – kins.”  The relentless passage of time has unfortunately altered Hofstra’s comfort zone.  Everybody thrilled to Charles’ last-minute heroics as he, time and time again, extricated the team from certain defeat.

            But he is now gone.  Well, not really, He was in attendance at the season opener this past Friday.  (The NBA is still in lockout mode at the time of the submission of this article.)  He signed autographs, including one on our grandson’s #22 jersey—the number was retired at the end of last season.  I commented at the press conference that senior guard Michael Moore was the heir apparent.  Me and my big mouth.  I was effectively told:  there is no heir to Charles.

            Back to the present team.  It may indeed be a rebuilding year.  But Moore—a terrific player is his own right—and Nathaniel Lester—an excellent underrated small forward—are back.  The big question is whether they can make up for the team’s lack of height.

            Prior to last Friday’s home opener, Coach Mo Cassera told me they were undefeated.  Well, Hofstra beatLong IslandUniversity(who made the NCAA playoffs last season) by 20 points after leading by 30 points late in the game.  So Mo, you’re still undefeated.

            Mike and Nat?  They scored 23 and 33 points, respectively.  The Team?  They played great, with a level of intensity I haven’t seen in a while.

            The team is off to a good start with a 1-0 record at this time.  Their next game is this Saturday afternoon at 4:00 P.M. Folks do yourselves a favor and attend one of their games. The enthusiastic support of the Hofstra student body at the games is contagious. For me, attending Hofstra games still remains the best sports buy in the New York Metropolitan area; it’s even cheaper than going to the movies.  There is ample free parking, easy access in and out of the Sports Complex, the concession stands are not a rip-off ($3.25 for a dog, $1.40 for a soda, etc.), and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.  Did I mention that its $5 for seniors and children, and the whole exciting atmosphere is conducive to family attendance?  I don’t think this is an exaggeration, but every home game last year turned out to be a thriller.  It was raw excitement.  Share it with someone you care about.  I guarantee you won’t regret it.


On Incompetence at Work

December 12, 2011

This is for the folks, and those who are presently incarcerated or institutionalized.

It’s 9:20 am on November 21 at the Auburn Street and Roslyn Road intersection in East Williston, two blocks from my house.  The morning calm will be shattered 60 seconds later when an East Williston School District (EWSD) school bus with 43 children aboard will collide with a vehicle.  There’s both good news and bad news.  The good news is that only four children and one adult suffered “minor” injuries.  The bad news is that the EWSD was involved.

Ordinarily, one would expect that an incident involving children would result in immediate and corrective steps to address the problem.  But that is what you would expect if qualified and competent individuals were running the EWSD.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Here is my take on the EWSD and  its key participants.  Superintendent Lewis, a sweet talking, untrustworthy individual is neither qualified nor competent.  School Board President Kamberg is a self-serving con man who should be barred from the school grounds.  Another Board member is a former president of the teachers’ union.  The remaining three members, including Kamberg’s flunky Freier, are clueless.   The teachers and their union have primarily became concerned with the teachers.  Absenteeism is rampant.  There is no accountability.  The words lard and fat also do not adequately describe the massive waste (9.75 student-teacher ratio, $30K+ cost per student) that exists within the EWSD system.  And oh yes, the teachers’ hapless PTO members and its officers actually think everybody is doing a great job.

Here is what we have out in the real world.  The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed in 1984 in response to concerns regarding the safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals.  These concerns were triggered by the disaster in Bhopal,India, in which more than 2,000 people suffered death or serious injury from the accidental release of methyl isocyanate.  To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in theUnited States, Congress imposed requirements on both states and regulated facilities.  These requirements have been extended and adopted by competent organizations outside the chemical industry to plan for and respond to emergencies.  For example, we conducted fire drills at our house when the kids lived there; specific instructions were spelled out.  Something akin to the following should have been in place for the EWSD:

  1. Identify all bus transportation routes;
  2. Describe emergency response procedures on and off the school grounds;
  3. Designate a coordinator to implement any plan;
  4. Outline emergency notification procedures;
  5. Describe how to handle potentially affected individuals, particularly the students;
  6. Describe local emergency units and facilities who will be responsible when an emergency/accident occurs;
  7. Outline medical and medical-related plans;
  8. Provide a training program for both emergency responders and children; and,
  9. Provide methods and schedules for exercising emergency response plans.

Something similar to the procedure I outlined above should have kicked in.  But, here is what happened.

  1. Some parents were not notified until 11:00 am.
  2. Some parents complained that school officials should have been better prepared.
  3. Lewis had difficulty in determining which students were on the bus.
  4. Lewis claimed there were some problems with emergency contact numbers.
  5. The EWSD inexplicably delayed the parents’ notification process.
  6. North Side employed an automated message nearly 8 hours late to notify parents.

You get the picture.  The EWSD has problems.  TheLong Island school system has problems.  I’ll discuss these problems in the months ahead.

I’m back!

December 12, 2011

 I’ve been badgered by many this past year because I stopped writing Letters to the Editor and my As I See It column.  Here’s what came down.   Our (it no longer is) local paper was sold by Meg Norris.  It took a while, but I found out what sort of person the new owner was, and decided it would be unethical to submit any more material.  Thus, it came to an end after 18 years and 200 letters and nearly 100 As I See It columns.

            Several months ago, I decided that our community needed a fair and objective voice.  The idea of a newsletter was born . . . and this is it.  My plans were to launch the newsletter the first of the year.  But the recent fiasco—involving a EWSD bus accident—prompted an earlier starting date.