May 29, 2013

June 1, 2013

Last month’s “THE BUDGET VOTE” article generated responses that keyed on Kanas’ survey requesting community input and an exchange with one of the readers. The readers’ mailbox comments follow.

1 – “A true survey would NOT request a name to be entered on the form. Some people do not like to put their name on anything going to the board and administration (especially parents who fear the repercussions to their kids). And if a survey (or any other issue) is submitted without names, it is usually disregarded! This has happened in the past. So IF they really wanted a true response, it should have been an anonymous survey.” I should have picked up on this based on the Kanas’ survey (particularly since I have conducted numerous surveys) given the fanatical conduct of the teachers in the past. It is possible that Kanas is not savvy enough to appreciate how vindictive some of the teachers are. Keep in mind that it was Kansas (our new Superintendent) who misrepresented herself during the interview process.

2 – “If our tax dollars are used to send out surveys such as this, it’s not wasteful spending. Providing educational decisions would be a group decision made by the community…and we could therefore ELIMINATE the Superintendent position.” I don’t agree with this reader. We need a strong, intelligent and dedicated Superintendent. Unfortunately, most of us now feel that Kanas does not fit that description.

3 – From one out-of-town reader (when informed of the budget results): “How sick are the voters? Sell your house, get away from these asses, and come move to Florida.” Wow!

4 – My response to an earlier email from one of the most respected and influential members of our community: “Looks like you’re getting your two cents in. I’m not sure if that is good from your perspective given the vindictive conduct of the teachers. I wouldn’t place too much credence in anything from either Feeney or Kanas. Feeney is looking to explain away the sorrowful conduct of his teachers and the poor quality of education at the high school. Kanas is simply out of her league and turning into a disaster. I offer the following regarding Whelan’s 5/23 article:

1. Does anyone think Feeney or Kanas would be criticizing the education methodology if our ranking either increased or improved?

2. I’m not sure what was meant by the words “taking ownership of our own rankings.” The teachers and administrators couldn’t possibly be objective since we know they are both unethical and unprofessional. Any evaluation must be conducted by an impartial group. What makes more sense is your recommendation to evaluate student performance after graduation from “year to year.” I think information garnered in this manner would verify my contention that the high school is failing in its responsibility and not doing its job.”

The latest response to my (the above) email:

“A few thoughts.

I tend to believe that an internal ranking system is needed and can be developed and published in a transparent manner. I have no reason to believe that the school would intentionally misrepresent the data. And folks like myself would be all over them if they did that. However, I have no issues if an external party or group prepared and monitored the results. I even think one of the Board Committee could help in this capacity.

In the article there is an admission by Kanas that the SAT scores are declining. In addition, in the attached report (slide 13) Feeney does highlight that Jericho has improved their index value by 25%.

I think it’s important to recognize that while we continue to be a top ranked school, we appear to be losing ground to our peer schools in terms of academic performance. Rather than simply criticize, I’d like to engage with our school administration and Board in an open way about what actions can be taken to address these issues. Or simply, learn from other districts that are doing better.

Many parents, like myself are starting to become aware of these issues. I’d like to build on the momentum and continue to raise awareness and request action.
So far, Dr. Kanas has recognized the SAT issue, and is modifying the curriculum to address. I believe this is a good start but more review and action is needed.
Just my thoughts and I appreciate your point of view on these issues.”

There were, of course, other comments. Your input and continued support are appreciated.

* * *

Let’s get right to it. The budget passed. Unbelievable! Embarrassing! Frightening! How out-of-it can some of the voters be? And, how uncaring and selfish can some of the other voters be? As I have repeatedly indicated, the 9.75 and $32,000 figures speak for themselves. (Interestingly, Manhasset voters rejected their budget; this community is apparently smart enough to realize what’s happening.) The bond issue passed, giving the Board permission to effectively spend money without accountability and without requiring a budget vote. Finally, the self-servicing Keefe (and former teacher union president) and the devoid-of-qualifications Sloan were again voted into office.

Here is what our intelligent and informed District members voted for. The state tax cap limit is 3.30%. The EWSD tax levy is presently 3.21%. Anyone in the reading audience believe that the EXPLOITERS ever gave some thought to freezing or reducing the tax levy? They obviously set out to work around the 3.30% increase. They would have never attempted anything else, for if they could have eliminated any waste and/or programs, it would have gone into increasing teacher salaries and benefits and/or reducing their already soft workload. Thank you EXPLOITERS.

Only a fool doesn’t understand that the EXPLOITERS, i.e., the teachers and their union, in cooperation with Kanas, Kamberg, his Board, the PTO leadership, and some of its members, are destroying our school district and ripping off the taxpayer. The present system is simply unsustainable; everyone – except the aforementioned voters – knows it. Here is what Newsday reported on 5/1/13: “School spending and tax proposals are rising across Long Island, fueled by pension costs and other staff benefits.” What they didn’t report, unfortunately, is that no one is doing anything about it. The EXPLOITERS are tickled pink to either maintain the status quo or further exploit the community. The powers to be in the Village of East Williston have settled on the sidelines and stay above the fray even though the school taxes are destroying property values and the quality of life in the Village. I also talked to the County; they claim it’s not their business even though school taxes are destroying the County. The State? With Cuomo… forget about it.

Here is what Newsday reported (5/19) regarding EWSD budgetary matters: “District officials declined to provide information on increases in teacher salaries or possible reductions to teachers or other staff under the proposed budget. They also would not specify whether any district programs would be cut or restored.” In other words, it’s not only me they want to keep in the dark, but everyone in the District. Now, that is what I call transparency. And, why do they get away with it? Many, but not all, of the voters – particularly the parents – are too dumb to know better.

Probably all in the reading audience have invested in the stock market (or the equivalent). You can win… or you can lose. But not our teachers. Our corrupt state officials, fearful of being labeled anti-education by the Teachers’ Union (the most powerful lobbying entity in the state) have guaranteed that the teachers’ pensions will not only be profitable but also cannot be reduced, altered or rescinded. And the teachers and their union are still not happy or satisfied. Gouging the taxpayer is the name of their game and the EXPLOITERS (including Kanas) are there to make sure it stays that way.

There is, of course, more. Gov. Cuomo has said: “the numbers speak for themselves –the pension system, as we know it, is unsustainable.” Gov. Christie has said: “At some point, there has to be parity between what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the public-sector world.” Under the present system, taxes will go up every year and no one can stop them unless you, the taxpayer, vote these bloated budgets down. Concessions must be made if anyone truly wants to enact change. But, don’t count on the EXPLOITERS for cooperation since it does not serve their best interests. And, it really is sad that Kanas has already joined the non-reformist forces.

Well, there’s more. Last year, someone or some organization posted signs on school grounds that read:

I called and requested permission to put a sign on school grounds that I had prepared. It was not only denied but they also refused to indicate who paid for the sign and who approved the posting of the sign. (Two months later, the PTO was credited for this in a one-sentence statement buried in the minutes.) If the PTO is a 501C organization, i.e., a non-profit one, they are strictly forbidden to support any political issue.) Same posting this year. I called Kanas’ office and requested an explanation. No explanation was provided. (Incidentally, the signs came down the next day.)Thank you, Kanas, for confirming, at least in my eyes, that you are a perfect addition to the EXPLOITER group.

You want even more? This is another example of the EXPLOITERS at work. Here are part of the contents (not taken out of context) recently forwarded by the PTO to select parents and taxpayers:

“Please Join Concerned Residents and Teachers on June 8th in Albany at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. You are invited to attend a rally to express your support for our public schools and frustrations with the direction our children’s education is taking:
1. Too many tests
2. Not enough funding
3. A broken tax system
The Teacher’s Union is generous to provide free bus service as well as lunch to those who wish to attend this rally.”
Obviously, the most powerful lobbying entity in Albany – the teachers’ union – is attempting to, once again, intimidate our elected officials into providing increased salaries/reduce workloads and eliminating accountability for teachers. I’m still trying to find out if any taxpayer funds were used to support this “project.” Naturally, nobody knows anything. I can’t even find out how many taxpayers are dumb enough to consider supporting this scam.

The EXPLOITERS obviously are having it their way. But now, there is a new player — the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC). Their long awaited report and power point presentation is available on our school’s website. All taxpayers and parents should carefully examine it. Here are three important points that should be noted. The FAC’s charges from the EXPLOITERS include the following:

1. “FAC recommendations are not binding on the school board. However, the Board will consider the recommendations of the FAC in its deliberations regarding the ongoing fiscal operations of the District.” In other words, any meaningful recommendations regarding reform that is not in the best interests of the EXPLOITERS will be (as in the past) ignored. I’ve got a bridge to sell any FAC member who believes otherwise.

2. “Continue to advocate and demonstrate commitment to school reform.” There has NEVER been a commitment to correct the abuses, implement reform, and/or eliminate waste.

3. “The current budget, as presently recommended, represents a 3.15% increase year over year.” Thus, the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 budget increases are 1.92%, 2.49% and 3’15%, respectively. In effect, the budget continues to increase despite the fact that enrollment continues to decrease. Since the value of our houses is inversely proportioned to school taxes, the impossible-to-justify tax increases have also resulted in decreased house values. Did we need any other justification to vote NO on the budget?

No doubt many of you read (Newsday, 5/9/12) that our District’s ranking continues to freefall and is currently 246, down again from 55 last year. In addition, the student:teacher ratio in the top four schools on Long Island is 12, 13, 14 and 16 — as compared to our 9.75. Stuyvesant (my alma mater) is at 21. The figures simply don’t lie: the EXPLOITERS are destroying our District with the waste and indifference. We are now officially an also-ran. Even Governor Cuomo has described the school systems as “ineffective, wasteful, and bureaucratic,” and the most recent budget vote officially insures that it will stay that way.

In effect, the battle for reform has been lost. Sigi Huhn and John O’Kelly attempted valiantly to correct the corruption associated with the EXPLOITERS but both were run out of town by this group. And now, we can add Superintendent Kanas to the EXPLOITERS. Other than this newsletter, the voice of reform, representing the majority of the community, has been successfully squashed and eliminated. Most of the PTO members continue to be successfully brainwashed with every year. No opposing voice is allowed. Wheatley seniors of voting age are receiving the usual lectures from the teachers that all will be lost if the budget is defeated. The voices of reform have never — repeat the word NEVER — been allowed to discuss the budget vote and provide another perspective with these youngsters. Keep in mind that the EXPLOITERS (and those who came earlier) never approached any of the proponents of reform. This is the same group that bragged about their ability to reach out and work with the ENTIRE community. The bottom line is that they oppose any type of reform; excessive waste is the order of the day for them.

A reasonable question to ask is: why would reasonably intelligent and caring people not take action to correct the aforementioned financial abuses? The District needs to wake up; the 9.75 and $32,000 numbers speak for themselves. The answer is simply that most are not caring; they only care for their own needs irrespective of the common good…and the community pays for it because they now know that the EXPLOITERS can get away with it. Many of the key players have children (and grandchildren) and relatives working in the EWSD system, and this serves as the driving force to resist any category of reform.
What can be done? Public opinion polls (as reported by Newsday) clearly indicate that 90% of the voters oppose any tax increases. Ordinarily, dedicated and intelligent individuals would respond to a public mandate. Unfortunately, the Board is run by Kamberg, who has refused to accommodate voters, and who I believe has a past history of pursuing his own agenda, irrespective of the effect on both the schoolchildren and I taxpayers. Yes, Kamberg is only out for Kamberg. The PTO officers are only out for themselves. The teachers are only out for themselves. Apparently, Kanas is also out for herself. Add this to the 30 year old Triborough Amendment and you have school systems in place that are broken beyond repair. (The Triborough Amendment requires public employers to maintain all contractual perks for unionized public employees, including automatic “step” increases in pay after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement; this gives unions an incentive to resist negotiating structural changes to their contracts since the status quo will be preserved even if there is no contract. It guarantees pay increases for teachers, including the requirement to finance automatic pay increases.) This is why approximately 500 applications are often received every time when there is a teacher opening.

Folks, have a great summer.
Lou Theodore

Here is what is on tap in the coming months:

July 1: On the New New York Racing Association (NYRA)
August 1: On the New Cooper Union
September 1: On Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XIX
October 1: On the Barack Hussein Obama Legacy