January 1, 2014
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. First and foremost, I need to thank those who have continued to provide support and encouragement during this past year. The last article of this year concerns the East Williston School District (EWSD). The following paragraph is an edited and updated version of material written approximately one year ago.
“The EWSD is presently in decline with its national ranking having plummeted, and there is 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 and (unfortunately) job security, $30,000+ annual cost per student, a 9.75:1 student to teacher ratio that continues to decline, a policy of refusing to eliminate waste, and the self-serving policies of …….” 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 values. And, guess what? My effort and activities to implement reform have produced change. Unfortunately, the change has produced a situation that has worsened.
A question we engineers often ask when evaluating a scheme, proposal, contract, etc., is as follows: Is it cost-effective and is there sufficient accountability? When applied to our District, this school board, these school administrators, and these teachers have conveniently avoided answering this question. In fact, these individuals continue to try to convince concerned and angry taxpayers that taxes need to be raised further if our children are to receive a quality education.
What about the EWSD Superintendent, Dr. Elaine Kanas? I had two meetings with Kanas. I first met Kanas a few weeks after she arrived in August 2012. At that time, I presented her with a list of particulars detailing the shortcomings of our District and a call for reform. A copy of that note follows.
“Dear Dr. Kanas,
I believe that the following current problems are adversely affecting the East Williston School District (EWSD).
1. The per capita student cost is $30,000+/yr.
2. The student/teacher ratio is 9.75:1.0
3. The EWSD employs 21 secretaries.
4. There is rampant teacher absenteeism.
5. The failure of some students to attend the college/university of their choice.
6. The EWSD national ranking is in free-fall.
7. The school tax burden continues to increase despite reduced enrollment.
8. The lack of preparedness of some of the students for their post high school education.
9. The failure of the previous administration to, in accordance with the law, act on FOIL requests.
As a taxpayer and member of the EWSD community, I am requesting your assessment of the above nine problems, plus details on what steps you intend to take to either remove or reduce
these problems. If a response is not received by October 1, 2012, I shall assume that you have concluded that there is no reason for concern. If you do respond, I would then appreciate a follow-up notification on the success/failure of your actions on or before December 31, 2012.
I await your response.”
Every member of our community, and in particular, every parent, should read and reread the concerns I raised and ask yourself if these issues need to be address. Instead of expressing dismay at my description of the current state of the District, Kanas indicated that there wasn’t enough proof to validate my statements and claims, and indicated that a committee would look into it in the near future. I explained to the Superintendent that you didn’t need a Ph.D. to divide one number by another in order to verify my claims. I also explained that committees don’t get things done and that any meaningful recommendations for reform by whatever committee would be ignored by both the corrupt Board and equally corrupt teachers and their union. I became convinced that nothing meaningful would occur with Kanas as Superintendent…and my concerns have been confirmed at this point in time.
Two of Kanas’ favorite terms during our discussions were strategic and comprehensive, two popular Madison Avenue clichés. Any time I hear someone using either or both of these words, that individual gets tuned out since I know from past experience that the individual is either clueless or trying to con me, or both. Kanas appears to be in this category. In any event, Kanas never took action on my note.
More than six months have elapsed since I tried to get to the bottom of class sizes and teacher absenteeism. Thanks to Assistant Superintendent Fitzpatrick, I still don’t have the necessary background information and data to perform a meaningful analysis of both these problems. She has successfully stalled the process. The bottom line is that my repeated calls for Fitzpatrick to go (and not be replaced) have been ignored. Thank you Kanas.
Can Kanas turn things around in the EWSD? I doubt it, given the past conduct of the EXPLOITERS, i.e., Kamberg, the present Board, earlier Boards, plus the teachers and their union. The District needs a strong Superintendent who will stand up to the self-serving EXPLOITERS in our community. Unfortunately, Kanas has not even remotely demonstrated either the willingness and/or capability to do so. My present thought: Kanas may turn out to be a worse nightmare than the EXPLOITER’S earlier favorite – the incompetent and unqualified Lorna Lewis.
I’ve not heard from Kanas since our earlier meetings. Despite the drop in enrollment, the student cost is now projected to be nearly $32,000 and I was informed the student/teacher ratio has worsened. Kanas promised to take action and I was willing to give her a pass even though she misrepresented herself both on her application and during the Superintendent’s position review process. Apparently, nobody cares even though this is grounds for dismissal. I guess Kamberg and his crew feel they can control Kanas and have her under their thumb. And, on her part, Kanas has come to feel comfortable with this arrangement where she can ignore being accountable to the taxpayers and the students.
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 some voters – knows it. Unfortunately, most of the PTO members continue to be successfully brainwashed every year. No opposing voice is allowed. Even Wheatley seniors receive the usual lectures from the teachers that all will be lost if the budget is defeated. As I have repeatedly stated, the District’s ranking and reputation is in a freefall decline, the student:teacher ratio is 9.75:1.0…. Wheatley seniors are having difficulty getting into the school of their choice, and some seniors lack college preparedness. The teachers are teaching less, their indifference has increased, and the teacher role model is a thing of the past. Astonishingly, the parents have come to accept this. The ax is certain to fall when the younger children reach graduation age. Yet, the parents in our District appear not to be concerned.
What does all this mean? The EXPLOITERS have sacrificed the best interests of the schoolchildren (and the taxpayers) in order to (perhaps?) gain an advantage for their kids with teachers and administrators, all at the expense of the children of other parents. And, if the other parents don’t believe this statement, I’ve got a bridge to sell them. Simply put, parents have and continue to be duped.
A word on Sean Feeney, Wheatley’s principal. An 11/4/13 article in Newsday referred to “The Wheatley School as one of the highest rated schools on Long Island” and that “Feeney does not believe his own negative job evaluations reflect that rating.” Unfortunately, Wheatley no longer is one of the elite schools, no doubt reflected in his poor evaluation. Come on! Would he have complained if he got good/excellent reviews? I checked the criteria employed in the evaluation process (something I have been involved with in the past) and it looked fairly reasonable to me. Four words come to mind when I think of most of his (the Wheatley) teachers: indifference, mean-spirited, greedy, and parasitic. In the meantime, his graduates continue to complain about the quality of education they are receiving (details available on request). In any event, he appears next in line for the Superintendent’s job when and if Kanas is dumped or if she moves on (ala Lewis).
Keep in mind that despite the aforementioned enrollment decrease in excess of 10%, more teachers and administrators have been hired, the school budget continues to spiral upward, and the quality of education is decreasing monotonously. Thank you Kanas for allowing the waste and the quality of education to decline unabated. She really has turned out to be as bad as Lewis.
The reality is that the EWSD community has reached a point where the majority of residents – including many parents – simply don’t care about what’s going on. There is significant apathy and disinterest, with large numbers of voters ignoring their duty to vote. No doubt change will come, but it will take time.
I also need to include a few of the letters from the EWSD mailbox.
“I am sure Dr. Kanas will destroy programs and lives just as she did in Valley Stream 30. She brings in tons of programs with no follow-through and is only concerned with improving her own resume.”
“Dear Dr. Theodore, Facts again seem to be right on the money. You have mentioned more than once that ‘facts and information’ are being hidden. Your only alternative is to try to use the freedom of information act. The things you mention should come under the heading of public information which should enable you to use this law. I also think that in many respects you are ‘beating a dead horse’ which must be very frustrating. However, knowing you as I do, I know you will continue the ‘good fight’.”
“…… aside from that, I loved this letter because none of it surprised me…which made me feel like I know you fairly well. On a separate thought, I’d love to see you do an article on how many EW School District families choose to send their children to private school. I met a family recently. They live on William Street in EW and have 4 children. They send all 4 to private schools. They don’t seem to know a soul in EW. Just around the corner is another family with 5 children. All 5 are in private school. It would be a wakeup call for EW families who think our school is so great to find out that a large percentage don’t think the district is even good enough to send their children there. Have a great weekend Professor.”
“Nicely said. Sir, I was wondering…Have you ever done an analysis of how many (or what proportion) of our EWSD eligible students are utilizing other venues for education? I’m curious how many of our district’s students attend private schools or are home-schooled. Thanks for sharing.”
Is there a reasonable solution that can accommodate the best interests of both the taxpayers and schoolchildren, and at the same time, be fair to the teachers? Of course! My approach has been ignored. But I believe that something other than a weak-kneed Superintendent could pull it off. In the meantime, EWSD readers should take whatever steps are necessary to help put a stop to the EXPLOITERS’ conduct regarding school and financial matters.
Readers: Don’t be a glutton for punishment. Stop being taken for a fool, and stop being an enabler for the EXPLOITERS.
February 1: On the New York Times
March 1: On Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XX
April 1: On the Barack Hussein Obama Update III