To the Syosset Community,
Many of you have contacted me over the last several weeks about the recent events affecting Syosset. I wanted to respond to the collective community in a timely fashion.
I am speaking to you to let you know how I feel personally about the events that have transpired over the last several weeks and the resulting decisions that need to be made in the future. These are my personal opinions and I am NOT speaking for the Syosset Board of Education.
I urge everyone in the community to come down to the next Syosset School District Board of Education meeting on December 17th and share your opinions during the Audience to the Public segment. This is the ONLY time during the Board of Education meetings that a citizen can express their opinion. Audience to the Public is at the early part of the meeting so come early and use the allotted 2 minutes well.
When crises happen we have to get through them as best as possible. It is then our obligation to use hindsight and see what was done well and what can be improved, so moving forward we are better prepared to deal with future issues that arise.
I must first give credit where credit is due. The early decision making and communication via the emergency call system to the parents about school closings was very good. Giving everyone advance notice was helpful for everyone to make family decisions with regard to work, child care and many other everyday life needs.
It is in this vein of early decision making, that I feel compelled to make a motion at the next board meeting to vote and render a decision to resolve the issue of school days still to be made up. By my count we have 6 school days to make up due to the storm and subsequent nor’easter. The superintendent’s message via the emergency call system to clarify that we are not allowed to have school on national holidays has been questioned by many in the community. I assume it is a New York State law since both NJ & Conn. school districts have held classes on Veteran’s day. I have made inquiries directly to NYS lawmakers to reconfirm this fact.
We have already missed an opportunity to make up one of these days by having school this coming Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I understand many school districts are waiting for the lawmakers in Albany to render a decision about a waiver of days, but from the opinions expressed by many in the news recently, just as many believe the waiver will not be granted as those that say it will. Either way, this decision will not be made until sometime in January at the earliest. I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to act quickly and decisively. I think the most logical choice is to have school on President’s week thereby making up 4 days immediately. There are projections for a harsh winter, and if comes to be so, then we leave ourselves exposed to making up even more days later in the year. If Albany grants the waiver, we can always give back the 4 days of President’s week. If they do not grant the waiver, we would have dealt with a large portion of the makeup days already. I am sure this will not be a popular decision with those that have already committed and paid for vacations but I do not see a better alternative. Christmas, Easter and Passover holidays have religious implications and deserve greater consideration and protection.
Since the agenda at the October Board of Education meeting had a special audience to the public to allow citizens to express their views on changing the location of middle school graduation, I will suggest we have one on this topic at the December 17th BOE meeting if a determination on this subject has not been finalized before then. Surely, this is just as important an issue to the community as middle school graduation day locations.
As a separate issue dealing with emergency procedures, LIPA was soundly criticized for having antiquated equipment when dealing with emergencies. We all see how that worked out. I will make a motion at the December board meeting that we allocate funds for a smart phone for our superintendent because as the decision maker in emergencies for a school district with a 200 million dollar budget, and the possibility that she will be in her home in Westchester and not here in Syosset when decisions need to be made, surely our superintendent should have access to e-mail in a crisis. Our superintendent should have access to timely communication and that communication should then be made available to the families within the district as well. That is why I will also propose we establish a district Facebook page allowing the superintendent and the school district to rapidly communicate with the citizens of Syosset, especially in a crisis. The immediate updating of the district website as a form of communication is not a realistic expectation, especially in a crisis.
I also believe that our school district is the foundation of our community and we should look at doing more for our residents in a crisis. I am aware there was some damage to the pool area of the high school, possibly preventing the district from making the locker rooms and shower facilities available to the community as a whole, but I believe we should make preparations for the future to consider opening available schools as warming stations and places of shelter during the day. Our library was an oasis for many during this trying time and if possible we should implement plans to expand our ability to assist our citizens in times of crisis. This will surely not be our last storm when many will lose power and heat. No school district has all the answers and we should look at the actions and decisions of many other school districts during this crisis and try to emulate the things they did well.
Please forward this to people in the community that do not have children within the district, as well as all that do. It is only with the involvement of the community that we can affect the most positive changes that benefit all within our community.
I hope you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving.