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Letter to the Editor: In Reply to Christine Napolitano’s Letter

Mineola Board of Education Trustee John McGrath submitted the following letter.

Two weeks ago candidate Christine Napolitano issued a statement to the press criticizing me for a number of reasons. I will address each reason as presented in her . The link to that letter is attached so everyone can follow along.

She first complains that as part of my that I criticized my opponent, Mr. Barnett, and that my doing so at a meeting of the Board of Education was somehow improper. She also apologized to the community for not stopping me from doing so and offers a lame excuse for not having done so at that time.

In 2006 I announced my candidacy for reelection to the board at a meeting of the board. Neither Mrs. Napolitano nor anyone else complained that I did so at that time. In 2009 I announced my candidacy for reelection to the board at a meeting of the Board.

Neither Mrs. Napolitano nor anyone else complained that I did so at that time. Now that Mrs. Napolitano is running against me she is complaining that I made an announcement at a meeting of the board of education. That’s simply politics folks and should be disregarded.

My announcement was in response to Mr. Barnett’s with the community on the issue of reconfiguration. I felt that it was appropriate for me to respond to Mr. Barnett’s statement as it reflected that somehow due to being out of touch with the community, as he put it, that I was somehow unfit to continue serving as a member of the board of education. In that regard it was perfectly appropriate to let the community know my thought on my fitness to serve, now and in the future, in my capacity as a member of the board of education.

In responding to Mr. Barnett I simply reminded the voters that Mr. Barnett supported the first Bond proposition calling for the closing of the , and schools as well as the expenditure of to build upon the as well as to create a at the . I also felt it appropriate to let the community know at that time that I opposed that proposition publicly and that 80 percent of those voting on that proposition voted against it. I then asked, rhetorically, if that meant that I was out of touch with the community.

I then reminded the community that Mr. Barnett supported the calling for a $6.1 million dollar expenditure to expand the Jackson Avenue School and the Hampton Street School while closing the Cross Street and Willis Avenue Schools. Mr. Barnett now claims that he did not support that proposal which I publicly opposed and which was defeated at the polls by 60 percent of those voting. For someone that allegedly did not support that proposal he seemed to get pretty upset at a joint PTA meeting after that proposal failed.

In any event Mr. Barnett raised the issue of my ability to serve as a member of the board of education to which I took public exception at a meeting of the board of education. There was nothing wrong in doing so and that was why Mrs. Napolitano did not stop me from making that statement. Her subsequent statement in the form of a letter to the Mineola Patch was made to appease her supporters who were visibly fuming at the meeting which I made my statement and is again nothing more than politics.

Mrs. Napolitano next says that I am putting spin before you when I said I did not oppose reconfiguration in a subsequent interview with the Williston Times. This is more politics as I introduced a motion putting forward an alternative to the board’s plan at its meeting on February 24, 2010.

That motion did not receive a second and was not discussed thereby denying the community the opportunity to hear the board debate my alternative to closing, at that time, two schools. But don’t take my word for it just go to the link below to view the details of that meeting as reported by the Mineola American.

She next criticized me for going to the press with my proposal that we should delay reconfiguration and reach out to the Herricks School District to determine whether a would make sense for either school district. Based on my experience with the Board on February 24, 2010 I knew there was no going to it with this proposal and that it needed to be taken directly to the voters.

That’s why I went to the press and not the board.

Taking the word spin to the height of its meaning Mrs. Napolitano next accuses me of saying that employers told me that our graduates require an inordinate amount of training. I never said that and that was not the way it was reported by the Williston Times.

I said that the school district did a survey of employers who stated in their replies that our graduates required an inordinate amount of training. I didn’t say it the survey’s respondents said it. My comment was neither anecdotal, irresponsible, or insulting or at least it shouldn’t be insulting. As a community we need to have accurate information about how our students are perceived by colleges, employers and others in order to assess how we can improve the delivery of instruction to all our students.

Mrs. Napolitano goes on to cite the great colleges to which our graduates have obtained admission. However, the students accepted to these schools are our top students who should be accepted to those schools. Yet many of our other students are considered not to be college or employment ready.

Mrs. Napolitano would have us spin those students out of existence as their inability to achieve at the same level as out top students is insulting to her. I believe we have an obligation to all out students not simply the ones whose success comes easily or even as the result of hard work. We need to work even harder to make it possible for all our graduates to go to good colleges or to find good jobs. We can’t simply cater to the elites as Mrs. Napolitano would have us do.

Indeed, notwithstanding Mrs. Napolitano’s patting herself (and me by the way) on the back for the great performance of our graduates, we have a long way to go. I was accurately quoted as saying that Newsday reported that our graduates were ill prepared for college. To be fair the Newsday piece provided statistics on college readiness for all Long Island School Districts. Mineola wasn’t the worst but the statistics provide graphic evidence of how long we have to go before we can say we are giving our students the best possible education an education they truly deserve. But don’t take my word for it just view the Newsday piece.

She then criticizes me for a statement that one of the benefits of a merge with Herricks would be to add the prestige of Herricks, in terms of its academic achievement, to our own. Just go to the above link and compare the graduates of both school districts. In terms of the college readiness measures reported by Newsday Herricks scored far and above Mineola on all measures. This should not be viewed as insulting as Mrs. Napolitano obviously feels it is but should be looked upon as a goal to be achieved. I believe Mineola’s students can achieve at this level and that we have to work harder to make that happen.

Obviously Mrs. Napolitano apparently prefers a Polyanna approach and avoid the unpleasant fact that our school district as a long way to go to improve its academic standing. That’s not to say we don’t do great things. We can take ownership of what we do that’s great. We also have to take ownership of what we do that’s not so great and work hard to improve it. That’s what I’ll do if I’m reelected.

Mrs. Napolitano’s Polyanna approach is also very dangerous in terms of improving student achievement, by pretending that our students are doing great there is no community pressure to improve student performance. That becomes obvious when you look at the currently available results from the NYS

English and Math assessments as reported by Newsday. In fourth grade only 72 percent of our students are meeting state standards in English Language Arts according to Newsday. Only 81 percent are meeting state standards in Math. In eighth grade just 57 percent of our student meet state standards in English Language Arts while only 80 percent are meeting state standards in Math. Of course now that we have reconfigured and our average class sizes have jumped to 27 students can there be any doubt as to the cause? But don’t take my word for it just go to the link below to see the numbers as reported by Newsday.

I can promise the voters I will not hide my head in the sand while student academic performance goes down the toilet just to save some money as Mrs. Napolitano and her allies on and off the Board are doing.

John McGrath

John McGrath is currently a Member of the . The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of the board of education, its other individual trustees, or the Mineola Union Free School District.

Andrews Rd May 15, 2012 at 01:41 AM
My thoughts exactly! Twelve years on the board. What have you done? Time to move on - you obviously are not successful in your role as BOE member! Our spending is insane. We spend 10 million dollars more than another local district that has 100 LESS students and better overall scores. Please -What have you done for us lately? Bye Bye!
CDatys May 15, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Hey Geoffrey Walter ....... Can you please explain why there are 4 comments on this article, but I can only see 1 of them? Were they flagged as inappropriate? and by whom?
Rick Ueland May 15, 2012 at 03:57 AM
As a senior, when I look at Mr. McGrath’s tenure on the School Board, six things come to mind: 1 Skyrocketing School Taxes – mine increased 100% from 2000-2010. 2 The Cost per Student hitting $30,000 per student among the highest in the State and the Country. 3 Lame Duck School Board Contract Approval of Generous Contacts. 4 A vision of Mr. McGrath looking totally bored at School Board Meetings. 5 Condescending comments such as the one he made to me in the early 2000’s when I asked the Board about the skyrocketing costs per student due to opening schools and generous contracts. His flippant response to me was “That’s what you people wanted.” 6 Not a team player. Going to the media before discussing his Herrrick’s proposal with other Board members. The school reconfiguration plan was necessary to control our costs. I was a member of the Committee that recommended it. It’s not the plan that you would propose if it were a perfect world. It is a plan that needed to be implemented and it was the best option given the constraints we had based on poor facility decisions by past administrations and school boards. Please support Artie Barnett and Chris Napolitano and send John McGrath and the last of the old guard who put us in this adverse financial position packing!
Rick Ueland May 15, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Geoffrey, can you elaborate on your comment to Linda Ramos on 5/14/12 @ 6:30 PM for the rest of your readers.
Geoffrey Walter May 15, 2012 at 04:14 AM
@ Rick Ueland This was a comment posted on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MineolaPatch We are simply moving it over to the main article page here.

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