Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

I have blogged previously on the once a year money grab that is our local school  budget. My community passes the budget very year with no exception due perhaps to the high rental population who buy into all the doom and gloom threats if they don’t give the board what they want. Mahopac, a community in nearby Putnam County, is not so knee jerk and this year’s budget failed. So, Mahopac’s school board has made good on their threat to make the children pay for it.

MAHOPAC — The Mahopac Board of Education last night stuck to its guns and adopted a $95.8 million contingency budget that does not fund sports or extracurricular clubs.

The board also eliminated 13.5 positions from its initial $98.6 million proposal to keep the spending increase under 4 percent, as mandated by state education law.

An estimated 500 people crowded the auditorium of Lakeview Elementary School to learn of the final plan and to hear what a community coalition formed after the budget defeat would do next.

One parent, 47-year-old Monica Wyka, said it was a sad day for the children.

"The taxes here are huge," said Wyka, a sales representative and caterer. "But you know what? If you want a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for your child, then you have to pay."

The eliminated positions include 3.8 administrators, 4.4 high school teachers, one elementary school teacher, 2.3 special-education positions, a library aide and a secretary.

My heart goes out to that .8 of an administrator. I mean, to not only lose your job but also .2 of yourself must really stink. The purge continues:

Instead of cutting an academic team at the middle school — which had initially been proposed — school officials trimmed spending on repairs, supplies, equipment and other noninstructional expenditures.

Savings also resulted from eliminating adult education, cutting back on books and supplies for the library and reducing the amount for computer hardware.

Also, the district will not send students to the Walkabout alternative education program.

"The first priority is to maintain the integrity of our instructional program," Superintendent Robert Reidy said before presenting his plan. "Sports and clubs are absolutely critical for youth development. But they’re not the core of the mission that we have."

A community coalition has been working on a strategy to keep clubs and sports in the schools — for a price. The coalition must raise a little more than $1 million to maintain all extracurricular activities.

At a meeting Wednesday, coalition leaders presented the school board with a preliminary plan that would call for charging varsity athletes $432 per sport, while junior varsity, freshman and middle-school athletes would pay $144.

Members of high school clubs — such as the yearbook, newspaper, drama and debate — would pay $169 to participate in each club.

Even parents of younger children may have to pay a surcharge of $25 to participate in the Mahopac Sports Association, according to the proposal.

The message is that NOTHING that can be trimmed from the budget that is waste or extravagance except some positions and extracurriculars. The school board members are the experts, right? These people examine multi-million dollar budgets for a living, right? Hardly. These are part timers with time to kill who won a popularity contest and have no other budgetary tool to ply except extortion. Their favorite excuse is the skyrocketing costs of teacher healthcare and pension benefits. I agree. Anyone who works as a teacher for 20 years must be set for life thereafter, and we must all pay for it.

My hat is off to the taxpayers of Mahopac who said no to the money grab and whose children have to pay for the board’s ensuing temper tantrum. May they elect better board members next year. 


Read Full Post »


I suppose I shouldn’t pick on a writer from a college newspaper too hard, but when the email version of my Alma Mater’s campus weekly arrived I was struck by the indecipherability of this item about the University’s diversity initiative.

Headed by the assistant vice president for multicultural affairs, Dr. Terry Nance, other members of the committee included OPTIR executive director John Kelly, Dane Hewlett of OPTIR, associate dean for admissions George Walter and associate dean of the College of Arts and Xciences and honors program director Dr. Edwin Goff.

Nearly one hundred goals were analyzed by topic into ten cross-cutting themes, further clustered into five general areas of activity: environment, community members, education and training, supportive services, and reassessment/renewal.


The keynote speaker for the conference was Dr. Tom Poole, associate vice provost for educational equity at Pennsylvania State University. Poole discussed Penn State’s recent progress in strategic planning for diversity, saying, "Not that I have any thoughts that this is the perfect or right way of institutionalizing diversity, but that you might learn from our mistakes."

Poole outlined seven goals, organized into four dimensions, which his office outlined in their 2004-2009 Strategic Plan for Diversity.

Programming is essential, he said. "We need programs in place to outlive individuals and become part of the structure of the place."

In that spirit, Nance later announced, "For the 2007 budget year, there has been money allotted for diversity programming. Any one of the participating seventeen departments may then request for funds from the Blueprint initiative."

Walters announced substantial progress in admissions with regard to diversity. "In fall 2004 the incoming freshman class was 17 percent students falling into the category of traditionally underrepresented. This past fall 2005 that number was up to 19 percent."

He added, "Additionally, the small cost of switching to the common application has attracted 30 percent more applications from students in that category. That’s over 2,000 more applications, with the largest growth in applications from African-American students."

I haven’t the slightest idea what OPTIR is, and the whole article is such a conflagration of names, micro-details of the event, and terms typically reserved for resume embellishing that you really can’t tell what it is that they are actually doing. That can cause one to forget that Villanova University is and always has been so overwhelmingly white that it is referred to as "Vanillanova." The undergrad population today is less than 4% black and under 5% Hispanic, and believe it or not, that is a vast improvement from my years there in the late 80’s. They announced a program to create more diversity when I graduated 17 years ago, yet blacks & Hispanics on campus are still a fraction of their real percentage in the United States. I love my school and bleed blue and white, but that is a disgrace.

One of the benefits of higher education is exposure to people of all types with varying backgrounds from all places. Sadly, diversity at VU means exposure to a token amount of minorities, many of whom are scholarship athletes, in addition to Irish or Italian suburban kids from Long Island, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. I know these things don’t change overnight, and while I applaud the place for the progress they have made in their academic standing in the past 20 years, they have to do better than meetings, workshops and committees with funny acronyms for names if they want to get the job done. In a discussion of the matter on a school bulletin board once, I was advised by a future rocket scientist that VU is a Catholic school, and there aren’t many non-white Catholics. People like this are allowed out into the public.

By contrast, Georgetown is 67% white, Fordham is 57% white, and Boston College is at 72%. I am by no means an apologist for quotas, affirmative action, or artificial means which invalidate gaining entrance and advancement through sheer merit. Quite the contrary. I think the place has simply given lip service to diversity compared to the other schools, which clearly do a better job of reaching out to students who aren’t white, and probably have a more diverse faculty as well. I know three very bright bulbs who are half Korean and may consider Villanova in 14 years or so. If it has made the same progress in diversity as it has over the last 14 years, I may not be too inclined to send my own children there.


Read Full Post »

Catholic Schools Week

A quick tip of the hat to the Sisters of the Divine Compassion and the Augustinian Fathers for all they did for me in high school and college.

Read Full Post »

…on Intelligent Design in science class and I’ll tell you how wrong you are. I, like most Catholics and unlike the Pat Robertsons of the world, have insisted that ID has no place in science class. If you want to teach it, teach it at home or in Sunday school, because it isn’t science. The Vatican agrees with me.
The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L’Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI.

Advocates for teaching evolution hailed the article. "He is emphasizing that there is no need to see a contradiction between Catholic teachings and evolution," said Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest. "Good for him."

As with the recent statement on gays in the priesthood, this is not official Canon law and there will be debate, but as the article says, it is certainly an accurate representation of the Vatican position on the matter. There is plenty to be critical of Church leadership of in recent years, but the intellectually dishonest canard of Intelligent Design in science class isn’t one of them.

Read Full Post »

This week is the annual Best Colleges issue for US News and World Report. We love to read it, perhaps out of vanity. One of the ads reads:


The company, My Rich Uncle, makes student loans. Money, like soap, cars, roofing nails and fabric, is a product that is sold. Idealistic thoughts aside, its availability is determined by market forces. Simply put, most student loans are a bad bet. Car loans are a good bet. Student loans are unsecured loans with no collateral. Car loans, like mortgages and chattel loans, are secured and backed by collateral.

I am in a business where I need my clients/customers to have good credit (unlike bankruptcy attorneys, who need people to have credit problems). More than half the time when I have a borrower with a credit issue it involves student loans they defaulted on. More than 50% of the time. There are stretches when it seems like every credit issue for weeks is either credit cards or student loans they failed to pay back. Worse yet they seldom have a degree to show for the money they borrowed.

So, when private industry passes on the economics of the thing, you and I get fleeced with government sponsored programs with interest rates that are the inverse of the risk factors. We get caught holding the bag. Loans get approved, checks are mailed, students quit school quietly, and stereos fly off the shelves. There isn’t nearly enough accountability in the industry. Until there are more checks and balances of student loan programs, the money will continue to flow toward the surer bets and the government will manadate that we subsidize the difference.

Read Full Post »

How To Beat The Bums

Go over their heads. That’s exactly what the father of a 4th grader did when his son, a Catholic school student, was initially prohibited from attending summer school in his public school district.

Corey Rist, 8, who attends St. Augustine’s School in Ossining, had been rejected from the Hendrick Hudson summer program because he does not go to the district schools during the year, school officials said.

But his father, Joel Rist, had asked Mills [NYS education commissioner] to force the district to accept his son. State law says that all students who live in a district, including those who attend private school, are entitled to attend the district’s summer school program.

The local school district tried to use an inane semantics game to deny the child admission.

District officials had said the summer program was not a summer school, but an extension of the academic intervention services given to struggling students during the year. Since Corey doesn’t attend the district schools during the year, he was not eligible for the summer program, officials said.

"We don’t consider it a formal summer school program because it is an extension of what we do during the year," Kathleen Zazza, the assistant superintendent for instruction and personnel, said.

This is, of course, absurd. When the boy’s father went over their heads to the state education commissioner, the district backed down (in return for him dropping the appeal of course). I have no idea why the district would be so miserable about this, but I have a good idea. You have brain dead bureaucrats in positions with no decision making power that robotically follow rules, no matter how absurd the interpretation may be.

How embarrassing for the Hendrick Hudson School district. These are the people responsible for educating our children.

Read Full Post »

Letters to the editor of the local rag show that those who voted against many budgets weren’t doing so because they were anti-education, just pro-sanity. This one makes a good point:
I am a senior citizen and Lakeland school taxpayer, no doubt like many others in the school district. The bureaucracy of the school board and the administration is outrageous. Last year the school budget was $97 million and this year, $116 million.

I have a couple of suggestions that would impact the school budget significantly. We as taxpayers support two high schools — Lakeland in Shrub Oak and Walter Panas on the border of Peekskill. How about redistricting? The state Legislature did it with no problems. The savings would be substantial — could be 50 percent or more! How about outsourcing the bus transportation system? Other schools have done it with no problems — Chappaqua, Yorktown, Peekskill and Ossining. There no doubt would be tremendous savings.
Consolidate? Outsource? Political suicide-no board would go for it. So sad! So taxpayers must foor a whopping 20% increase levied on them by a board that would last 2 weeks in the business world. Another reasonable question:

Why can’t districts learn to economize?

Recently, we read that the majority of the school budget proposals were passed. The increase for Pleasantville was in excess of 10 percent. When additional funds are come by so easily, it takes away the incentive to stretch the money to get the most out of it. It seems the only ones budgeting are the taxpayers. We do not have the option of proposing how much money we want. We have to make do with what we have regardless of our increased living expenses.

Because it is political suicide for a board to even suggest that faculty have less than a Mercedes Benz health plan, that text books not be spanking new, or to ever reconcile frugality with the best interests of children. So after we give these kids a pricey education, they move to Texas, Arizona, or the Carolinas, where they can afford to live.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »