The phones at Elmont Online have not stopped ringing since passage of the Elmont School Budget. Some residents like Tudor Manor Civic Association President and community leader Joyce Stowe said “I am sending this message of Congrats to the people of Elmont in pushing through this vote--you included [Aubrey Phillips]! This struggle is a foretaste of things to come!”
Other community leaders like Patrick Nicolosi of the East End Civic Association expressed some bewilderment. In a Facebook post Mr. Nicolosi said “Of all the 124 school districts Elmont had the highest tax increase. It's not a great day for Elmont it's a sad day for those who can't afford the burden. We are still losing our young educated students to lower taxing states. What will the Elmont School District ask for next year? Instead of complaining about the same issues year after year, don't you think it's time someone find a solution. The tax increase is not for the students it's for the pay increases, pension and health care. Wake up!”
Other calls were troubling. A resident and employee of the Elmont School District was so incensed by statements quoted in the Newsday article titled “Elmont Approves Cap-busting School Budget” that they called Elmont Online to repudiate the quotes calling them "bold face lies". The individual detailed several conversations both direct and overheard where Pauline Johnson, a former member of the Elmont Library Board, an Elmont School District teacher aid and soon to be PTA Interschool President encouraged employees not to vote for the budget.
“I was at the Elmont Public Library standing by the front desk” near the theater entrance when [Johnson] approached. “What do you think about Mr. Harper getting a raise? You know if we pass the budget that’s what will happen and well I don’t think so.” Elmont Online has verified that the superintendent had already agreed to a pay freeze in his contract and thus no increase was scheduled as part of the proposed budget.
“So, you could imagine how surprised I was to read in the Newsday article that she supported the budget. Far from it – she was spreading rumors about salaries; that parents should find something for their children to do over the summer; that the school is not a babysitting service.”
The Newsday article states “Pauline Johnson … said she pushed for the budget on Facebook, made calls and sent text messages supporting the plan.”
Elmont Online has independently verified Mrs. Johnson’s attempts to defeat both budgets. Calls to the Johnson phone number were not returned.
Johnson is next a bat as the 2012-13 Elmont Inter-school President.
“Our children are in trouble when the incoming Inter-school PTA President is out there killing the budget and jeopardizing public education in Elmont” said a Dutch Broadway parent. I don’t like paying high taxes either, but I am prepared to sell my last shirt for my children”. She continues, “…and because of people like Johnson we lost six or seven weeks of summer programs and no one is saying anything about that.”
“I am not surprised by Johnson’s actions” said another resident, her tenure as library trustee was fraught with conflicts of interest and a host of inappropriate public policy behaviors.”
The Elmont School District cut summer programs both remedial and enrichment in an effort to bring the tax levy closer to the state mandate.
The decision to cut summer programs is devastating to Elmont’s children and families. Several studies have shown a relationship between summer vacation and regression in reading and math skills. Further some studies show that socio-economic factors (a common proxy for race and class in America) play a significant role in determining the length of time teachers must spend reviewing work from the previous grade before they are able to effectively present students with new grade level materials after summer vacations.
In 2009 Polca studied “patterns in reading performance as students progress from one grade to the next, while specifically exploring the potential of skill regression following summer vacation.” There were “significant post-summer reading losses for all students participating in the study, with students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds incurring more severe deficits following summer break.”
When understood through the lens of education it is clear that Johnson should not be the Elmont Interschool PTA President for 2012-13. She is ill suited to represent Elmont’s 4,000 students, parents and guardians. The growing African, Asian, Caribbean, and Latino families have a very different view and understanding of the role of education in the lives of their children. The evidence is clear, these parents as evidenced by the vote at Alden, Dutch, Elmont Rd, Gotham and Carlson are prepared to “pay” for and yes, “sacrifice” for their children and the community of children that attend the Elmont Union Free School District.