Children first

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Recently, my husband and I received a letter from an organization called CARE (Citizens Advocating Responsible Expansion). We were disappointed with CARE’s four reasons to vote no on the proposed building expansion of the Remsenburg/Speonk Elementary School.

The first reason that CARE cited to vote no was that the school, in its current building, just received the Blue Ribbon Award for being the best elementary school on Long Island. Though I am proud, as a parent and as a resident, of our school’s Blue Ribbon recognition for scoring in the top 10 percent of schools in the state, as measured by state test scores in English Language Arts and math, I am also aware as an educator that Long Island is home to many “bests,” some of the “very best” elementary schools in New York State and in the nation, for a variety of reasons, including programs and facilities.

What I am left wondering from CARE’s first point though is whether CARE would have supported the building expansion as proposed had Remsenburg/Speonk Elementary School been recognized as a failing school by the state?

CARE went on in point one to note that the student-to-teacher ratio at Remsenburg/Speonk Elementary School is an enviable 7-to-1. I am not sure who is envious, because if I applied what I believe to be their formula (which is really misleading, because, in my opinion, and that of others I spoke to, it leads you to believe that you can walk into an average classroom and see seven students and one teacher in attendance on any given day), then the student-to-teacher ratio in my husband’s school must be 8-to-1. Surely, I can tell you that you cannot walk into his school and see eight students and one teacher sitting in an average classroom on any given day.

In point two, CARE identified that the school currently has 184 students and that the state has approved the current facility for 300 students. Those numbers, whether true or not, have no relevance, in my opinion. The fact is that we have teachers without rooms teaching in hallways, and not by choice. This was observed by a member of CARE on a recent tour.

“Hall teaching,” as it was referred, is not what we want for our children. We also have insufficient and unsafe physical education space, an insufficient and antiquated cafeteria, a lack of science and language labs, and inadequate space to meet the physical and academic needs of our special needs students.

In points three and four, CARE cites that our taxes will “dramatically increase” due to the current federal and state fiscal crises. I am not sure what “dramatically” means. However, historically, we know that taxes go up. Lucky or not, it is my understanding that the Remsenburg/Speonk Elementary School has been accustomed to depending upon the state for only a minimal percentage of annual school aid when preparing its annual budget.

In closing, I applaud the current Board of Education and our superintendent, Dr. Katherine Salomone, for their vision and leadership in putting together the bond issue for the proposed school expansion. The school expansion proposal includes accommodations that we currently need and will continue to need in the future. The expansion will address long overdue deficits in safety, learning space and state mandates. Our motivation in supporting the building expansion has been and will continue to be to advocate for our children and the children of our wonderful community.

We urge everyone to put children first by voting yes on December 12. Thank you.

LISA A. LAGATTOLLARemsenburg

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