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School Meeting News
October 2001

October 29, 2001

Freeport Students Sink ē Latino Parents Ignored

By Stewart Lilker


In what has become a recurring bad dream for the concerned residents in the district, the latest standardized test scores placed Freeportís 4th and 8th graders squarely in the bottom of the barrel, once again. In 4th grade math, Freeportís students placed fifty second out of fifty three districts reporting in Nassau County. Freeportís 8th graders faired no better, placing forty-third in math and a dismal forty-forth out of forty-five districts in reading. The Roosevelt school district, which is about to be taken over by the state, outscored Freeport in its 4th grade scores.

In his superintendentís report, the subject of which was kept from the public until the meeting, district Superintendent, Dr. Eric Eversley, read from a prepared statement. "This is not a level we feel comfortable with," he told the Board.

Not wanting to put the blame on anyone, Eversley claimed that the scores were "not indicative of the quality of our students" or "indicative of school quality."

Ever since the state began its new standardized testing, Freeport has been making excuses, as its students languish near or at the bottom of the heap. Former district Superintendent, Josephine Moffett once told your reporter, "Our students do well enough."

The Freeport Board of Education has never acknowledged that student achievement is in any way a result of adult performance. Over the past few years, experienced teachers abandoned the district, as impotent teacher union leadership did nothing to stem the tide.

The district touted its ineffectual programs and hired spin doctors to gloss over its failures. In a trend begun by former Board President, Dante Grover, the school board members and members Freeport's village board removed their children from the district and enrolled them in private schools. The Freeport Police Department was granted an exemption from the villageís residency law because they didnít want to send their children to Freeportís schools.

Even though Freeportís students have been underachieving for years, Superintendent Eversley told the Board, "We have to build on the work of the past that has been successful. Blaming is destructive. Speculation has the same effect."

The scores continue to reveal that the district has done little that has worked. Eversley told the Board, "We need to stop doing things that donít work."

Initially, Eversley seemed like he wanted to find those who were accountable for the poor performance, telling the Board, "Accountability is part of all this." But he went on to say, "We are not going to spend energy trying to figure out who we are going to point fingers at."

Finally, Eversley told the Board, "The future is not at all bright."

When Eversley finished his report, the Board sat silent, asking no questions and showing no concern.

No Latinos Need Apply
"Itís Our Meeting."

Even though the districtís Latino student population is approaching fifty percent, the districtís lack of concern for its Latino parents remains ever-present. At the September Planning meeting, the Board was split three to two on whether or not to provide Spanish translation at the Board meetings. Board President Muscara, along with Coward and Raab were in favor of translation, while past president Ellerbe and newly elected psychologist Cattano were opposed. In order to keep their division from the public, no mention of interpreters was ever sent home to the Spanish speaking parents, informing them that translation would be available at the Board meetings. The District Clerk, left out any record of the discussion and the vote regarding Spanish interpreters. Your reporter questioned the Board about this.

FNYN: Earlier in the evening, about forty-five minutes after the meeting began, you mentioned that there was somebody here that could translate into Spanish. Could you please tell me if a letter was sent to the Spanish speaking parents of this district advising them of the fact that an interpreter would be at this meeting tonight?

MUSCARA: I donít believe that a letter was sent, but I do know we have made announcements [in English] about it.

FNYN: If a parent hadnít come to these meetings, could you tell me how they would know?

MUSCARA: How would they know?

FNYN: Yes.

MUSCARA: They would have to come to the meeting. They would come to the meeting and they would know.

FNYN: So there would be no Spanish speaking parent tonight that would ever know, would there? (There were none at the meeting that needed translation).

COWARD: Youíre assuming that every parent cannot speak English. Thatís your assumption?

FNYN: No. That is not it.

COWARD: OK. Then I think you need to understand that lot of them can speak English.

FNYN: And a lot of them canít. Thatís why we have a translator. The parents have never been advised, other than by your announcements, is that correct?

MUSCARA: As far as I know.

FNYN: Would anybody else know, maybe in the administration?

MUSCARA: But the service is available now.

FNYN: (looking at the Superintendent) Would anybody else know if the parents had been advised? This is not a trick question.

MUSCARA: We donít know? Next question.

FNYN: I am asking the administration. You canít answer the question for them. (to the Superintendent) Does anybody in the administration know if the parents have ever been advised?

(Superintendent Eversley stared straight ahead, refusing to speak)

ELLERBE: Point of order. Point of order, Mr. President.

COWARD: (to the Board members) Itís our meeting.

After the meeting via e-mail, newly elected Board member Cattano told FNYN, "I am not happy with the test scores, but it is not singularly a failure of the schools, teachers and administrators. The schools are an extension of the community and reflective of the problems that exist in our community. The school board cannot rectify all of that. The issue of why a student does not thrive or learn up to expectations is multi-determined. We need to understand the nature of those determinants before establishing a strategy for dealing with them. Those scores are one dimensional and do not reflect progress that has been made."

Before being elected to the Board, Cattano enrolled his daughter in private school for "religious reasons."


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