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Freeport School News
August - September 2002

Freeport Supt In Ozone ē A "Sign of the Times" Sept 20, 2002
Freeport School Update
Public Throttled ē New Positions ē No HS Principal
Sept 3, 2002
Freeport Homeowners Mislead
School Taxes Up 26%
August 19, 2002
September  20, 2002

Freeport Superintendent In Ozone ē A "Sign of the Times"

by Stewart S Lilker

The top brass of the Freeport School District has once again demonstrated why they cannot be trusted with the welfare of Freeportís 8,000 school children.


This youngster is clearly making gang signs. Supt. Eversley distributed the school calendar without noticing.

Some months ago, board member Joe Cattano said that Freeport is loosing its best students to the private schools. Years ago, the Freeport PBA felt the school district was so unsafe for their children that the village was finding itself unable to recruit police officers into the department. Mayor Glacken and the Glackenites, finally solved the problem, without any public notice or hearing, by absolving all Police Department personnel from Freeportís residency law requirement. Most of the few police officers who are left, have enrolled their children in private school and the ranks of resident police officers are thinning every day. It is obvious, that for the most part, the police, from Police Chief Woodward on down, just donít want to live in Freeport, nor do they want to send their children to Freeportís failing, gang infested and mismanaged public schools.

Under the dictatorial leadership of School Board President, Sunday Coward, and the cowardice of the rest of the board, the public has now been virtually shut out of speaking up or asking questions about substantive issues at board meetings. The reasons are obvious.

Freeportís overpaid Superintendent of Schools, Eric Eversley, has sat idly pondering, unable to make any crucial decisions for over a year, while student scores plummeted, regents graduates decreased and gang activity continued. Eversleyís m-o is clear. Any time that the Superintendent can shed light on a subject, he hems and haws, fast talking and saying nothing. This superintendent and board have given up their responsibilities to the spin doctors.

At the September 11, 2002 school board meeting, your reporter, who is also a resident, came to the microphone, wanting to ask a question about gangs in the schools. Board President Coward refused to entertain that question and the board, in its usual fashion, sat mute, as if struck by lightning.

It is well known that the Freeport School District has a serious gang problem.

"Data supplied by the Freeport Police Department, Freeport High School, and Freeport Youth Outreach, a community based organization serving minority youths, further indicate that between one-third and one-half of Freeportís secondary school students are involved at some level with drugs or alcohol, and with gangs. Although five gangs are known to operate in Freeport, MS 13, a violent and well-organized Latino gang, has stepped up its recruitment of members targeting, in particular, new immigrant youth whose needs mount unfulfilled within the family, school, and community. Freeport exceeds Nassau County both in the percentage of violent crime, 19.5% per 1,000, and in arrest figures for youth under the age of twenty-one. Of 714 suspensions at the high school during 1997-98. 512 were for violence-related incidents, disruptive or other mal-adaptive social behavior, or drug use. Moreover, Dodd Junior High School has been cited as a Targeted Assistance Program (TAP) by the New York State Education Department for declining academic achievement, and fewer than one-half of the students at Freeport High School graduate with Regents diplomas. Freeport has been identified as among the top thirty-seven districts in New York State in Extraordinary Need, with a large and growing portion of the student population at extremely high risk. These conditions are becoming deterrents even to parents who themselves were raised in Freeport, attended Freeport schools, and have been among the staunchest supporters of the district." (From the 1999-2002 Magnet Schools grant prepared by the Freeport School District)

The 2002-2003 school calendar has finally made it crystal clear that Superintendent Eversley and his administrative staff are operating from somewhere in the ozone, apparently along with the school board. On the inside cover of the calendar is the districtís mission statement. The statement reads, "The primary purpose of our school system is to teach all children how to learn and to foster in each child the desire for lifelong learning." The statement continues, "We are committed to providing the means for intellectual, emotional, ethical, social and physical growth which will assist every individual to become an informed and productive participant in our democratic society." The statement is from the Freeport Board of Education.

Directly above the Board mission statement is a photograph of a teacher surrounded by a group of what appears to be seven year olds. Standing, on the far right is a youngster making gang signs. Freeportís Superintendent of Schools, Eric Eversley and his administrative cabinet couldnít even recognize gang signs when they saw it.

The theme of the many e-mails FNYN has received since the school calendar was mailed has been, "How can I believe that my children are safe in these schools when the Superintendent and the administration donít even recognize gang signs when they see them?"

 

Sept 3, 2002

Freeport School Update
Public Throttled ē New Positions ē No HS Principal


by Stewart S Lilker

The Freeport Board of Educationís continuing lack of regard for the publicís right to speak, their tax dollars, or any regard for NYS Open Meetings Law, continued unabated at the August 21 and August 26, 2002 board meetings.

The August 21 meeting was marked by the smallest public turnout of any regularly scheduled board meeting since 1992. Discounting district employees and the meeting regulars, one person showed up. The board and the superintendent have constantly claimed they seek and need more community involvement.

The board members spoke among themselves, endlessly, without regard for the three members of the public who had come to voice opinions and ask questions, making them sit for almost two and a half hours before they were allowed to address the Board. When finally allowed to approach the microphone, the speakers had to speak a mile-a-minute in order to beat the four-minute clock.

The average Freeport homeowner, who is now among the highest taxed in Nassau County, is paying the equivalent of $76.62 a minute for what the Freeport School Board calls the "privilege" of addressing them.

After being forced to sit for over two hours, seventy-six year old Alan Jay had his patience worn thin. He asked the board, "Does this board invite the public to give their opinions and participate? If you do, the four minute rule is an absurdity." The board sat mute.

Earlier in the week, trustee Mike Raab, had monopolized the microphone at a village board meeting for almost forty-five minutes. Last year, when Raab ran for the Board, he campaigned to remove time limits for speakers and had been one of the loudest critics each time a previous board reduced the publicís right to speak, claiming his constitutional rights were being violated. Once elected, Raab forgot about "constitutional rights" and did a one eighty, leading the charge to reduce public participation at board meetings.

Mr. Jay continued, "Right away that says to the public, donít waste your time. The other part is I have to sit here for two hours. You folks limit yourselves to your own sphere of influence by freezing out the public with what is actually a farce. You are denying yourselves great input from the public."

In their continuing effort to eliminate the real history of the district and rewrite it by executive fiat and press releases, the board and the superintendent continue to eliminate the speakers, their comments and the boardís responses from the minutes.

Mr. Jayís time had expired, and with the stopwatch beeping in the background, Board President Sunday Coward kept interrupting Jay, trying to shoo him away from the microphone. Finally, seventy-six year old Jay told Coward that he was going to finish what he had to say and if she didnít like it, she could have him arrested.

Mr. Jay concluded, "This is the most outrageous board Iíve ever appeared before in thirty years before this village. You have a contempt for the public and itís quite obvious."

Next up at the microphone was Rochelle Sanchez. Ms. Sanchez. Speaking a mile a minute, she sounded like she was auditioning for a Federal Express Commercial. She told the Board, "I donít feel that four minutes will be enough time for me to express my views."

The Establishment Of New Positions

At the August 7 Planning Meeting, it appeared that Superintendent Eversley sprung the establishment of five high level administrative positions on the board and the public. Eversley and School Board President, Sunday Coward, made absolutely no effort to advise the public about the positions or their titles. The August 7 agenda, which was made available to the public shortly in advance of the meeting over the Internet, was clearly designed to keep the public in the dark stating only, "Establishment of a position." There was some debate whether or not all the members of the board knew what was going on, as Ron Ellerbe complained that he hadnít received enough information to make an informed decision.

After some discussion, it was brought out that the Superintendent advertised the positions in the NY Times before they were brought to the board and approved. The reason for this was never explained to the public. The board never asked about it.

The motion to approve the positions was tabled until the board received more information. It was determined that it would be revisited at the August 21 meeting.

On August 21, Ron Ellerbe again expressed his reservations. He said, "The recommendation was tabled at our last meeting. It was tabled because the board felt it did not have sufficient information to make an intelligent decision at that time. There was a request for you to provide the board with information as to how these positions would be financed. You sent us a quite extensive package defining the positions, but you have nothing in this package about how these positions would be financed." Eversley has made no attempt to reach out to the community and explain the new positions.

Eversley explained that he handed out that information at the last meeting. "The Assistant Superintendent previously made $119,250 and there are fringe benefits associated with that position as well."

Ellerbe said, "Itís not right to ask anyone to pay any more money."

Superintendent Eversley replied, "Why donít you just let me do my job? We have to move fast."

Your reporter asked, "Eleven months have past between the hiring of the Superintendent [Eversley] and the budget vote in May. These new positions could have been put into the budget. Why werenít they?"

Eversley said, "Over the course of the year, we have been progressively putting together information, doing observations and doing a variety of things to sort out what would be the most useful things for the school district to do. How the school district may best do the things to move this district ahead. That work takes time."

Ellerbe said, "In light of the fact that we just voted on the budget for a twenty percent increase [actually 26%] last week and all indications are that the next budget may be similar, if not greater than that. I donít know that it is a prudent thing for us to be doing in light of the financial posture of the district at this time."

Sunday Coward asked, "Ron, what is it that makes you feel uncomfortable?"

Ellerbe answered, "My concern is that the price we will pay will be cutting programs. There is no way we can support a budget by adding on positions. This is not one position. The superintendent is asking us to add three additional positions. He is proposing adding to the budget over a half a million dollars, for two superintendent positions and three other positions. The only way you can support that without creating a budget that is going to force folks to re mortgage their houses and move out of Freeport is to cut programs."

Eversley explained that the positions would be funded through a combination of Title I funding and the transferring of money in the budget from ROTC and other places.

Later on in the evening, the board voted on the establishment of the positions. The vote was four in favor and one abstention [Ellerbe].

The High School Principal
And the Disappearing Staff

The district has been trying to find a principal for the high school since early in March. It has been clear for some time that not only can Freeport not hold on to veteran teachers and administrators, many new teachers come here only to get experience and leave at the first opportunity.

Board member Cattano addressed this issue to the superintendent. "I feel it is very important to understand why teachers are leaving the district. I feel a reluctance as far as explaining to the board the reasons why teachers are leaving the district. Is there an issue with that?"

Eversley stonewalled Cattano and the board, "What I indicated to you is that it is hard to have the information available. We are still massaging that. I think we have to have some more conversation about that. Iím going to table this for now."

Cattano and the board didnít follow up.

In response to a question about the principal from Frank Tucker, a long time resident and part time employee of the district, Eversley said, "With regards to the principal position at the high school, I regret that that position is not filled. At the same time we certainly are not alone among school districts that have taken extended periods of time to find principals for their schools. We will take the time that is necessary."

On Thursday, August 29, the board called an emergency meeting to interview a candidate for principal. Trustees Raab and Cattano played musical chairs to maintain a quorum. Not unexpectedly, no one from the board nor Superintendent Eversley introduced the candidate to the two members of the public, who attended the meeting. It was the acting principal of the high school, Robin Calitri, who made the introduction. The candidate introduced himself and explained he had flown in from the mid-west for the interview.
 


August 19, 2002

Freeport Homeowners Mislead
School Taxes Up 26%


by Stewart S Lilker

This spring, Freeportís desperate School Board and Superintendent pulled a fast one on the taxpayers of the district. After the district realized that their original budget for the upcoming year (2002-2003) would not pass because it represented a 20% plus increase in homeownersí taxes, they eventually pared back their budget from $100,564,791 to $98,418,384. So inept is the Freeport School district, that on Election Day, two hours after the election began, the correct budget amount had to be penciled in on the ballot after an alert voter noticed the budget numbers were overstated by a half a million dollars.

In May, before the vote, the district went into high gear and campaigned in favor of their pared down budget, claiming an eventual tax increase for the homeowners of 17.9%, which they claimed translated to a $10.84 raise per hundred dollars of assessed evaluation.

On election night, as the Board turned a blind eye, Superintendent Eversley encouraged the secret tallying of the votes in a locked room away from the public eye, making the true count forever suspect. By a slim margin, the districtís budget passed.

It now turns out that the district was not leveling with the homeowners. Magically, the tax rate went from $10.84 per hundred in May, to $13.74 per hundred in August, for a difference of $2.90 per hundred, which translates into a real tax increase for the homeowners of the district of 26%, quite a difference from the 17.9% that the district pushed to get the budget passed.

At the August 13, 2002 Board meeting, the Board passed a resolution approving the collection of taxes for the upcoming school year. Unlike in other years, the Superintendent did not put a tax rate discussion on the agenda. Not surprisingly, neither the Board nor the Superintendent said one word about the new tax rate.

It is unknown whether Assistant Superintendent of Business, Kishore Kuncham, could have explained the 26% difference between the districtís earlier figures and the homeownersí actual figures, as he was never given the opportunity to explain. This School Board has restricted the publicís right to speak to almost nonexistent, as public comment and questioning is viewed as an impediment in this failing and underperforming district. It appears that they have now begun doing this with their administrators who they donít want to speak.

 

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