May 31, 2003 Special Election Coverage

Stewart Lilker's Answers To the Leader Questions

1.  Are you in favor or opposed to the 2003-04 school budget and why?

I am voting "no" on the school budget. In one of the most irresponsible actions ever, the Board, under the leadership of Sunday Coward and Superintendent Eversley, reduced the teaching staff by 13 and increased the administrative staff by 11. As the District has demonstrated in the past, it is impossible to trust their numbers, as many of them are clearly misrepresented. Of course, the numbers that you don't know are even more damaging than the numbers that you do know. It appears no one in the district knows that the board hired a Harvard chum of the Superintendent for $2,000 dollars a day. In what can only be considered as total mismanagement, the Board has put the Pentagon to shame by purchasing 22 caliber bullets in the line item budget for fifty cents each, when they can easily be bought from catalogs for two cents each.  The Board is charged with appropriating money, not misappropriating money.

In three years, this Board has not learned that it is not how "much" the district spends, but "how" it spends the taxpayers' money. I urge all to vote "no" on the Board's irresponsible budget, which if passed, will represent a 60% tax increase over the past three years.

 

2.  Why are you running for the school board?

I am running for school board because I am dissatisfied with the performance of the present board and the district's superintendent. This group, under the leadership of Board President, Sunday Coward, has moved the district back into the dark ages. In a concerted effort to keep the students and the public in the dark about what is going on in the high school, the once award winning Flashings, the school newspaper, has been obliterated. Of course, Journalism II has been removed from the curriculum, as the students have nothing to write for. This premeditated action speaks volumes regarding the Board and Superintendentís value of the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press in our Schools and must be reversed.

I am running for the board because the Boardís complete disregard of NYS Open Meetings Law has left the public in the dark about most things that are going on in this district. The Board continues to act illegally and appears to be more a "Star Chamber" ruled under the code of omerta, than a body that answers to the Constitution of the United States.

I am running for the school board to finally remove the cloak of secrecy that surrounds virtually everything this Board has done while under the direction of Board President, Sunday Coward, and bring the community back into the loop.

I will work diligently to end the sham that school board meetings have become under this board. No longer will the Superintendent be allowed to ignore most of the public's questions. No longer will the Board President and board members be allowed to be rude and obnoxious to residents of this community.

The in-house detention of the building administrators, the principals and assistant principals, being forced to sit through board meetings and the incessant babbling of board members, who are more enamored with the sound of their own voices than getting things done, will come to a screeching halt. This policy, enacted by the Superintendent is ill-founded and just plain stupid. School principals have schools to run and have better things to do with their time than sit for hours listening to the things they already know and things they really don't need to know.

Finally, I will do everything I can to see that the public feels welcome and attends board meetings. The community must feel that their school district brings value to their lives and the life of the community. The Freeport School District must once again become the anchor of the community. The lesson of the tragic history of Roosevelt, our neighbor to the north, must not be lost on Freeport.

 

3. Are you in favor or opposed to the proposition increasing the number of board members to nine and why?

 I am in favor of the proposition to increase the number of school board members from five to nine. Indeed, I authored the proposition. The wisdom of the Founding Fathers brought nine members to the Supreme Court and this very wisdom should be given a chance to work in Freeport. It is clear that with the five members of the present board, no progress has been made in keeping children in the district and out of private schools. Maybe nine members can provide the solution that five could not. At this stage, it is certainly worth a try. Nine members on the Board will give a greater opportunity for the people of the District to be heard and represented. If it doesn't work, it can always be rolled back by the same type of resolution that put it there. I urge all to give the district a chance to move forward by voting "Yes" on the proposition to increase the number of school board members.
 

4.  What is the most important issue facing the district?

The most important issue facing the district is multifaceted. First, low student achievement, wherein Freeport's students are continuing to perform in the bottom of the barrel in Nassau County. Second, the District must demonstrate that it can provide a sound efficient program, so that taxpayers aren't forced to leave. Finally, The district must demonstrate that it can negotiate in good faith with the Teacher's Union. The teachers in this district have been without a contract for two years. This is disgraceful. While the board says it values its teachers, its actions are clearly to the contrary. Board President Sunday Coward and the rest of the Board recently awarded the district administrators contracts totaling increases of almost 30% over three years, while the teachers have been left hanging in the breeze.

 
5.  What is the role of a school board member?

The primary role of a school board member is to set district policy. A school board member must also be answerable to the people. A school board member must know what is going on by closely monitoring the operation of the district. A school board member must listen, lead and motivate and see that the resources of the district are maximized to benefit the ones that need it most, the children. This is not being done now. The school junkets, wherein the Board and the Superintendent squander the district's money, willy-nilly, are something a board member must guard the public against.

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