Thursday, May 14, 2009

School District 15 and its "Skyrocketing" Test Scores

I know that this is already old news, but the students of School District 15 deserve a congratulations on the dramatic improvement on their ELA test results:

The results, for third- through eighth-graders, showed an improvement of nearly 10 percentage points over last year's scores.

"Those results are unbelievable, unbelievable," said Lawrence school board Trustee Uri Kaufman. "Even a 3 percent jump is considered at big deal. A 10 percent jump is a miracle."

Last year, 73 percent of the district's students met or exceeded New York state learning standards, while this year nearly 83 percent reached that level. Last year, meeting the state standards required a score of 68 percent or better on the exam, while this year it required a score of 77 percent or more.

The district's greatest gains were in the middle school, where 85 percent of its 674 students in grades six through eight met or exceeded the state standards. There was also progress at the elementary schools, where the number of third-graders who met the standards jumped by eight percentage points over last year, and the number of fourth-graders who did so increased by four percentage points.

"I am absolutely delighted with the tremendous progress that our district has made," said Dr. Vicki Karant, Lawrence’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Of course, it is hard to miss the relevance of these sterling results to the upcoming school board elections. However impressive the Kaufman/Feldhamer ticket's triple endorsement reported here is, actual, real world results by the current board speak even louder than the words of newspaper editors in support of the Kaufman/Feldhamer.

Kudos to the students, teachers administrators and board members of School District 15 on a job well done.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hat Trick

This ringing endorsement from the Nassau Herald speaks for itself:
While it's never advisable for a school board to be without an opposing viewpoint, which makes for spirited discussion, a body of like minds can still make the right decisions for the community it serves. Lawrence Board of Education incumbent Uri Kaufman and Abel Feldhamer, both parents of children in private schools, are the right choices for trustee seats in Tuesday's election.
Kaufman and Feldhamer will continue a policy of fiscal responsibility in a community that demands fair spending and slim tax levy, while offering programs and services for all students, in public and private schools. Feldhamer is officially running unopposed, though John Kinder of Inwood is running as a write-in candidate for the same seat. And though we applaud Barry Ringelheim, who is running against Kaufman, for always speaking up for public-school students, we question whether he has the temperament to serve on this school board. While we feel a public-school voice may be necessary on the board, Ringelheim should not be the one supplying it.
Another strong endorsement comes from the Jewish Star:
...much has changed in the district overall, and very much for the better, with all due credit going to the board members who have tamed the budget and simultaneously improved student performance. In that sense, the board itself has the opportunity to improve with age, if only its members would care to make the effort. A lot of good things are happening in the district and if the board did a better job of getting that message out — improving the lines of communication between themselves and their constituents — we are certain it would go a long way toward winning support from public school parents who still don’t know what to make of a board of mostly private school parents, or who have already made up their mind to the negative.

The thought has occurred to us that were a public school parent to run for the board who was a proven moderate, with a track record that proved he or she could interact respectfully and fruitfully with private school and public school parents alike — on the board and in the community — that would be someone we would want to endorse. That has not happened this year.

In District 15 Michael Hatten has decided to not run for re-election. We thank him for his distinguished service and endorse Abel Feldhamer of Cedarhurst to succeed him.

Feldhamer has already offered a number of years of service to the community behind the scenes, quietly directing several successful election campaigns. He would be a valuable addition to the board and we urge Dist. 15 voters to support him.

Uri Kaufman is running for re-election and he has our support, as well.

Kaufman’s challenger, Barry Ringelheim of Atlantic Beach, has distinguished himself in what we would consider to be the worst possible way. His oftentimes factually inaccurate, usually hateful public statements about public school politics, the board and private school families, in print and in person, reveal him to be a definitively poor choice, at best, for any sort of public office in our community.
Finally, the Five Towns Jewish Times gets behind the same candidates:
On May 18 there will be another fair and open election for two seats on the District 15 board. Incumbent Uri Kaufman will face challenger Barry Ringelheim, and Abel Feldhamer will be running unopposed for the second seat on the ballot. As was reported here two weeks ago, the plan was to have John Kinder oppose Mr. Feldhamer for the seat being vacated by Michael Hatten. What actually happened, however, is that Mr. Kinder mistakenly filed his candidate’s application for Mr. Kaufman’s seat. This resulted in Kinder withdrawing his candidacy, with the hope of running a write-in vote campaign for the seat being vacated.

Call it a mistake, or call it the bungling of simple and uncomplicated paperwork. Certainly this does not bode well for these candidates, as an elementary mix-up like this does not exactly inspire one with a lot of confidence in the candidates.

But that’s really not so important. What is important is that our board continues to manage the system in a fiscally responsible way and that educational services continue at the highest quality possible for the betterment and benefit of all the children in the district. That’s why it’s important to vote for Uri Kaufman and Abel Feldhamer in the upcoming election.
Looks like the local papers all concur. It is particularly interesting that there seems to be agreement on the point that Mr. Ringelheim loses support mostly due to his divisive rhetoric rather than due to his positions. Honestly, it would be nice to see the public school community put forth a candidate who distinguishes himself for more than the way in which he hurls invective.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More on Bloody Streets

So my co-blogger filled you all in on the (to my mind, at least) shocking comment made by a member of this community in advance of the latest school board election coming up in the near future:
"[O]ne man said that there would be “blood on the streets” if the “Orthodox school board” remained in control and the Number Six school is sold.

“They’re going to come after kids wearing yarmulkes,” he said.
I have to hope that most people who see this find it to be upsetting. Whether the comment was meant as a threat (scariest possibility), warning (still scary), or even a prediction (at the very least, highly irresponsible), the words should never have come out of the mouth of anyone who considers his/herself to be a reasonable person. Even if the quoted never intended the words to be a threat or a warning, to not consider that there are less mature or more hotheaded people who might actually consider acting on such ideas.

In addition, I think most people can agree that the mention of "blood on the streets" is a bit to close to home when there are likely many district residents who have living relatives who not too long ago, actually did witness blood on the streets and violence against anyone who identified as a Jew. Using such loaded imagery is just a huge mistake, no matter how you explain away your intentions. Try to imagine "warning" African-American members of our community that if they vote for the wrong item or candidate there will be "fires on front lawns". Can't really imagine that, can you. Well, if it's not OK there, it isn't OK here.

Which leads me to my third point. It's OK to sometimes make mistakes. It's possible that the person who made the comment spoke completely out of turn and didn't realize how inflammatory his comments would be. That does happen, though of course it shouldn't. The larger problem here is that I see comment after comment both here and here defending the use of such potentially incendiary language. Are people so blinded by their stance on the topic of local school board politics that they can't recognize completely irresponsible and dangerous speech when they see it? Is it so important to not ever be seen as sympathizing with the enemy that people can't do what is so patently the right thing and condemn what is so clearly language that has no place in this (or any) discussion?

Instead this story is endlessly parsed in comments.
First: "it didn't happen."
Then: "it might have, but it wasn't meant as a threat, just as a warning."
Then: "the police didn't really come to the meeting to question the man."
Then: "ok, maybe the police did question him but they knew he wasn't serious."
How about just agreeing, as any sane person should, that this kind of speech is a mistake and make it clear that you don't view it as a betrayal to your cause to treat other people like human beings - even if you disagree with some of their views?

I know that I, for one, would move on a lot quicker from this little incident if people would stop digging in their heels and pretending that such hate-filled speech is anything but reprehensible.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Blood in the streets..."

When I saw the headline to this story in the latest Jewish Star, "Partisan sniping in Dist. 15 race", I figured the term "sniping" was meant in the sense of sharp verbal conflict that has become the norm in local school board politics. Sadly, the article itself includes downright frightening quotes that shed a new light on the term:
"[O]ne man said that there would be “blood on the streets” if the “Orthodox school board” remained in control and the Number Six school is sold.

“They’re going to come after kids wearing yarmulkes,” he said.

Class is open

As indicated in the title and subtitle above, this blog is intended to be an open forum regarding the future of School District 15. Unfortunately (and all too predictably), the rhetoric surrounding School District 15 politics -- both online and off -- has been characterized by threats of violence, distortion of the facts, an unwillingness to listen to differing viewpoints and outright censorship. This blog is an attempt to remedy that.

Although readers will have no doubt regarding the opinions of the posters here, we will always remain open minded and stick to the facts and we hope the commenters will do the same.