Equal Time: Oysterponds is simply giving a choice

05/03/2012 4:59 PM |

As the parents of two middle school students in the Oysterponds district who attend Greenport — not parents of a teacher employed by Greenport School — we have a different perspective from that of Linda Goldsmith.

As taxpayers whose money pays tuition to the receiving school, we want the best product for our dollar. The “Hobson’s choice” we have now does not appeal to us as customers compared to a real choice between two competing districts.

The Oysterponds Board of Education simply passed a motion to designate two receiving districts, Greenport and Mattituck, by a vote of 5 to 2. Then by a vote of 6 to 1 they passed a motion to put each school’s contract up to a public vote. Nothing prevents Greenport from submitting a competitive offer. Let the Orient and East Marion taxpayers vote to accept the better product and price.

If Greenport so desperately needs the tuition of our students, Oysterponds taxpayers have the leverage to extract a better deal from them. As taxpayers in Orient, we have an incentive to bail out a neighboring district for sentimental reasons. But, on the other hand, there are currently 13 students residing in Orient and East Marion who attend McGann-Mercy in Riverhead. Their parents voted with their feet and incurred the additional expense and inconvenience because they found something wanting in what Greenport offered their children. There are only 75 students in Oysterponds, so 13 attending McGann-Mercy represent a significant proportion.

Greenport must accept our students and is happy to do so. Their tuition is an important revenue stream that Greenport school has come to depend on and take for granted. Instead of submitting a contractual proposal last year, the Seneca Falls rate, a state formula for non-resident tuition, applies. That default rate is the highest allowed by law.

In the past and at the moment there have been and currently are Oysterponds school board members with relatives and friends employed by the Greenport school district. As Oysterponds parents and taxpayers, we perceive a conflict of interest on their part, leading to a breakdown of legitimate discussion and consideration of the issue.

By her admission, Ms. Goldsmith, the parent of a Greenport teacher, is in that category. Most, if not all, of her arguments, strained as they are, stem from her resolve to perpetuate the status quo and not rock the boat or, rather, derail the gravy train. Ms. Goldsmith is running for another term on the Oysterponds Board, and she is the anti-choice candidate.

The Oysterponds school board is composed of unremunerated, well-intentioned, highly qualified business and educational professionals, as well as concerned parents and concerned citizens. The board’s vote was 6 to 1 in favor of submitting the issue to the voters of the district. The board has given assurances that a contract with Mattituck would be revenue neutral and not cost the Oysterponds district taxpayer any more than the existing arrangement with Greenport, and possibly less.

With Mattituck in the picture, Greenport now has an incentive to sharpen their pencils and offer a competitive package. The choice proposition will not and cannot increase district taxes and may actually reduce them with the element of competition between two rival providers. It’s capitalism and democracy at work.

The proposition to offer choice will not be on the May 15 ballot but on a later ballot. However, those opposed will be out in force May 15 to re-elect their candidate, Ms. Goldsmith. If you support choice, vote for Ms. de Kerillis and Ms. Lynethe, two candidates who have an open mind on the issue. If you’re registered in the Oysterponds district be advised that absentee ballots are available at the Oysterponds school office.

Tom and Mary Morgan live in Orient.