Letters: Community must emphasize importance of containing school budget


Where were you?

We owe Curt Koch a debt of gratitude for being a lone audience spokesperson for vigilance in the budget process at the recent Mattituck school board meeting.

While the board and administration do work hard to keep costs in line, there is a need for the community to continually emphasize to the board the importance of containing the budget. A 2 percent increase may seem modest, but it’s a significant increase, particularly repeated year after year, for those whose budgets are already severely strained by economic realities.

There are certainly ways that additional monies can be saved within the choices available. We should all have been at those meetings, and are fortunate that someone took the time to speak up for the rest of us. Our busy lives and complacency are no excuse.

Thank you, Curt.

Gail Wickham


A simple question

How is it the two Greenport Village trustees that reap over $42,000 per year in free medical benefits plus salary could not make it to the budget hearing?

The hearing was noticed for three weeks. I think they owe the public an explanation.

William Swiskey


A progressive school

I don’t agree with Walter Strohmeyer’s letter to the editor that Oysterponds BOE is “putting too much on its plate at once.” The children will benefit from these positive changes if the voting public will allow it.

The school is asking for taxpayer approval to create a capital reserve fund which will not increase taxes. It will allow the school to finally make required repairs to the building that have been talked about for years. Expenditures from the fund have to be approved by voters, thus preventing waste.

The proposed school budget is one of the few among North Fork schools within the 2 percent cap, yet it is adding rather than eliminating programs by using resources more effectively.

Regarding iPads, this change is overdue. As a parent I’ve seen tech-savvy children turned off to school because these skills aren’t being used there. How sad is that when tech is one of the primary skills needed in today’s world? These children have the ability to teach the teachers in this area so we must get out of their way and stop limiting them.

The first and second grades are not going to be combined, as Mr. Strohmeyer stated. Instead they will share some learning time during the day. Other classes in the school are doing this, too, as a way to better serve the needs of individual students.

Each grade still has its own teacher. The faculty is not being significantly reduced, as Mr. Strohmeyer said, and no grade-level teachers have been laid off.

This school board will finally ask the voters to decide about school choice. This will be the first board to put this question to the public and finally put the issue to rest, a good thing.

I agree with Mr. Strohmeyer that the part-time special education director should not be excessed. Perhaps he was not aware that the superintendant stated she found money to keep this position in the budget.

I support the changes at the school and the highly competent administrators, teachers and progressive school board members who are paving the way.

Lisa DeLuca


More Porter pride

I’d like to thank the staff of Greenport schools. They’ve done a wonderful job educating my three children. I know, because I, too, am a teacher.

And because I’m a teacher, I know all too well the challenges educators face every day. There are too many to list here and many the general public is not aware of. And yet despite the challenges, they’ve impacted my children in very real and meaningful ways, preparing them well for life after Greenport.

Oysterponds school board members, parents and voters should know that Mattituck High School is not a utopia. I taught there for over 15 years. It’s a good school, just as Greenport High School is a good school. There aren’t any perfect schools that I’m aware of.

But in the intimate environment of Greenport’s schools, my children have been given the opportunity to shine and participate in anything they choose. They are known by all teachers and support staff, not just their classroom teachers. And, by virtue of the fact that Greenport is economically and racially diverse, they have not existed in a cozy bubble and so perhaps are better prepared for the so-called real world.

Considering its small-school status, Greenport offers an impressive variety of classes, including a good number of AP classes. To those parents who say, “But Mattituck offers more,” I say, of course it does, it’s a bigger school. But realistically, how many AP classes can a student take at one time? My oldest child is currently taking three, bringing her total to six.

By the way, on the three that she’s completed, she earned all 5’s, the highest score possible. Thanks, Greenport AP teachers, for preparing her so well.

By saying yes to Mattituck and no to Greenport, Oysterponds voters will hurt the school and local community. Numbers matter to a small district like us and fewer students mean fewer electives, including AP classes, and fewer teachers.

Saying no to Greenport could also damage community ties that have existed between our villages for many years.

Greenport schools offer so much. Why can’t they see that?

Melanie Moreau


We are the problem

The closing of Mattituck Creek due to high levels of saxitoxin is evidence of our deteriorating waters.

Yet we don’t address the cause: ourselves.

One only has to look at an aerial view of the land uses around Mattituck Creek. The watershed is filled with densely built neighborhoods using onsite wastewater systems. To compound the issue, homes built before 1973 are likely to have cesspools, which leak solids as well as effluent into the ground.

Fast-draining soils and shallow groundwater are traits that accelerate likely contamination of groundwater, which then migrates to the creek and Sound. Studies by professor Chris Gobler of Stony Brook University and a recent eelgrass study sponsored by The Nature Conservancy both weigh isotopes for sources of nitrogen, which feeds the algae.

And the culprit? Anthropogenic nutrients, or human wastewater. The algae also contribute to the acidification of the waters when they die, affecting shellfish production and size.

There are solutions, and ones that are less intrusive than central sewers. It’s time to act before we lose the clean waters that make Southold appealing. Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization focused on issues that integrate environment and community, is willing to work with individuals and communities that are willing to explore these issues and solutions.

We strongly encourage residents within the Mattituck Creek area to get involved now. We can be reached at 631-591-2402.

Glynis Berry


A proud heritage

In 1932, the memories of the intolerance had to be vivid for the ethnic and racial minorities on the North Fork.

Democratic candidate for president Gov. Al Smith of New York was defeated, historians say, in large part due to his Irish-Catholic heritage. He also had a bit of a New York accent.

Nationwide and on Long Island, Ku Klux Klan membership reached an all-time high. In a civic promotion the Village of Freeport listed the KKK along with other fraternal groups with pride. My grammar school in Malverne was named Lindner Place School. George Lindner was the Grand Cyclops of the Klan in Nassau County.

My late friend Agnes Chudiak Lindsay, whose parents were from the Ukraine, told me told me that as a child she saw the cross burned in the field across from the family farmhouse on Bergen Avenue in Mattituck. Eddie Berkoski can still tell you of the taunts from schoolmates back in those days.

In 1932 a group of Polish-Americans from the Cutchogue area came together and formed the Cutchogue Polish Democratic Club. John Stankewicz, better known as “Stanky,” told me their initial goal was to get a Polish-American policeman on the town force, certainly a humble and understandable goal for the times.

Intolerance toward Polish-Americans on the North Fork is hard to imagine today. Polish farm laborers went on to buy many of the farms. Polish-Americans today are well represented in all areas of North Fork life — professionals, elected officials, business owners and, yes, the Southold Police Department.

The Polish-Americans of the North Fork have shown us all the American dream came true for so many. This should be an inspiration to all, particularly those who still feel left out. Let’s hope their dream, our dream, is still alive.

The Cutchogue Polish Democratic Club continues, now in its 80th year. Thank you, Stanky, and all who organize and continue the struggle to gain their rightful place here and across America.

Perhaps you might like to celebrate with the Southold Democrats and honor councilman and deputy town supervisor Al Krupski and the Cutchogue Polish Democrats in this their 80th year at the Touch of Venice on Sunday, April 29, 4 to 7 p.m.

Art Tillman

chairman, Southold Democratic Party


History rewritten

It is distressing, at the very least, to read letters from presumably well-intentioned adults that border on the delusional, let alone obvious fiction.

As Senator Moynihan observed, “Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

The proposition that you can provide medical care to tens of millions of people for no additional cost tests the limits of sanity. (“Twisting the facts” Stanley Brown, April 5.)

The assertion that this country was “ … formed on the concept of … equality and freedom” is patently false. (“The rich get richer,” Howard Meinke, April 5.)

Not even the comic book version of American history supports this fantasy.

The preamble to our Constitution proclaims that it was established to “ … insure domestic tranquility … and secure the blessings of liberty.” Nowhere is there even a hint of “equality” as an objective.

Indeed, the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments guarantee the contrary.

The contemporaneous writings of the Founding Fathers uniformly reject the “equalitarian” philosophy.

In an April 15, 1814, letter to John Taylor of Virginia, John Adams wrote: “Inequalities are a part of the natural history of man.

“That all men are born with equal rights is true. But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud … as ever was perpetrated.”

Or, as Alexander Hamilton said in 1787, “Inequality will exist as long as liberty exists. It unavoidably results from that liberty itself.”

Further examples would be redundant.

Ken Stein


Cacophony of claims

The political scene today is a cacophony of exaggerated claims and limited common sense. Here are some examples:

The GOP tends to push the claim that the U.S. is still the world leader and world policeman. President Obama is roaming the world looking to establish agreements with allies, to try to build peace in erupting countries and to change our earlier mantra of “you are either with us or against us” to instead establish a policy of humanitarian common good.

Today we have a military budget that is larger than the total of all of our allies’ military budgets combined. We are in bad financial circumstances, yet to the GOP, reducing the Pentagon budget is treason. And yet military action has tremendous dollar and human cost. What has actually been accomplished since World War II?

In world education comparisons, we are 17th in reading, 31st in math and 23rd in science. This is the makeup of a world leader? In spite of this, teachers and teaching are under the GOP axe.

In health care we pay multiples of what our allies pay for outcomes that are substantially worse. For example, infant mortality is much higher and adult life span quite a bit lower.

Our infrastructure — including bridges, airports, highways and power grids — is old and wearing out, yet to the right wing, tax reductions for the wealthy will solve everything.

Severely reduced spending in research and development and green energy and environmental protection, together with ignoring climate change and the accompanying difficulties in food production and water shortages, demonstrate the growing dangers of the GOP policies.

We must apply common sense and decency to this upcoming election. It is very important since we have a lot to lose.

Howard Meinke


Random kindness

On April 7 I was the very happy and grateful recipient of a random act of kindness.

My 2-year-old son, Dillan, and I braved the weekend traffic to venture to Target for all our necessities — diapers, wipes, snacks and toys. Dillan was in deep-snoring snooze-mode, so I put him in his stroller then attempted to push him and pull a cart, neither of which was cooperative.

While over by the laundry detergent I was approached by a woman who referred to herself as “Chas.” She said she’d watch me struggle, and after putting her own purchases in her car came to find me to offer assistance. At first, I admit, I was a bit suspicious, but she explained that she would follow me with the cart so that I could get my shopping done without the struggle, as she had wished someone would have also done for her when her own children were younger.

Chas followed me through the store and when we got to the register she announced that this was where she would say goodbye. I thanked her profusely and offered to get her a coffee, soda, snack or something to convey my gratitude, but she deferred all and proceeded to the front door.

I just wanted to state my thanks to Chas and make the world, or at least the North Fork, aware of what an absolutely wonderful person this lovely lady is.

Too bad Dillan slept through the entire event, not aware that he was in the presence of such a fantastic individual. Hopefully, we can “pay it forward” sometime in the future.

Thanks again, Chas.

Heidi Wysocki


Not her cup of tea

I am an American historian, having studied and taught for over 40 years, and my specialty is the American Revolution and the early Republic.

My dissertation is on John Adams, I have worked for the Madison Papers, I have spent time at the home of Thomas Jefferson and sat many times in the office of Dumas Malone, the most famous Jefferson scholar, and done extensive research in Philadelphia.

Thus I feel quite confident when I discuss the intent and philosophy of the Founding Fathers.

“The people” were, of course, a major political ideal of the white, Protestant, European heritage men of the movement for independence and new nationhood. John Adams stated that “… we do not mean by the people the vile populace or rabble of a country, nor the cabal of small members of factitious people, but the greater and more judicious part of the subjects, of all ranks.”

Over our long history of some 200-plus years, we have boldly expanded the membership of “the people” to lean our form of government toward a democracy. The Founding Fathers established a republic with a balance, at least they hoped, between the executive, legislative and judicial forms of governmental power.

Even though it was beyond their conception to extend the vote to all sorts of “judicious” people, they would be proud of the progress we’ve made and certainly hope that our avoidance of a “cabal of small members” would be achieved.

History is not the most popular of subjects, but it’s amazing how it’s distorted. The tea party of present day claims to represent the Tea Party participants of 1773. Sam Adams’ Tea Party was a protest against the corporate control of the government, which was forced to monopolize the tea trade to reap the benefits while the colonists paid dearly in rights as well as money. Today’s tea party has put their trust in corporate control of the government. No, not just the government, but of all of us.

This is not very historical nor the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Across our political history, when the non-governmental “playing field” is corrupted to benefit the few as opposed to the many, the government has stepped in to protect the people. The essence of the U.S. Constitution is to “promote the general welfare.” If we are truly responsible citizens we must abide by that charge.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, it is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” — with all the diversity that concept includes.

Barbara Ripel, Ph.D.