Readers Write: Tell us why PW district did not win Intel Science prize

The Island Now

To the Port Washington School District Board of Education:

I’ve already explained, a number of times elsewhere, that there are 56 school districts in Nassau County and that, based on the proficiency results achieved by students on annual state examinations in mathematics and in English language arts, one-third of the districts are ranked as being high achieving, one-third are ranked as average and one-third are ranked as poorly performing.

For as many years as I can remember back, our Port Washington School District has been consistently ranked as an average school district, somewhere between No. 25 and No. 28 in the rankings of the 56. Surprisingly perhaps, we are surrounded by many consistently high-achieving school districts, like Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn, Jericho, Syosset, Herricks, Garden City, East Williston, Locust Valley and others.

When our Port Washington school officials are asked why is it that Port Washington fails to be ranked as a high-achieving school district like all of our neighbors, our school officials tell us that it’s because of: 1. demographics, 2. economic disadvantage and 3. the large number of our students with special needs attending school. 

Every school district in New York state is required to file an annual school report card with the State Education Department up in Albany. These annual school report cards can be found on the internet, for you to read, if you would like to.

The annual reports disclose much educational data, including the demographics in each school district, the number of students in each district who are economically disadvantaged and the number in each district who are classified as having special needs. I can find no school district that doesn’t have at least some students in each of the three categories just mentioned. The percentages of our Port student enrollment for 1, 2 and 3 above, reported on our last school report card filed are democraphics: Hispanic/Latino 20 percent; economic disadvantage, 20 percent; and special needs 15 percent.

An article in June 30 issue of Newsday titled, “L. I. students win at Intel science fair” had a lot to say about demographics and success in academics. “Twenty-four Long Island students received awards at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, etc., etc., etc.” The article did not indicate that any of the 24 students named was economically disadvantaged or had special needs. But 16 of the winners are obviously demographic.

So, my question to the Port Washington school board and to our top school administrators is, “Why didn’t any Schreiber HS student win an Intel Science Fair prize for 2019?” We certainly have as much demographics as the Half Hallow Hills High Schools and the Ward Melville, Jericho, Manhasset and Herricks High Schools. Does Schreiber HS have too much, too little or the wrong kind of demographics? I think that it’s very important that you inform our community about what the problem is and what you propose to do, to correct the problem.

My reading of the educational philosophy, “educating the whole child,” which you all say you vigorously support, states that if the family or the community or the church does not provide the opportunity for a child to learn at school, then the school will take over for the family, the community or for the church. Please advise our parents and community about how and when the Port Washington School District will take over the learning responsibilities just mentioned, when “educating the whole child” requires it to do that.

You’ve just brought on a new superintendent of schools, Dr. Michael J. Hynes. He must be an expert in educating demographic  children. He is coming to us after having spent five years at the Patchogue-Medford School District, where just about half of the 7,500 students enrolled there are demographic. If, as you imply, we in Port Washington have too much of the wrong kind of demographics enrolled, I’m sure that based on his considerable experience, Hynes will have a solution to that problem.

Our community should be informed about his solution, at the earliest possible time. It is not enough to identify problems in the school district. It is as important, or more important, to present solutions to the problems. That is what you were elected to do. To find solutions to problems, so that the school district can advance. Our Port Washington community wants, very much, to have its school district recognized as a high-achieving school district, one that is capable of winning prizes at an Intel Science Fair.

Joel Katz

Port Washington

About the author

The Island Now

Share this Article